Bienvenido a Miami!

Hanging out on the sunny side of the Florida peninsula.

Bienvenido a Miami!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 11, 2007

Miami is the melting pot of the United States, home to more ethnic groups than any other city in the nation. Here, race and relgion come together and mix in a truly multicultural blend of harmony. At times, you'll feel like you're not even in the United States, but in a uniquely American slice of Latin America. A bustling city filled to the brim with the best of Latin American music, cuisine, and culture.

No longer the dangerous city of its former reputation, Miami has modernized itself and transformed into an exciting city with endless possibilites of things for the visitor to see and do. Begin your visit with a trip to the exciting neighbourhood of Little Havana. It's a slice of Cuba right here in the USA. It's centerpiece is Calle Ocho, which hosts the annual Calle Ocho Cuban festival. It's the closest Americans can (legally) get to authentic Cuba at its finest, which makes it a cultural highlight of the entire nation. Taste some delicious Cuban ropa vieja (pulled beef with peppers) and sample some imitation (and some not-so-imitation) Cuban cigars while you stroll down its historic streets.

In downtown Miami, visit the Bayside Marketplace, a huge shopping center right on the waterfront. Here, you can shop, dine, and party beside the beautiful Biscayne Bay. Many good restaurants are here, including the world famous Hard Rock Cafe. Parking is free, so come by and stay as long as you'd like.

A visit to Miami Beach is a great way to enjoy the natural attractions of the area. This trendy oceanside beach town is riddled with snazzy, colorful art deco architecture. Your camera will be well-exercised here. South Beach is the place to party until the wee hours of the morning, with endless drink specials and yes, even some happy hours in the middle of the night. Hotels tend to be pricey here, but that doesn't stop a person from enjoying the area. You get what you pay for here, with some of the priciest hotels being World-renowned resort properties of the finest types. For those with limited budgets, there are plenty of cheap hotels dotted around the Miami International Airport, a quick drive away. Simply take the J bus to Miami Beach or downtown Miami from the airport for a cool $1.25.

${QuickSuggestions} Miami is a love-it or hate-it place. To the first-time visitor it can be somewhat intimidating. Lessen the extent of your culture shock by forming a game plan before you leave. First, make sure you have an idea on where you want to go and what you want to see on each day of your trip. Then figure out how to get there - bus, train, rental car? It's up to you. Once you know that, stick to your plan. Getting lost in a sketchy part of town is sure to ruin your day, so keep to your map and stay on schedule. While safe enough in the tourist areas, this is not a town whose sketchy parts you'd ever want to discover, under any circumstances.

Don't bring loads of cash with you wherever you go, and by the same token, don't leave any money in your room. Your best bet is to carry an ATM card with you, or leave it at your hotel's safe deposit box. Carry enough cash and a credit card to get you by for the day. Muggings are common here among tourists - don't be another statistic. Be cautious, and stick to tourist areas, and you'll be fine.

Be aware before booking your hotel that many properties in Miami Beach charge a mandatory "resort fee" to pay for maid services and other usually-included amenities. This fee ranges from $5.00 to $20.00 per night at most hotels. It's just a fact of life when coming to Miami Beach. Hotels in greater Miami should not charge a resort fee, but your mileage may vary.

When debating to do a tour to the Everglades or other out-of-town areas, choose a tour agency that has been reviewed positively by fellow travellers. Many agencies offer the bare minimum for a maximum price tag. Your best bet is to rent a car for such excursions - you'll be happier, less rushed, and have a much more pleasant time looking around.${BestWay} Avoid renting a car if you're not used to traffic. Miami drivers are among the worst in the nation, being comprised largely of immigrant drivers with dubious International Driving Permits. Cutting off is the norm, and a drive down the Interstate can result in several harrowing experiences and subsequent prayers of thanks for being alive. Those who are used to the traffic of big cities, drive cautiously and don't be too hesitant while driving - as bad as it sounds, a little bit of aggressive driving pays off here. Well, let's not say aggressive - we'll call it assertive :D

Oh, and don't even think about renting that car without insurance. A collision damage waiver is essential. You may be covered already under your car insurance at home - check with your provider before leaving home.

Walking is not a viable option in Miami, except for some areas of downtown as well as the South Beach area. Be prepared, though, as distances are long between attractions. South Beach, for example, spans almost twenty blocks.

For those whose heels are killing them after the long hikes, you'll be pleased to hear that Miami has a quick, easy, and efficient bus system, called the Miami-Dade Transit Line. For around $1.25 you can ride anywhere in the metro area. The buses hit all the main tourist districts and attractions, and are letter-coded for ease of use. Each stop has a detailed map, as well as route info, so you'll never get lost. It's simply one of the best transit systems in North America. Airport shuttle? Forget it! Just take the bus! They go to ALL the major airports in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Miami also has a good commuter train, called the Tri-Rail. It runs from Homestead, through Miami International Aiport and Fort Lauderdale Airport, all the way north to West Palm Beach. Fares depend on the zone, but they're pretty inexpensive. Miami Airport - Fort Lauderdale Airport is only $3.00, taking about thirty minutes to arrive. For those who want to check out the sights around town, Miami has a small subway/light rail system called the Metrolink that runs from downtown to the suburbs.

Miami International Airport is located around 7 miles from downtown, serving every destination imaginable. It's one of the worst airports in the world by design and the lineups are incredible. Take comfort in knowing it's currently being renovated.

Baymont Miami Springs Airport

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 11, 2007

The Baymont Inn Miami Airport is a good hotel choice for people catching an early flight and who want more than just the basic comforts, but don’t have a lot of money. This hotel greets the guest by offering excellent, luxurious comfort at rock-bottom prices.

I chose this hotel because of its proximity to both the Greyhound depot and to the airport. Once I arrived in Miami by bus, I called the hotel for its free shuttle service. This was the only major problem I had with the hotel. The staff didn’t speak much English, so I had trouble getting them to send out a shuttle to the bus station. After around 5 phone calls and waiting in the bus station for over two hours, a driver finally pulled up and I was on my way to the hotel.

The hotel is of modest size, and upon entering, it doesn’t seem very nice. The lobby is sparsely furnished, and there is a mild smell of smoke lingering in the air. I immediately went onto the Internet kiosk to check my email, but the machine ate my money, which the hotel staff did end up replacing. The machine didn’t function then after, so I was stuck without email access.

The room that I reserved for $55 per night was spacious, with a very large king bed with comfy blankets, a strong, clean air conditioner, a desk, and a nice-sized bathroom. There was a good selection of television channels, and pay-per-view was available for around $9.99 per movie.

There was no morning breakfast, which disappointed me, but there was coffee. The hotel did provide a free morning USA Today, which was a nice touch. I didn’t have any real problems with my stay in the hotel itself.

The shuttle driver was available at my scheduled time, and took me to the airport with minimal hassles. Unlike other hotels I have been to, this hotel does not stop at every other hotel nearby, but promptly takes you to and from the airport in less than ten minutes.

The only downside to this location is the lack of restaurants. The only one is Bennigan’s, just across the street, which served up decent food at decent prices. There is also a restaurant at the neighbouring Embassy Suites, but this is a pricy option for budget travelers. I was able to use the Embassy Suites Internet access as a non-guest, which was around $4 for twenty minutes.

Baymont Miami Springs Airport
3501 NW Le Jeune Road
Miami, Florida, 33142
(305) 871-1777


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 11, 2007

Bennigan’s is a good choice for dinner when staying at the adjacent Baymont Inn Miami Airport. Located a short walk from the hotel, and just minutes from the Miami International Airport, its extensive Irish-themed menu includes everything from bourbon-laced steaks to delicate honey-garlic chicken breasts, to Irish stew.

Walking in, the aromas will entice you and whet your appetite as you later peruse the menu. I visited on a somewhat busy Monday evening, and I was promptly seated by a rather beautiful waitress, who was very friendly and attentive and willing to answer questions I had about the area. I sat down and read over the menu as she explained the specials of the day.

To start, I ordered the potato and cheese soup, which was very delicious. I thought of it like clam chowder, without the clams, but much richer due to the added cheese. For my main course, I ordered the steak and chicken dinner, which came with some very delicious garlic mashed red potatoes (with peels left on for extra color) and fried onions on the side. The delicious meal was reasonably priced at under $16 including tax and tip.

The restaurant features and extensive bar and wine collection, including the Irish staple of Guinness. Pints are free-flowing and the atmosphere in the restaurant is full of laughter and camaraderie. It’s also a very family friendly place, with a full kids menu and crayons to keep the kids busy.

The waitress was thoughtful enough to give me coupons for my future visits to the area upon payment, which was a thoughtful touch. The restaurant seemed to have many contests and promotions for frequent customers.

To learn more about Bennigan’s, visit their national website at:
3449 Le Jeune Road
Miami, Florida, 33142
(305) 871-4282


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 11, 2007

Chili’s in the Miami International Airport is a great place to feast and relax at the same time, providing a perfect opportunity to escape the madness of a busy airport.

I was bumped to a later flight, and I needed to pass a few hours, and Chili’s was a great place to do that. The friendly waiters were so attentive and quick to accommodate me that it was somewhat intimidating. The go-getters of the Chili’s staff quickly sat me at the table and brought my drink order immediately, giving me ample time to look over their surprisingly extensive menu (for an airport location).

I stretched out on my chair, flipping through my newspaper as my meal order was being prepared. After a very short wait, the energetic staff brought out my plate: a half-rack of baby back ribs, lightly glazed with a spicy-sweet barbecue sauce, accompanied by hand-cut French fries and a bowl of drunken apples, sweetened with a bit of whiskey and cinnamon. The Coke I ordered was bottomless, and the waiters made sure I never had to wait for a refill.

The meal was $15 all told, including tax and tip. Chili’s was a very inexpensive option for such a decent lunch in an airport, where I usually get violated by outrageous prices.

The fun, western décor makes it a nice place to sit and relax, and its relatively quiet location means little-to-no noise from the busy airport announcements. It is located in terminal G on the second level, easily accessed by the moving walkways from all terminals.

Visit Chili’s national site online at:
Chili's Grill Bar
300 N University Dr
Miami, Florida, 33024
(954) 431-9446

Bayside Marketplace

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travellingdave on January 19, 2007

The Bayside Marketplace is Miami's premier shopping center, located right downtown next to the beautiful Biscayne Bay. It is located next door to the Port of Miami cruise ship terminal and the American Airlines Arena.

It's beautiful location makes it a popular destination for honeymooners and couples out shopping before their big cruise the next day. The mall boasts a vast selection of merchants, including Gap, Bath and Body Works, the Havana Shirt Company, Victoria's Secret, the Best of Miami, and many more interesting merchants.

It's beautiful decor really adds a nice touch. The mall is somewhat open-air and the nice bay breezes work wonders on a sticky hot summer evening.

The mall features a decent sized food court featuring the fast food chains you know and love, including the Cajun Grill, Pretzel Twister, Captain Joe's seafood, and many others. There are a number of good sit-down restaurant on site, including Chili's, Miami's Hard Rock Cafe, the Latin American Cafe, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, and Lombardi's restaurant.

The mall features live entertainment on many evenings, and is quite family-friendly. The views of Biscayne Bay are quite good from many areas of the mall, so bring your camera.

The mall does rent wheelchairs and strollers out for those who require this, and you will find lockers here as well. Valet parking is available.

The mall is open from 10am to 10pm weekdays, from 10am to 11pm on Saturdays, and from 10am to 9pm on Sundays.

Getting here is easy. The mall is located right off of Biscayne Blvd., along the waterfront in downtown Miami. Take I-395 to Biscayne Blvd., then Biscayne south to the mall. It will be on your right hand side.

The mall is a perfect short walk from the downtown Greyhound stop. Considering the Greyhound station is in a seedy area, you will welcome the chance to head down here if you're on a layover. The mall is four blocks east of Greyhound.

The nearest hotel to the mall is the Holiday Inn downtown, which is also a perfect hotel if you're catching a cruise at the nearby port.

You can also access the mall via the MetroMover trains. Get off at Freedom Tower Station and walk two blocks southeast to the mall entrance.

Visit the Bayside Marketplace online at:
Bayside Marketplace
Fourth and Biscayne Blvd
Miami, Florida, 33133
(305) 577-3344

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