Think Miami is just beaches and bikinis? Think again. The Roaming Gnome just spent a long weekend in the sunshine-y city during the 2013 Art Basel art show. And while there, he experienced a multitude of sights, sounds and tastes that made for an unforgettable three-day getaway.
Here are his top 15 reasons you should pack your bags and make your own Miami escape:
1. Jogging on South Beach at sunrise
Miami IS more than beaches and bikinis. But you cannot miss out on the spectacular light show that happens in South Beach every morning around 6 a.m. It’s also when the bustling beach is at its quietest.
“The salt spray in my beard is quite lovely.”—RG
2. Feeling the wind in your hair in the marina
Ocean Force Adventures has boat tours every day, so you can see the skyline, and even spy some dolphins, while cruising by at 20 knots. All that exhilaration will make you hungry so head to My Ceviche afterward for Miami’s best ceviche lunch.
“It’s like being a kid in a candy store that doesn’t have any candy and only sells cigars.”—RG
3. Trying Fidel’s favorite cigars at El Titan De Bronze
Head to this boutique cigar factory in Little Havana and ask to talk to Maria. Now in her 60s, she was handpicked to hand-roll cigars for Castro as a teenager.
“I think we do the wave any second now.”—RG
4. Cheering on the viejitos at Maximo Gomez Park
After you stop by the cigar factory, head straight down Calle Ocho to hang out with the fellows playing dominoes. They take their matches seriously, but are happy to chat between turns if you habla español.
“My mind is so expanded I’m afraid my hat won’t fit anymore.”—RG
5. Wandering the street art at Wynwood Walls
In 2009, Tony Goldman transformed this defunct warehouse district into an eye-popping street art gallery. Peruse the massive murals then top off your art-stravaganza with a craft brew in Wynwood Brewing’staproom.
“Take the audio tour. And get someone wearing good walking shoes to carry you.” —RG
6. Getting lost in the gardens at Vizcaya
The Italian-style villa at Vizcaya was built by John Deering in 1916. Now you can spend the afternoon touring the estate as well as its magnificent gardens and grottoes.
“It’s official. I’m not moving for the rest of the day.”—RG
7. Sunning your buns at the Delano Beach Club pool
Warning: Once you get here and claim a spot among the palms, you may decide to throw all your other plans out the window.
“My stomach’s soul mate is a chicken. I am OK with this.” —RG
8. Scarfing down fried chicken at Yardbird
This southern kitchen is known for its fried chicken, which you can get with or without waffles. You get a half a bird, so split it, then wash it down with one (or two) of their 90 kinds of bourbon.
“I may have hogged them all. It’s their fault for being too delicious.”—RG
“Do not accidentally call the lemur a marmoset. It gets awkward.”—RG
10. Petting a lemur at Jungle Island
Yes. You can actually get up close and personal with lemurs, parrots, kangaroos and pythons at this family-friendly animal park. You literally can’t miss the gibbons either— they “sing” at 80 decibels while swinging from their perches.
“Do not try this at home. Only on vacation.”—RG
11. Feeding the gators at the Everglades Alligator Farm
Take in the alligator show and airboat ride then head down the Historic Redland Trail to visit the Robert Is Here fruit stand, Schnebly Winery with coconut beer, and the key lime pie on a stick at the Gator Grill.
“Hahahahahahahahahahahaa (I may have had a wee bit too much.)”—RG
12. Tasting Miami’s best Cuban cafecito at Versailles
Stop by the famous ventana here to mingle with the locals and get your morning pick-me-up. Order the cortadito or café con leche if you’re not ready for the -test version.
“Apparently the Marlins do not require the services of a very small, immobile pinch hitter.”—RG
13. Checking out the dugout at Marlins Park
Even if it’s not baseball season, you can get a behind-the-bases tour at the stadium, go inside the locker rooms, and say hi to the fishies in the tanks behind home plate.
“Me with Chris Bosh and DJ Irie, aka a regular night in Miami.” —RG
14. Meeting and greeting with the Miami Heat
Sure you can take in a game (and should), but you also just might bump into one of the “Three Kings” while you’re out and about. Especially if you’re following the whereabouts of DJ Irie, official Miami Heat DJ and man-about-town.
“This will make leaving very, very difficult.”—RG
15. Gazing at the sunset at the Mondrian
If you miss the 6 a.m. sunrise, you can still catch the sunset on the other side of Miami Beach. Just remember to bring your bathing suit to take in the uninterrupted view of the skyline from the infinity pool.
Check out Travelocity’s Miami Vacations to start planning your amazing three-day weekend.