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Miami Travel Guide

flights to Miami

Miami has come a long way since the 70's. Cruelly nicknamed 'God's Waiting room' due to the number of retirees attracted by the yearlong warmth, it had also become a haven for various criminal fraternities. Years of neglect had seen the once beautiful Seafront transform into a scruffy embarrassment. It wasn't until the mid eighties that a mystifyingly trendy TV show called Miami Vice came along causing a complete reversal in the City's fortunes. In a few short years Miami rose in status and developed into a first class international holiday destination, a stomping ground for the rich and famous. Madonna, Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine all opened businesses. It became the ultimate location for that all important, status-affirming photo shoot. Since then every supermodel worth her suntan has been photographed on the Promenade.

Suddenly tourism began to flourish. Money was ploughed into the rebuilding and renovation of Miami Beach. The once paint peeling Art Deco buildings had new life breathed into them, as some of the worlds top architects were drafted in. New, distinctly stylish buildings started to spring up along the Beach. The boom demanded more hotel space for the nouveau rich that were arriving in their hordes. New bars, clubs and restaurants opened everywhere, each hoping to grab a piece of glamorous action. At last Miami was a serious contender in the beauty stakes, rivalling LA, San Tropez and the Costa del Sol. It now attracts no less than 11mil tourists every year.

One of the most remarkable resurrections is Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall , which by the 80s had become a no-mans-land of drug dealers, down and outs, closed stores and landscaped eyesores. Following a $17mil facelift it is now thriving. Decorated with glistening pools, fountains, lush trees and plants it is amongst the country's most pleasant promenades. The regeneration has created a hub of social activity for shoppers, people watchers and those wanting to be watched. Here you'll find galleries, bookstores, theatres, South American TV and Music companies, trendy cafes, the New World Symphony Orchestra, Miami City Ballet and Michael Caine's celebrated South Beach Brassiere.

As Morris Lapidus , the controversial architect responsible for designing much of the flamboyant buildings in Miami including the breathtaking Fontainebleau Hotel, said 'It's finally going to be a great resort'. He wasn't wrong. The beaches are superb, the water clear and warm and the off-white sand broad and long, ensuring there's plenty of room for the throngs. Topless bathing is accepted and there are great facilities for water sports - especially windsurfing and jet skiing. Scuba diving is amongst the very best in the world with the Atlantic John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park, 5 miles east of Key Biscayne, offering some 78sq miles of the most fascinating dives you could wish for.

Alternative watersports can be enjoyed inland amongst the Everglades, a literal river of grass that flows 100miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. You can rent a Kayak and explore this fascinating swampland at your leisure or, for around $50 you can book an airboat ride with a professional guide who can introduce you to the fascinating and abundant wildlife - birds and alligators in particular.

Away from the Beach you'll find small ethnic enclaves which hark back to the Miami of fifty years ago and more. The favourite spots are Little Havana, the Cuban American neighbourhood and the best place to buy a box of genuine cigars at a good price. The shops are also remarkable and the food again is delicious and less expensive than around, say, Lincoln Road and Coconut Grove. Little Haiti is wonderful. A distinctive Haitian neighbourhood, it is the location for the colourful Caribbean Market where you can by exquisite hand made furniture and eat goat stew. They also sell great voodoo related stuff.

The nightlife is superb and, as you would expect, very classy. Be warned, most places have a dress code and do not permit entry for single guys or guys in groups. It's best to turn up with a date. Also most of the more popular places have guest lists, so you're best to ask the bellboy for help - he may be able to phone himself or know someone who can. A few clubs allow you to phone in yourself. Most of the clubs are outdoors or a combination of indoors and outdoors. They mainly cater for beautiful, trendy people and offer a wide range of music and entertainment. Mangos is the place for Latin music, whilst the Bash has the best Cuban music. Chaos and Liquid spin the very latest techno and dance tunes and Fat Tuesday's and the Clevelander are both tourist-orientated hangouts. The food in Miami is varied and usually good but can be a little pricey. You can choose from Cuban, Argentinean, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, seafood and steakhouses.

Miami has more than its fair share of celebrations and festivals. The biggest is Caranaval, which lasts 9 days and includes a Miss Carnaval Contest, concerts at Orange Bowl, in-line skating competition, jazz concerts, and Latin Drag Queen contest along with plenty of drink, dancing and consequential debauchery. Late May sees the start of the International Hispanic Theatre Festival, one of the largest events of its type in the US. Held at the El Carrusel Theatre it attracts Latin American, Caribbean and European theatre companies. Another highlight is the Orange Bowl Parade, a stunning procession of elaborate floats, clowns and bands, which is complimented by a folkloric dance competition and firework display at Bayfront Park. Bayfront Park is also the venue for an event in early August when, for once, Miami chills out at the Annual Reggae Festival, one of the biggest in the world.

It may not be everybody's cup of tea and you would be excused for finding Miami a tad vulgar. But if you enjoy fast times, beautiful people, glitzy bars, flash cars, sun, sand and sin, then Miami is definitely for you. A poser's paradise it's the ultimate place to be seen. It's not cheap so you'll need a full deck of plastic. Remember the Hurricane season starts in June and doesn't finish until November, so come prepared. But if you're a believer in the notion of 'if you've got it flaunt it' then buff up and head for the Beach without delay... Your dream destination (and perhaps partner) awaits you!

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Miami Travel Guide, Attractions and Highlights
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