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Miami – a city with a thousand faces

If you want to see the „real” America, don’t go to Miami – that’s what the phrase says. We have to agree, and it’s somehow the same as the South-Spanish Marbella. Not really Spain, but we would go back again and again anytime. That’s how we feel about Miami as well. It will soak you up.

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Miami is the most famous holiday resort of the United States, which was founded in July 1896 by a citrus merchant from Cleveland, Julia Tuttle. Though Miami is a large town, but still one of the smallest size in the States with its 92 square kilometers. The population is altogether 417 000 people, but together with the agglomeration it’s quite populous, with 5,5 million inhabitants. Its harbor is famous from the luxury cruise ships heading from here to the Caribbean, with an imposing view while sailing in and out from the harbor. Miami’s climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream, is warm all year, similar to the Caribbean – a mix of tropical and monsoon. Summer is hot and wet, while winter is warm and dry. When we were there in January, we met a pleasant weather around 14-22 degrees, still the locals were unhappy about having to wear a pullover.

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Miami is the biggest „Spanish” city in the USA, thanks to the plenty of South-American immigrants who arrived in the 50’s. It follows that Spanish is more commonly used as the first language than English. Because of that, the city has a really special, rich and diverse culture. As we walk around in the city from quarter to quarter we meet a new face of Miami.

Star Island

Star Island is one of Miami’s most exclusive island, where we can see the houses – or more like palaces – of celebrities like Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias, Liz Taylor, the ex-NBA player Shaquille O’Neal and Will Smith. Moreover, the houses here took part in several movies and series, for example Miami Vice and several episodes of CSI Miami.

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Though the most expensive estates of the city can be found here, it is by far not the best place in Miami, especially if we seek silence – cruise tours start from here several times a day, with thousands of curious tourists and their cameras. Moreover, those living in the southern part of the island need to settle for the view of the highway and the harbor.

It is not the only artificial island in Biscayne Bay, where we can see such luxury homes. Not far on the North there’s Venetian Islands, and on the East Palm and Hibiscus Islands welcome tourists, or affluent investors.

Fisher Island
Fisher Island

It’s the same with Fisher Island, but here we find luxury condominiums and a golf court. What makes this island special – besides that this island boasts with the most expensive estate prices of America – is that it’s not accessible from the mainland, so we can only enter the island by helicopter or ship. It received its name from Carl G Fisher, who gave the city Miami Beach, as Fisher’s dream was to create a holiday resort on the bogged area. This project was kind of successful, as today Miami Beach means sunshine, sparkle, and the fantastic, worldwide known Art Deco quarter.

Downtown

The heart of Downtown (Miami’s city center) is Biscayne Bay, and Miami’s first skyscraper, Freedom Tower, which was opened in 1925. Miami’s downtown is the center of commercial and official life. The branch offices of the state, the confederate government can be found here, as well as banks, the most notable companies, and the citadels of local media (e.g. Miami Herald). We can also see the American Airlines Arena, which hosts one of the NBA’s best basketball teams, Miami Heat since 1999, but several concerts and other sports events are also held here. Within the arena, you can find the Waterfront Theater, which is the biggest theater in Florida. One of the popular community areas in Downtown is Bayside Marketplace, where not only a market and shopping mall is operating, but also a popular meeting point, and the main port for the cruise ships mentioned before. Guided tours in English and Spanish are available from 20-30 dollars.

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Little Havanna

Those who would like to experience the real Cuba – but doesn’t want to sail over – cannot find a better place than Miami. Little Havana is the Cuban quarter of the city. The locals’ favorite park, the Máximo Gómez Park – or Domino Park – is located in the center of the quarter, where you can worship the domino, considered a national sport in Cuba. The area is full of tobacco shops, where you can get all the existing Cuban cigars, thanks to the commercial embargo deleted by the USA in 2015.

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If you would like some souvenir from Little Havana, hop in to Little Havana Cigar Company opposite to Domino Park, where we can experience a bit of the 50’s Cuba, and we can select from the best cigars and accessories after a good coffee.

If we arrive to Miami in March, we should check when the famous Calle Ocho Festival is held. It’s one of the world’s biggest festivals, every year millions of people arrive to the one-day fiesta, to get to know, and be part of Pan-American culture

Coral Gables

On the South-Western part of Miami, you can find an exclusive, 4-acre quarter dreamed as the Riviera of America by its planner and builder, George Edgar Merrick. He named the quarter Coral Gables. It’s a soldierly order of all Mediterranean style houses and plants. Coral Gables is known for its strict local rules, which make virtually impossible for those living here to adapt or renovate their houses or flats in their own taste.

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If you are around, you should visit the historical Biltmore Hotel. The imposing building of the 5-star luxury resort built in 1927 is open on Sundays between 1:30-3:30 pm to see from the inside, otherwise we can admire it from outside. Just as the Venetian Pool, which is one of Coral Gables’ most important touristic sights, and the locals’ oasis, as the next beach is too far to go on foot. The huge basin formed on the place of the former coral mine is supported by its own spring, and it was made really cozy with a waterfall, palm trees and caves. The daily ticket is 13 dollars for adults, and 8 for children.

Biltmore Hotel - Coral Gables, Miami
Biltmore Hotel – Coral Gables, Miami

One of Coral Gables’ and probably Miami’s most expensive streets is the so-called Miracle Mile, where more than 200 luxury shops welcome wealthy tourists and of course locals. The clothes, jewelry, bags, etc. found here can be bought anywhere else too, but they have double the price here. Still, many people choose Miracle Mile just to tell they were shopping here.

And finally, a few can’t-miss sights, if we are in Miami.

Little Haiti

The Caribbean community of the city is focused in the quarter names Little Haiti. Its specialty is the spectacular graffities on the inner and outer walls of shops and houses, and Wynwood Park, which brings this community and artists closer together, and also attracts tourists visiting Miami. Entrance is free.

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Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium offers a unique opportunity to unwind, here you can see everything, from seal and whale shows and alligators to the original Flipper dolphin show, and the exotic bird and reptile stock. It’s worth a full day, as there are some shows that can only be seen once a day. The whole day ticket is 45 dollars, but for 150 dollars we can even swim with dolphins. It would be a shame to miss.

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