- Lifestyle & Sports
- 18 Jul 14
It’s the party capital of America but there’s more to Miami than sunshine and cocktails.
Where exactly is it?
On the southeastern tip of Florida, Miami is a favourite destination for tourists. It is also a gateway to the Caribbean and South America. The result is a city that, while in the United States, can often feel like a Latin American capital.
How do I get there?
There are no direct flights to Miami from Ireland. However the city is a popular destination. You can fly from London, Madrid, or Frankfurt, or from Dublin to New York City or Orlando, Florida and, from there, to Miami.
What language do they speak?
English will get you by. That said, many locals speak Spanish as a first language. Sometimes it’s their only language. Outside of the central South Beach area, you may stumble into shops, restaurants or even entire neighbourhoods where at least a passing knowledge of Spanish is required. It wouldn’t hurt to bring a phrase book.
What is the local beer like?
Florida has become an unlikely hub for craft brewing. Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing is considered top of the class. Miami boasts some impressive offerings too. Wynwood Brewing and its signature La Rubia was the city’s first micro-brew centre. Other notables include Most Wanted Brewery and 4th Age Brewing.
While its beer scene is still fledgling, Miami is home to some iconic cocktails. The drink most associated with the city is the mojito, one of the many symbols of the Cuban culture that pervade modern Miami. Other famous cocktails include the daiquiri and rumrunner. Those who want to take a break from the alcohol may be interested in the “Cuban Coffee”, an espresso with a caffeine content to rival any other. Beyond that, any trip to a Miami lounge can introduce you to a new cocktail created by some of the world’s most talented bartenders.
What is the transport like?
Unless you’re sticking to South Beach you’ll probably need a car, be it rental or taxi. You can travel by bus or train. However, you will likely be stuck for long periods waiting for a connection.
What’s the food like?
You can eat cheaply and eclectically. Cuban, Haitian, Thai, Spanish, Japanese, French, Chinese, Italian, Colombian, Mexican, Brazilian, Argentine, Nicaraguan, Jamaican, Indian and Greek cuisine can be found throughout the city. Whether you’re looking for a simple, cheap staples such as Cuban sandwiches and arepas or dining like royalty at a five-star restaurant on Ocean Drive, Miami does not skimp when it comes to food options.
What’s the nightlife like?
Nightlife is what defines the outsider’s view of Miami. For a tourist it can be quite intimidating. South Beach houses some of the glitziest clubs, where a celebrity appearance is an expectation rather than a surprise. If you want to get into one of the better known clubs, such as LIV, Mansion or Nikki Beach, expect to spend a lot of money and have a few attractive half-naked women in tow (or, indeed, be an attractive half-naked woman yourself). Even if you avoid the club scene and the ridiculously expensive practice of bottle service, at bars or lounges you should still expect to pay more than average for beer and mixed drinks. Do a little research and use websites such as drinkowl.com to learn what the daily specials are. There’s lots going on under the surface too. Miami has a flourishing live scene and is one of the best places in the world to hear Latin music. You can also find some of the biggest names in hip hop, electronica, jazz and indie performing on a given night.
Why should I go?
Miami is a city like no other. It is located in the United States, but is about as far from ‘all-American’ as you can go. Miami, and South Florida in general, is a place unto itself. Known as the “Gateway to Latin America” it is essentially a New York for the Latin American population of the US. It is also a focus of investment for Cuba’s wealthy ex-pat population.
What are the touristy things to do?,
Beyond excess and partying, there are actually some interesting things to do in Miami. The obvious first option is South Beach. Days can be spent here, checking out the Art Deco architecture. People-watching is also great fun. Miami is, moreover, home to several zoos, aquariums and museums if you’re looking for a little culture. We also recommend some of the grand old estates, such as Coral Castle or Vizcaya. To really get free of the city, the Everglades, 1.5 million acres of swamp and grasslands, are about a 20-minute drive away.
There are also plenty of sports. Home of the 2012 and ‘13 NBA champions Miami Heat, and the formerly successful Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes of the NFL, MLB and college football respectively, there is likely a game going on no matter when you’re spending time in the city. Also a new MLS soccer team owned by David Beckham is expected to be unveiled shortly so you can enjoy some footie action too. Plus, there’s a fledgling GAA scene in Florida, albeit focused on Orlando (the local club crest of a hurley crossing a palm-tree is surely the best team logo ever).
Anything to avoid?
As mentioned earlier, Miami is full of luxury. However, a large portion of its population lives in poverty. The crime rate, while declining, is still very high. As with any city, one should always be aware of their surroundings and avoid some of the poorest neighborhoods such as Liberty City, Carol City, Overtown, and Opa Locka. At night, even in nicer parts of town, try to always travel in groups and take a taxi.
What should I bring home?
The most obvious answer is ‘a tan’, but you could also bring back some high-end designer gear and a cigar rolled by a Cuban: the closest thing you can get to a Cuban cigar in the United States. They still sell shirts that say “I’m in Miami Bitch” if that’s your thing.
When should I go?
The city gets unbearably hot during the summer, with daily temperatures upwards of 30 degrees. There is also the constant threat of heavy storms and winds during Hurricane Season, running from June through November, which could easily ruin your trip.
What’s my challenge?
Order a meal fluently in Spanish (“Quiero una hamburguesa” should do the job)
What’s the currency?
Something to remember?
Miami is a relatively new city. Prior to the 1980s, it wasn’t much more than a coastal holiday destination for rich New Yorkers fleeing the winter. It would be overstating the case to claim its reputation as a drug trafficking hub played a role in the city’s growth. The arrival of luxury car dealerships, five-star hotels, condominiums and nightclubs coincided with this period. However, the overwhelming majority of high-rollers got rich honestly.