Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Miami, Florida 72-Hour Vacation

Miami Spiced
Sightsee and Sunbathe in Style




Alligator at Everglades National Park
Alligator at Everglades National Park

DAY 2

Start your second day with an early morning swim. The beach is loveliest this time of day, before last night's hardcore partiers crowd the white sands.

Visitors converge for breakfast on the outside patio of Ocean Drive's The News Café, the 24/7 eatery that, in the early days of Sobe's revival, was a supermodel magnet. It's still of historical, if not culinary interest. But if you'd rather breakfast where locals do, hit one of the two charmingly—and genuinely—Art Deco-era retro S&S Diner locations in mainland Miami, for great hotcakes or other homey All American breakfast food, plus some motherly advice (on anything) from the veteran waitresses.

Biscayne National Park
Biscayne National Park

Miami is the only city in America that can boast two national parks: Biscayne National Park and the Everglades. Biscayne Park contains the only living tropical reef in the country and sprawls over 180,000 acres—95 percent of which are underwater, making this a scuba/snorkel paradise. The Everglades wetlands cover 1 1/3 million acres, and are arguably the most fascinating ecosystem in the United States. There are numerous tours that take you through this "River of Grass." The terrain here is unlike any other you've experienced-you'll get to see live gators, too. For the best chance of the latter, hit the fifteen-mile trail at Shark Valley, which you can walk, bike or ride via tram.

If scuba diving and seeing alligators doesn't grab your fancy, you can enjoy water in just about any other way imaginable. Rental companies are more than eager to set you up with the goods needed for water skiing, jet skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and so on. There are also regularly departing party boats, casino boats and tour boats. The classiest, and most exciting is Ocean Force Adventures, whose comfortable yet lightening-fast Zodiacs combine a comprehensive tour and an amusement park thrill ride; the low-draft inflatable boats are able to get up-close-and-personal to celebrity mansions and other exciting sights.

Towards evening you might want to visit Coral Gables, whose original Spanish-Mediterranean architecture has been well preserved since being dubbed "The City Beautiful" when founded in the 1920s. Bunyanesque banyan trees form canopies over European-style boulevards, parks and plazas, and there are more fine restaurants per square mile than in any other neighborhood in Dade County.

The Biltmore in Coral Gables
The Biltmore in Coral Gables

Not surprisingly, since the Gables has long been the residential choice of upscale Cubans, there's plenty of interesting Latin fare, including the simple but succulent Argentine steaks and 1000-bottle wine list at the exuberant Graziano's. For those who prefer their Hispanic food to be European-style, the menu at Por Fin was created by a chef trained at ultra-experimental elBulli, but features surprisingly accessible Basque and Catalan-influenced creative comfort food-bacalao fritters with romesco sauce, clams with garlic/parsley sauce, fried eggs with Serrano ham, homemade potato crisps, and truffle oil, etc.

For a supremely civilized cap to the evening, go for after-dinner drinks at The Biltmore Hotel, a majestic and historic property modeled after the Giralda Tower in Seville. The man-made swimming pool here is the largest in Florida.

Call it a night or keep going; after all, one of Miami's main attractions is its sizzling nightlife. There are numerous clubs bunched on South Beach's Washington Avenue, another enclave on or just off Collins Avenue between about 17th and 23rd Streets, and others popping up in downtown Miami and the Design District. Many nightspots appeal to specific tastes in music and gender. Check free local weeklies, available in boxes all over town, to find one that matches yours. But Mansion, a massive multi-level space has been a crowd-pleasing dance spot since the mid-1990s (albeit in various other incarnations,when it was known as Glam Slam, Club Z, or Paragon). For gay visitors, Twist, a multi-room indoor/outdoor club that mixes Miami heat with a Key West-relaxed vibe, is legendary.

If you're hungry again after clubbing, go where area chefs go after closing their own kitchens—to Hiro's Yakko San, which serves a variety of Japanese tapas till the wee hours.

Continue to Day 3


MORE MIAMI INFORMATION

Miami Hotels
Miami Restaurants
Miami Attractions
Miami Travel Guide
Travel Guide Florida
Greater Miami Convention
& Visitors Bureau

* Everglades image courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau

 
(Updated: 03/29/11 CT)

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