South Beach/Art Deco District/Ocean Drive: To get to South Beach, which even the most cynical can agree is magical, you can follow the MacArthur Causeway like the yellow brick road from the mainland to Miami Beach’s southern tip. Along the way you will pass the eye-popping Cruise Capital of the World – the Port of Miami – with its diverse collection of sparkling white megaships carrying travelers to the Caribbean and back for more play time in Miami. You will also pass great attractions, such as Jungle Island on the left, with their wildlife shows, adorable penguins, monkeys, private encounters with the lemurs – and of course a rainbow of exotic birds. Just beyond this family attraction are a series of inhabited upscale islands, including Star Island, called home by the likes of Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Julio Iglesias, Sean Combs. On the right you will see the high-design 56,500-square-foot Miami Children’s Museum, recognizable as the work of the award-winning Miami architectural firm, Arquitectonica.
Once in South Beach, the Art Deco District pulls you in with an imaginative collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s — the largest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world. Anointed the “American Riviera,” South Beach is crowned by Ocean Drive, a worldwide catwalk of see-and-be-seen boutique hotels with models, alfresco cafés, bikini-clad in-line skaters and beaches packed with beautiful young sun seekers. Across this pedestrian-friendly town, which features the beach chic of St. Tropez with a rebellious spirit, is trendy Lincoln Road. This lively magnet for culture, entertainment and shopping is another great place to people watch, especially if you want to mingle with the locals. Across the street on the corner of Lincoln and Washington is the New World Symphony Center, the new home to the New World Symphony and world-class performing arts. The neighborhood has drawn global events, such as the über cool Art Basel Miami Beach, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Miami Beach International Fashion Week and the Miami International Boat Show. Ever on the vanguard of nightlife, pop up bars and restaurants are becoming more popular here, such as the Broken Shaker at the Indian Creek Hotel.
Miami Beach: The rest of Miami Beach continues to thrive, reaping the benefits of its proximity to the Art Deco District’s plentiful entertainment and dining offerings. Hotels that put Miami Beach on the map during the swinging 60s, including the Eden Roc and Fontainebleau are still going strong, completed updated in recent years, while neighborhoods like funky Surfside and a revitalized North Beach draw many with unpretentious charms, great local restaurants and easy beach access. North Beach (a.k.a. NoBe) — a thriving but less crowded beach area just south of expansive North Shore Park – is fast becoming a smaller version of South Beach with its inviting oceanfront cafés. Hotels, restaurants, quaint shops, and an uninterrupted concentration of MiMo (Miami Modern) 50s- and 60s-era apartment buildings give the entire neighborhood a unique character, as does a recent influx of Brazilian and Argentine immigrants who have added character and flavor to the neighborhood with numerous shops and eateries.
Bal Harbour: Bal Harbour and the Bay Harbor Islands are quiet upscale residential communities notable for the famous Bal Harbour Shops, continually ranked one of the top shopping destinations in the world for its concentration of 100+ designer boutiques, including Gucci, Fendi, Tiffany’s, Roberto Cavalli and countless others, as well as having the ultra-luxury St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa.
Sunny Isles Beach: This community is a favorite among French-Canadian and European tourists who are drawn to the laid-back casual vibe, sea grape studded-beaches and range of accommodations from affordable motel-style to a growing mix of luxurious hotels and condos — including Trump International Beach Resort Miami, Acqualina Resort & Spa, Solé on the Ocean and Marenas Beach Resort & Spa. The city is also a great base for diving the area’s large collection of artificial reefs (Miami Dade County Artificial Reef Program), where divers can explore a wide array of objects ranging from steel hulled ships and army tanks to commercial aircraft.
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