Take a number of diverse cultures, add a strong dose of the arts and a splash of ocean water, and you have Miami. Looking at the fantastic art museums and the blossoming gastronomical scene, you might find it hard to believe that just a century ago, this colorful Floridian city was covered in swampland. Once developers rushed into the area, one of the most popular tourist destinations and spectacular city skylines in the country was ... continue»
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The best time to visit is between March and May. During these months, you'll be able to enjoy daily temperatures in the 70s for non-peak rates, while the rest of the country is still defrosting. The year-round tropical climate and partying ways of nearby Miami Beach mean tourists -- lots of tourists -- from northern states, South America, Europe, Asia, anywhere and everywhere year-round. And when there are special events, the city sees even more visitors and higher hotel rates. For the best chance of scoring deals, book around the city-wide events or during the sweltering summer months.Best Times to Visit Miami»
Writers say Miami's neighborhoods are one of the reasons people flock to the city every year. Each part of the city has its own unique charisma. Downtown is located on the eastern edge of the city along the Biscayne Bay and serves as the main hub of the city.
Primarily a business and finance district, downtown Miami sparkles with glass skyscrapers that mirror the water of the neighboring Biscayne Bay. Writers don't describe this as the most picturesque part of Miami, but the area contains several attractions of interest, including the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, which houses several museums like the Miami Art Museum and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. There are also spots along the Biscayne where you can charter a boat and jet around the bay.
Reviewers say Miami's Design District, located a bit north of downtown, is equivalent to New York City's SoHo. The eclectic mix of galleries, boutiques, lounges, restaurants and clubs fill the neighborhood, making it a stronghold for artists, architects and interior designers.
Writers say the neighborhood known as Little Havana is like a replica of Cuba's capital city and is filled with a huge contingent of Cuban immigrants. Sitting west of downtown Miami, the area is filled with Spanish conversation (traffic signs are in both English and Spanish), ethnic restaurants and shops selling Cuban wares, cigars included.
For a more isolated and serene Miami experience, writers recommend taking a trip to residential Key Biscayne, a quiet island to the southeast of downtown Miami. Visitors can take the Rickenbacker Causeway to reach Key Biscayne. With ritzy resorts, pretty public beaches and the Bill Baggs State Park, experts especially recommend Key Biscayne to families. You can also find spots for water sports like windsurfing and jet-skiing along the island's shores.
Travel writers say the Coral Gables neighborhood, which is located at the southwestern edge of the city, has a distinctly European feel, with Mediterranean-style architecture, fountains and plazas. The high-end shopping along the Miracle Mile, upscale restaurants, shops and hotel accommodations also give Coral Gables a very posh feel.
Located along the coast to the south of downtown Miami, Coconut Grove used to be a bohemian neighborhood, filled with the city's creative set. In recent years though, gentrification attempts have brought in more chain restaurants and stores -- many of which can be found along CocoWalk. Be sure to check out some of the theaters that are also located here, including the Coconut Grove Playhouse. Located close to the University of Miami, this is also a big area for nightlife.
Miami is a big city, so it's best to keep safety in mind at all times, even when you're in your hotel. Always carry a map and stay away from unfamiliar areas at night. Experts advise keeping an eye on your personal items at all times, especially if you're out on the town. Do not carry wallets in back pockets and keep a firm grasp on any purses or bags you may have with you. Like in most major cities, Miami does feature a few transients who generally panhandle in the more touristy parts of town. Writers recommend avoiding the downtown area at night. While it's a bustling part of town during the day, it empties out after hours and can get somewhat seedy.
Miami weather can also be cause for concern. Keep an eye on the forecast for hurricane or tropical storm warnings. If you do happen to experience a hurricane, stay indoors and listen to the radio or television for up-to-date emergency information. After the storm has passed, avoid downed power lines and flooded streets. Experts also advise caution when walking around, since debris such as broken glass can be hard to spot.
The best way to get around Miami is a car. A vehicle will give you the freedom to roam the streets and neighborhoods as you please. Note that the roads are on a grid and broken up into quadrants by the east-to-west Flagler Street and north-to-south Miami Avenue. Street numbers increase as you travel farther away. Also, convenient parking is the norm here. Taxis are another option; however, your wallet won't thank you for hailing them so often. The mammoth Miami International Airport (MIA) hosts a fleet of rental car agencies. There's also the metro and bus system, although previous travelers have labeled it "inconvenient" and "unreliable."Getting Around Miami»