One of the most vibrant, lively and warm of all American cities, Miami has long been a magnet for people from all over the world. The draw: A combination of the culture, the water, the beaches and, in the middle of February, the boat shows.
But Miami is always a great place to visit at any time, particularly for cruising boat owners. It’s a great destination in its own right or as a stopover on the Great Loop, a starting point for a cruise down to the Keys or over to the Bahamas.
Whether you’re heading to Miami for the shows or for cruising, you’ll want to stay for a while. Here, based on my experience visiting Miami many more times than I want to remember, are some highlights, places and things to do that make for a memorable trip.
For a waterfront restaurant, the Rusty Pelican, on Rickenbacker Causeway almost next to the Miami International Boat Show, is hard to beat. The food and bar scene are fun, but the view, looking back over the Miami skyline, is spectacular (see picture above).
To get away from the crowds, drive a bit south to Coconut Grove and sit outside at Monty’s Raw Bar, a bayside seafood house. Take a seat under the tiki huts, order some tropical drinks and try the stone crabs, conch fritters and Mahi Mahi.
You can’t go to Miami without heading to South Beach. Enjoy the sand, waves and people watching there, and then try Joe’s Stone Crab, the iconic Miami restaurant. The stone crabs (and the key lime pie) are incredible, and they’re definitely worth the wait, either for lunch or dinner.
If you’re looking for more than seafood, go to The Forge, up on 41st Street in Miami Beach, probably the area’s best steakhouse. It reminds me of the best of New York’s steakhouses, and it’s a great spot for a quiet, elegant dinner.
To broaden your base, head for Little Havana, particularly Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), the heart of the city’s Cuban population. Enjoy some strong cafecitos (Cuban espresso) and counter-service croquetas (ham croquettes).
You can relax at Vizcaya, a national landmark at 3251 S. Miami Avenue, down in Coconut Grove. Built in 1916 on the water, it’s a lavish villa and gardens in the Italian Renaissance school. The home has more than 2,500 antique art objects and furnishings; the lush, formal gardens have 10 acres with more than 2,000 orchids.
Your kids will love a visit to the Miami Seaquarium, on Virginia Key almost next to the boat show, with its goal to show visitors “something new, something dangerous, and something impressive.” You can feed, pet and get up close and personal with dolphins, penguins and seals.
For a quick stop, look at the Wynwood Walls (Miami’s most Instagrammed spot), an outdoor collection of colorful street murals, including some by Shepard Fairey, who designed Obama’s “Hope” poster. It’s at 2520 NW 2nd Avenue. For a longer stop, the Design District has dozens of shops, boutiques, showrooms and galleries, where even the window-shopping is fun. It’s located just north of I95 and west of Biscayne Blvd. Read more: