Miami, Florida, has always billed itself as a travel destination. Warm weather, sandy beaches and bright sunshine were selling points more than 100 years ago, just as they are today. But Miami's allure extends beyond its shores. People from all over the Caribbean and Latin America have settled in Miami, giving the city its distinctive, lively international character.
The warm-weather fun is still a big attraction, but the biggest draw is the cosmopolitan flavor coupled with all the great restaurants, sports teams (Dolphins, Heat, Hurricanes and Marlins) and upscale sheen—plus a long list of TV shows that have "Miami" in their titles.
South Beach, with its cheerful, sherbet-colored art-deco buildings and palm-tree-lined avenues, is the center of Miami's trendy dining and nightlife scene. Other corners of Miami, including Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, offer their own versions of fine living and colorful happenings.
And don't overlook the natural world—though you may have to drive to the Everglades to get a good view of it.
MUST SEE OR DO
Sights—The breathtaking view of the city from the MacArthur Causeway at night; Everglades National Park; the palmy streets and posh estates of Coral Gables; Coconut Grove and CocoWalk; South Beach; a drive down historic Old Cutler Road from Coconut Grove to Southwest 168th Street.
Museums—The Italianate gardens of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens; art-nouveau and art-deco objects at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum on South Beach; first-rank traveling exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in North Miami; extensive collections at Lowe Art Museum on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables; the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach.
Memorable Meals—Eat stone crabs with the rich and famous at Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant; Euro-hip at The Forge; Cuban favorites in an upscale atmosphere at Versailles Restaurant & Bakery; fusion fare at Azul; dry-aged beef and truffled mac-and-cheese at Prime One Twelve.
Late Night—The street scene in South Beach; the sidewalk bars and bistros, shops and nightclubs along Lincoln Road and elsewhere in Miami Beach; Coconut Grove; Southwest Eighth Street.
Recreation—Golfing at one of Miami's many courses; betting on a horse race; boating, scuba diving, snorkeling or fishing in the Atlantic or Biscayne Bay; hang gliding, kite boarding and windsurfing on Biscayne Bay along Rickenbacker Causeway; bicycling or in-line skating through Coconut Grove or South Beach.
Especially for Kids—Performing dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium; tigers at Zoo Miami; Monkey Jungle; boat and tram tours in Everglades National Park; hands-on activities at the Miami Science Museum and Miami Children's Museum; bananas and exotic fruits growing at the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead.
GREAT STIRRUP CAY
Great Stirrup Cay is Norwegian Cruise Line's private Bahamian island.
The 250-acre/100-hectare island recently underwent a major, two-phase renovation: The company invested US$20 million on the upgrade.
During the first phase, NCL created a new entrance channel for tenders and built a new arrival area, allowing for an expansion of the island's main beach area.
Additions in phase two included food and beverage areas, a marina, private beachfront cabanas, a bandstand, a straw market and a children's play area.
Following the renovations, the island has significantly more activities, including a stingray-encounter experience, personal watercraft and a floating Aqua Park.
Located on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas. You'll find the islands' best sightseeing and historic buildings there. Also expect to find a crowd: Nassau is a very busy place, thanks to the high volume of cruise-ship passengers. In addition to the attractions in Nassau proper, there are a number of tourist sites on Paradise Island, a spot of land off Nassau that has been transformed into a high-rise gambling and leisure haven. It's connected to the capital by two arched, one-way bridges.
To have a good time in Nassau, approach the port with an open mind. Even though it's an international city and commercial center—and firmly a part of the present—it still maintains its old-world island flavor. Things may take a little longer than you're used to. Slow your pace as you explore Nassau's rich history, tranquil beaches and turquoise waters—one of the best commodities of the Bahamas.
MUST SEE OR DO
Sights—The Georgian government buildings and Garden of Remembrance in Parliament Square; the Nassau Public Library and Museum, a jail-turned-library; Fort Fincastle and Queen's Staircase; Fort Charlotte; Bay Street Straw Market; the calm setting of the Versailles Gardens and 12th-century Augustinian cloister on Paradise Island.
Museums—Bahamian art at The National Art Gallery of the Bahamas; history exhibits at Pirates of Nassau.
Memorable Meals—Graycliff for the old mansion's architecture; homemade pasta and filet mignon at Cafe Matisse; the fresh catch at The Poop Deck near the marina; elegant and romantic Luciano's of Chicago for its great views; the fish-fry true Bahamian vibe of Arawak Cay at Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse; contemporary-chic atmosphere at Dune.
Late Night—The casinos of Cable Beach and Atlantis Resort; sophisticated drinks at Bullion Bar; dancing at Charlie's on the Beach or Club Waterloo.
Walks—Climbing the Queen's Staircase; strolling along the white sands of Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island; visiting the shops and restaurants along downtown's Bay Street and sidestreets.
Especially for Kids—Swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Encounters on Blue Lagoon Island; the flamingo show at Ardastra Gardens; Atlantis Resort's water park.
FLYING DUTCHMEN TRAVEL . 2455 Bennett Valley Rd, Suite A102, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 . 707-546-1212 / 800-248-7471 . info@WineDineandMusicCruise .com