Miami and Miami Beach City Brief

Back to > Key West 411 back to > Florida Keys city briefs

Miami Beach - So much to do, so little time!

Supermodels, sun, sand, surf and Sly Stallone!

With so many different ethnic groups Miami Beach, Florida is the among the most culturally diverse cities in the country. A sophisticated and upscale aura combine with the spectacular natural beauty of Biscayne Bay and the aqua waters of the Atlantic Ocean to create some of the most glamorous nightlife found anywhere in the world.

The Miami area was first settled by the Tequesta and other Native Indians approximately 8,000 years ago. The Spanish claimed it in the 16th Century then in1821, Spanish rule was ended and the area came under the control of the United States. Bahamians came to inhabit South Florida and the Keys in the early 19th Century, along with the Seminole Indians at approximately the same time. A war broke out in 1836 between the Seminoles and the non-Indian residents, mostly soldiers stationed at Fort Dallas. In1857, at the end of the war, many of the Indians remained in the Everglades. The Bahamians founded the area now known as Coconut Grove, slightly south of Miami proper.

A few years later, in 1891, Cleveland widow Julia Tuttle purchased 640 acres on the north bank of the Miami River. Tuttle, often known as the "mother of Miami", persuaded Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to Miami, build a luxury hotel, and plan a new town. He obliged, and on July 28, 1896 the City of Miami was born! A mixed bag of civilizations from the very beginning, one-third of the population was comprised of Bahamians, African Americans and Jewish merchants.

In 1913, John Collins (a New Jersey Quaker) and Prest-O-Lite magnate Carl Fisher began an agriculture venture on the oceanfront beach east of Miami across Biscayne Bay. They built a bridge across the bay and the settlement became Miami Beach. During the Depression, Jewish migrants came to Miami Beach and built the hotels along Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive. These buildings would eventually make up the Art Deco District and world-famous South Beach. Years later, after Castro's takeover of Cuba in 1959, more than a half-a-million Cuban exiles have flooded into the Miami area, wishing to start a new life free from oppression.

Greater Miami is now the nation's leading gateway for international arrivals, surpassing JFK International Airport a few years ago. Miami is also the Cruise Ship Capital of the World, with countless travelers in and out of the port on a daily basis on their way to exotic destinations.

And now for the fun stuff! Miami Beach, specifically the area known as South Beach, is great for relaxing at a sidewalk cafe and people watching. There are many local long-established hangouts like the Clevelander, News Cafe, a cafe-restaurant, newsstand and bookstore, and Rose Bar in the Delano Hotel. Other popular people-watching venues are Johnny Rockets, Laundry Bar, Fat Tuesday's, Pure and Wet Willie's.

Hungry? The myriad of people that live and visit Miami Beach contribute to it's wide range of world-class and oh-so-chic restaurants, too numerous to mention here. A few favorites are Azul Cafe (Asian), The Forge, Mark's South Beach, China Grill, Tantra (International), Tuscan Steak (Contemporary Italian), Cafe Des Arts (French), Mezzaluna, Nobu (Japanese), Pearl and Oasis Cafe (Vegetarian).There are many, many more to choose from including Greek, Sushi, West Indian, Latin, Mediterranean, Continental and of course, national chains and fast food restaurants. Whatever type of food you desire, Miami Beach is certain to have it.

No trip to Miami Beach would be complete without a night out on the town, and does sizzling South Beach know how to do it! By no means a complete list, the following are all great places to kick up your heels and work off some of that fabulous meal you just had:

World famous Fontainebleau Hilton Resort, Eden Roc Resort. Jackie Gleason Theater, Bass Museum of Art, Miami Art Museum, Jewish Museum of Florida, The Wolfsonian at FIU, Lincoln Theatre - broadway plays, educational and entertaining children's programs, culturally diverse events, performances by local theater groups, Latin culture, events celebrating all of the arts: music, film, video, dance, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, crafts, lectures.

The Art Deco District in Miami Beach is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and consists of nearly 1,000 buildings. Guided walking tours are available.

Over the causeways spanning the bay you arrive in Miami. Shop and dine at Bayside Marketplace. Travel farther west and experience the sights, sounds and aromas of Calle Ocho, or "Little Havana". Visit the Miami Seaquarium, stroll the gardens of Villa Vizcaya, educate yourself at the Planetarium & Science Museum, take a City Tour, see the wildlife at the Metro Zoo or enjoy the Biscayne Bay Boat Tour. Home to the Florida Marlins baseball, The Miami Dolphins football, Miami Heat basketball and the Florida Panthers hockey.

Jean M Mazza