New Year's in Miami

By: Doug Kelly

ADD TO FAVORITES
Leave your winter clothes behind - spend New Year's in Miami.

Some might argue that New York City is the place to be for New Year's Eve, but I'll take South Florida any year. As last year slipped away, a friend and I enjoyed a comfy suite at The Alexander All-Suite Oceanfront Resort on Miami Beach. We sipped coffee in the morning sunlight as warm ocean breezes caressed our faces. We dined al fresco at trendy cafés. Try that in the Big Apple in January! And it wasn't just the lovely weather - we found the glitter of South Beach and greater Miami perfect for welcoming in the New Year.

While the pulsing lights, see-and-be-seen clubs and chic restaurants of South Beach (or SoBe as the locals call it) lure night owls by the thousands, we chose to stay at The Alexander because it was a couple of miles north of the city's hustle and bustle. It was a joy to get up in the morning, open the shades and see the breaking waves of the Atlantic Ocean. All accommodations are suites, providing plenty of elbow room and all the comforts we expected in a hotel of this stature. At ground level between the hotel and beach, we took a dip in one of the two lagoon-shaped swimming pools set in lush gardens with a cascading waterfall as a backdrop. The property also sports two Jacuzzis as well as outdoor dining and a bar at the Top of The Falls grill between the pools.

We opted to see in the New Year unfettered by formal wear and joined the throng of Miamians at Bayfront Park, in the downtown area and abutting Biscayne Bay. There were carnival rides and cotton candy stands, along with an amphitheater hosting a variety of bands. Everyone kept an eye on the giant orange as it slowly rose to the top of the Hotel Inter-Continental and then stopped, signaling the New Year had arrived.

In the days and nights surrounding the holiday, we hit SoBe's famous clubs and restaurants - devouring fresh sushi, then dancing it off at the hot nightclubs. Everywhere in South Beach, we were struck by the beauty of the people - men and women who look as if they've just stepped off a fashion runway.

New Year's Eve can be celebrated anywhere, but bringing in the New Year in Miami proved to be a tropical glamour fest. Don't forget your shades for the morning after.

Miami has oodles of interesting spots to visit while you're there. Jungle Island thrills horticultural types and bird lovers, but even dog-and-cat guys like me are sure to enjoy a visit. It first opened in 1936 when about 100 visitors paid 25 cents each for admission to hear owner Franz Scherr talk about his birds, trees and flowers.

See killer whales, dolphins and sea lions leap and play at one of Miami's best-known attractions, Miami Seaquarium.

It's always fun to be a voyeur into the lives of the truly rich and famous, and Vizcaya Museum and Gardens fits the bill. Built in 1916 by Chicago industrialist James Deering, this huge European-inspired villa on Biscayne Bay contains stunning art and furnishings and is surrounded by 10 acres of formal gardens.

For more information, contact the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (888-76-MIAMI, 305-539-3000, www.miamiandbeaches.com).

More By Doug Kelly

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