beaches and fun?
December 19, 2010 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm going on a solo, semi-spontaneous trip to Miami/Fort Lauderdale the second week of January. I've never been to Florida before. I'm into contemporary art, interesting pescaterian/vegetarian food, bicycles, boats, and budget non-touristy fun. What should I do?

I cashed in a flight voucher to go to Florida! I'm flying into Miami on January 7 and flying out of Fort Lauderdale on January 14. I know absolutely nothing about the area, and I'm trying to decide if I should split my time between the two cities or choose one and stick with it. Constraints: 1. I won't have a car. 2. I'm a poor graduate student

I've seen this and this already. I'm not really into nightclubs. Other than walking around beaches, what do you recommend that I do?

I'm planning on either couchsurfing or staying in a hostel. I usually like couchsurfing (fun! people to hang out with! not a soulless hostel!), but am a bit hesitant doing that alone (I usually travel with my SO). Googling suggests that the South Beach Hostel sounds like the best plan for hostel staying in Miami. Is that true? Is there someplace less nightlife-oriented?

posted by three bear minimum to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm worried that, having never been to Florida before, you might be unprepared for just how limited you are without a car.

Things to see in Miami: the Miami Metrozoo (which is cageless, and tries for natural habitats) has a fantastic aviary, if I remember correctly, and they used to even have bikes that you can rent to ride around the zoo and see all the animals (also monorail and trams). The zoo costs about $12 and will keep you busy all day.
posted by misha at 3:13 PM on December 19, 2010

So, you'll probably just want to stay in Miami. Without a car, as misha pointed out, your options will be limited because the public transportation system in Miami sucks, basically. There's not much in Fort Lauderdale.

As far as contemporary art, (and sad you just missed Art Basel!), I would definitely go to the Wolfsonian, the World Museum of Erotic Art, which are both on the beach, and the Miami Art Museum and maybe the Museum of Contemporary Art. There's also a lot of little galleries, but I don't know much about them.

I also really like the Botanical Gardens and Matheson Hammock. I sorta like the remaining dive-y bars in Coconut grove, but there's also a fancier bar there with couches outside (I can't remember the name) that has great Scotch specials on Wednesday nights, like a $12 Johnny Walker Blue. I like Scotch so ymmv.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:38 PM on December 19, 2010

Vizcaya is worth a trip and is served by the Miami Metrorail. Your hostel is well located for the beach and well, South Beach, where there is lots to do - or at least see. Miami is not a great place to be poor, just FYI, so you're going to want to save your pennies for those after-hours cocktails.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The hostel is totally cute! I have never been inside it (I am old) but I see adorable foreign-type people out front all the time. It's an amazing location too.

Totally biased opinion, though agreeing with the above: there's like, nothing in Fort Lauderdale. Heh. (*Prepares to be flamed.*) The museum is decent though. (If you had a car, you would go there and also go up to Palm Beach to the Norton right now, as there's an interesting show on.) But Ft. L... you may be shocked! There's is not much too it.

So you should know if you're staying in South Beach there is actually no way to get to Miami (or anywhere else!) without a car. (Well there is a public bus. That works I guess!) But it's not like this is Toronto or NYC.

Totally nthing Fairchild Tropical Gardens and Wolfsonian. (I hate Vizcaya. It bores me.)

There are good galleries in Miami but they are super-difficult without a car--not too clustered, in/around dodgy neighborhoods, etc. (Um and yeah, I say this as someone who has lived in Chicago, Oakland and New York: Miami does dodgy to the hilt! Man!) But good news, you *can* bike from Miami Beach (take the little bridge, not the highway, people will explain) over there and back though, and bike rentals are plentiful, and not so pricy.

What else you will want to do and see may very well depend upon your focus of grad schoolness! Do not let the trip pass without meeting people in your field.

Also you really must see the parking garage on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach though. Seriously. Take the elevator to the top, then walk down. I tell people I'm taking them to a parking garage and they're like "what the hell?" and then they're like, "ohhhhhh." (Also Shake Shack is downstairs around the corner, which 1) is the only food on Lincoln Road within your budget but 2) I bet you're a vegetarian.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:14 PM on December 19, 2010

The de la Cruz collection is awesome.
posted by garethspor at 12:20 AM on December 20, 2010

I live in Fort Lauderdale (well, Plantation, actually, which is where there is truly nothing).

We refer to FL as "Fort Liquordale," because the primary activity seems to be drinking.

I thought there were Sea Turtle Walks available in the winter time, but it appears they only do release walks in the summer. October - March is when we have light restrictions on the beach for laying turtles, but I don't see anyone offering a chance to observe that.

Blue Moon Miami Kayak tours from Oleta River park, they sometimes have night time tours.

Check out the design district/Little Haiti in Miami (NE 2nd ave, around 32nd-55th streets) for interesting shops and eateries. (I like Lemoni and have no affiliation with them. A friend of mine owns a local record store. The botanicas in Little Haiti are cool, too.)

Fairchild is a thousand kinds of awesome. Farther north is the Morikami Museum and Gardens. Check that out if at all possible.

And as someone who has been using the buses for the past year and a half, it's actually not super awful. The 120 or the S will get you up to Aventura mall, from which you hop onto the Broward 1 to the airport. Yes, it takes nearly 2 hours (maybe longer depending on where you start on the beach) but for $2.50, you can't beat it - just remember to ask for a Broward transfer before you get off the bus.

I'm not a fan of South Beach myself. It's a great place to watch people, but the food prices are overblown (and the quality is...not always great. Le Bonn was amazing, but it's gone. Sad face.) and the shopping is the other main focus. There are some really neat Art Deco houses in the neighborhood, and you could probably find a tour, either of the neighborhood, or of actual houses. Hostels usually have a sheet with "local activities" when you check in. House and garden tours are popular in the Miami Beach area, but I've never done one there.

Virginia Key is a nice historical Beach. I'm not sure where you'll be coming from, but you might want to pack a bathing suit just in case the weather is suitable for swimming. Me, I don't get in the water until July. And I'm done swimming by late August. But then, I'm a wimp.
posted by bilabial at 6:56 AM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Would it be better if I stayed in Miami proper? Like, at this hostel, so that I could more easily walk/take a bus to places like the design district, museums, etc?
posted by three bear minimum at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Oops. Scratch that last question. Google Maps put the hostel on the wrong spot -- no where near Miami actually!
posted by three bear minimum at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2010

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