Miami and Key Largo, Florida

Welcome to one of the most famous beach cities in the world, Miami! This is one of the most glamorous cities in America and you’re about to see Miami from a whole new perspective. This place is amazing! You’ll love the food, the Latin culture, the shopping, and, of course, Miami Beach.

Famous from countless TV shows and movies, Miami, is as glamorous in person as it is on screen. Located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida, Miami is one of America’s richest, and most popular cities…Where the bikinis are hot…The art-deco is colorful…Cuban food is always cooking…And celebrity mansions rule. Take the Versace Mansion. They say it’s one of the most photographed houses in Miami Beach.

Due to its large Cuban & Spanish speaking population, Miami has been dubbed “the Capital of Latino America.” And, the Latin influence is everywhere – especially in the neighborhood called “Little Havana.” Calle Ocho, or 8th street, cuts through Little Havana, and here you’ll find a dynamic street life with all things Cuban. From cigars and domino games…to local landmarks…and the Walkway of the Stars. You might visit during the Calle Ocho Street Carnival, celebrating Latin culture, happens every March, covering 20 blocks with hundreds of food stalls, kids rides and entertainment on 30 stages. It’s a great place for souvenir shopping, dining, and all kinds of cultural activities. Es muy bueno!

There’s no doubt about it, Miami is definitely a famous destination, and here in south Florida, Miami Beach is the hot place to go! Now you’d want to be sure about the weather, since winter can be cool. Summer is hot and can be rainy, as August is high season for hurricanes. So, November to May are the best months to visit. And there are lots of different ways to see it! You can see it on wheels…or …you can see it from the water! And there is no better way to see it than from a speedboat out on the beautiful waters of Biscayne Bay.

If you love adventure, and I’m always ready for one, then a “segway” is the way to go! Because basically, once you know how to stop…go…turn and navigate safely, you’re a pro, and ready to take the tour! You can rent them by the hour and just scoot on down the boardwalk area. The rental company trains you and the training takes about five – ten minutes, so you can take a tour or you can go off on our own, but I definitely wanted someone to show me around so I didn’t miss a thing!

South Beach is an old neighborhood in the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. South Beach is the area from First Street to 23rd Street in Miami. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the years. Famous for mansions and Art Deco architecture in the 20’s & 30’s, it was made famous by Jackie Gleason’s TV show in the 50’s, and then the Miami Vice TV series glamorized it’s crime ridden and run-down 70’s. With the revitalization in the 1990’s, it was slowly brought back to its former glory. Today, its world famous as an international vacation destination known for the beautifully restored Art Deco buildings from Miami’s golden age.

What looks great here is all the Art Deco buildings. Art Deco buildings run all along Ocean Drive. They do go a little bit West into Miami Beach. They’re an array of beautiful, bright colors. Most of them are about three stories high. Although the art-deco style looks totally modern, it actually dates back to the ancient Egyptians. As the story goes, the ‘sleeping’ kings in their tombs loved the bold lines, bright colors, and zig-zag style. Art Deco became very popular in Paris in the 1920’s and when the Americans discovered it, it hit the scene hard in Miami.

Today, Art Deco and Miami Beach are nearly synonymous, still seen in lots of movies and TV shows. Quite a lot of film and of shoots happen here. Burn Notice and the original Miami Vice, were filmed here, which made Miami really popular for backdrops. Scenes from The Birdcage were filmed at the Carlyle Hotel and scenes from Scarface made the Cordozo Hotel famous. More recently, Dexter and Magic City filmed here…so you’ll be seeing South Beach a lot in the future!

The Segway Tour will take you all over South Beach, by the shopping areas, the famous architecture, the parks, and of course, the beach, cutting through some of Miami’s most famous streets. You’ll also check out some famous movie sets.

This is so cool! And almost anyone can segway. You have to weigh less than 260 pounds, be over the age of 12, and not pregnant. I’d also have to say wear flat shoes. But, if you can stand up, you can segway. True to their name, Bike and Roll Tours have bikes and segway tours and they take folks around South Beach. It’s also a very nice way to see Miami Beach and they give you locks, helmets, even masks, if you want. Most people that come in have biking experience and understand the gears, but if you don’t, Bike and Roll Tours are more than happy to show you how the bike works, brakes and everything. The segway is one great way to see South Beach. No stress, no sweat. In fact it’s almost relaxing!

Although Miami Beach is public, the influx of European visitors has made the “monokini” (topless sunbathing) acceptable in South Beach, but you’ll see full swimsuits as well.

When you come to the end of the road on the tour, you’ll be at the most southern point of Miami Beach. As you look towards the water, you’ll see sand. This is the Governor’s Cut. It is a man-made beach. You see, there weren’t really a lot of beaches here, so the first beaches of Miami were dredged up in the process of widening the inlet to the harbor so that the big cargo ships and the cruise lines could pass by much easier and have more space to manipulate around in. The Governor’s Cut created Fisher Island and made a quicker route into the Port of Miami. And, as I discovered, much of Miami is man-made…islands and all!

What’s not to love about Miami? Great weather…amazing food…beautiful architecture… famous sites and attractions. But what I really love about this city…is being out on the water. Taking to the waves is the best way to see it. Biscayne Bay Cruises offer 90 minute water tours. You can sit indoors or outdoors, with air conditioned lower decks, full catering facilities and bar service, so there is nothing you’ll need except your camera and sun glasses. The Venetian Islands in Biscayne Bay are a chain of man-made islands connected to Florida by bridges, and you can cruise around them by boat. If you see an island with an obelisk, that’s Monument Island with the Flagler Memorial.

It’s a park dedicated to Henry Flagler, one of Miami’s early pioneers. But the very cool thing about this place is, that the locals in Miami come here every weekend. They bring their boats, their jet skis, and they have a great time on the Monument Island. The locals call it “party island!” or “Beer Can Island.”

Just off of Miami’s downtown, are all these little islands that people live on. Not too many people know about it and there’re a total of twenty-three islands, including Miami Beach. That’s right. A little known fact, but Miami Beach is actually an island! And, of the 23 islands off the coast of the City of Miami, 21 are man-made, including Hibiscus Island, Di Lido Island and Star Island, named for its celebrity residents, including P. Diddy, and sports star, Alex Rodriguez.

As you cruise Star Island, check out the very tropical style mansions. The two of them with a few boats out on the water belong to Miami’s own Emilio and Gloria Estefan. They’re the most famous residents on Star Island and one of the few full-time residents here. Many of the homes here are vacation homes. Wow, what a place to getaway!

The bright blue mansion was built by Sylvester Stallone, back when he filmed the Rocky Balboa film. He then sold the mansion a few years ago to Donald J. Pliner, the shoe designer who has over two thousand stores nationwide.

Next door, the yellow two-story mansion, is the oldest property on Star Island, built back in 1924. However, in the early 1950s, it belonged to the French cabaret singer Edith Piaf, and in 1985, it was used to film the movie Cocoon. Inside the mansion, you will find the pool that was used for the Fountain of Youth in the film.

Then there is a gorgeous pink one called the “Barbie Doll” house. This house used to belong to Elizabeth Taylor. Look for the statue of a jumping rabbit in the yard. It was a gift from one of her best friends, Michael Jackson.

But the most luxurious property on Star Island isn’t the home of a celebrity! This is the biggest, the largest, the most expensive, and without a doubt the most luxurious property here. The beautiful mega-mansion itself took over three years to build, at and easy estimate of $50,000,000. 00 Yes, five-oh million dollars! There’s a tennis court back and a greenhouse, as well. It’s a 28,000 square foot lovely mansion, inhabited by only two people. His name is Dr. Phil, but not the TV Dr. Phil. It belongs to Dr. Phillip Frost, the founder and CEO of IVAX Pharmaceuticals. Hmmm…pharmaceuticals, eh? Guess I should have paid more attention in science class.

For fun in the sun, Miami is definitely the place to be…but save some energy because you have to check out the nightlife! If you think Miami’s exciting by day, just wait until the sun goes down. Trust me, it’s electric. With no shortage of restaurants, bars and clubs, South Beach Miami really comes alive after dark. Open air dining…live music…drinks and dancing…all bathed in the neon of famous Art Deco hotels. Wow! South Beach is awesome! You won’t want to miss it.

Miami, Florida, grew from a remote, hard to reach lot of beachfront land…to one of the most well-known cities in the world. Miami is such an amazing city…and, believe it or not, it was founded by a woman! The Mother of Miami was Julia Tuttle. She was a citrus farmer and businesswoman who encouraged the railroad to come to Miami…and is the only female founder of a major city.

Julia Tuttle and other early visionaries saw Miami’s potential, and in the last 100 years, it has become a land of wealth, adventure, and culture. But some of Miami’s oldest residents have been here from the early beginning. Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant is the most famous. Brian Johnson, the manager, gave me the story as this restaurant has an amazing history.

Joe and Jenny White founded the restaurant in 1913. Joe immigrated from Hungary, and when they first started this restaurant, it was a small shack, basically feeding the people that were working here at the southern end of Miami Beach, which actually that’s all there was in 1913. Over the years it’s developed and grown, it’s still family owned. There is a second, third, and fourth generation family. They still own it and are here all the time. Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach has expanded since the early days and is the place to go for stone crab. What is a stone crab, and how is it harvested? Stone crabs are basically indigenous to South Florida, though they do have relatives all over that you’ll find. The unique part about the stone crab is that when the fishermen catch the crab, they take one claw. They then throw the live crab back into the water to grow a new claw. The crab claws are then cooked in batches. Once they’re cooked, they are chilled, then served. The restaurant serves the claws very well cracked, slightly chilled, with mustard sauce on the side, but of course, if you’re a true aficionado of it, with just lemon.

The stone crab is the only shellfish in the world that isn’t killed, and that’s what’s really unique. It’s a totally green product, sustainable because the crabs keep growing their claws back. The average expectancy of a stone crab itself is anywhere from six to ten years and they can regenerate a new claw about every year and a half for a large size claw. Stone Crab season is from October 15 through May 15, so look for it in your stores and fish houses, or Joe’s ships stone crabs all over the country,

Miami…now that I’ve seen for myself, I’m a big fan. There’s so much more to see here, especially from the water! Talk about having a house on the water with a great view. Check out “Stiltsville,” a bunch of dramatic houses on stilts about 15 minutes by boat from Miami Beach. Back in the 20’s & 30’s gambling was allowed one mile off shore, so private clubs were built on pilings. By 1960, there were over 25 stilt houses in the middle of the ocean. By the 70’s, seaplanes were illegally dropping off drugs and contraband here, but hurricanes and local government wiped most of them out. Seven stilt houses remain and are now part of the Biscayne National Park.

During your stay in Miami, I recommend you take a day trip down to the Florida Keys, a chain of tropical coral islands just off Florida’s southern coast. From Key Largo, you can go through the everglades and mangroves by boat, definitely one of the most interesting eco-tours I’ve even been on. Just like being in the jungle. Key Largo is only an hour’s drive south of Miami, home to pristine waters and island adventures, where you can hang out for a great view! This charming little island is known for its laid-back lifestyle, and here you can find everything from water sports and wild bird sanctuaries, to famous restaurants and awesome sightseeing!

Anybody traveling between the Keys and Miami knows about Alabama Jacks just over the bridge from Key Largo. People come by car, boat, and motorcycle to eat in this funky roadside place, accessible by road from one side and water on the other. Just ask the first person that looks like a local to direct you. The food here is definitely something to remember, especially the conch fritters.

If you’ve only got a day to play in Key Largo, I say spend it on the water. Your family can take an exclusive enviro-tour into the mangrove jungles of the everglades, right where the pirates of old used to hide-out. Or, parasail over the water for a great view.

Southern Florida is certainly known for its ‘wild’ side…and we’re not just talking about south beach after dark. The Everglades National Park is one of the most unusual places in the country. It’s home to some amazing wildlife, like the west island manatee and the American crocodile. Your family can travel deep into the swampy living room of the crocodile on an airboat tour for an afternoon. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

But, definitely take a day to getaway…island adventures await in the Florida Keys… And, as the sun sets over the water, you’ll know you just caught the best show in town. Again, the best way to view it: from the water!

Miami is truly a vibrant city full of life and excitement, a vacation Mecca to most and old hometown to many. Water and sand, exotic food and drink, and a Latin culture that can’t be beat! I know you’ll have a great time if you come here, I know I’ll certainly be back real soon.