One of my favorite vacation places is Miami, because of the people, the water and the beach – of course – and the architecture on Miami Beach is so wonderful.
Finding plenty to do and see in Miami is not a trick at all. Finding space in a few days to do so, however, takes some planning, a google map loaded on your device of choice, and a stout pair of sneakers. Check. Check. Check. Diving into the challenge, I found it could be done, albeit a bit superficially at times. I even found time for a few delicious local bites and a tiny drinkie-winkie or so. Ready. Set. here we go on a whirlwind look at some of the highlights of my Miami:
With all those A’s, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is a (somewhat) logical place to start. The architecture of “Miami’s architectural gem … designed by Argentinian architect, Cesar Pell” is worth a drive-by, especially at night to see its puzzle-piece roofline lit up against the night sky. The interior, as well, offers design surprises around every corner. Alfresco, there is a lovely stage for outdoor concerts. As multifaceted as the roof, the cultural offerings in the coming months give a glimpse into an eclectic kaleidoscope. For the current events buffs, there is an evening with James Comey. Tony Award-winning “Fun Home” will play on a glorious set – I saw it on Singapore’s NLB stage presented by Pangdemonium. Damn good! The Arsht Center is going to have to go some to beat that! The Florida Grand Opera with magical realism from Amazonia, magician David Blaine, Harry Potter in concert (!), techno circus, Flamenco dancing – oh, the culture never stops. No culture swampland this.
For intriguing glimpses into Miami’s remarkable past, try the HistoryMiami (yes, it’s all one word) Museum and, across the causeway, 14 minutes by taxi the Jewish Museum of Florida. Taken together on an outing, they give up a picture of the Miami and Florida that goes beyond the standard textbook fare. I could spend a day soaking up Miami history at the HistoryMiami Museum and the Jewish Museum. I could, but I couldn’t – does that make sense? This is the place to find out what Miami is made of. I was lucky got catch ”Miami Beach: the Fabulous Fifties,” a remarkable blend of photos and stories exploring the best of times in modern history. Before Castro, before unchecked development, when the state and the country were young.
Can’t miss the art deco while here. The Welcome Center, itself, as you might have guessed, housed in a classic Art Deco building of the straight horizontal and vertical lines ilk. Taking 90 minutes, the tour encompasses the prime buildings and houses of the namesake center. While drinking in the superb architecture, I couldn’t help thinking of another collection of Art Deco half a world away in Mumbai, India. There’s a connection, but that’s another story. Like much of the tourist activities in Miami Beach, the tour is for walkers. Something to bear in mind on the hot, humid days prevalent here in FLA, especially during the summer months.
Needing a mental and physical break from all this culture and mind-improvement, I found Big Pink, an American diner with waffle burgers, velvet cheesecake, and ice-cold beer housed in a large retro corner building. Guess what color it is.
On to Little Havana next. The art in Little Havana is as vibrant as the enclave. The many galleries are awash in color. Beginning early evening, a visitor can HEAR the color transmitted through the syncopated rhythms of the ubiquitous music. Free associating again, I thought of an evening strolling through Spanish Harlem in New York City – same vibe, same rhythms, same inherent musicality in the hoi polloi. Even those sitting and sipping seem to vibrate to the infectious beat. Me? I danced as I walked. One cannot not dance here, impossible!
Domino Park is the sobriquet for Maximo Gomez Park, the long-time gathering spot of Miami’s immigrant Cuban community. Almost sixty years since the Cuban/Castro Revolution, the resentment to communism is still strong, now in subsequent generations. This is the beating heart of conservative Republicanism that has dominated Florida politics since 1960.
Miami is not without its world-class art museums, of course. I spent two hours in the Institute of Contemporary Art (it’s free!). They were two hours well-spent, believe me. Innovative and energetic, the exhibits evoked the Florida/Latino/Cuban vibe of the city. The World Erotic
Art Museum was on my list, as well. Didn’t make it, though. Will have to fantasize as to its contents, I guess. Sigh. With a few more days and the will to art binge, Miami offers, say, fifteen more art spaces well worth the time and effort. No culture swampland this. Did I already say that?
Moving outside, I walked through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and stepped into the end of the nineteenth century when Miami and Florida were wild outposts of the USA. With a stunning Mediterranean villa set on ten acres of gardens, this place is spectacular and dream-like any time. I advise the moonlight tour, though. Magical? Oh, YES! Taste more of Miami’s flora t the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Want some fauna as a complement? Try the Miami Seaquarium, Jungle Island, Monkey Jungle, or Zoo Miami. Farther afield is the Biscayne National Park, America’s only underwater national park. A glass-bottom boat is a way to see this national treasure. For a tame, stately ride amid the many keys and islets around Miami, try the island Queen tour. For something not tame, not stately climb aboard the Thriller Miami Speedboat Cruise. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready to rock and roll Miami style!
Whew! I bit off a lot and, like a good girl, I chewed it. Miami has so much to offer. I hope this glimpse represents a bit of the magic, color, and culture of this unique city.