Miami Area, United States
Travel to Miami Florida: Vacations and Travel Info
Miami is much more than Art Deco buildings and hip South Beach nightclubs, and also much more than golden sandy beaches and world-class hotels. It is a vibrant and dynamic city, full of multicultural activity. People from diverse ethnic backgrounds and nationalities live here, making it is a melting pot of people from North, South, and Central America, and the Caribbean as well. Miami is a global city, a leader in finance, commerce, media, entertainment and the arts. It is home to some of the top beaches in all of the United States, ideal for some fun in the sun and also in the sea where you can try your hand at all sorts of water sports and activities.
Miami is a diverse and versatile destination with countless cultural events, museums, concerts, dance performances, theater and films. You'll also find championship golf courses, fine dining, professional sporting events, and endless adventures outdoors.
Gateway to The Americas
Miami is located in Southeast Florida on the Miami River. It has a tropical climate and an average temperature of between 75 and 90 F degrees. Miami is the fourth largest urbanized area in the United States, behind New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The Port of Miami is known for accommodating the largest volume of cruise ships in the world and is home to many international cruise line headquarters. Miami is also home to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States and ranks third in the country for the most number of skyscrapers in a city.
In 2008, Miami was ranked as "America's Cleanest City" according to Forbes Magazine for its excellent air quality, vast green spaces, clean drinking water, clean streets and city-wide recycling programs. Miami International Airport is the third most important port of entry for connecting flights from North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.
A Little History
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in America, the Miami area was first inhabited by the Tequesta Indians for more than a thousand years. The first European to land in the area was the Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1566. He claimed the area for Spain and ordered the construction of a Spanish mission the following year. The area was part of Spain for three centuries until the signing of the Adams-Onis treaty, which ceded Florida to the United States.
Miami holds the distinction of being the only major city in the United States founded by a woman, an important citrus grower from Cleveland by the name of Julia Tuttle, who settled north of the Miami River in 1891. A few years later, Tuttle convinced Henry Flagler, a rich tycoon, to extend his railroad to the region. Then, an elegant hotel was built and the first map of the new town was laid out.
Miami was officially incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896 with a population of just over 300. The city prospered in the 1920's, but weakened after the collapse of the real estate boom, a hurricane that hit the area in 1926 and the Great Depression of the 1930's. It was not until World War II that Miami reemerged again. Because of its location, it played a strategic role in the battle against German submarines. From then on, Miami's population grew from a thousand to five and a half million residents in just 110 years. Due to this rapid growth, Miami was nicknamed "The Magic City", since winter visitors would remark that the city grew so much from one year to the next that it was like magic.
Major Neighborhoods of Miami
Dowtown Miami and Brickell
The heart of the city is Downtown Miami, located on the eastern side of the city. The area includes the neighborhoods of Brickell, Virginia Key, Watson Island, and the Port of Miami. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is the city's newest and largest performing arts center and it is located in Downtown Miami. It is the third-largest center in the United States after The Lincoln Center in New York and the Denver Performing Arts Center in Colorado. From its beginnings, Brickell has been synonymous with wealth and prestige and is the most important business district in all of South Florida, home of major banks, financial headquarters, cultural and tourist attractions, and high-rise residential towers. Brickell also features several world-class hotels and fine dining restaurants.
The southern side of Miami includes Coral Way, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables. Coral Way is a historic residential neighborhood, built in 1922, that connects Downtown with Coral Gables, which is known as "The City Beautiful". This well-planned community with separate commercial and residential areas is home to the University of Miami, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, two large golf courses, tennis clubs, and public parks, including Matheson Hammock with its own beach. Coral Gables has an exclusive residential area featuring beautiful homes, tree-lined streets and charming green spaces. The area of Miracle Mile features upscale boutiques and specialty shops, where you can find the trendiest fashions, while at the Village of Merrick Park, an exclusive outdoor mall, you'll be able to browse around the collection of upscale luxury retailers, fine restaurants and elegant spas. Coral Gables is South Florida's capital of fine dining and its restaurants are well known for their variety of cuisines, elegant ambiences, and exacting service. Coral Gables is definitely a city where the residents know how to live very well indeed.
Every great city has a secret tucked-away heart. In Miami, the heart at the center of its tropical soul is Coconut Grove. Originally settled in 1825, this neighborhood is home to Miami City Hall and it is a charming pedestrian and cycle friendly village located beside gorgeous Biscayne Bay. It's the perfect place to enjoy a romantic stroll beneath a full moon, listen to street musicians or sip a delicious mango martini and watch the world go by. Coconut Grove is a village with a rhythm of its own, its variety and originality are reflected in the dining choices offered by the many eateries and in the jazz, salsa and reggae heard in its funky neighborhood bars. It is also a historic village with breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and features several public parks and gardens, such as Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Kampong and the Barnacle State Park. It is home to the Coconut Grove Convention Center, as well as to the chic and sophisticated Coco Walk, a fantastic outdoor mall.
The western side of Miami features different ethnic neighborhoods including West Flagler and Flagami. Although at one time a mostly Jewish neighborhood, today West Miami is home to immigrants mainly from Central America and the Caribbean. Northwest Miami includes Miami Lakes, Miami Springs, and Hialeah, where you can find Hialeah Park, a historic site dating back to 1925 and a wildlife sanctuary open all-year round that plays host to festivals and events. Westland Mall, with three department stores and more than 100 specialty stores is West Miami's own shopping destination.
This area also includes the Miami International Airport, the third largest international port of entry for foreign air passengers behind New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport in California. It is a fast-growing area with new hotels and offices on and around Blue Lagoon Drive. The hotels in the airport area cater to the business traveler offering excellent service and a large Convention Center.
The northern side of Miami includes part of the Oleta River State Park, a beautiful mangrove forest and the largest urban park in the state that adjoins the Biscayne Bay Campus of Florida International University, as well as the North Campus of Johnson and Wales University. Midtown and the Design District offer a great mix of diversity with many Caribbean, Central and South American immigrant communities, as well as bohemians, artists, and Americans. In Midtown and the Design District, you can find the MiMo Historic District, an area that comprises a great number of homes and buildings in a style of architecture called Miami Modernist Architecture or MiMo, which originated in Miami in the 1950's. Nearby Upper East Side, a neighborhood made up mostly of high-rise luxury condominiums and many 1920's homes, is home to several of Miami's wealthy residents.
Miami Beach is made up of several barrier islands joined to the mainland by causeways over Biscayne Bay and the canals that separate the islands from one another. Originally a popular winter playground, Miami Beach has blossomed into a sophisticated community attracting tourists year round. Miami Beach is more than exuberant Art Deco buildings, it is an eclectic mix of cultural institutions, public beaches, and world-class boutiques that put a designer spin on Miami Beach shopping. It also features charming gourmet restaurants, sizzling nightspots, and trendy bars.
Miami Beach is made up of different areas, the central part is known as Miami Beach and the southern side is called South Beach. North Bay Village, Surfside, Bay Harbour Islands, Bal Harbour, and Sunny Isles lay to the north.
North Miami Beach
This area was initially planned as "the perfect city" in 1917 and still conserves its original layout. Nowadays it features a large residential area and a commercial and financial district that includes the Mall at 163rd Street, historic Greynolds Park with a par-36 golf course, as well as the rest of the Oleta River State Recreation Area, a water park featuring kayaks, picnic areas, and much more. Also found in the area is the oldest building in America, an ancient Spanish Monastery dating back to 1141 brought from Spain by the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had it dismantled stone by stone, shipped to the U.S., and rebuilt on this site in 1954. Also in the area, is North Miami Beach Florida Performing Arts Theater, a concert venue with a full winter calendar of events.
Located north of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour's discreet elegance is this area's keynote, long the favored hideaway of the rich and famous. Bal Harbour's crown jewel is an upscale outdoor mall called Bal Harbour Shops, considered the most exclusive shopping destination in Southern United States. Bal Harbour Shops' exceptional ambience is meant to be savored amidst an array of cuisines served in elegant Mediterranean style dining rooms, terraces and cafes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Known as SoBe or The Beach, South Beach is Miami's most famous beach, nicknamed the "American Riviera". This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in 1910. In the 1930's, an architectural revolution came to South Beach, bringing Art Deco and its variations Streamline Moderne and Nautical Moderne. Up to now, South Beach remains the world's largest collection of this style of architecture.
In the 1980's, a renaissance began in South Beach with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving to the area led by the opening of Irene Marie Models and turning South Beach into an international fashion oasis. South Beach features long sandy beaches offering visitors hundreds of hotels and endless daytime and nighttime options for entertainment. You can find an eclectic mix of world-class boutiques, galleries and stores, as well as from gourmet to casual cuisine. At night, South Beach comes alive, turning into a chic and sophisticated spot, where people party into the wee hours of the morning.
This secluded island can be reached via the scenic Rickenbacker Causeway, which joins it to the mainland. Located south of Downtown Miami and north of Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne boasts miles of golden sand beaches and quaint, quiet neighborhoods. Also in the area is Crandon Park, a large wooded area that has an excellent tennis center, where the Sony Ericsson tournament is held every March, and an 18-hole golf course. Here, you can also find Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area, where the sea is perfect for swimming, sailing and kayaking. The park offers such amenities as picnic areas, bike rentals, beach chairs and umbrellas, as well as tours of the Cape Florida lighthouse.
Miami has grown so much throughout the years that even though Fort Lauderdale is another city, it is seems so much closer than before. Known as the "Venice of America" because of its expansive and intricate canal system and its love for boats, sailboats and yachts, Fort Lauderdale offers a great number of marinas and restaurants overlooking the ocean. The city features an international airport with flights to and from Mexico, Central and South America, which makes it an excellent alternative for travelers visiting Miami, since the airfares are often lower and going through customs is much faster than in nearby Miami International Airport. There are also a number of car rental companies, as well as public buses and taxis servicing Miami.
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