Miami
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Beach in Miami
® Mike Leco / USATourist.com

Miami's beaches have an international flair and attract tourists from around the world.

Miami, Florida Travel Guide

About Miami

Miami is located on the Atlantic coast of Florida at the southern tip and is one of the most popular cities visited by tourists from around the world.  Most arrive at Florida’s busiest airport: Miami International Airport.  Miami is also known as the cruise capital of the world with ships sailing from Port Miami (located in Biscayne Bay) to destinations around the world.

Miami weather is warm all year around

The weather in Miami is warm year around and usually very hot and humid during the summer months. Most tourists prefer to visit during October through April. Outdoor sports and swimming are open all seasons, so be sure to take your swimming suit and plenty of cool clothing. A sun hat and a good sunscreen are essential even in the winter months. In Miami, dress is always casual, with sundresses, jeans or walking shorts appropriate during the day. A few higher-class restaurants require jackets and ties, but most do not.

Hundreds of thousands of Hispanic immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America and South America have settled in Miami. Spanish is spoken almost everywhere in the city. Many signs are in both English and Spanish especially those near the Latin district known locally as "Little Havana". Cubans originally settled in the area around Calle Ocho Street (Southwest Eighth Street) more than 20 years ago. Today, this colorful area embraces immigrants from all over Latin America.

Neighborhood store in Miami© Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Miami's prevalent Hispanic and Latino population is evident in many of its communities and neighborhoods.

Miami and Miami Beach are two different cities

Miami and Miami Beach are actually two distinctly different cities. Miami Beach, located on the outer bank is almost exclusively tourist orientated, and consists mainly of hotels and vacation apartments. Miami, located on the mainland, is a cosmopolitan city with a distinctly Latin American flavor. 

South Beach

The Art Deco district of Miami Beach occupies a compact one-square mile area roughly between Lincoln Road, Sixth Street, Ocean Drive and Alton Road. It is a showcase for this early twentieth century art movement and contains dozens of restored buildings with that characteristic architecture. To help find your way around, visit the Miami Design Preservation League's Welcome Center on 1001 Ocean Drive (305) 672-2014. Pick up the league's audiocassette for a self-guided introduction to the Art Deco Historic District. The South Beach section, where fashion designer Gianni Versace lived and died, is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the world. It has hundreds of restaurants, hotels, boutiques, and nightclubs.  At some of the more popular nightclubs, guests can wait hours in line before gaining entry, with many of the clubs and bars staying open until after 4 a.m.

Although not legal, topless sunbathing is permitted in South Beach.

Accommodations

There is a wide variety of lodging choices in Miami including high-end boutique hotels, national hotel chains, vacation home rentals, and budget motels. You can find discount coupon codes to save money on your next Miami vacation.

Things to do in Miami

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, you might want to visit the Parrot Jungle and Gardens, the Monkey Jungle, the Metrozoo, Vizcaya (a fabulous Italian Renaissance-style villa), the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, or the Holocaust Memorial. You can also take tours by boat, plane, helicopter, walking or driving. All sorts of water sports are available like boating, fishing, skin diving, snorkeling and water skiing. Golf and tennis are popular. Horse racing, greyhound dog racing and Jai alai are favorite spectator sports.  Our Miami Attractions Guide features more fun things to do in Miami.

Miami Beach provides plenty of nightlife. The large hotels have elaborate stage shows and you can find a free copy of "This Week in Miami-Miami Beach" at any hotel. It will list all of the current shows and entertainment attractions.

Miami offers good dining and good shopping

Both Miami and Miami Beach offer many excellent restaurants with a diverse selection of cuisine. Fresh seafood is the local specialty. Joe's Stone Crab restaurant is a very popular Miami Beach landmark known for its large portions of excellent food. Wherever you eat, be sure to try some Key Lime Pie, a famous Florida dessert. Miami always participates in Restaurant Week, usually during August or September, with dozens of Miami’s finest restaurants offering a three-course meal at special rates.

There are plenty of good shopping opportunities in the Miami area. For exclusive shopping, go to the Ball Harbor Mall. Other shopping centers include Bayside Market Place, Coconut Grove, The Falls, Aventura Mall and Cocowalk. If you are a serious bargain hunter, don't miss the 173-store Sawgrass Mills Factory Discount Mall in Sunrise, Florida 40 min north of the city. In the Little Havana area, there are many small shops with unusual and interesting items, but you may have to speak Spanish to get the best deals.  Make sure to read our Florida Shopping Guide for more information on where to find the best shopping bargains.

A word about personal safety

Safety and personal security are always concerns in any large city. Miami received some unfavorable publicity a few years ago when several tourists were robbed and murdered. The city does have a high crime rate, but it is still relatively safe for anyone exercising common sense. Do not venture away from the tourist areas into dangerous neighborhoods after dark! Always lock cameras, luggage and valuables out of sight in the trunk of your car! Never leave money or valuables in your hotel room!

Two large National Parks nearby

There are two large National Parks near Miami. The Everglades National Park is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the USA. It has more than 1.5 million acres of natural habitat with over half of it under water. The main entrance is reached via Florida City south of Miami. It is open all seasons. Biscayne National Park is also reached by traveling south through Homestead. It consists mainly of unspoiled coastline, islands, crystal-clear ocean waters and coral reefs. The majority of Biscayne Park is under water along the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula and around the northern keys. If you visit either park, remember to take your mosquito repellent and sunscreen!
Written by: Cathy Maxwell
Top Photo Credit: Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
Photo Description: Aerial view of Miami beach area