Thanksgiving in Miami
August 19, 2016 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering visiting Miami for a few days over Thanksgiving. What do you recommend for a first-time visitor?

My goal is to get a general feel of the city, enjoy the weather, and eat some tasty food. I'd probably fly into Fort Lauderdale because those flights are cheapest. I'd probably stay at a hotel on the beach if I can find one for around $150/night. I'm not into luxury but, as a solo female traveler, I'm glad to pay a bit more for safety. Is the city do-able without a car? Public transportation is preferred but I'd be happy to rent a car if it'd make things easier.

I'm especially interested in Cuban-American culture, nature, art, history and museums, and food! I'd appreciate any and all recommendations for places to stay, things to do, transportation, and more! I have basic Spanish skills and would love the opportunity to practice a bit. Thanks!

Caveat: I realize that Zika is a serious concern right now but I am not pregnant and do not plan to become pregnant any time soon.
posted by smorgasbord to Travel & Transportation around Miami, FL (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I really enjoyed Versailles for Cuban. Based on the reviews I thought it might be a tourist trap but it definitely was not. In general, Little Havana is a fun neighborhood to poke around. Not sure how transit-accessible it is though.
posted by lunasol at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fairchild Botanical Gardens.

Wolfsonian Museum of Thinkism.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:15 PM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I never used public transportation in Miami, I understand that Tri Rail and Metrorail are decent. Avoid downtown Miami on foot late at night, I'd be concerned about safety. Miami Beach usually is pretty busy so I never felt unsafe walking around. Lots of tourists, typical tourist safety protocol (don't be an easy target).

Some dining options, if you can get to them: La Caretta (pretty authentic is my understanding), Sergio's, Versailles as mentioned, maybe Larios on the Beach, Joe's Stone Crab for stone crab. Cuban dishes I've enjoyed: vaca frita, ropa vieja, palomilla. If the food it spicy it's probably "fusion", I don't know a Cuban that likes spicy food or meat any less cooked than well done. Nicaraguan, Argentinian, Peruvian all also very good to try.

Cuban coffee/cafecito is syrupy espresso served in thimble-size cups from any one of a billion coffee windows throughout the city. Paying more than like $0.25/0.50 for a shot means you're in a touristy area.

Activities: Fairchild as mentioned, Jai Alai, a cruise through Hialeah is educational and interesting though the language barrier is pretty intense, Vizcaya was amazing for me to see. Coconut Grove is a cute area. You should be able to find plenty of museums and history on Miami Beach.

Speaking Spanish can be challenging, in my experience Cuban people speak very quickly and clip their words pretty substantially.
posted by Gazorpazorpfield at 12:40 PM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make sure that you aren't spending as much on transportation to Miami as you are saving by flying into Fort Lauderdale. I haven't looked at pricing recently, but back when I was making that choice the difference in price was usually only about $50, which will be more than eaten up by Uber, which is $35-$40 from FLL to Miami Beach, assuming you don't happen to get hit by surge pricing. There is a free shuttle to/from the Tri-Rail station, where $5 will get you to MIA and a further $2.25 will get you on Metrorail or $2.65 for the express bus to Miami Beach. If your hotel happens to be near the express bus route, that is a great way to get out there. They usually (as in almost always) run buses with luggage racks on that route, so it's not nearly the hassle that it might seem at first. If not, an Uber to Miami Beach from MIA is only $15ish.

Miami-Dade Transit has real time tracking for all the bus routes now, so it's a much better option than it used to be. You can take the bus if it happens to be reasonably on time or Uber if it isn't.

Depending on what exactly you're looking to do, you might be better served by a hotel on the mainland (Brickell area is a good option since it isn't dead at night like it is downtown). If you want to spend a lot of time on the beach, though, definitely stay in Miami Beach. It can be a real hassle to get back and forth because traffic is often a serious problem.

Also, if you think you might need a car only for a few hours to go to ZooMiami or whatever use ZipCar. They're all over Miami Beach, downtown, and Brickell. Renting a car during the winter season can be stupid expensive and is always a hassle if you aren't already signed up with the company's frequent renter program. Driving here sucks if you aren't used to the craziness, parking is expensive, especially in Miami Beach, and, worse, the timing of traffic jams are completely unpredictable. I have been in traffic jams on I-95 and in Miami Beach at 3AM on more than one occasion.
posted by wierdo at 3:34 PM on August 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

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