By Charlotte Rick
I recently came back from America, where we spent a week in Florida. We flew into Miami and spent the first four days there before heading up to Orlando and exploring Universal Studios (read about that here!). There was so much to see and do in Miami, but I’ve tried to cut it down to the best ten (in my opinion). Have a read and let me know what you think!
1. Take a walk down Ocean Drive and see the Art Deco District
We stayed in the Starlite Hotel, which is on Ocean Drive and part of South Beach’s famous Art Deco District. Our reasons for staying there were it was the cheapest for the amazing location, as we were really staying in the heart of everything. http://www.starlitehotel.com/
At night time the place was a buzz with people as it was Spring Break, with all the hotels and bars along the front offering drink deals. On the first night we went to Boulevard which was next door to our hotel, tempted by their huge cocktail glasses at 2 for 1 (happy hour!), though these were $42 dollars each, so actually we were still paying a lot. We learnt after having a wander the next day that you get a lot more for your money by just going back from the beach a couple blocks, as they charge so much due to location.
Ocean Drive and the Art Deco District is a totally different place in the day time. If you wander up Ocean Drive you’ll find the start of the district by the Art Deco Information Centre and souvenir shop, selling prints and postcards of the area and other souvenirs designed around the era. But look up and see all the incredible buildings. Each are different in their individual style, but together look like something you’d only see in pictures. If you’re visiting South Beach you’ll most likely go past them anyway, but make sure you take the time to actually look up and see their design in detail as they’re all unique! Here you’ll also find the Versace Mansion, which you cannot miss.
2. Visit Wynwood Walls and see the art
We’d been recommended to go see Wynwood by a few friends, so one afternoon we headed over. This is one of those journeys I’d really recommend actually looking out the window on the way, as all the street art and murials are everywhere in the area before reaching the main part. I thought that it was just street art in the main streets, but actually Wynwood Walls is a garden type gallery you enter, which has all the art. There was also an indoor gallery which we had a look at with some really cool pieces.
Whilst outdoors, you can explore through several different sections of the garden. It’s definitely a must-see, as each wall has something of a completely different style. There’s also statues and other pieces to see.
When we reached the end there was another indoor section, which was titled ‘Pieces from the Taj Mahal’. This again was full of decadent pieces that you could imagine in an Indian Palace.
After viewing everything there was to see, we went across the road to Wynwood Diner. We were lucky enough to walk in during happy hour (4pm-8pm), so food and drinks were much cheaper. We, again, completely over ordered- American portions are huge! But the food was really good – we got a sharing platter and a jacket each, which was more than enough. The best thing though was that from 5pm-6pm there were $1 dollar drinks – something of a miracle when we’d been used to paying at least $6 up in the cheapest of places. We ended up staying here all evening till about 11pm in the garden, as we stocked up on drinks whilst they were cheap. I’d definitely recommend going to Wynwood Diner as the inside is decorated to match the Wynwood area, but the garden outside was beautifully decorated with fairy lights and candles, a lovely place to spend the evening.
3. Spend a few hours at the Venetian Pool
The Ventian Pool was a little way out in Coral Gables, but it was well worth the journey – it was absolutely stunning. $15 pp to get in, and you could stay as long as you pleased. The pool was probably the same temperature as the sea – a bit cold to begin with, but once you were in it was fine.
The waterfall is obviously the main feature of the pool, which you can swim under and sit in a little cave on the other side. It also had smaller waterfalls and little pools to sit in, which was a popular photo spot. I hadn’t heard about the pool until I saw a picture in a tour brochure, so if you haven’t heard of it go and check it out as it was definitely worth visiting!
4. Explore Little Havana
We spent a couple of hours one evening in Little Havana, the Cuban neighbourhood of Miami. Full of bright coloured street art and a cigar shop on every corner, it was an amazing slice of Cuban culture
We drank Mojitos and ate tacos at El Taquito as the sun went down after our day visiting the Venetian Pool. It’s a really cool place to see if you get the chance, with its own walk of fame and amazing theatre.
Be careful where exactly you get an uber to – we just typed in ‘Little Havana’ and ended up in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we were quite happy to walk half an hour through residential streets to find the main part of town, but if you don’t want to do this head to the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame, which is along the main street.
5. Spend a night at Bayside Marketplace
Set on the harbourside with the view of expensive yachts, Bayside Marketplace is a busy hub of bars, shops and places to eat. With live music down by the water and a buzz of people everywhere, it’s a fun place to spend an evening – we went full tourist and decided to go for cocktails at the Hard Rock Café before heading over to Hooters. It’s a really nice setting for a few drinks and there’s so much to choose from, don’t miss this one out!
6. Go to the beach!
I mean, this one is pretty obvious – especially if you’re staying in Miami Beach. But honestly, make sure you take a trip out of the city and get to the beach! With white sands and crystal clear blue sea, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same Atlantic Ocean that we have over here. The waves are just a gentle lull and although it was a bit cold to get in initially, it was really nice and warm once you’d got your head under! If you’re not a water baby, it’s still worth a visit just to have a walk and see the colourful Lifeguard Towers – they’re something to visit in themselves.
7. Check out the shops and places to eat in South Beach
South Beach is such a mix of different shops and restaurants, that we took our time to explore! Wander in to the town center where you’ll find lots of shops you’d recognize at Lincoln Road Mall and some great places to eat – we settled for Balans where I had an insane buttermilk fried chicken burger…
Or head a few blocks back from the Art Deco District and the southern side to find an array of places. We found an amazing Asian restaurant tucked away called Moshi Moshi (really good ramen – 1 is plenty for 2 people!), and enjoyed an amazing (healthy!) breakfast at ‘Dirt’ (I’ll go into that more later). From wandering around trying to find places to eat we also stumbled across shops (I spent way too much in Zara), and the original Miami Ink Tattoo Parlour! When we set out to stay in South Beach we weren’t sure what to expect, our main reason for choosing the area was to be next to the beach and stuff going on, but we didn’t expect the actual neighborhood to have so much to explore as well – we could’ve easily not gone across to the main city!
8. Hire a bike and cycle through Lummus Park
Between Ocean Drive and the beach is Lummus Park, which runs the whole way along the beach front, full of palm trees and proper paths it was perfect for cycling!
We walked home along the path one night and saw a lot of cyclists, so decided on our last night to hire a bike and ride along up the coast before dinner. There are so many city bike hire stations all over South Beach, so it’s easy to get a bike and find somewhere to drop it off again. We ended up cycling for about twenty minutes alongside the beachfront, dropped the bikes off and walked back through the town to Maxine’s Bistro and Bar for dinner. This was our last night in Miami so we were looking to go for a nice meal that wasn’t too expensive and Maxine’s was perfect for this.
This also meant we got to explore South Beach one last time, which was just as beautiful at night.
9. Go to an American diner
You can’t go to America and not go to a classic diner and eat all the fried chicken or cheeseburgers, right?! I mean, you have to experience it at least once. We went for breakfast at 11th Street Diner in South Beach, where we decided to go all out on the American Dream.
I ordered Waffles with Fried Chicken, and James ordered a full breakfast – which came complete with everything you’d expect, plus French toast, fresh fruit and some white porridge-y kinda thing (which we weren’t keen on). Literally a breakfast of champions, it was huge! It definitely isn’t something we’d manage everyday – we were so full after we kinda just lay on the beach for a while letting it all go down. But it’s definitely something you’ve gotta do! Even if you don’t go crazy on the food like we did, just go for the décor. 11th Street Diner is all metal from the outside and the interior is all booths like you see in the movies.
10. Eat in one of the healthy places
That’s the thing we found with Miami, for all the unhealthy American places were also countless healthy places to eat or juice bars, as the city is known for being ‘health-conscious’ – which you can tell by the amount of joggers. And who wouldn’t jog around when you’ve got such a long flat beach and such nice weather! It’s a bit different from trekking the rainy hills of Bristol. But yeah, balance out eating all the burgers and and fries with something a bit healthier. On our first morning we went to a Lebanese place round the corner from our hotel called Habibi Diner where we got a Halloumi Salad Wrap and a Chicken Wrap, which kept us full till dinner and were full of veggies and the ‘good stuff’ – nothing fried in site! On the last morning we were feeling a bit groggy from all the bad food we’d eaten so went to Dirt, which we found online. Even the inside of Dirt made me feel healthy, with its fresh interior and free lemon water – also really reasonably priced breakfast. I had smashed avocado tostadas which were delicious, and despite not looking too filling left me full for the rest of the morning, but not uncomfortably. Definitely head to this place if you’re in South Beach as it was really good!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post! I could probably list way more things to do, but these are definitely ten not to miss out on. We were in Miami from Saturday evening till Thursday morning and felt like we’d had enough time to see and do everything we wanted to. If we’d had a couple extra days, we were looking at going on a boat trip – you can even go to the Bahamas for the day!
From Miami we travelled up to Orlando to visit Universal Studios – so expect a post soon all about that! Miami, I love you x
The blog is originally from http://charlotterick.com/2018/05/2-days-3-parks-our-orlando-adventures_8.html