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No longer purely a vacation spot for snowbirds, Miami’s heart pulses to a beat all its own, fueled by the largest Cuban population this side of Havana. Appearance rules in this city, and nowhere is this more clear than on the shores of South Beach, where visual delights include Art Deco hotels and tanned beach bodies. South Beach (SoBe) is also host to a nightclub scene that attracts some of the world’s most beautiful people. But it’s not all bikinis and glitz—Miami is the entry point for one of America’s great natural habitats, the Everglades, as well as the gateway to the Florida Keys and the Caribbean.
Three highways crisscross the Miami area. I-95, which runs along the east side of the city and is the most direct north-south route, merges into US 1 (Dixie Highway) just south of downtown. Route 836 (Dolphin Expressway), the east-west artery through town, connects I-95 to Florida’s Turnpike, which circles the city in the west. Downtown Miami has a systematic street layout: streets run east-west, avenues run north-south, and both are numbered. Miami is divided into northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest quadrants by Flagler Street and Miami Avenue.
The heart of Little Havana lies on Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street) between SW 12th and SW 27th Ave. Coconut Grove, south of Little Havana, centers on the shopping and entertainment district on Grand Avenue and Virginia Street. Coral Gables, an upscale residential area, is around the intersection of Coral Way and Le Jeune Road (Southwest 42nd Avenue). The Tri-Rail,an above-ground subway system, as well as a comprehensive bus network provide safe and reliable public transportation, but it’s still difficult to get around without a car in downtown Miami. Blocks are long, and pedestrians (the few and the proud) often have to cross many-laned roads with no crosswalks.
Several causeways connect Miami to Miami Beach. The most useful is MacArthur Causeway, which becomes Fifth Street. Numbered streets run east-west across the island, increasing as you go north. In South Beach, Collins Avenue (Route A1A) is the main north-south drag and runs parallel to club-filled Washington Avenue and beachfront Ocean Drive. The commercial district sits between Sixth and 23rd St. One-way streets, traffic jams, and limited parking make driving around South Beach (SoBe) frustrating. Tie on your most stylish sneakers, park the car, and enjoy the small island at your leisure or hop on the South Beach Local a bus service that runs every 10-15 min. around SoBe.
This tropical paradise is packed with culture. Beaches aren’t the only thing Miami has to offer. The Cuban influence can be see in the shops in Little Havana and the colorful art deco building and turquoise waters are perfectly juxtaposed by the white sands of the beach. There is so much to explore in Miami.
Miami is loaded with vibrant sights and activities; it is impossible to see them all, even if you live there! We’ve narrowed it down to the essentials to help you make the most of your time in Miami. Click the links to explore and book tours or local guides.
Miami has a wide variety of restaurants, and most don’t come cheap. For less expensive fare, check out Little Havana and Little Haiti or head to the open-air snack counters in South Beach and along Calle Ocho. In South Beach, restaurants can be found up and down Ocean Drive and along Lincoln Road, west of Washington St. and Espanola Way. Go one block inland from the beach to find cheaper prices.
Nightlife in the Art Deco district of South Miami Beach starts late and continues until well after sunrise. Clubs are centered on Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue,between Seventh and 18th St. The scene is transient; what’s there one week may not be there the next, so call in advance before heading out. Many clubs don’t demand cover until after midnight, and the $20+ door charge can include an open bar. However, willingness to pay a steep cover is no guarantee of admission. Difficult doormen can prove impossible after 1am, so show up early and dress to impress. Many clubs have dress codes, and everyone always dresses to the nines, even on so-called “casual” nights. For a chance to experience a variety of clubs without breaking the bank, consider the Nightlife Pass, which will get you into 12 different clubs. Most nightclubs in Miami are 21+. South Beach’s gay scene may be somewhat diminished since its heyday, but the gay and mixed clubs are still dance-club staples, attracting partiers of every inclination. Check out the unofficially gay portion of the beach, known as “muscle beach,” around 12th St. and Ocean, across from Palace.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.