Ancient Spanish Monastery#6 in Best Things To Do in Miami Beach
Set in North Miami Beach, this monastery has a storied past. Officially known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, construction on the structure began in A.D. 1133 in northern Spain and was completed eight years later. It was inhabited by monks for nearly 700 years but after a revolution in the 1830s, the monastery was taken over and sold. In 1925, the cloisters and the rest of the monastery were purchased by William Randolph Hearst and shipped to the U.S. After years of sitting in storage, the monastery was rebuilt over the course of 19 months and reopened to the public in 1964 as a tourist attraction. (Time magazine called it "The World's Largest and Most Expensive Jigsaw Puzzle," as it involved 35,000-some stones.) It didn't do too hot as a tourist attraction alone, so it was sold to a local diocese and was turned into a church. Today, it's an active congregation that welcomes churchgoers and also acts as an attraction highlighting the monastery's beautiful architecture and its surrounding gardens.
Travelers said it's worth escaping the hubbub of South Beach to venture north to admire this tranquil monastery. Visitors love that its grounds are historic, quiet and serene, and say when the gardens are in full bloom it's truly a sight to see.
You'll find the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach, about a 40-minute drive north of South Beach. It's open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tours are also available during operating hours and cost $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, but you can enjoy a free guided tour on Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. Mass is held at the church on Sunday mornings in English at 8 and 10:15 a.m. The monastery occasionally closes for events, filming and photo shoots, so call ahead to ensure that it's open. For additional info, check out its website.
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#1 South Beach
With nicknames like "America's Riviera" and the "Art Deco Playground," it's no wonder so many people flock to South Beach. Travelers see South Beach not only as one of the best vacation areas in Florida, but as one of the best in the country. Popular perception has somewhat pigeonholed the area as being reserved exclusively for the young and beautiful and 24-hour partiers, but that's not necessarily the case. The truth is that South Beach welcomes anyone looking for pristine sand, amazing food and yes, a buzzing nightlife.
The options are limitless: you can spend the whole day shopping at boutiques, getting pampered at an opulent spa or just strolling along Ocean Drive. Families can take the kids over to see the animals at Jungle Island or to play at the Miami Children's Museum for some educational fun. South Beach also hosts numerous festivals and events, including volleyball tournaments, Art Deco Weekend and music and art shows.
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