|Each person you ask to describe Miami will
give you a different answer. It is at once a vacation spot and a refugee
camp, a 24-hour party and a secluded desert island, a fashion center and a
retirement community. The city's astounding cultural diversity is apparent
from the moment you set foot in it and hear the rise and fall of a dozen
different languages being spoken simultaneously. It becomes more apparent
as you wander through the many different districts which make up Greater
When talking about Miami, the Beach is the best place to start. In the
1940s, when vacationers began to arrive, Miami Beach was the center of
action. Although years have passed and times have changed, the Beach
remains a perennial hot spot. Enormous luxury resorts such as the
Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc rise majestically against the skyline.
Shops and restaurants line the streets. And who could forget the miles of
white sand beach?
Once the home of retired citizens and starving artists, South Beach has
risen in the last 10 years to international fame as a vacation
destination. Every block is packed with restaurants, bars, shops, and--of
course--dance clubs, each more glamorous, trendy, and cutting-edge than
the last. One could spend days ambling through South Beach, taking in the
sights and sounds. Take a walking tour along Ocean Drive or down Lincoln
Road, where the beautiful people come out to play. Whether it's three in
the morning or three in the afternoon, there's bound to be plenty to do.
Located on the northern end of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour is the most
exclusive neighborhood in Greater Miami. Luxury resorts sit serenely amid
the lush foliage and palatial homes. No visit to this district is
complete--or even begun--without a visit to the Bal Harbour Shops.
Versace, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Prada are just a few of the fashion
houses that have retail outlets in this shopping center. Plenty of fine
dining can be found in Bal Harbour--you'll have a harder time finding fast
Although primarily a business district, there's lots to see and do
downtown. Tour the design district between NorthEast 36th and 41st
Streets, or check out the museums in the Miami-Dade Cultural Center.
Shoppers will delight in the Bayside Marketplace, with its retail shops,
an open-air crafts market, a half dozen restaurants, and a pier. The Port
of Miami is just next to Bayside; it's easy to find a boat to take you on
a tour around the bay.
Coral Gables is a gated enclave crisscrossed by canals, just a few
minutes' drive from Downtown Miami. This small, tree-lined village is home
to many of Miami's most famous attractions, including the Biltmore
Hotel,The Venetian Pool and the Miracle Mile. Excellent shopping and
dining can be found on the Miracle Mile as well as on the side streets
Although this bustling district is one of the oldest in Miami, it seems to
just be hitting its prime. Full of energy and creativity, the Grove is as
busy as South Beach, but in a different way. Instead of attracting models
and body builders, it draws in artists, writers, and patrons of the arts.
There are hundreds of fabulous shops and restaurants crammed within this
small area, most of them located on the CocoWalk or on the Streets of
Mayfair. The Coconut Grove Playhouse is one of the best live theater
venues in the southeastern United States.
It's located just over the Rickenbacker Causeway, but it might as well be
a thousand miles away. Things are different on this peaceful tropical
island. The pace slows down. People are friendly and matter of fact. If
the marvelous white sand beaches and varied leisure sports aren't enough
reason to go, consider the prospect of kissing a dolphin at the Miami
This area is located west of Brickell Avenue, and runs along the
thoroughfare known as Calle Ocho (SouthWest Eighth Street). Many refugees
from Cuba have settled here, along with natives of Colombia, Guatemala,
Puerto Rico, and other Latin American countries. It is in this district
that you can hear authentic salsa music, enjoy a full meal of Cuban food
for under $5, or try a steaming cup of shockingly strong café cubano in
an outdoor cafe.
West Miami is a quieter, more residential area. It is very spread out and
almost impossible to sightsee without a car. Hialeah and Miami Lakes, two
residential communities, are located in this area. Major tourist
destinations include the Miami International Airport and the race tracks
at Hialeah Park.
While it may be slightly out of the way, Aventura is easy to reach even
without a car, thanks to the shuttle busses that run regularly from the
major downtown hotels to the Aventura Mall. The mall is well worth a day
trip, as it boasts over 250 shops, restaurants, and attractions. This
district is also home to dozens of excellent restaurants, many of them
specializing in "Floribbean" cuisine.
While Broward County is not officially a part of Miami, it might as well
be--it's less than a half hour away. The thriving art community of
Hollywood, the outlets at Sawgrass Mills and, last but not least, the
decadent little town of Fort Lauderdale--official Spring Break destination
of a million college students--are a few possible destinations in Broward.
The pace is slightly more relaxed than in Miami, but people are here to
have fun, make no mistake about it. Enjoy the shops on Las Olas, or dine
in a restaurant that has its own private boat dock for guests traveling by