Memorable experiences in Florida
By Shereen shbnam
There is no place like Miami when it comes to looking for a haven that lets you relax by the day and party by the night both are done in gusto and with equal measure. The calm and serenity that I feel in the coastal parts of Miami, the creative inspiration I feel in the Art Deco areas and the diverse cuisine, sights and sounds that offer a fascinating blend of urban chic and old world rustic charm is what makes me go back again and again.
Miami has great year-round weather, the best beaches and is a cosmopolitan metropolis with an enviable arts and cultural landscape in the back drop blue skies, cotton candy clouds that makes ‘The Simpsons’ sky paler in comparison and cool breezy evenings perfect for beach walks and outdoor sports.
My first stop in Miami is of course the car museum to see the Dezer Collection being a obsessed motoring aficionado and despite taking a hundred pictures, I still discover more unique pieces during each visit. This is followed by a visit to the Everglades National Park, a 1.5 million-acre eco-system of subtropical jungle and the warm waters of Florida Bay so I get a good dose of greenery into my system. Being a Pisces, I also love the Biscayne National Park that hosts’ lots of marine life and plants, living coral reefs as well as the longest stretch of mangrove forest.
During every visit to Miami, I have stayed in different hotels as the city, the South beach and many more areas have an inspiring collection of hotels, from casual and chic boutiques to the world’s leading luxury properties. My favourites so far include the W Hotel, St Regis Bal Harbour and recently I stayed at the Grand Beach Hotel.
The best drive is getting to South Beach and seeing the Port of Miami which clearly is the Cruise Capital of the World. Last year I went the maiden journey of the largest cruise ship in the world, ‘Harmony of the Seas’. The Port is dotted with sparkling white megaships carrying travelers to the Caribbean and back for more quality time in Miami.
During this drive I also stopped at the Jungle Island that has great wildlife shows, monkeys and exotic birds. I had a private encounter with the lemurs that initially was daunting and I was squeamish but they soon won me over with their cute antics. I wanted to stop at the Miami Children’s Museum, which is hosted in a gorgeous building designed by the award-winning Miami architectural firm, Arquitectonica, but ran out of time.
A visit to Miami is not complete unless you go to the Art deco area, which has a collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s. If you love art, take ample time to spend here and my only regret is not charging up my camera in full when I visited. It is a photographers dream.
Being a woman, I headed to the very trendy Lincoln Road for uninterrupted retail therapy as this area is pedestrian friendly and has lots of spots to have coffee breaks and watch the locals. Not far from here is the World Symphony Centre with world-class performing arts. During my stay in Bal Harbour, I discovered the famous Bal Harbour Shops across the road which had the best designer boutiques that included Gucci, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli and lovely coffee shops.
Downtown Miami is similar to Dubai and is a hub for international business and finance with tall office towers and condominiums lining Brickell Avenue. It also has Florida’s largest performing arts center with the Grand Opera, the Miami City Ballet and of course there is the Design District that hosts the top designers.
Close to the Design District is Wynwood that has close to a hundred galleries including contemporary urban murals and relaxation areas. Other new Miami attractions to look out for when you visit are include the Miami Science Museum, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the new Miami Art Museum.
One of my favourite parts of Miami is Little Havana where I discovered ‘Cassava or Tapioca’ during lunch one day. It is a root crop I love and is a staple we eat in Fiji. The vibrant area makes you feel happy naturally and one could spend a entire day exploring the cuisine, watching how one hand-rolls cigars, with the backdrop of songs that make you want to start salsa and merengue lessons right away. Another great place is the Coconut Grove with lush and tropical greenery and has lovely cafés, art galleries, retail shops and markets.
Miami has great suburbs such as Coral Gables with beautiful Mediterranean-style homes and winding waterways. The Key Biscayne area is good for hiking and biking trails, boating and sports facilities. North of Miami has great Moorish architecture, good golf courses and large Aventura Mall where I ended up spending a full day. South of Miami is great for Everglades National Park, a World Heritage site and numerous tourist destinations.
Throughout this region, and up near the urban areas to the north, you can take advantage of a wide Miami-Dade Parks EcoAdventures — a wide variety of exciting naturalist-guided excursions for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts that combine adventure, recreation, and natural history. Discover South Florida’s natural treasures as you kayak, snorkel, bike, or hike in this remarkable sub-tropical environment. Going on nature trails is also great to admire the natural beauty of Miami.
Hence, Miami Beach offers far beyond sun and sand, with world-famous nightlife and world-renowned art galleries, first-class hotels superb dining, designer retail and unique architecture that makes it one of the world’s most visually distinctive regions.