Why Go To Miami Beach
Miami Beach is where a mix of cultures, residents and travelers mingle. A wide variety of people – including waifish models, amateur architecture critics, distinguished seniors and sun-seeking families – enjoy the renowned shores of "America's Riviera." North Miami Beach is where you'll find the kid-friendliest beaches and the most affordable restaurants and hotels. Less than 10 miles away are the galleries, museums and theaters of Greater Miami.
And then there's South Beach. This popular southernmost neighborhood proves that Miami Beach is more like two cities – a family-friendly vacation when the sun is shining and a super-chic metropolis come nightfall. If want to keep up with the Joneses, you'll have to exercise your credit card at the high-end stores, schmooze at the cutting-edge fusion restaurants, dance at the energetic nightclubs and relax poolside at the art deco-style hotels. But the rich and famous aren't the only ones who will enjoy their time here. More laid-back travelers can relax along the sands of Haulover Park or Lummus Park, learn a little more about architecture on an art deco tour or even try their hand at fishing off of the South Pointe Pier. Another must-do? Window-shopping and strolling along the Lincoln Road Mall. And you can't leave Miami Beach without chowing down on tasty small plates and enjoying cocktails at a rooftop bar.
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Miami Beach Travel Tips
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit Miami Beach is between March and May when the sun shines with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s during the day. Aside from the gorgeous weather, a spring visit allows you to sidestep the peak winter rates. This part of Florida enjoys a subtropical climate, meaning it's usually warm year-round and a bit rainy. Pack an umbrella if you visit in summer or fall; at the very least, you can expect some afternoon showers. In the worst-case scenario, you could experience torrential downpours since Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. If you're trying to keep your bank account in check, hotel rates and flight fares tend to decrease in the summer as the temperature and precipitation increase.
Weather in Miami Beach
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
What You Need to Know
- Not all sand is the same Different portions of shoreline cater to different crowds. For instance, Haulover Park is the only "clothing optional" beach. Our advice: Get to the sand early to survey the scene. Then keep heading north until you discover your own niche.
- Those lounge chairs aren't free If you approach the regularly spaced-out lounge chairs, don't sit in them. They likely belong to the hotel that sits behind them, and someone will come over and try to charge you for resting your tush.
- It's going to rain, of course And so this would be the time to use that rental car, if you have it. Aside from the clubs, the beach community doesn’t have many indoor venues. Head over to Miami to check out museums and cultural attractions like the Museum of Contemporary Art.
How to Save Money in Miami Beach
- Weekdays are cheaper Miami Beach doesn't see many business travelers. Thus, the hotel rates dip a bit during the weekdays.
- Get the early bird special Here, this means that you should arrive at your bar or club of choice before they begin charging a cover or raise it. Check the bar's website earlier that day for the specific time. Also, because of cover charges, bar hopping is a luxury that many cannot afford.
- Enjoy the outdoors Many of the area's outdoor activities are completely free to see. Stroll through the Lincoln Road Mall, saunter down Ocean Drive or sit and watch cruise ships roll in from the South Pointe Park and Pier.
- Consider Fort Lauderdale Low-cost carriers like Southwest, Allegiant and Spirit don't make stops at Miami International Airport. They do, however, service the nearby Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. If you're looking to save on airfare, consider flying into Fort Lauderdale and renting a car or taking a shuttle to traverse the 30 miles to Miami Beach.
Culture & Customs
Miami Beach is a city of immigrants, with one of the biggest Cuban populations in the country. A large number of Miamians speak Spanish as their first language and it can be heard everywhere in the city. The Cuban culture has, in turn, also influenced the city's music, architecture and food.
The city also has a thriving gay community, whose focus is in South Beach, especially between 11th and 12th streets. If you're in town in March, stick around for the Winter Party, an event for the LGBT community that draws thousands of visitors every year. Miami Beach Gay Pride is also a big annual event, held in April.
What to Eat
The streets of Miami Beach are lined with high-end dining establishments teeming with the smells of Peruvian, Cuban, Caribbean, Asian and American cuisine – sometimes all at once. What other cities call "fusion" has a name of its own in Miami Beach: "Floribbean." Prepare to be impressed with its taste and the relatively cheap prices. The South Beach area does have its share of moderately priced eateries, but the most affordable options are tucked away on the side streets. When it comes to meals, some signature Miami Beach dishes visitors should try include stone crab, ceviche, empanadas, Cuban pork sandwiches and pastelitos (pastries filled with sweet or savory fillings).
Seafood lovers swear by Joe's Stone Crab, saying the stone crab claws served here are succulent. The only caveat is that this eatery doesn't take reservations and because it's so popular, there's often a wait (well worth it, though, according to visitors). Las Olas Café earns high marks for its tasty traditional Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, plantains and authentic café con leche. Many of Miami Beach's best hotels are also home to some of the area's best restaurants. OLA in the Eurostars Vintro Hotel offers Latin American dishes while Hakkasan in the Fontainebleau Hotel plates Cantonese cuisine and dim sum. What's more, several top chefs operate restaurants in Miami Beach that are lauded by visitors, including Scott Conant's Scarpetta (also in the Fontainebleau) and José Andrés' The Bazaar (located in SLS South Beach).
To taste the best of Miami Beach and beyond, you should consider attending the South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The five-day event, held every February, draws the biggest celebrity chefs and cutting-edge recipes.
Miami Beach is generally a safe city for visitors. However, as with most major tourist destinations, pickpocketing is the biggest concern, particularly during the chaotic nighttime and along busy Washington Street. Walk in groups at night and avoid any unfamiliar territory. If you have a car in town, keep valuables hidden so your vehicle is not made a target for a theft.
When swimming, stay near a lifeguard station and watch for the flags, a system that follows the same pattern for beaches across the state. Green means the water is calm, while yellow signals some moderate surf conditions (ie: riptides may be present). Purple signifies the presence of marine animals like jellyfish. Note that you are forbidden from entering the water when a red flag is raised.
Getting Around Miami Beach
The best way to get around Miami Beach is on foot. South Beach is especially pedestrian-friendly, and how are you going to people-watch or get a tan if you're in a car? Another option, bikes, can be rented from a number of vendors or from the bike-sharing system, Citi Bike. Plan to pack or purchase a strong lock as bicycle theft can be a problem. Driving will bring headaches, particularly when parking is limited at peak hours. If your feet begin to tire, there are buses run by Miami-Dade Transit. The South Beach Local is ultra-convenient and cheap for visiting travelers. Still, hailing the occasional cab (or Uber or Lyft) rather than waiting at a bus stop is preferred. You'll probably also use a cab to get from Miami International Airport (MIA), located about 12 miles west, into town. Expect to pay a flat rate between $35 and $55 for trips to Miami Beach. There is also a shuttle bus that provides service between the Miami International Airport Metrorail station and Miami Beach (from 41st Street to South Pointe Drive) for $2.25.
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