Saturday, February 6, 2010

Top 5 things to do in Miami

Florida and I go way back. My very first job was in Fort Lauderdale. I was a young professional, and in the 80s, life in Florida was real slooow. After a six months stint, I quit and moved back north. Fort Lauderdale and Miami had undergone so much development that when I returned for a visit six years later, I couldn't even find the place I used to live!

When I arrived in Miami by boat in 2002, I thought I had landed in a foreign country. Nobody at Rickenbacker Marina (dockhand and boat neighbors) spoke any English! Even the Asian girl who worked at the marina spoke Spanish. How could she not? She's from Panama!

Rickenbacker Marina has a stunning view of Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline. Because of the proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway and the inlet, our boat rocked and rolled much of the time, especially on the weekends when the local boaters were out and about. Miami is very cosmopolitan. Its skyline reminded us of Boston, a small city with lots of energy, albeit with a Latin vibe. We loved it so much we stayed for three months.

View of Miami from Mai Thai's port side

If you are in Miami for the Super Bowl football championship tomorrow, or for the Valentine's holiday or to embark on your cruise, you'll be in for some fun times. Here's a guide for things to do in this electrifying city!

South Beach
This is probably the number one hot spot that is on everyone's list of things to do while in Miami. And rightly so. Where else can you see colorful art deco architecture, wild parties in full swing from early afternoon to the wee hours of the morning at cafes and bars like Mango's (see video below)? There are lots of beautiful people and fancy cars parading up and down Ocean Drive, just begging to be discovered. Need I mention the famous beach and the beauties who hang out there in search of some tan?


Lincoln Mall Road
Several blocks northwest of Ocean Drive between 16 and 17th Streets is an outdoor pedestrian mall. It is lined with retail stores, art galleries, outdoor cafes and restaurants. A great spot for people watching. On Sundays, there is a farmer's market. Just before the vendors close up shop, they offer their goods at a steep discount. I had the unforgettable experience of purchasing four dozens of gorgeous long stemmed roses for a mere $10 bucks!


Coconut Grove
A charming suburb of Miami, Coconut Grove is where the locals hang out. There are plenty of dining and shopping options here. The Coconut Grove Art Festival, one of the nation's premier fine arts festivals, is held here annually. This year's festival will take place Feb 13-15, which coincides with the Valentine and Chinese New Year weekend.

Little Havana
For a taste of Cuba, drive over to Little Havana, a short distance from downtown Miami. Try some classic Cuban food at Versailles (3555 Calle Ocho or SW 8th Street). My favorite is the Fried Snapper, served whole, complete with head and tail.

Fort Lauderdale
Dubbed as the Venice of America, Fort Lauderdale is laced with canals and palatial homes. You can get from one end of the city to the other via the water taxi, and you can get off at various stops along the way. Check out the chic stores and artsy boutiques on Las Olas Boulevard. Nearby Riverfront is also a nice stop for dining, shopping and some free entertainment.


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