Why You Should Visit South Beach

Looking for a great getaway? If so, head to South Beach-Miami Beach’s historic, quasi-European enclave for fun, sun and general good times.

South Beach, famous for its Art Deco architecture, in fact the largest collection of this distinctive style in the entire world, has a little bit for everyone. The beaches are vast and spectacular, with beautiful, calm, blue-green hued ocean waters to wade into; a spectacular array of restaurants; great shopping of all sorts and a nightlife of legendary status.

I have to say that of the many beaches I have visited in my lifetime, those of South Beach are among the nicest. Although I prefer rougher surf as it makes for more fun, the calm, warm and beautiful Atlantic Ocean waters of South Beach are hard not to fall in love with. A person can literally make their way a good 150 feet or so out into the water and still touch the bottom, even further if you can find a nice sand bar. I was there in the August, so I found myself hitting the water every 10 minutes. There is a good mix of families and younger singles, so there’s a bit for everybody-not to mention the European flair of the topless sunbathers. If necessary, beach goers can rent chairs and umbrellas for $10 dollars each, although I prefer simply tossing a towel down. Remember to take a walk along the vast shoreline near sunset and gaze out at the ocean or at the view of the neon splashed Ocean Drive landscape-a beautiful sight that will surely be seared into your memory.

As one would imagine, there are quite a few hotels in Miami Beach. I chose to stay in a nice little place called the Avalon hotel, located right on Ocean Drive in the heart of all the South Beach action. The Avalon is a relative bargain for Ocean Drive, especially in the off-season. I garnered a rate of around $100 per night, including a buffet-style breakfast of cereal, eggs, melon, French toast and more, all of which more than suited my morning hunger pangs. The Avalon was built in 1941 in the Streamline Moderne style, a branch of Art Deco, and despite recent upgrades, the hotel maintains the old-school charm that many South Beach visitors have come to expect. I myself felt as if transported in time while strolling through the hallways, lined with vintage photographs of the Avalon. The Avalon also features a restaurant, A Fish Called Avalon, which has become a local favorite. From my perspective, it is one of the more visually elegant restaurants in the area, and the food is surely top notch. However, A Fish Called Wanda is somewhat pricey, so it might not be best to make it a daily stop. The only significant drawback of the Avalon was their lack of a swimming pool. However, guests at the Avalon enjoy pool privileges at the South Seas hotel, the Avalon’s sister hotel located a few blocks up the beach.

Shopping is another enjoyment that is found in plenty on South Beach. There are a number of world-class shops located along Collins Avenue, which runs parallel to Ocean Drive. Heading down to Lincoln Road is a worthwhile trip up the beach for sure. There you will find an open-air mall lined with tons of different shopping venues both large and small, as well as restaurants and cafÃ?©’s for a quick refresher during shopping. After shopping on Lincoln Road, try nearby favorite El Rancho Grande for lunch or dinner. I suggest ordering the Carnitas, but any selection will surely not disappoint.

For more dining gems, Ocean Drive is strewn with cafes and restaurants of all sorts, many very famous ones as well, such as that of The Clevelander Hotel. One thing to remember is to browse each one before choosing a dining spot. Each restaurant has a host or hostess waiting right on the street who can guide you through their menu offerings and daily specials, although they can be a bit aggressive at times. Nonetheless, they are usually quite easy on the eyes and are generally friendly. Many restaurants will offer 2 for 1 or half-price dinner specials on weekdays, so remember to look for signs or ask the host or hostess about any specials they might be running. Finding one of these specials could result in enjoying a meal at a restaurant that would normally be out of your price range-can’t beat that! Of course, if you long for something familiar, you might want to try TGIF or Johnny Rockets.

One restaurant that took top honors during my trip was the Pelican hotels restaurant, located just a few short blocks from my hotel. Pelican’s restaurant offers fabulous food, outstanding service and ambience at reasonable prices. Spending a warm evening out under the Pelican’s outdoor canopy, eating, drinking and enjoying good conversation is one of the more memorable moments of my trip to South Beach. I also quite enjoyed the food at News cafÃ?©. News CafÃ?© is a famous Miami Beach fixture that boasts two locations, one of which was within walking distance of my hotel on Ocean Drive. I ordered the Churrasco Steak and was not disappointed, and I also brought home a souvenir coconut carved into a monkey, in which my drink, appropriately named King Kong, was served. How could I resist that!!

How can anyone visit South Beach without tasting the night life. Of course Ocean Drive offers some great fun, featuring a number of well known and popular clubs and bars. Mango’s is one that is impossible to miss, with its scantily clad performers and latin flavored music blaring out its open, welcoming doors. Mango’s is fun, but is honestly more of a novelty, so maybe set aside a night for some Mango’s debauchery.

Washington Avenue features some more popular bars, as well as various other lounges and clubs. Washington Avenue seems to be decidedly more edgy and interesting than the more tourist oriented night spots on Ocean Drive. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Miami Ink Anniversary Party at Suite, which is located almost directly across from the Miami Ink tattoo parlor made famous by the TLC television show. Suite is one of the hotter clubs in Miami Beach, boasting a swank atmosphere and lots of beautiful people. Needless to say, I had a blast and wouldn’t think twice before recommending a night out at Suite. Another fun venue is Felt, formerly the Diamond Club. Felt claims to be the oldest bar in South beach and features an interesting mix of 10 regulation sized pool tables, a lounge and a full bar. Felt is another place that offers a little for everyone-which is a South Beach specialty after all. If you must pay a cover, entry into the most popular night spots will cost you anywhere from $20-$60.

So if you are looking for beautiful beaches, history, world class dining and shopping, all while being surrounded by an irresistible atmosphere of relaxation and diversity, South Beach is the place for you. The variety of languages one can hear being spoken all around is a testament to South Beach’s universal appeal-a place where anyone, from any walk of life and any corner of the earth can find fun, excitement and romance. This is the essence and beauty of South Beach and it is something everyone should experience.

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