When I think of Miami, I imagine endless mojitos, salsa dancing, and fun in the sun! It’s a colorful, vibrant city to visit. I hadn’t been there in over a decade, so I was thrilled to return for a meet up with Los Angeles friends to celebrate a birthday. Some things had definitely changed, and some things remained wonderfully the same. Here are some tidbits that I hope will help you with your next trip to The American Riviera.
1. Choose your dates wisely!
Miami is a hot spot for college students during Spring Break, which can range between the end of February to early April. The city also hosts some very popular events such as Ultra Music Festival and Art Deco Weekend. You will deal with inflated travel and hotel prices during those times.
We happened to be there during Spring Break, and it was crazy. That could be a good or bad thing depending on what type of vacation you want. We didn’t see anything too rowdy, but apparently fights were breaking out. There are obviously more serene locations of Miami and others with more party vibes.
One part of the beach
Another part of the same stretch of sand 20 feet away
An additional factor to note is weather. If all you want to do during your vacation is swim in the ocean, then I would choose summer months. It was beautiful while we were there, but there were some days we looked like this.
It was sometimes windy and chilly near the water. We went into the ocean a couple of days during the trip when it was hotter. But it definitely took a couple of minutes of wading around to adjust to the cool water temperature. Also, umbrella and lounge chair rentals can get really pricey so plan ahead. I’m talking $55 dollars for 2 chairs and an umbrella. Bringing towels from the hotel and only renting an umbrella is an even better deal.
2. Carefully weigh your transportation options.
We rented a car because we thought we would be taking day trips outside of Miami (haha-didn’t happen). If you know you’re going to be sticking to the Miami area, it’s a wise economic choice to take an inexpensive shuttle or rideshare from the airport and use Uber/Lyft around town. Parking in Miami is expensive, and many hotels charge daily rates of $30-40. Yikes, right??
If you do decide to rent a car, pay attention to the toll pass (SunPass) charges. Some rental companies automatically add a set daily pass charge for it while others like Enterprise just bill us later only for the actual toll roads we used.
Heads up: Many of our Uber and Lyft drivers didn’t speak English. They really only need your address, so it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, it was fun to practice my (horrible) Spanish!
3. Get your Cuban and Latin American food on!
Miami is THE place to get Cuban goodies like the classic sandwich, ropa vieja, and pastelitos (little puff pastries). It’s like the movie Chef -but instead of just watching, you get to eat! Versailles is considered a landmark Cuban restaurant. Their traditional Cuban sandwich includes bolo ham glazed with brown sugar, pineapple juice, and cloves before baking it off. Mmm what!
We also enjoyed paella and masitas de puerco fritas/lechon/chicharron (whatever you want to call it, but basically fried pork meat and fat)!
We had Italian after getting kicked out of a kosher restaurant for bringing in a non-kosher birthday cake. We had no idea it was a kosher restaurant! So if you have kosher cuisine needs, not to worry. The Miami area has many, many options.
Would you like some pizza with your arugula?
Oh! In many restaurants and bars, they will automatically add an 18% gratuity so please take note!
4. Some Florida establishments allow smoking indoors.
I wasn’t aware of this so I was shocked when we were at a bar called Do Not Sit On The Furniture, and I found myself dancing in a cloud of smoke. It has been a LONG time since I was afraid of someone’s cigarette burning me while dancing. And when people are wildly convulsing to EDM with cigarettes, that’s my cue to exit the dance floor.
5. You may get kidnapped if you are Asian. I’m only half joking.
The girls and I went to the annual Calle Ocho and Carnaval Festival. It’s a huge street party with amazing foods, performers, and music celebrating Latin culture.
When we were about to exit the end of the street, we noticed a giant dance party happening in a parking lot. We decided to join in watching people break dance, which then led us to salsa dancing and getting beer from the small market (in New York speak, it’s a bodega).
After having an awesome time mingling, dancing, and cheering, things got weird as we were leaving. There was some old man there who kept asking me if our friend Vivian and I were Chinese. Nope and nope. I’m Korean, and Vivian is Mexican/El Salvadorian. Taryn is Asian, but I guess he didn’t need confirmation?
As I’m walking ahead of the girls, I noticed the same “distinguished gentleman” talking on his phone and hounding them. Taryn and Vivian started running toward me, which was a liiiiittle alarming. Apparently, this guy was confirming we were all Asian to call his boss up and have a driver come pick us up (I say kidnap) to work at a massage parlor to do God knows what. Ummm, no thank you. I did not come to Miami for sex work opportunities.
Anyway, Miami was full of adventures, and I’d totally go back in warmer months during a calmer non-Spring Breaky time of the year!
Here are some more photos from the trip!
We stayed at Grand Beach Hotel in Surfside. Beautiful, clean hotel on a nice beach!
Having a Bloody Mary on the hotel rooftop in the mornings was a treat!
Walk to dinner on Espanola Way
Brunch at Threefold Cafe in Coral Gables on the way to Miami. Such a charming little place. I had an amazing breakfast dish, the Emperor Nasi Goreng. It was Indonesian fried rice loaded with diced chicken, shrimp and secret stir-fry sauce, pan tossed then piled high with a fried egg, shallots, green onions, cilantro and jalapeños. It was so delicious, but photographed ugly so sorry you can’t see it.
Go on, get it, girl!
We had dinner at 27 and drinks next door at The Broken Shaker. The restaurant was great, and the Broken Shaker is a James Beard semi-finalist bar and considered America’s Best Hotel Bar if you’re into accolades. All I know is they poo poo’d our request for Fireball. The reply was, “We don’t serve crappy liquor here.” I thought it was pretty smug and hilarious. And really, we shouldn’t be drinking stuff with antifreeze in it anyway.
Breakfast at the super cute Local House
Their Italian Bloody Mary is garnished with a cherry tomato, mozzarella, and mortadella
This is when the girls were all showing off their Bitmojis and trying to get me to create one. I refuse! Those things terrify me.
After getting kicked out of the kosher restaurant. We had cake by the ocean. But I look like I’m holding poop in toilet paper.