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Travel: Urban fantasyland

Shopping, sightseeing, gorging on food, or simply lazing away by the beachside, Miami ticks all checkboxes

Travel: Urban fantasyland

Nonika Singh

Miami is not called a magic city for nothing; it actually unfolds like a dream destination. Home to the rich and famous, the third richest city in the US has an unbeatable vibe. Be it the bustling downtown area or the equally vibrant South beach, life throbs in full measure. To an outsider, the second-largest tourism hub for international visitors after New York City seems to be in a perpetual holiday mode. Shopping (it has some of Florida region’s biggest outlet malls), sightseeing, a golf game or its simulated version at Top Golf, gorging on international cuisine, or simply lazing at the beachside, whatever is your idea of a holiday, Miami ticks all checklist boxes.

A boat cruise gives a breathtaking view of Miami’s skyline, besides the million-dollar homes of celebrities. Istock

Cruises are a regular fare in all coastal cities. What makes the boat cruise special in Miami, the largest cruise ship port in the world, is the breathtaking view of its skyline, with hundreds of high-rise buildings, the commercial nerve centre. There is more to admire en route to your cruise. You can gawk at the million-dollar homes of celebrities like footballer David Beckham and Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias on the islands close by. But jaws really drop when you set your eyes on this 100-million-dollar mansion of a real-estate tycoon. Indeed, Miami, which boasts of proximity to residential islands like Key West, redefines luxury and will make even the well-heeled feel like poor cousins. But who cares about class divide on a holiday? Being in Miami itself seems like a blessing. Rising out of sea, Miami abounds with water bodies and the planners have done well to incorporate it in the city plans.

Travel tips

  • Best time to visit is between November and March. Temperatures are moderate but keep a light winter jacket handy for the evenings.
  • Walking shoes are a must.
  • Book your air tickets and hotels well in advance. Ensure the flight lands at the airport closest to your hotel. Cab fares are rather steep and few hotels offer pick and drop facility.
  • Learning a few phrases in Spanish won’t hurt as majority of the service staff is not so conversant in English.
  • When booking a hotel, check breakfast deals, especially if the difference is steep.

While winter is the best season to plan your trip, you can also time it to coincide with the Miami Film Festival or an opera show at the magnificent Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts, or even better, NBA (National Basketball Association) playoffs at the indoor Kaseya Centre.

Miami folks are as partisan as can be. ‘We are all Americans’ is a slogan for another time, another day. They cheer and root only for their local team, Miami Heats. Even if you are not a basketball fan, fret not. If you think IPL is a tamasha, wait till you have seen an NBA game. Ticket to an NBA match is one to American enterprise as well. Trust Americans to turn anything into a marketing blitzkrieg. See them in action at their ingenious best during the time-out and interval. If you are lucky, you can win a free pizza or even a cruise trip all the way to Greece. Freebies literally rain down as marketing whiz-kids have designed plans to draw attention to their respective brands.

A melting pot of cultures with a majority population of Hispanic and Latinos, American food at Miami is not just about colas and burgers. Peruvian, Mexican, Cuban: Miami is as much a culinary experience and a destination for meat lovers. Of course, there is no free lunch and everything comes at an exaggerated cost; why, service tax itself is a whopping 22 per cent. Still, there is no reason to miss out the breakfast brunch, a misnomer of sorts for the endless supply of cocktails goes on and on, cutting well into your afternoon siesta time. If you like your food with the Latino sound of music and care to shake a leg, South beach, with its endless line of restaurants, brims with excitement. Miami’s heart beats at its roaring best here. Drag shows in the LGBTQ community-serviced restaurant or the one where you can join the zumba dancers on the floor... take your pick. If none of this appeals to you, a walk down the road will take you right in front of the Versace home, replete with the emblem of Medussa’s head on its gate. If you have seen ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story’, the sight of the very place where the iconic fashion designer was murdered will give you goosebumps. But, nothing can take away the postcard picturesque allure of the city you have seen canned in a number of movies. Picture yourself in this urban fantasyland.

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