When someone mentions vacationing in Miami, I usually think of South Beach.
Images of perfectly toned bodies, constant parties and crowds…lots of crowds. What a lot of people don’t know is that Miami has a lot to offer outside of the hugely popular South Beach area where celebrities, VIPs and the ridiculously rich like to hang out. Miami offers several idyllic and uncrowded beaches that are far better options for those who are looking for a peaceful setting without all the eye candy and bling.
Today, I’m dreaming of Mid-Beach Miami, the mellow and chic next door neighbor of South Beach. Less than 20 minutes from the airport and just north of its twisted sister, it’s just as gorgeous and much more laid-back.
Here’s how to have a causal vacation in Miami.
In Mid-Beach, the main attraction is the peaceful beach setting with its chaise lounges, towel huts and brightly colored beach umbrellas lining the perfect white sand. The beach stretches for miles north of 17th Street and its beautiful boardwalk and Fontainbleau resort offer several local options for activities and fine dining. And if you start to get a little bored with the peaceful setting, you’re always just minutes away from all the action!
If you’re looking for a good place to stay in Mid-Beach try the Eden Roc or Soho Beach House. All offer a great experience, dining options, unbeatable oceanfront views and special features, like the Soho Beach Club’s Tiki bar and rooftop plunge pool.
Be sure to add these activities to your Miami Beach vacation:
Local Cuban Cuisine
Make sure you try the local Cuban fare throughout your visit to Miami. There are several excellent choices for dining, such as: Havana Harry’s, Versailles, Little Havana, Exquisito and Lario’s on the Beach. You can also try Cuban style fast food at Pollo Tropical. Best thing to do is ask the locals, there are usually excellent choices right around the corner if you ask the right person.
I like to think of this place as the Biltmore of Miami. Located on Biscayne Bay on Miami’s south side, the stunning 34-room Italian style mansion once belonged to James Deerling. Built in 1916 as the winter home of the wealthy industrialist, the property is a lot of fun to explore. There are acres of European-style gardens, fountains and statues to see and photograph. Visitors marvel at the architecture, craftsmanship and priceless artwork that fills the house. Stay into the evening so you can watch the sunset over Biscayne Bay. The view is unforgettable!
Home to the historic lighthouse (1825) that is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County, this is a great park for swimming and a nice lunchtime picnic. Two restaurants, Lighthouse Cafe and Boater’s Grill offer authentic Cuban food or you can bring your own burgers for grilling. Plan on taking a guided tour of the lighthouse that is offered twice daily and includes seeing the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Great way to spend a day with the kids at a historic site where they can swim and ride bikes. Take your camera and create your own family portrait with the gorgeous beach and lighthouse as a backdrop.
The Lincoln Road Mall (outdoor) is one of the center pieces of South Beach. Its located between Alton Road and Washington Avenue and delivers the type of shopping experience that only Miami Beach can offer. Here you can explore galleries, have lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes, stop for happy hour, or just sit and people watch. Its a great destination for eating and shopping, but be forewarned, nothing here is cheap. Your credit card will be plenty warm by the end of day. The good news: people watching is free!
Have you stayed in Miami outside the popular South Beach area? Share your experience in the comments section.