March is a great time to grab some Florida sunshine. The city is graced with year-round warm weather with balmy temperatures ranging from mid to high 20˚Cs, so why not drive down The Keys or catch the state’s many highlights on a 2-week fly and drive trip? Ozel Rowland has pulled together you need to know about enjoying Miami this month…
A coastal metropolis
Miami, USA is home to a number of diverse neighbourhoods, luxurious oceanfront resorts, and idyllic natural spaces and, what’s more, is loved for its wealth of arts and culture hotspots around town. Its casual blend of sun, sea and sand with all the pleasures and amenities of a city make Miami the best of both worlds.
Some of the city’s best beaches include Surfside, Bal Harbour, and Lummus Park Beach where you can spend an afternoon lazing in the sun and reading a book, surfing the waves, or playing a round of volleyball. For a less crowded experience, head over to Haulover Park Beach, which is located a few miles north of Miami Beach. This 1.4 mile stretch of untouched coastline is valued for its unspoiled white sands and its host of clothing optional beaches. The park has a number of picnic areas and access to recreational activities, such as tennis and golf, and the ocean breezes mean that it’s the ideal spot for kite-flying and surfing. Anglers can rejoice as the newly renovated Bill Bird Marina area has a variety of charter fishing boats where you can take up a day’s fishing out in the big blue.
The Miami Beach Botanical Garden is another great place where you can enjoy the city’s much preserved green space. Here you can take up the beautiful scenery and get your hands on some of the city’s best local produce during its farmer’s market every Wednesday. The month of March will be offering a range of events for visitors, including the 2015 Japanese Spring Festival and the 14th annual Miami Beach Garden Tour.
Otherwise, the Miami Beach area is jam-packed with art museums, galleries and street art which reflect its thriving arts and culture scene. Find a stunning spread of murals at the Wynwood Walls in NW 2nd Avenue or a magnificent collection of Old Masters at Miami’s cultural lynchpin, the Bass Museum of Art. Another notable choice is the World Erotic Art Museum, the second largest of its kind in the world, with 12,000 square feet dedicated to the private collections of an internationally renowned antique collector, Naomi Wilzig. If you’re around South Beach, be sure to check out the unique architecture of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage before joining the bustle of Lincoln Road Mall.
An architectural wonderland
A stroll along South Beach will bring you to the historic Art Deco district of Ocean Drive where you will be transported into a world of Great Gatsby grandeur and 1920s glamour. Look around and you’ll be confronted by whimsical pastel coloured hotels, swanky cars and oversized palm trees lining the streets. Since it’s a revival in the 1980s after an economic dry-spell, the area has become renowned for its decadent dining establishments, sophisticated bars, and stylish clubs. In the day, you can visit the Art Deco District Welcome Centre and take a self-guided audio tour through the city’s major historic design developments and architectural choices. Alternatively, you can explore the area’s chic shopping quarter and then grab a bite to eat at the renowned News Café on 8th Street which was one of the first to open during the gentrification of the 1980s. At dusk, when the sparkle of neon lights brightens up the boulevards, Ocean Drive’s roaring nightlife comes into full swing. The Clevelander Pool Bar is a popular choice for many, as is Story, Miami’s own luxury ‘mega-club’ which offers party-goers nearly 3000 square feet of dancing space.
A short drive to south Downtown Miami, just off the mainland, will bring you to the peaceful secluded island of Key Biscayne. Awash with vast golden shores and beautiful coastal vegetation, this area of Miami attracts those who want to leave behind the bustle of Miami Beach. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is a key spot for biking and kayaking and is home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Built in 1825, it’s the oldest building in Miami-Dade County and stands tall over the pristine beachfront. If you’re looking for something for the kids, then try the Miami Seaquarium which is located between Key Biscayne and Rickenbacker Causeway. The park offers great family-friendly activities like an afternoon of swimming with the dolphins (or the seals) or a VIP tour through the park where you can meet all the animals.
Located just west of Downtown, the vibrant neighbourhood of Little Havana brings a taste of traditional Hispanic culture to Miami. Here you’ll find the rich aroma of Cuban coffee mingled with the scent of tobacco pervading the air. February and March is the season of Carnaval Miami which holds a host of fun events, including a Latin jazz festival, a cooking contest, Miss Carnaval Miami and a golf tournament. The main strip of Calle Ocho is a colourful affair, permeated with small cafes, fruit stalls and cigar shops and, in a feat resembling Hollywood glamour; it even has its very own ‘Walkway of the Stars’ which honours Latin American celebrities. As you walk up to SW 14th Avenue you’ll arrive at Máximo Gómez Park, or ‘Domino Park’ as the locals call it. The park is a social hotspot for the community’s older generation who go there to meet up and discuss politics or play a game of dominos over a coffee.
Just off Calle Ocho, is the neighbourhood’s historic district where you’ll find the Brigade 2506 Monument which keeps an eternal flame that burns in memory of those who died in the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
For a rather extravagant Cuban culinary experience, hit up Versailles. Thought to be Little Havana’s most famous restaurant, the place comprises of an opulent yet rudimentary dining interior, surrounded with mirrored walls and large crystal chandeliers hanging down from the not-so-high ceiling and spread with steel cushioned chairs and plastic tables. Still, the restaurant offers a delicious menu of authentic and hearty Cuban cuisine and is not one to miss if you’re in the area.