Sunshine and celebs in downtown Miami
It’s hot, hot, hot in beautiful Miami with its amazing beaches, celebrity harbour front mansions, designer shops and of course all that delicious food.
There is so much to explore here in year-round sunshine.
From the beautiful Art Deco buildings to the up and coming regenerated districts, this coastal US city is quite fabulous for tourists.
The area is renowned for its south beach and hotel vista, but venture away from the sand and swimming pools and there is plenty more to explore.
There is the Art Deco Walking tour, with the Miami Design Preservation League, which includes a look at some of the more well known sites, such as the Versace mansion along the fashionable Ocean Drive which is lined by nightclubs, hotels, bars and restaurants.
The infamous mansion and the Metropolitan by COMO Hotel are among an estimated 800 Art Deco buildings that campaigners hope to see preserved for their historical importance. I can recommend a stay at the Metropolitan by COMO Hotel in Miami Beach. The staff were amazing and nothing was too much trouble. It was a short two-day visit but their fish dishes were right up my street as was the smashing Eggs Benedict breakfast.
Across to downtown, the popular harbour front is very busy with cruise ships and tourists. Among the attractions is the high-octane Thriller Speedboat with a very entertaining crew, plenty of shops and eateries, favourites include the Bubba Shrimp restaurant – a clever spin-off from the movie Forest Gump starring Tom Hanks.
I loved the shrimp and salads and the staff, as everywhere else, were courteous and nothing was too much trouble.
Miami has a huge Hispanic population with more than half of them being of Cuban heritage and their influence abounds in business and the arts.
This, no doubt, has been helped along by the star factor of pop super stars Gloria and Emilio Estefan who found fame with the 80s band Miami Sound Machine.
They also have a harbour home on the aptly named Star Island, and own eateries on Ocean Drive and the exclusive Estefan Kitchen in the city’s new designer district.
Then there is Little Havana on the outskirts of central Miami with its jazz bars and sandwich cafes, niche shops, tobacco factories with rolling rooms and antique galleries and the district was declared a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
It has a very Caribbean feel here with the tropical food shops and retired residents gather to play dominoes and discuss politics in the Maximo Gomez Park. Nearby there’s even a a memorial in honour of those who died in the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba in April 1961.
Up the road the historic Ball & Chain restaurant and bar plays host to high-profile visitors including comedian Sir Billy Connolly, who has called in with his film crew and seemed to be enjoying the mid-afternoon entertainment put on by the salsa band.
Miami is also seeing major investment in its rail infrastructure to improve public transport, and projects include the exclusive Miami Design District that has attracted names, such as Givenchy and Armani. There is also the hip Wynwood Walls outdoor art museum featuring the Wynwood Kitchen& Bar pioneered by the Goldman family who specialise in revamping previously rundown communities, but be warned there is a queue to get in.
Among the impressive arts projects is the Wynwood mural tour which has art work created by the best known artists. Pop stars including Katy Perry have hot-footed it to the district to shoot music videos.
Fly to fabulous Miami from Birmingham Airport with four-star airline Aer Lingus with a stopover in Dublin which has a US customs clearance gate which saves lengthy queuing on arrival into the US.