I hadn’t expected to be blogging about Miami, but I was channel surfing in the Travel Channel neighborhood last night, and I caught a glimpse of the pastel, Art Deco streetscape that is unmistakably South Beach. Anthony Bourdain was behind the wheel of a mid-life-crisis-red Ferrari on his new show, The Layover.
I’d been curious to see the show and, having just come in from walking the border collie in 25 degree temps, was drawn to the palm trees and surf I saw on-screen. Bourdain’s time in Miami brought back memories of my own visits there when I was a kid (relatives used to own a motel in Miami Beach) and while I lived in Fort Lauderdale.
Bourdain had food covered during his whirl through the city, but a friend who recently visited and I have a few more items to add to the list of things to do:
Bourdain said he’s not a beach bum, and neither am I. (I’m sweating and getting red just thinking about roasting in that intense South Florida sun.) Instead, he mentioned two pools–one at The Raleigh, the hotel where he stayed, and the huge (really huge) pool at the Biltmore Hotel. You can practically picture the synchronized swimmers at the Biltmore. The hotel also is known for its Sunday champagne brunch; About.com guide Renee Chapple writes that the Biltmore “puts out a great spread; it’s the place to be seen on Sunday mornings in Coral Gables.” (It’s also $75 a head.)
Another option is The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, a neat and unusual place–really one of those so-called “hidden gems.” The pool is spring-fed (read, alternately: “refreshing” or “Cold,” depending on your personal thermostat) and was built in the 1920s out of a limestone quarry. It’s the only pool on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll find waterfalls, grottos, a bridge and lookout towers, as well as a collection of historic photos in the entry room. It’s generally open to the public ($11 for non-residents of Coral Gables), although it’s closed in December 2011 and January 2012.
Bourdain mentioned Joe’s Stone Crab. It’s popular and can get busy, but you can bypass the wait for a table and get your claws (and more) to go at Joe’s Take Away.
Crustaceans not your thing? There’s homemade ravioli and other pasta at Spiga. “Amazing gnocchi,” says my friend.
I learned about Hotel St. Michel, a boutiquey, European-style hotel in Coral Gables, while working as a location scout for an event, and it’s lovely. Elegant and about as far from “cookie-cutter” as you can get.
I’m not usually a fan of art deco or retro/007 décor, but this place IS cool & charming (“I Love Lucy” episodes projected nightly on this big glass wall in the atrium of the hotel bar). You can see this projection from the pools/beach, which is kind of entertaining.
I toured Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden a few years ago, when I visited during a Chihuly glass exhibit, and was seriously impressed. Fairchild is home to the International Mango Festival and the International Chocolate Festival (January 20-22, 2012) among other events. The organization also puts on some pretty major art exhibits–often, like Chihuly’s glass works, integrated into the lush, tropical landscape.
Wander…but Don’t Feed
You can always head to the ‘glades and Everglades National Park in search of alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, birds, panthers and other rare and endangered animals–many of which have sharp teeth and dangerous venom. The National Park Service offers a video series on planning your visit.
Wander…into the Wee Hours
Not tired yet? Here’s Frommer’s nightlife listing. (I have nothing to add here; I’m getting old.)
The city has several public transportation options.
There’s DecoBike, the City of Miami Beach’s bike rental and sharing program as well as a number of other bike rental places.
There’s the Metrobus, the Metromover and Metrorail–with info on all of them here.
And there’s the South Beach Local, with rides costing a whopping $.25 (why is there no cent sign on my keyboard?!).