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Miami is located in the North American state of Florida, but it's definitely not a 'typical' American city. Due to the presence of many Caribbean immigrants (mainly from Cuba), the city has been dipped in an exotic sauce. This only adds extra fun to Miami. Combined with the beautiful beach, the almost always nice weather (except if there is a hurricane), the art deco architecture, the extensive shopping and entertainment options, Miami is 'hot'.
The city has great appeal mainly because of Miami Beach, located on an offshore island. That island has a mile long sandy beach, with large and luxurious hotels. Ocean Drive in South Beach is 'the place to be', the ultimate place to see and bee seen. Here are luxurious hotels built in the thirties art deco style. However, Miami Beach art deco differs from that in Europe. This construction style too has a tropical touch with terra cotta roof tiles, round arches and pastel colors. They are also decorated with geometric depictions of the local flora and fauna. You can learn more about what is called: tropical deco in the Welcome Center.
It is all a bit more relaxed on Haulover Beach. No stars or people who think they are, but ordinary people who enjoy sun, sea and sand. The northern part of this beach is reserved for nudist recreation.
When the sun goes down, many people go for a bite to eat in one of the restaurants, before they enter the nightlife. Restaurants are abundant, from expensive ones in South Beach to cheap Cuban eateries. The real nightlife doesn't get going until late. If you dress up nicely you won't have any trouble getting into a bar. A different story at nightclubs, which make sure your outfit brings an added value to their club. You don't need to be dressed very extravagantly, but at least somewhat noticeable.
You can shop till you drop in Miami Beach. In South Beach you can find exclusive shops of top designers at Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue, including the luxurious Lincoln Mall. The side streets have shops of up-and-coming designers. There are plenty of other shopping options for smaller wallets. From big warehouses (mostly chains like Macy's, Sears or Sacks) to small specialty shops and boutiques with alternative clothing. The Spanish feeling and therefore aptly named Española Way is especially fun on Sundays, as the street turns into a large outdoor farmers market.
If you think Miami has no culture, we need to correct that image. For example, go to the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, which is home to two completely different museums. The history of Florida, including Indian culture and colonization by the Spaniards is highlighted in the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. The Miami Art Museum has an extensive collection of modern art. The luxurious villa Vizcaya was built at the beginning of the twentieth century by a billionaire, who was fond of European art. The country house and surrounding gardens in Italian style now from the Vizcaya Museum.
Coral Gables is a beautiful district southwest of the center of Miami. It is a nice example of the City Beautiful urban planning from the early twentieth century. The neighborhood has wide lanes with monumental buildings and lushly decorated fountains. The Venetian Pool is located in this area too, a stunning public swimming pool which was carved into rocks. The water is derived from natural sources and therefore quite cold.
Virginia Key is an island south of Miami Beach. The biggest attraction there is the Seaquarium, an aquarium with hundreds of sea creatures, including fish, sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and orcas. Shows are given with the latter two.
Further south lies the Biscayne National Park, which for the most part consists of water from the southern Biscayne Bay. You can dive into beautiful coral reefs or go on a boat with a glass bottom to see the underwater life.
South Florida's main attraction is the Everglades, an extensive marshland area which you can sail through by airboat. On the way you see crocodiles, snakes, rare birds, and mangrove forests.
It is a bit of a hike from Miami (335 kilometers to the north), but true space lovers will not want to miss the Kennedy Space Center. In the visitor center you can see an exhibition about space history and you can experience how it feels to be launched in the Space Shuttle simulator.
There are a lot of hotels in Miami Beach, but they are expensive, without exception. The older hotels often also have relatively small rooms. Cheaper hotels can be found in Miami on the mainland. The high season runs from November to April. If you wish to visit Miami in those months, we recommend you book your accommodation well in advance.
In Miami, it is best to park your car in one of the many parking garages. Your car is safe there, and at a very reasonable (daily) rate. You can park your car on the street too, but the spaces are usually reserved for residents with a permit. The indications aren't always clear either. Some hotels offer parking facilities, but check during your booking if it is included in the room rate or if it requires an extra payment.
Miami's main airport is located 14 kilometers northwest of the city center. Miami International Airport is easily accessible by rental car: from the center of town follow the I-95 to the north and take the exit NW 42 Avenue (LeJeune Road). The route to the airport is clearly indicated.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport serves as an airport for Miami too. This airport is situated 35 kilometers north of the city.