Two travel axioms I hold to be true:
With a couple of shiny new beach cruisers and 72 hours I set out with three intrepid locals to explore the Miami Beach neighborhoods of Mid Beach and North Beach by bike. I let my locals set our itinerary with one request – we visit places that they authentically love and frequent, no obligatory tourist bullshit.
My theory (which hasn’t failed me yet) is that everybody has a favorite place to eat, drink and relax and these are the places that are worth discovering.
Bryant kept me fed. We pedaled to and from his favorite nosh spots — cafes, restaurants and food trucks — grabbing quick bites.
Yes, this place is lodged in a nondescript strip mall corner unit next to a Dominos. And yes, you would probably never notice it unless a local brings you there. New York Bagel Deli does the simple things right with zero frills and it’s clear from Bryant’s reverent tone that this is the type of unpretentious local joint that quietly helps anchor a sense of neighborhood and community.
We order mango and strawberry smoothies and slurp them down at a table outside.
There’s a big sign that say’s ‘stone crab’ in the window and a big ice bath full of stone crab a few feet from the entrance and when we step inside he tells me ‘This place has great stone crab.’ No kidding. But we don’t get stone crab. We get ceviche and beer and battered and fried rock shrimp. The ceviche is good. The rock shrimp is crazy good.
The food truck gathering that congregates every last Wednesday of the month is a conga line of Miami Beach’s finest comfort fare. The trucks show up at 5pm – dusk for us in mid Dec. – and a small stage is erected for music. We forego the lobster rolls and fried mac n’ cheese balls and tacos to settle for a pile of syrup sweetened shaved ice. Night falls and folks form lines at the food trucks and stand in clumps, munching contently.
Fueled by a dark chocolate binge Tanja (and her frequent, infectious outbursts of laughter) guides me through some of the more chill and down to earth areas of Mid Beach.
We point our bikes toward chocolate and pedal.
It’s noon, the unseasonably strong sun is flashing through palm fronds as Tanja and I lean our beach cruisers against their kickstands and duck into Miami Beach Chocolates. The squat brick building looks like a throwback and so does the jolly looking bespectacled Jewish man behind the counter. I haven’t had breakfast, but here we are, emptying our pockets of bills and filling a paper bag with fine chocolates. We sit outside at one of the little cafe tables and fill our cheeks with sweets. We got a massive chocolate buzz then grabbed our bikes to coast through the neighborhoods just beyond the shop.
Indian Creek slices the better part of Miami Beach in half length wise. Luxury yachts and manatees share space in the brackish green waters though the yachts are considerably more numerable and easy to spot. Tanja and I bike along the mostly empty neighborhood streets that meander along the shore of Indian Creek. In stark contrast to the immodest hotel towers that dominate the landscape a few blocks away, the streets we pedal down are shaded by large trees, not penthouse suites. A footbridge, the only one I notice on our ride, is just big enough for two people on bikes.
A web of dirt paths, boardwalks, bike paths and paved boulevards runs up and down Miami Beach allowing people dozens of access points. Pick one. The water is warm, of course. Perfect is more apt.
The three places Leo takes me on our ride are the epitome of local chill. Nothing flashy here, just the cafes, beaches and dive bars he loves most.
The thing about the Buenos Aires Cafe is that it feels like you’re in Buenos Aires. The scarcity of english spoken, the old, high waisted dudes standing around the counter languishing over tiny cups of coffee. As we sit down over pastries Leo admits that he doesn’t know the names of the baked goods he’s been ordering for the last five years. It’s basically all good, he says, just point to something and order two.
Nothing to see here folks, and that’s the point he tells me as we walk our bikes beside the beach. No hotel towers. No pools. No crowds. No parking lots, restaurants or retail spaces. No nothing except a lazy game of sunset volley ball, a copse of palms, a well loved bike path and a mostly empty stretch of beach. A local oasis of understated chill.
Lou’s is exactly the kind of place that I love to throw back a couple of pints at. It’s hidden (apparently the neon sign on the sidewalk is new, before there was zero street front signage.) and unpretentious. It’s a hotel/hostel, so there is a strong contingency of world travelers lounging about sipping lager. Actually I’m a little surprised that this is one of Leo’s favorite spots initially. Leo has owned is own cocktail bar, is a bartender and corporate mixologist — I took all of this to indicate that his go-to spot would be a snazzier, more high brow joint. I’m glad it’s not. Lou’s is exactly what the doc order after 3 solid days in the saddle. Leo orders two big imported beers and expertly empties them into tall hefeweizen glasses. I take one look at the pool 4 feet to my left and wonder if I’m going for an accidental swim tonight.
Rent a bike by the hour at the Citibike stations. There are many pick up / drop off stations up and down Miami Beach. The bikes are ugly and heavy but they seem to work fine.
The best beach path biking is from Mid Beach to South Beach. South Beach is the best for long stretches of interconnected, beach side bike paths.
There are bike paths up and down much of Collins, but stay alert. Keep an eye out for cars even if you are in a bike lane, especially during commute times.
The sidewalks on Collins and Indian Creek Drive are pretty wide. Don’t be afraid to hop up on the side walks if the road traffic is not your thing. Watch out for people exiting buildings.
My base camp for my 72 hours in Miami Beach and the sponsor of this video is Circa 39 Hotel.
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Our Local Connection Brings You Tips for Sightseeing Miami!
Whether you are looking for things to do in Miami today or you are planning for your next Miami trip – this is the post for you. Miami is a dynamic city full of life and unique things to do. From South Beach in Miami Beach to Downtown Miami, there is lots of city sightseeing to be done with lots of Miami tours to choose from! There are also tons of places to go and things to do in Miami at night.
We’ve been wanting to write a post about Miami for a long time. Unfortunately, our travels haven’t brought us back to the United States! Eric has been to Miami a few times but that was many years ago travelling with his family as a kid. His knowledge wouldn’t be up-to-date at all.
So, we asked a local, Miss Blanco, to bring you her thoughts about exploring and sightseeing in Miami. As a Miami Area Native, she knows a thing or two about the city! She brings you a few of her local favourites from awesome rooftop bars to the best beaches and photo spots in Miami! So, take it away, Miss Blanco!
There are plenty of destinations with beautiful beaches, great cuisine, and world-class shopping, but Miami has all this plus a rich history of art and design and a unique fusion of cultures. Whether you are exploring glamorous South Beach or funky Little Havana, you’ll always come across something … uncommon and beautiful. Go beyond the neon lights and experience the southern star of Florida like a local.
What to know before you go to Miami
To avoid the high season and have Miami all to yourself, visit during October or in April and May: The weather is perfect and you'll encounter fewer crowds. Winter, of course, is boom time in the city and while you'll pay higher hotel rates than during the rest of the year, you won't be able to resist checking the chilly temperatures back home and feeling smug. Summer is undeniably hot and the humidity is rarely broken by the tropical showers that seem to sweep through every afternoon, but you'll have access to all the same restaurants and galleries as well as more affordable hotel options.
There are direct flights to Miami International Airport (MIA) from many airports, domestic and international. If you are driving, the city's a straight shot down I-95, the major expressway that runs along the eastern seaboard. For a more scenic route, take A1A.
Miami has great public transportation. To access the main downtown neighborhoods, including Brickell, Midtown, Wynwood. and the Design District, you can take the Metro Mover and the city trolley for free. On South Beach, there are hundreds of cabs available 24 hours a day. Car2Go is an option that allows you to rent a Smart Car and pay as you go. For a pace that permits more sightseeing along the way, the local bikeshare, Citi Bike offers monthly, daily, and hourly rentals.
New Year’s Eve at Bayfront Park is a perfect Miami moment. While everyone in New York City is bundled up in Times Square, the locals of Miami crowd around the InterContinental Hotel and watch the ball drop in very different attire. You’ll sip Champagne, dance to Latin music, and sample cheesy arepas hot off the grill. For a view, you’ll have the glittering city skyline on one side and breezy Biscayne Bay on the other. Afterwards, join the dance party or walk to one of the many bars and restaurants in the area.
Miami is a culinary wonderland, with options ranging from Michelin-starred restaurants to hole-in-the-wall eateries in Little Havana. To avoid the expensive pricing at some of the city’s trendy places, visit during Miami Spice, a citywide event that takes place in the fall. You’ll get to enjoy food and drink at some of the celebrity hot-spot restaurants on a set menu for a discounted price. It’s the best way to try the top-tier cuisine that Miami is known for without breaking the bank. (During the rest of the year, eating lunch at an expensive restaurant is much more affordable than dinner, of course.)
With the wide diversity of immigrants who live in South Florida, Miami is its own unique culture. Travelers should seek out experiences such as the parties in Little Havana, Haitian celebrations on weekends, the Greek Festival, and other cultural events. Take some time to sample of the art, cuisine, music, and culture of the locals.
Due to the variety of cultures that make up the population of Miami, you’ll find festivals and community events almost all year round. The Miami New Times is the best source for entertainment in the city. One of the biggest city attractions is Art Basel in December. View original works by internationally renowned artists along Miami Beach, Wynwood, and the Design District. Gather at the Miami Beach Convention Center to view gallery spaces and exhibits. The creative vibe really brings the celebrity and the local crowd to the city. Other festivals include the Ultra Music Festival, where you'll hear the best in EDM from the bay front in Downtown Miami. Be sure to also check out the Miami Film Festival at the Olympia Theater on historic Flagler Street. You'll view new films within the 1920s style theater, filled with elegant statues and classic art.
Miami is undergoing a renaissance. The city really emerged in the 1990s when South Beach became known for its youthful vibe and cool hotel scene. An influx of creatives has reshaped the art-forward neighborhoods of Wynwood and the Design District. Locals are increasing heading away from the beach and seeking diversions in a newly hip downtown filled with galleries, lofts, and warehouses. Over the last couple of years, more bohemian bars, restaurants, galleries, and shops have opened along the area's graffiti-spangled streets to meet the demand.
Come for the baseball or come for the food, because Marlins Park has raised the bar on ballpark cuisine. Its dozen-plus eateries go beyond boiled hot dogs and nachos with fluorescent-yellow cheese: Think Mexican street food by chef JosГ© AndrГ©s, Peruvian specialties, sushi, bubble waffles and mojo pork tacos. As you nosh, you can watch the game from the Clevelander clubвЂ™s swimming pool. ThereвЂ™s even a DJ and dancers, resembling the scene at its sister hotel on South Beach. How many other stadiums have all this?
BTW: The Club: DEX offers a more traditional baseball club experience, with all-inclusive food, drinks and valet parking.
501 Marlins Way. Miami, Fla. 33125
Illustration by Juan Camilo Rodriguez
for The Washington Post