[Last Update: August 21, 2012]
[GAY INFO + GUIDE_Miami] [HOTELS] [WEATHER]
_FACTS & FEATURES
Glamour, jet set, world of the rich and famous, parties under palm trees and Cuba Libre à la American – that’s going on in your head thinking of Miami. Clichés and fantasies maybe, but Miami has a real bit of all. Walking in the city and you will definitely think of Golden Girls and Miami Vice – we tell you!
Kilometres of white beaches, sun and tropical climate are the mix for one of the favorite travel destinations in the USA. The port of Miami is the world largest for cruise liners.
Miami which name originally comes from the Native Indian word "Mayaimi" (big water) was founded in 1896. Today it’s the capital of Miami-Dade County which includes 35 municipalities. All together they form Greater Miami with a population of over 2.4 millions. The city district of Miami has a population of 480.000.
Miami Beach with the southern part South Beach is smaller and located off the coast on a 10 km (6.2 miles) long and narrow island stripe. In general tourists don’t realize the both cities as different. If they talk of Miami they mean Miami Beach – and reverse. But it’s Miami Beach which set up the reputation as a holiday paradise.
In the 1920s both cities were booming rapidly. Gambling was allowed and prohibition, the countrywide ban of alcohol, widely ignored. Many millionaires but also mafiosis from the cold north moved to sunny Florida in those times. In the 1980s Miami got a lot of problems with drug dealers from Columbia – and bad headlines too. But after billions of drug dollars were reinvested and so-called "washed" the boom returned once again.
The massive immigration of Cubans and people from the Caribbean as well as Latin America changed the face of Greater Miami in the last decades. Times are definitely gone when white pensioners from the northern states dominated the scenery. Today Greater Miami is on the way to a Latin American city with almost 60 percent of Hispanics – or at least the most exotic city in the USA.
Spanish has become – even though not officially – the second spoken language in Miami. In quarters like Little Havana – which in reality extends over 30 blocks along Calle Ocho – or Little Haiti you get an impression of the deep changes.
Despite all that the city still works as a typical American melting pot. Especially gay Latinos benefit from values like personal freedom, the pursuit of happiness and the right to express oneself.
In the south Miami is the "last exit" before the highway runs over the Florida Keys, in the west the Everglades are the natural border and in the north the county of Greater Fort Lauderdale is the next neighbour. Only exit signs on the highways point out in which city you actually are. From Miami to Palm Beach in the north all cities are melted together to a huge 100 km (60 miles) spreaded urban area with a population of more than 5.4 million. Within this area lots of tourists are hopping between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It’s less than one hour driving away.
For Europeans the first look on Miami's city map might be confusing. Some of the streets are many kilometres long, but getting around isn’t that complicated for the chequered street system.
The basic principles are: Boulevards and Streets always run East to West, Avenues always North to South.
The location where Flagler Street and Miami Avenue are crossing in Downtown marks the division of the city into 4 sections: North West (NW), North East (NE), South East (SE) and South West (SW). The codes show the sector in which an address is located and the street numbers tell you the distance to the central crossing-point Flagler/Miami Ave. - more higher means more far away from the crossing-point in Downtown.
[Go for Larger Map - with Street View]
_HOW TO GET THERE
Miami International Airport is one of the mayor airports in the USA and serves with lots of national and international connections. Several national airlines and low-cost carriers serve with connections to almost every major city in the country.
Dozens of [airlines] serve the route Miami-Europe daily nonstop or with stopover in the USA. The flight time Europe-Miami (without stops) is about 9-10 hours. Furthermore there are good connections to Latin America.
Miami's airport is centrally located, only 9 km (5.6 miles) from Downtown and about 15 km (9.3 miles) from South Beach - perfect for travellers with rental cars.
Without car just take a cab. All taxis charge a regulated fixed price of about 35 $ to every address in South Beach. Licensed taxis have to post this price inside, so be aware of drivers who charge more for being tourist.
If you want discover the surroundings of Miami & Miami Beach it’s better to do it by rental car. Without car it’s nearly impossible or at least very uncomfortable - except on organised tours with local travel agencies.
Subtropical climate all-the-year, from May-September/October hot and sultry with average temperatures over 30°C (86°F), during night rarely under 22°C (72°F). During the months of summer, especially in August and September, heavy rainfalls.
From October-April less hot, mainly clear and sunny with average temperatures of 25°C (77°F) and during the night 17°C (63°F). The average water temperatures during wintertime are over 20°C (68°F), during August and September over 30°C (86°F). The months of winter are high season and favourite travel time for Miami.
Hurricane season is from June through end of November. According to statistics the highest risk of hurricanes is in the period from mid August through beginning of October.
The American unit for temperature is Fahrenheit (°F). Travellers who are used to Celsius (°C) can convert it with the following formulas:
°F = °C x 1,8 + 32 and °C = °F -32 : 1,8 [Converter °C <> °F]
Weather forecast and water temperatures for Miami on [weatheronline.co.uk].
In general Miami & Miami Beach are safe travel destinations. Only in the early 1990s assaults on tourist rental cars produced bad headlines, but special police efforts stopped that kind of crimes quickly.
If you attend to the general security advices you can move in town without stress. Never walk in deserted streets, especially in the night-time. In Downtown and South Beach you can move pretty relaxed, the streets are mostly busy. In South Beach, where gays sometimes dominate the streets, you need no efforts to hide your identity.
But in some areas outside South Beach and Downtown you should act more carefully. Walking hand in hand with your lover can get uncomfortable in the Cuban quarter Little Havana or in Little Haiti.
If you are cruising at outside places pay attention to the usual safety rules, but more to the fact, that having sex in the public or at places which are accessible for the public is illegal in the state of Florida. It depends on the policemen but in general police isn’t very cool with this.
In case of emergency the statewide number for police is 911, in case of anti-gay attack you can also call the Hate Crime Hotline on (305) 604 21 10.
[Tips for Security on Travel]
The tourim board Greater Miami CVB (Convention & Visitors Bureau) offers a lot of information on its website. There travellers get all details about beaches, excursions, water sports and other leisure activities, arts, culture and entertainment, furthermore a sample of hotels, restaurants, shops und many more.
In addition to its website the CVB publishes an annually updated Vacation Planner with comprehensive information on over 200 pages. Users can flip through the guide online or order it by E-Mail. [Planner]
Greater Miami CVB, 701 Brickell Avenue, Suite 2700 (Downtown, at SE 7th Street), Phone (305) 539 30 00, Mon-Fri 8:30 h till 18 h – you get city maps and other brochures for free [Details]
Information, city maps and inspiration for your stay in Miami Beach are also available at the Miami Beach Visitor Center, 1920 Meridian Avenue (northern part of South Beach at Dade Boulevard), Phone (305) 672 12 70, Mon-Fri 9-18 h, Sat/Sun 10-16 h [Details]
Furthermore the website of VISIT FLORIDA, the statewide Tourism Marketing Agency, serves with useful information about several travel destinations in the state - of course Miami & Miami Beach as well.
Apart from updated general tourist information, special tour tips, video clips and many more users share the experiences of travellers and locals in the new blog feature "Florida Live". The website is interesting for all travellers planning a round-trip through the Sunshine State. The information is also available in German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. [Visit Florida]
_SIGHTSEEING & TOURS
Many tourists especially from Europe don’t realize the size of Miami & Miami Beach. Sightseeing by walking is only possible in some areas in Downtown and in South Beach. Mostly you have to use public transportation, taxi or rental car.
In general a taxi drive within South Beach is about 12 $. If you stay here you can also rent a bike or take the South Beach Shuttle to get around. The very cheap public bus runs throughout South Beach along Washington Avenue with numerous stops. The schedule is perfect: Mon-Sat from 7:45 h till 1 h and Sun from 10-1 h every 10-15 minutes.
The best way to get around in Downtown is by the Metromover. The monorail train circulates in Downtown, stops at points of interest and provides daily frequent service (5-10 minutes) from 5-24 h – and all that for free!
Our tip: Board the train at night and have a look on the colourful illuminated skyline of Miami!
To areas more far away from Downtown you take the elevated train of Metrorail which connects Downtown with Coconut Grove, Vizcaya Museum and South Miami. Trains run daily from 5-24 h. Route maps, schedules and brochures for special sightseeing tours are available at the stations or on the homepage for downloading. [Metrorail]
Beside beach life and water sports - diving for instance around an artifical reef formed by a scuttled old Boeing 727 - Miami & Miami Beach offers many other attractions for exciting vacations. On the homepage of [Greater Miami CVB] you will find lots of facilities and tips. We present some highlights you should not miss.
Art Deco District
The world famous Art Deco District of South Beach is tourist attraction number one. Over 800 historic buildings of the 1920s and 30s have been restored and painted in camp pastel shades. At night when many buildings behind palm trees are illuminated the historic district shows its full beauty.
At the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive (at 11th Street) tourists get more information, also guided tours are starting here [Details]
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
The large Italian Renaissance-styled villa was built as a winter resort by a rich businessman, today it’s a museum with lots of antiques from the 15th till 19th centuries. Especially the lush tropical styled garden is an experience you should not miss.
3251 South Miami Avenue, Coconut Grove (southwest of Downtown), at waterfront of Biscayne Bay, daily (except December 24) from 9.30 h till 16:30 h [Details]
Bass Museum of Art
The museum located in the new Miami Beach Cultural Park earned nationwide reputation with its expositions of contemporary art and architecture. The area in northern South Beach is worth a visit not only for friends of fine arts.
2121 Park Avenue (between 21st and 22nd Street), Phone (305) 673 75 30, Tue-Sat 10-17 h, Son 11-17 h [Details]
Sightseeing Cruise I
Tour of 1 1/2 hours on board of a modern yacht along scenic Biscayne Bay with Port of Miami, Fisher Island and the Millionaire’s Row, the homes of the rich and famous. From the yacht you have a fantastic view on the skyline of Downtown.
Island Queen Cruises, Bayside Marketplace, 401 Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown, Phone (305) 379 51 19, daily tours from 11-19 h every full hour [Details]
Sightseeing Cruise II
2-Hour-Roundtrip along Biscayne Bay with a 2-mast-topsail schooner, which design was inspired by 19th century cargo schooners which once sailed the waters off the Florida Keys. Beside daytime tours you can also book 1-Hour-trips in the evening and on weekends in the night-time, when the skyline is amazing.
Heritage of Miami, Bayside Marketplace, 401 Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown, daily tours (except in June, July and August) at several times, on weekends in the evening as well [Details]
The huge coral reef aquarium and the large basins with sharks, killer whales and alligators belong to the required tourism program in Miami. Plan at least four hours and don’t miss one of the shows with "Flippers Friends" and other animals.
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key, daily from 9:30 h till 18 h, last series of shows start at 14:30 h [Details]
Virginia Key Beach Park
After nine years of restoration the park on the island of Virginia Key, located in the Biscayne Bay south of Miami Beach, was reopened in January 2008. The huge park area with it's picturesque beaches and tropical plants is considered as one of the most beautiful recreational areas of Miami. Combine the trip to the park with a visit at Miami Seaquarium in the neighbourhood.
Since the famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was gunned down by a male prostitute in July 1997 on the front steps of his villa, the address 1116 Ocean Drive became a tourist attraction – even though there is nothing exciting to watch. But the mansion is nearby the gay beach, so it’s on the daily route.
Only one hour driving west and you are in the swamps of the Everglades, the largest tropical water grass area in North America. The [National Park] is one of the largest in the USA. You can enter the park by car paying a fee which is valid for 7 days.
Very important: take care for sun protection and mosquito repellents – otherwise tours will become horror trips!
Everglades Safari Park
45 km (28 miles) west of Miami Downtown on the highway 41, guided tours, alligator shows and trips with propeller boats, daily from 9-17 h, Phone (305) 226 69 23 [Details]
Everglades Alligator Farm
50 km (31 miles) southwest of Miami, guided tours, alligator shows and trips with propeller boats, daily from 9-18 h, Phone (305) 247 26 28 [Details]