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Travel Guide for Miami Beach, Florida

By KellyC

Miami has been through a true renaissance over the past decade and is now the hotspot getaway spot for many east coast residents. It is a great location for a quick weekend away or longer with something to offer for everyone. It has wide, sand beaches, along with fantastic restaurants, shopping, and cultural institutions.

"Here I am in the place where I come let go, Miami the place, and the sunset low
Everyday like a mardi gras, everybody party all day, No work all play, okay"
- - Miami, Will Smith, Big Willie Style - -

Getting There

From the Miami Airport: The airport is a 10 to 25 minute cab ride to most hotels on the beach depending on traffic. It is a $28 cab ride.

From the Ft. Lauderdale Airport: The airport is a 25 to 60 minute cab ride to most hotels on the beach depending on traffic. It is a $60 cab ride. You can also do a ride share which runs similar to super shuttle and is $25.

The best way to come onto the Miami Beach is to use the Julia Tuttle Causeway at 41st Street. It is generally less trafficked and muck quicker than the McArthur Causeway at 5th Street. All hotels have parking lots and if you are wandering around in the Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road area you will not need to drive. Nothing is more than a 10 minute walk. And often driving will take longer than walking.

Where to Stay

The choices are on Ocean Drive or on Collins Avenue. Both are along the Ocean. Ocean Drive runs from 1st Street to 14th Street along the ocean. Collins Avenue runs from 1st Street to 14th Street one block in from the ocean and from 14th Street up along the ocean.

Ocean Drive

Staying on Ocean generally means staying in smaller hotels that, for the most part, do not have a pool. The beach is not so nice in this area. See the beach section for more details.

Collins Avenue

You can basically divide the hotels on Collins Avenue into two areas: below 15th Street tends to be louder late into the night. Staying above 15th Street is quieter at night and not as crowded. There are many of the large, well known hotels between 15th and 21st Streets. For instance, the following are in this area:

  • The Delano: 17th and Collins
  • The Raleigh: 16th and Collins
  • The Shore Club: 19th and Collins
  • The Townhouse: 20th and Collins
  • The Abbey Hotel: on 21st Street right off Collins
  • The Loews: 15th and Collins

The final area to consider is Collins Avenue between 21st Street and Bal Harbour. These hotels are very large and more resort like. For instance, the Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau are in this area. And the Canyon Ranch Resort is being built in this area as well.

Where to Eat

Most restaurants are very busy from about 8:30pm on for dinner. The choices for restaurants are also divided into three general areas. There are restaurants on Ocean Drive, on Lincoln Road and scattered throughout Miami Beach.

Restaurants on Ocean Drive

These are mainly sidewalk cafe style restaurants. Of note are the following:

Scandals: Very good seafood

Cafe Cardoza: Excellent for breakfast. They have a very nice terrace to sit on here.

The Tides Hotel: Very elegant dining out on the front terrace.

Mezzaluna: Wonderful Italian restaurant with both sidewalk tables and inside dining.

Restaurants on Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road is a pedestrian road with many restaurants and shops. These restaurants are also primarily outside cafes. Lincoln Road is a very festive area to eat. Of note are the following:

Pacific Time: Great fresh sushi and asian fusion.

Tiramisu: Very good Italian run by Northern Italians.

Da Leo: Another great choice for Italian.

Nexxt: If you like Cheesecake Factory you will like Nexxt.

Sushi Samba: Great sushi and an inventive drinks menu.

Touch: Good spot for a romantic dinner.

South Beach Stone Crab: Fantastic stone crabs at half the price of Joe's and nowhere near the wait at Joe's.

Restaurants in Other Areas

There are various restaurants throughout Miami Beach that are well worth a visit. They are as follows:

Joe Allen: Classic American fare on Purdy Street.

Abbey Dining Room: In the Abbey hotel, this is one of the best restaurants in Miami Beach.

Barton G: This opened in 2003 and is very good. They also have a catering company that is very well known.

The Blue Door: At the Delano Hotel. This restaurant is on the back patio of the hotel, looking out over the pool. They have a great lunch menu along with an extensive seafood brunch on the weekends. If you like lobster, be sure to have the lobster club sandwich. I find this a relaxing place to have a late lunch on my last day in Miami before heading to the airport.

Nemo: Slightly pricey but really good weekend brunch.

Joe's Stone Crab: This is open during stone crab season, which is October to May. They do not take reservations. The typical wait is 2 to 3 hours. They have an $80 a person all you can eat stone crab meal.

La Provence: On Collins at Lincoln Road. This is a little French cafe/bakery. They are open until 8pm. They have wonderful fresh baked breads and pastries as well as individual serving quiches, croque monsiers, sandwiches on baguettes, and salads. And really good, strong coffee.

Emeril's: You guessed it, this is the guy from the Food Network. It is in the Loews Hotel and reservations far in advance are necessary.

Nobu: Yes, this is the same Nobu that is in New York. It is located in The Shore Club hotel and reservations are necessary well in advance. I really think this location is better than the one in NY.

Clubs (Nightlife)

I know Miami is known for its nightlife but I am not really going to get into this as everything changes so quickly. Check out citysearch if you are interested as it is generally up to date. I will say that there are a few hotel bars that are always "in" such as the Delano and the Shore Club.
City Search: www.citysearch.com

The Beach

The beaches are all public, however they do rent chairs and umbrellas. The chairs are $10 per day and they will set them up wherever you want. And you can haggle down the price if you tell them you will be coming back for a few days in a row.

The beach from 1st Street to 14th Street is very busy and tends to be more crowded as more locals tend to go to that area.

The beach above 14th Street is a little less crowded as it is mostly just the hotel guests from that area of town. There is a boardwalk to walk on from 21st Street up into the 40's.

There are trailers that are permanently on the beach that are set up as take out restaurants during the day. They all serve the same menu and prepare everything fresh to order. They have a good assortment of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and smoothies.

The upper part of the beach is very hard and a great place for running.

Spas

Many, many hotels have spas that are well regarded. There are also a few free standing ones. Here are what I have found to be the top three in town:

Aqua at the Delano Hotel
www.delano-hotel.com
Wonderful for massages. On the top floor of the hotel with great amenities.

The Shore Club
www.shoreclub.com
They have a beautiful rooftop spa with an Asian feel.  Pricey but well worth it.

Browne's Beauty Lounge
www.brownesbeauty.com
My absolute favorite place is Browne's Beauty Lounge on Lincoln Road.  It is also the most affordable of the three. The first floor is a store with an array of international beauty products. On the second floor is the spa Some Like It Hot. They offer a full range of spa services and have now added yoga classes. It has a great, relaxed atmosphere. I have gotten the best pedicure ever at this spa and visit it every time I am in Miami.

Shopping

There are a few places of note for shoppers. There are the shops on Lincoln Road and the upscale shopping center for those who like Gucci and Prada called The Shops at Bal Harbour. There is also a new outlet mall in Coral Gables called Merrick Park.

Art

There are many museums and galleries in Miami Beach and downtown Miami. Most show modern and contemporary art. They are as follows:

The Bass Museum: The art collection of John and Johanna Bass.
www.bassmuseum.org

The Wolfsonian Museum: Washington Avenue at 10th Street. This is a design museum in the art deco district.
www.wolfsonian.org

The Miami Art Museum: Focuses on art from 1940 on.
www.miamiartmuseum.org

Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami: Focuses on both established and emerging contemporary art.
www.mocanomi.org

Design District: The bulk of the contemporary art galleries are located in the design district in downtown Miami. It is also home to many furniture and design showrooms. There is an excellent website for the neighborhood:
www.designmiami.com

Art - Private Collections

Rubell Family Collection
95 NW 29th Street, Miami, FL 33127
tel: 305-573-6090

Margulies Collection
591 NW 27th Street, Miami, FL 33127
tel: 305-576-1051
open Friday and Saturday 11am to 4pm

There are also two world renowned private art collections in Miami that are opened to the public. They are the Rubell Family Collection, which focuses on art from the 1980's to the present and the Margulies Collection that contains photography from the 1920's to the present as well as installations, video art and sculpture. This is a world-class collection and if you have to make a choice between the two this is it.

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