Miami Travel: Villa Vizcaya, Downtown Fort Lauderdale, the Spanish Monastery, South Beach & Bayfront Park

I headed off to Miami again on Wedesday. At 1 pm I was planning to meet a real local expert – David Brown, the Urban Tour Host. David offers cultural community and eco tours in the Miami area and specializes in sustainable community-based tourism that gives back to local communities. We started our driving tour in Overtown, a historic African-American area of Miami. We stopped in at the Historic Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and met with Pastor Ralph Ross.

Meeting the locals with David Brown
Meeting the locals with David Brown

Little Haiti was our next stop where we visited the Little Haiti Cutural Centre. Our final tour stop was at the Kalbassi House, an artist’s cooperative that is also a local grassroots economic development initiative. Finally David took me to the Downtown Miami Riverwalk, a waterfront promenade next to the Miami River that has become the annual venue of the Downtown Miami Riverwalk Festival, a local celebration that David has organized now for the third year. I definitely enjoyed my insider look at the multicultural communities of Miami.

Art in Miami's Little Haiti
Art in Miami’s Little Haiti

On December 2 we explored the local areas in Weston, a master-planned community west of Fort Lauderdale. Established in 1996, Weston is home to many celebrities including Dan Marino, José Canseco and Sugar Ray Leonard. The next day we played a round of tennis with a friendly couple from Kentucky and explored the Fort Lauderdale waterfront in the afternoon. In the evening we enjoyed a nice dinner with George and Jill in an Italian restaurant at the Weston Town Center.

Miami's Bayfront Park
Miami’s Bayfront Park

On December 4 we checked out and drove south to Miami where we had booked two nights at the La Quinta Inn. After getting organized, we drove into downtown Miami and took a stroll around Bayfront Park, one of downtown Miami’s top attractions and outdoor gathering places. The park has an amphitheater, free yoga classes, free self-defense classes and even a trapeze school! Next to the park is the Bayside Marketplace, an outdoor shopping mall right on the water that features several restaurants, a large assortment of merchants, a food court and awesome views of Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami. In the late afternoon we drove to South Beach and took a stroll on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, two hugely popular thoroughfares with tons of upscale boutiques, restaurants, hotels and night clubs. The famous South Beach entertainment scene was in full swing.

Miami Beach
South Beach

Sunday, December 5, was our last full day in Miami, and since my husband had decided to watch football most of the day (including his favourite team, the Miami Dolphins), I ventured back into downtown Miami for an urban bicycling adventure. I rented a bicycle at Bike and Roll at the Bayside Marketplace and started to explore downtown Miami as well as the large collection of upscale condos along Biscayne Bay and the New River. Then I cycled north and across on the Venetian Causeway to Miami Beach. I briefly checked out the Lincoln Road Mall, an outdoor pedestrian area with a large assortment of restaurants and retail, before I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant on Ocean Drive. In the mid-afternoon I made my way back and had to pedal mightily against the headwind.

Views from my Miami cycling tour
Views from my Miami cycling tour

Our time in South Florida had come to an end and on December 6 when we flew back to Toronto where we were greeted by a winter storm with frigid temperatures. After our little subtropical escape it was right back to reality…


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