Sunday, February 25

Miami: Beyond the Show

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For years and years, Miami has been one of the most vibrant, lively and warm of all American cities, with people coming from all over the world for its culture, water, beaches and, in the middle of February, the boat show.

But Miami is a great place to visit at any time. For cruising boat owners, it’s a destination in its own right or a waypoint on the Great Loop or the starting point of a cruise to the Bahamas,  Caribbean or the Keys.

Miami’s wide choice of restaurants will make you want to stay a while. For a waterfront treat, the Rusty Pelican, on Rickenbacker Causeway, is hard to beat. The food (particularly fresh seafood) and bar scene are fun, but the view, looking back at the Miami skyline, is spectacular (see picture).

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 definitely worth the wait, either for lunch or dinner. It’s at 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.

At the southern tip of Miami Beach, in South Pointe Park, Smith & Wollensky provides dry-aged steak to die for, and the views are terrific. You can sit on the patio outside or at the al fresco bar and look out at Government Cut, Fisher Island and Miami in the distance (see picture). It’s at 1 Washington Ave.

Heading north a bit, along the Art Deco vibes of South Beach itself, the News Café is one of my personal favorites. A newsstand opened there in 1988; now it has indoor and outdoor seating at 800 Ocean Avenue (see picture). It serves breakfast all day and is open from 8 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.; In the morning, locals stop by for coffee, at lunch tourists come in off the beach, and at night…well, it’s South Beach. Its most famous regular was probably Gianni Versace, who dropped by from his nearby Ocean Drive mansion until he was shot in 1997. (I still think that sitting at the bar and having a Cobb salad or Gianni Burger and a glass of wine is one of the better things in life.)

If you want to stay on the mainland, try Garcia’s Seafood Market & Grill on the Miami River. Its fleet goes out every morning (early) to bring back fresh seafood. Try the yellow tail snapper, salmon or stone crabs, and catch the views of the river from the outdoor patio. It’s at 398 NW N River Drive, Miami.

To broaden your base, head for Little Havana’s 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 away from the crowds 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 welcome a visit to the Miami Seaquarium on Rickenbacker Causeway; It’s just a bit past the Rusty Pelican, and it says its goal is 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.

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