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To visit any city for less than two days isn’t always an easy task, since it requires great time management and of course, logical planning. And in this case, it’s not just one city, but two: Miami and Fort Lauderdale, specifically known for the beaches and nightlife. Last weekend one of my good friends happened to be in town and wanted to make the best out of the two days she has here. Being regularly visited by family and friends, I learn to master these itineraries, with or without time restriction. As for the past weekend, here’s what we did:
Miami Beach is great in the morning, when the crowds haven’t yet arrived and the sun isn’t too strong. At about 8:30, we found ourselves having breakfast at Big Pink (157 Collins Ave). Driving to South Beach for breakfast is not my usual routine. But because my coworkers recommended the place, I feel the need to check it out. What we like about Big Pink is the extensive breakfast menu, which by the way, can be ordered anytime of the day at a very affordable price.
After that tasty breakfast, it was a morning at the beach.
Considering this trip being my friend’s first time to the area, I decided to hop on the Miami City Tour for its large coverage of Miami neighborhoods. Areas visited aside from Miami Beach include Coral Gables, Brickell, Coconut Grove, Bayside, and more. Our tour started at 1 and ended at 4.30. “It’s simply the best idea for those who want to learn as much as possible about the city” said David Bares. But if you’re on a tighter timeframe and looking for a tour with an emphasis on South Beach, plus a chance to see the homes of the rich and famous, then go with Duck Tour. With only 90 minutes, Duck Tour will take you through Art Deco District, followed by a boat ride to Star Island, Fisher Island, and Palm Island. (Note: Duck Tour uses a “Hydra Terra” vehicle, operating both on land and in water, so you don’t need to hop on and off)
As the night rolls in, the young and the restless come out to play. We started our evening at Sugarcane (3250 NE 5 Ave), a tapas restaurant in Midtown Miami. Here, the dishes are the mixture of Latin flavor with some Asian influence. The Skirt Steak with Chimichurri is certainly not to be missed. In my opinion, Midtown/Design District is probably the best area for foodies in Miami, with so many good, innovative restaurants.
By 11 pm, the streets in South Beach are getting filled with partygoers, well -dressed and ready for the fun. If you are a first time visitor, do hit up the big, famous clubs. Mansion (1235 Washington Ave) and Liv at the Fontainebleau (4441 Collins Ave) are two of the most talked about clubs in Miami. If you’re lucky, you might even spot celebs hanging out with their crew while dancing to some real good music. But, if you’re like my friend and I, who tend to enjoy smaller lounges and laid-back bars, then head to the Clevelander (1001 Collins Ave), or check out Purdy Lounge (1811 Purdy Ave).
It would be an incomplete visit to South Florida without riding the airboat to see alligators. Eighth Street, west of 826 express way, has plenty of boat tour operators. Not only will you see alligators, you will learn about different creatures inhabiting in the Everglades. It is not to be missed, especially for family with kids.
For international travelers, shopping seems to be ideal when the weakened US dollars allow more buying power to foreign currencies. Aventura Mall (19501 Biscayne Blvd) has everything from brand name goods, commercial clothing stores, cosmetics, to Apple Store. Hunting for good deals? Sawgrass Mills Mall (12801 W Sunrise Blvd) in Sunrise is a place to be, selling outlet goods at discount prices.
Tonight, it’s time for an atmosphere change as we head up north to Fort Lauderdale, where I found the vibe to be slightly different. Now, the question is barhopping, or hitting up bigger clubs? Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale has a great bar scene. Here, bars and restaurants are lining up the streets, one right next to another. Whichever kind of music you’re into, there’s a bar for you. Hard Rock Hotel Hollywood, on the other hand, jam packed with mega nightclubs. Additionally, Hard Rock offers several dining and shopping choices. The places we like there: Murphy’s Law for great, live rock band and Passion Nightclub for some good Hip-Hop.
Need a place to stay? For a large, full service hotel, stay at The Setai (2001 Collins Ave). Though it is a bit pricey, the hotel promises an impeccable service while providing accommodation and complimentary amenities that live up to the standard. The Tides (1220 Ocean Drive), a breed between a large property and a boutique hotel, seems to have the perfect equation of winning the guests over (currently ranked the best hotel in Miami Beach on TripAdvisor), combining great location (right on Ocean Drive, across from the beach), service, and contemporary, breezy rooms. Looking for a nice, quiet place while still in the middle of it all? Villa Italia Hotel (354 Washington Ave) is your choice. Opened just a few months ago, Villa Italia offers comfortable, yet spacious rooms along with excellent service, truly great value for South Beach.