Date of Trip: January 2001
Yes, people actually live here! We bought our home in Miami Beach in 1983, and it was by far the smartest thing we ever did. Our three daughters all graduated from Beach High and now are scattered across the country.
Our house was built in 1933, which in Miami Beach is ancient. It’s a nice big old two-story and we love it. We live across from a golf course, and it’s common for visitors to pull over when I’m outside and ask questions like “where is South Beach?” To which I reply “South Beach is BIG, where do you want to go?” Actually, it’s about the same size as Venice, Italy, but with streets.
Having our own house, we don’t know much about the hotels, and we’re kind of way past the club scene now. But here are a few helpful hints.
Despite some erosion, the beach is our number one attraction. It stretches all the way from the southern tip of the city to the Surfside boundary at 87th street (and way way past that) Save some money by staying at a hotel across the street or maybe a block away from the beach – it’s a short walk! If you sit in one of those inviting-looking loungers, someone will materialize instantly to ask for a rental fee. The beach is bordered by either a boardwalk or a paved walkway for most of its length, making for pleasant walks or jogs. In Miami Beach, you can go topless or wear a thong, but full nudity is only allowed at Haulover Beach, several miles further to the north. I don’t recommend the beach late at night, and never ever EVER leave your belongings unwatched for a second!
The biggest complaint that visitors have is parking. There are some city parking garages that charge $1 an hour, as do the meters. Always beware of “tow-away zone” signs. They mean business, and if your car is towed, it will cost you over $100 get it – or what’s left of it – back. The towing companies hire “spotters,” so if you park in a tow-away zone on private property for even five minutes, you could become a victim. Remember, meters in South Beach are on from 9 AM to midnight – many streets now have those new middle-of-the-block machines that issue tickets to leave on your windshield. If you get a parking ticket and ignore it and are driving a rental car, your credit card will end up getting charged for the ticket plus a big late fee.
My suggestion is NOT to rent a car at the airport for use in Miami Beach. There are lots of buses and taxis, and a 25 cent shuttle bus. If you want to explore elsewhere in South Florida, all the major car rental companies have offices over here. Rent a car for your excursions and then return it.
Our house is only a couple of blocks from the “south beach” area, so we often walk there. South Beach is infested with unbelievably overpriced restaurants. My advice is to walk up and down Lincoln Road Mall, a blocks-long pedestrians-only street loaded with cafes, galleries and shops. It’s fun, and all the restaurants post their menus, and some are reasonable. If you want to sample the local Cuban fare, David’s II, just off Lincoln Road on Meridian, is reasonable and has a great lunch buffet for $7.95. Another great and reasonable Cuban restaurant is Puerto Sagua at 700 Collins Avenue. Parking there in the evening is brutal – take the shuttle bus and walk one block east.
Lincoln Road also has a Regal 24 plex movie theater at its west end. It’s the only movie theater in all of south Florida that routinely shows foreign and independent films.
Men, especially older men, should watch out for women who get themselves invited to their rooms and then rob and sometimes drug them. Women should always take their drinks directly from the server and not let anyone else touch them. Never ever leave a purse or anything else of value out of your sight.
To catch up on local doings, pick up a copy of the New Times weekly. You’ll find it in red street boxes, it’s free, and the latest issue comes out every Wednesday (sometimes early Thursday) Also, the daily Miami Herald (35 cents in yellow street boxes) has a “Weekend” section every Friday.