If you’ve done a cruise from Fort Lauderdale or Miami, it’s probably happened to you. You got kicked off your cruise ship at 8 am but you couldn’t get a flight until later that evening . Sure, you could sit at the airport and be miserable for hours. Not a great option though. Alternatively you could have arrived in town the day before and you’re not really sure what to do to keep yourself busy. My advice: rent a car and enjoy the ultimate Miami stopover.
The Biltmore Hotel- The Biltmore is a historic hotel built in 1925. At its inception, it hosted Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland and even Al Capone. Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in it’s pool during the 30s. Turned into a hospital during World War II and then falling into ruin throughout the 70s, the building was restored in 1986. Since then it’s been used in films and shows like Bad Boys and Miami Vice and is a fantastic example of classic Florida architecture during its land boom. It’s also a great place to grab breakfast. The hotel has a nice reasonably priced buffet with fresh fruits and amazing bacon. You can relax in the courtyard, enjoy the Florida sunshine and plan your day.
Wynwood Walls– This neighborhood was a rundown warehouse district until 2009 when Tony Goldman came up with an idea of revitalizing the area with street art. The non-windowed warehouses proved to be the perfect canvases for the best graffiti artists in the world. In recent years, the neighborhood has exploded, with paintings in virtually every nook and cranny- it’s an art lover’s paradise. Even the sidewalks and trash dumpsters explode with graphic creations. It’s free to visit the neighborhood and an Instagram dream. There’s plenty of trendy cafes, shops and art galleries where you can peruse local artists and take something home with you.
Lock and Load– if you like guns or would just like to learn more about them, Lock and Load is a family friendly free museum that features weapons from around the world and a “machine gun experience”. There’s over 25 machine guns available and guides are on hand to teach you about gun safety and how the weapons work. Lock and Load is located in the Wynwood area and is a nice short stop if you are visiting Wynwood Walls.
Versace Mansion– when you think of fashion, there are few names that carry as much flair as Versace. Gianni Versace bought the 1930s mansion in 1992 and spent the next several years adding to his signature property. After Gianni Versace was shot on his South Beach doorstep, the property stayed in limbo for a while before it was converted into a hotel/restaurant. Now the Casa Casaurina is an upscale dining experience where patrons can sit near the famous Medusa head pool and enjoy the property for considerably less than the $800/night plus room charge. Entrees are between $30-60 and the experience is worth every penny.
Calle Ocho-you might have thought it was just the name of a Pitbull song, but Calle Ocho (8th street) is the Main Street of Little Havana. This vibrant neighborhood has little cafes, cigars and yes, mojitos. It isn’t really anything like the real Cuba, but there’s not anyplace better to grab an authentic Cuban sandwich and swap stories about Fidel. Domino park is a great place to meet locals or play a game of dominoes ironically enough.
The Vizcaya Mansion, also referred to as “the Hearst Castle of the East” is a museum of the property formerly owned and constructed by James Deering between 1914-1922. Deering meticulously created the estate using European architecture with local materials like Cuban limestone, coral accents and gardens with indigenous plants. The buildings seem to be transplanted from Italy and the dock could be mistaken for Venice. If you appreciate European architecture, the mansion and grounds are a fantastic diversion. Much of the original art and furniture is on display.
Ocean Drive– Parking can be difficult, but there’s no place that sums up Miami like South Beach. The beach boasts a huge collection of art-deco buildings painted in classic pastel colors. Restaurants and bars line the street with waiters and hostesses trying their best to coral you into their establishment. The beach stretches seemingly on forever and it’s not unusual to happen across a tv show or movie being filmed. The Fontainebleau Hotel was the setting for Jerry Lewis’ “Bellboy” as well as scenes from Goldfinger, Scarface and The Bodyguard.