The first time I went there as a student on a spring break – just a kid on a classic American road trip in a crowded van, escaping frosty Pennsylvania for the warmth of the southern sun. As you can imagine, the long journey itself was quite an adventure and it made reaching a Miami tent camp feel like arriving in the promised land. In fact, Miami very much felt like some kind of foreign land full of what at the time were very exotic items to the young me raised up north: palm trees, alligators, ever-present salsa beat, and arroz con frijoles negros =)
My subsequent trips thankfully involved more civilized modes of transportation – and more sophisticated lodging and food choices. In fact, I was just there last week (unfortunately just for one night while in transit), enjoying amazing ceviche and mahi mahi tacos at my favorite Coconut Grove restaurant, Jaguar. I’m always ready to go back and explore more. That’s why I was excited to see that FlipKey picked Miami Beach as the location for one of its inaugural virtual tours, a new feature to enhance pre-trip research.
As an avid traveler and an amateur travel agent, I spend a lot of time learning about a place before I actually go there. I read up on its history, look for both landmarks and interesting off-the-beaten-path destinations, find great restaurants (always!) and put together busy itineraries. For Miami, I am glad that FlipKey’s virtual tour focused largely on South Beach since that is one area I feel I haven’t experienced enough of. I’ve driven along the colorful Ocean Drive with its unique art deco architecture but didn’t have enough time to wander and linger. The FlipKey tour, which includes 360 degree views at each stop and interactive maps with nearby attractions, gave me some ideas for my next visit. Behold a perfect day at Miami Beach:
1) Morning at the small but beautiful Miami Beach Botanical Garden sounds like a great way to start the day. I love the vivid colors and fragrances of tropical plants and can’t imagine a more relaxing time than an early stroll among verdant paths with birds chirping overhead and tall trees reflected in a peaceful pond. A great place for both tropical getaway and serene reflection.
3) Normally I am not much of a mall person but I’d make an exception for the Lincoln Road Mall. More than in shopping I’m interested in food, and this mall is a great spot for a Cuban-inspired lunch at Yuca followed by ice cream indulgence at the newly opened Freddo, the Argentinean helado company. It’s also close to Venetian Causeway crossing from Miami Beach to the mainland – a drive with an awesome view I’ve always wanted to see.
4) After a rich lunch it’s time for a lazy afternoon… South Pointe Park is more than 17 acres of peaceful green space in the midst of Miami’s urban buzz. I’m picturing a blanket, a picking basket, and a good book – or maybe binging on Dexter (I’m a big fan).
5) As the evening draws near, I feel drawn to the ocean in a tidal manner and conveniently South Beach is just a stone’s throw away. I’ve been there once before but is there such a thing as too much beach time? And I haven’t really experienced much in a way of food and night life here. Fortunately there is always that next time. And now after some research I have a strong candidate for an amazing seafood dinner: I’m adding Altamare to my to-eat list. Then a night cap at one of the cool South Beach bars… A perfect ending to a perfect day!Now it’s your turn to craft your own perfect virtual tour. FlipKey is running “Take Me There” contest for blogs describing itineraries inspired by the virtual tours of Miami Beach, Lake Tahoe, and Phoenix. I just entered by writing this blog – and you should too! But hurry up, the deadline is December 31.