Footloose & Car-Free
Sometimes a car can cramp your style. That's definitely the case on Miami's South Beach, or SoBe, as the hip and cool like to call it. Midday to midnight, traffic crawls along fashionable Ocean Drive and adjacent streets, and parking spots are at a premium. So everyone - wannabe fashion models, buff beach boys, bronzed beauties, stars of the screen and the airwaves, and just regular folk - walks. Unless, of course, they are 'blading or biking. Rentals for both are available on the beach.
Besides beach and buildings, SoBe is known for its cosmopolitan arts, celebrity clubs and world-class shopping, which occupy an area roughly 20 blocks long and 10 blocks wide, walker-friendly and safe. Along the main strip of shops, Lincoln Road is designated pedestrian only.
The most renowned section of SoBe, and the most interesting to walk, lies within one square mile known as the Art Deco District, where some 800 classic buildings - the largest Art Deco collection in the world - have been restored to whimsical 1920s to 1940s style. The Art Deco District Welcome Center on Ocean Drive conducts 90-minute walking tours around the treasures at 10:30 a.m. seven days a week with an extra tour Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
For other car-free ways to travel, the MetroBus can transport you to Miami mainland, connecting to the MetroRail and Tri-Rail systems that extend up the coast to West Palm Beach.
Restored Art Deco hotels tiny and grand line Ocean Drive - Avalon Majestic Hotel, Beacon Hotel, Bentley Hotel and the oft-photographed Colony are smack on the strip - and Collins Avenue along the beach. Some, such as the National Hotel, are attractions in themselves, with highly acclaimed restaurants and design elements.
Walk This Way
I am not your typical party-til-dawn South Beacher, so I begin my day early, ahead of the crowds, with breakfast at News Café, a legend on Ocean Drive. From there I head north along the beach, which accommodates walkers and early-morning exercisers with a sidewalk and wide, hard-packed white sand. Take your pick. I prefer the sand between my toes.
As the day awakens, the sidewalk cafes across the street from the beach begin coming to life slowly. Let's return to them later. Ocean Drive ends at 15th Street, so jog down a block to Collins Avenue or walk the beach past the set of larger historic hotels. Head inland at Lincoln Road to peruse the wide variety of shops selling everything from edgy art and the latest Euro and Latin fashions to Cuban religious potions and electronics. Along the wide, pedestrian-populated boulevard, admire the historic Colony Theatre and stop for a culture fix at Lincoln Theatre. Pause for a shot of Cuban coffee at one of the cafes. Follow Washington Avenue north to Park Avenue and the Bass Museum of Art, if you're an avid walker and connoisseur of fine art. Otherwise head back south along Washington Avenue, where you will pass more shops, restaurants and the famed nightclubs that will spark to life somewhere around midnight. (Others are situated on Lincoln Road.)
Take a detour down Mediterranean-styled Espanola Way, which retains a bohemian air from the Beach's pre-glam days. On Washington Avenue, visit Wolfsonian-Florida International University, a warehouse-sized show house dedicated to 20th-century decorative arts, and Sanford L. Ziff Jewish Museum of Florida. Continue to the end of the island at South Pointe Park, where you can wave to passing cruise ship passengers gaily setting sail.
Then complete your circle up the beach, stopping for a mojito cocktail or something equally Miami tropi-cool at one (or more, heck you deserve it after all that walking) of the crowded sidewalk cafes that spill out of Art Deco hotels and restaurants along Ocean Drive. It's the so SoBe thing to do.
Footloose & Car-Free