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Welcome to Miami


Miami may be the retirement capital of the United States, but there is nothing old fashioned about this bright, brash playground city that shines under the sunny Florida skies. This coastal city was a sleepy holiday town until the 1920s, when the 'in crowd' decided to make it their own. The town bloomed into a fun seaside capital and was blessed with a legacy of Art Deco architecture, particularly along South Beach, which has been carefully preserved. During World War II the forces came to town when Miami was an important military base. Today, apart from being a favourite holiday Mecca and sunny spot for retirees, it is also the gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Miami's large Cuban community add to the atmosphere in the sultry neighbourhood of Little Havana. Trendsetters hang out in Coconut Grove, while sunlovers strew the miles of white sandy beaches. For families there are entertaining attractions like the Seaquarium and Metrozoo. The nightlife is sophisticated and varied. The city also gives easy access to Florida's popular Gold Coast resorts and attractions, as well as the natural wonder of the Florida Everglades.

No wonder Miami is America's favourite holiday destination and the hub of a vibrant cruise ship industry, its port jammed constantly with sleek passenger liners. North of the city, miles of beautiful sandy beaches of the Gold Coast are hemmed in by southeast Florida's major tourist resorts: Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pompano Beach and Palm Beach.

Information & Facts


Greater Miami enjoys a subtropical climate that ensures plenty of sunshine all year round. Sun protection is advised, even when temperatures are moderated by cool ocean breezes. Rainfall occurs mainly during summer and early autumn. Summer humidity levels are usually between 85-90 percent, making Miami one of the most humid cities in the US.

Eating Out

Miami is particularly well known for its Cuban restaurants and the city's cuisine is predominantly floribean(a combination of Latin, American and Caribbean). Eateries include everything from steakhouses and cafés to Italian, Oriental and Middle Eastern restaurants.

Emeril's is a sophisticated venue specialising in fine Creole food; its elegant décor and luxurious design is also remarkable. Palme d'Or was voted the best restaurant in South Florida and offers glamorous dining at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel. Shoji Sushi is distinguished by its fusion of Japanese and North American cooking, and its authentic Japanese sushi box technique. Miami's premier seafood restaurant, Joe's Stone Crabs, has flourished since its 1913 beginnings as a sidewalk vendor and is celebrated for its stone crab claws.

Señor Frogs has an appealingly trendy atmosphere and affordable menu; the place to go for cheesy food, potent margaritas and a great mariachi band. A popular spot with the locals, Versailles is where Miami's Cuban power brokers meet over café con leche; the diverse menu offers humble, authentic and extremely tasty Cuban dishes. So, with an appetite and wallet to match, take on Miami's impressive and varied gastronomy!

Getting Around

The mainstay of the Miami public transport system is the Metrobus; however, the network is large, and it takes some time to get used to. The fare is standard to any destination. If you need to change buses, ask for a transfer when buying your ticket, which costs extra. There is also an elevated train service called the Metrorail, which connects North and South Miami with stations at one mile intervals, and an elevated monorail, the Metromover, which offers great views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay and connects with buses and trains. Most visitors, however, take taxis or hire a car. This can be more convenient, as the city is sprawled out over a large area. To rent a car, the driver must be over 21, have a valid credit card and, if from abroad, hold a passport and English language driving license. Local drivers can be aggressive.

Kids Attractions

Sunny Miami is a great holiday destination for families with kids. This exciting city offers a vast number of attractions and activities for children, many of which parents will enjoy too! From museums to parks and beaches, there is no shortage of places to take kids while on holiday in Miami.

Miami favourites for kids include the outer-space exhibits at the Miami Science Museum, as well as the entertaining killer whale performances at Seaquarium. Children also love seeing Jungle Island's exotic parrots, crocodiles and penguins. And that's just the beginning...

Summer tends to be a bit too warm and stormy for kids on holiday in Miami; most families prefer to go there in winter when the temperatures are a bit more comfortable, and off-season rates for accommodation and attractions are available.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.


Miami's nightlife is hot! The South Beach streets pump with clubs and bars, and there's plenty of partying and live music in the Design District area. Downtown Miami hosts a few trendy venues and Coconut Grove is also a popular party zone. With everything from cocktails and comedy shows to lounges and nightclubs, one night in Miami would never be long enough.

Visitors to Miami might like to start their evening at one of the many cocktail bars, or perhaps the Dan Marino sports bar and restaurant. Visit Greater Miami for flamenco or cabaret shows, or even a drag show! There are also various comedy performances out there, including stand-up, sketch and improvisational comedies.

Miami dance clubs and lounges tend to offer a sultry Latin beat, while nightclub music ranges from Afro-Cuban or rumba rap to indie rock and electro-pop. These clubs are prevalent in downtown Miami and Little Havana, as well as west of the Bay area. Mansions and SET in Miami beach are two of the trendiest clubs.


While Miami may not have too many iconic souvenirs for tourists to work into their budgets, it sure does have a lot to offer the discerning shopper!

A pedestrian promenade lined with palm trees and colourful art deco buildings& doesn't sound like a shopping mall does it? But that's Miami's Lincoln Road Mall, also home to big name labels like G.A.P and Banana Republic. For another 'open mall' experience, The Falls not only has all the usual shops but also a fantastic seating area near the waterfall.

For elite shopping, few places measure up to Bal Harbour Shops, with stores include Tiffany & Co, Prada and Saks Fifth Avenue. Miracle Mile is one of Miami's top shopping locations, hosting over 170 upscale shops and 40 gourmet restaurants within walking distance of each other.

On the waterfront, Bayside Marketplace offers a variety of shops, restaurant and entertainment just moments from downtown Miami. Espanola Way is a quirky, amiable street in Miami Beach filled with stalls selling local arts and crafts on weekends. U.S. 1 Discount Mall is an air-conditioned flea market in Cutler Bay with over 200 vendors ready to satisfy all consumer desires, from belly piercing to tailoring.

Sales Tax of 7% is built into purchase prices; as sales taxes are set at state level, there is no way to obtain a refund from the federal government for non-US visitors. With something for everyone, and then some, Miami is a great city to blow a big wad of holiday cash in.


This lively city has more to it than Miami Vice or Horatio's crime scenes in CSI. With stunning white sand beaches, trendy shopping malls and a variety of both cultural and historic sites, Miami offers a wealth of things to see and do; save money and avoid queues with the Go Miami Card, available throughout the city.

Antique lovers should visit the Vizcaya Villa, built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1916. The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux is the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere; definitely a 'must see' for history buffs. A romantic, cultural attraction is Coral Castle, which was apparently hand-carved by a man experiencing unrequited love. Famous for its marine life, Miami's Seaquarium is the place to spend time indulging aquatic curiosity. Also worth exploring, Jungle Island has an exciting array of wildlife, from parrots and macaws to crocodiles and penguins.

At the Miami Science Museum, visitors could run into a few aliens! And collections of rare natural history specimens& Don't be put off by the exterior of Miami-Dade Cultural Centre; it houses a plethora of interesting artistic and historic exhibits, and the Miami Art Museum. Another collection of art and design, depicting popular culture from 1885 to 1945, is on display at the Wolfsonian Museum.

This is all made possible by sunny skies and ample public transport, but avoid hurricane season (June to November) and the crowds of spring break in March. While in vibrant Miami, with so many great sightseeing and cultural attractions, there won't actually be time to catch those TV shows!

The Biscayne National Park can be seen from downtown Miami but the two areas are completely different. The coral reefs and tiny islands of this water sanctuary are home to an abundance of wildlife for children to see, and even a couple of awe-inspiring pirate shipwrecks. This is a great camping, boating and swimming spot for families.

Legend has it that unrequited love led a Latvian immigrant to spend 25 years single-handedly carving a castle out of rock between the Florida Keys and Miami, on the South Dixie Highway. The amazing monument to the man's determination has been called America's Stonehenge and has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles. Visitors are awed by the castle, which also contains affidavits from neighbours testifying to the fact that the builder had no assistance with his mammoth task.

A family holiday in Miami wouldn't be complete without spending some time on the beach. Aside from sand and sea, Crandon Park Beach also has the Amusement Center with a carousel, a roller rink, a splash fountain and a playground for kids to enjoy. The Crandon Park Gardens are beautiful to see, and there are a few picnic spots to enjoy as well.

The vast Everglades National Park that spans the tip of the Florida peninsula, 35 miles (56km) southwest of Miami, has been described as a 40-mile-wide (64km) slow-moving river of grass, interspersed with shallow wetlands. It is the only subtropical preserve in North America, containing temperate and tropical plants. It also boasts dozens of endangered species that find a home in this natural habitat, like the swallowtail butterfly, American crocodile, leatherback turtle, southern bald eagle and West Indian manatee. The best way to explore the Park is by canoe; private operators however run rapid air-boat tours, which are popular with thrill-seeking visitors. The Park has been accorded several honours including its designation as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance.

Kids will be delighted by the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, which offers train rides, toy trains to play with and interesting model train exhibits. The museum's railroad car collection includes President Roosevelt's historic Ferdinand Magellan carriage. In March each year there are Thomas the Tank Engine rides for children. On Saturday and Sunday between 11.00am and 4.00pm kids can ride in the cab of a locomotive and get to operate some of the controls.

An offshoot of Parrot Jungle, which was established in 1936, Jungle Island is a new complex offering an exciting array of wildlife from parrots and macaws to crocodiles and penguins. You can witness over 200 parrots at the Manu Encounter, the world's only aviary replicating the clay cliffs of Manu, Peru and at the Parrot Bowl, a gaping amphitheatre, you can be entertained by the clever antics of cockatoos, parrots and macaws. Look out for the rare albino alligator and 21-foot crocodile at the Serpentarium. A new addition to Jungle Island is the waterpark featuring the 168-foot Hippo Slide, with an exhilarating 40-degree drop.

A pedestrian promenade lined with palm trees and colourful art deco buildings, Lincoln Road Mall is a great haunt for locals and foreigners. Once called the 'Fifth Avenue of the South', this lively seven-block shopping district serves up big name labels like G.A.P. and Banana Republic but also houses the renowned Regal Movie Theatre and the Lincoln Theatre, home to the New World Symphony. Considered one of the best people-watching streets in South Beach, take refreshment at one of the string of sidewalk cafés or soak up some local culture at the many art galleries along the mall. The Farmers Market on Sundays is the best place for fresh vegetables, fruits, juices, homemade breads and flowers and on weekends Antique vendors display their wares along the sidewalk. At night, street performers take to the mall, entertaining passersby.

The child-sized exhibits at the Miami Children's Museum are both colourful and interactive. Kids can explore the museum's simulated hospital, supermarket or fire station, playing with and moving anything they like. The Mt. Michimu rock-climbing wall offers a fun, physical challenge for older children.

Nothing is staid or boring in Miami, least of all its museums. The Miami Science Museum, north of Coconut Grove, contains more than 140 exhibits, all designed to be hands-on and interactive, coupled with live demonstrations and collections of rare natural history specimens that make discovering and learning a great deal of fun. The Wildlife Center boasts more than 175 live reptiles and birds of prey, and the adjacent Space Transit Planetarium provides more thrills with projected astronomy and laser light shows.

At least a half a day is required to fully enjoy south Florida's premier attraction. The Seaquarium is world-renowned for its marine life shows and attractions, including performing killer whales and television aquatic star and dolphin, Flipper. Another favourite star is the sea lion Salty and his colleagues, who amuse and amaze with their antics.

The outwardly unattractive complex of the Miami-Dade Cultural Centre, in the rather unsavoury area of West Flagler Street, is worth a visit because it houses a plethora of interesting artistic and historic exhibits. The Centre contains the Miami Art Museum (, featuring a collection of modern and contemporary works by American, Latin American and Caribbean artists. There are also themed exhibits, which bring art and artists to life, as do the twice-monthly 'happy hour' parties, organised to highlight a particular exhibit. The Cultural Centre also contains the Historical Museum of Southern Florida ( with exhibits that relate to the fascinating history of the area and the culture, folklore and archaeology of South Florida and the Caribbean.

Take the kids to play at the Pinecrest Gardens - its banyan trees and abundant vegetation are just crying out to be explored! Other highlights of the gardens include a fun playground, a petting zoo and the 'Splash 'n Play' water area, as well as a couple of tabled picnic spots.

Miami boasts the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere - but there is a catch. Dating from 1133 the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux in North Miami Beach is a hugely popular tourist attraction, although not quite indigenous to the area. The monastery stood originally in Segovia in Spain, but in the early 1950s the medieval building was bought by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, disassembled, shipped to Miami and rebuilt on its present site.

Lovers of antiques revel in visiting the magnificent 34-room Vizcaya bayfront villa, built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1916 as a winter retreat for wealthy industrialist, James Deering. The grand mansion took hundreds of artisans five years to complete, and the formal gardens, which surround the villa fronting on Biscayne Bay, took even longer to lay out. Today visitors can tour the villa and grounds, enjoying the original furnishings and décor in a variety of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococco and Neoclassical styles.

A vivacious collection of art and design pieces depicting popular culture from 1885 to 1945, the Wolfsonian is the amalgamation of a long-term pursuit by eccentric heir and collector, Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Housed in the original warehouse used as a storage facility for the 70,000 pieces, visitors can pick through the origins of graphic and industrial design in the hotchpotch of distinctive propaganda art from Germany, Italy and the United States, and the remarkable industrial design pieces from modern German design to Bauhaus. Not to be missed is the über cool Dynamo café and museum shop.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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