Miami is a city known for its entertainment options -- opportunities for visitors to escape the ordinary and experience a little cultural couture. Whether you’re in to music, dance, art galleries, festivals, theater performances or museums, Miami has something for everyone.
What if you want to experience entertainment that is a little off the beaten path? Head to HistoryMiami and sign up for one of their city tours. I’m not talking about your average, tourist-centric city tour.
I signed up for the “Mystery, Mayhem and Vice” coach tour, hoping for a thrill ride with stories of Miami mobsters, drug smugglers and courthouse headline-makers. I must confess that I’m a crime-novel junkie, a former criminal prosecutor and a history lover, so this tour made me excited. And I was not disappointed.
Dr. Paul George took us on a chilling crime scene highlight tour throughout the neighborhoods of Coconut Grove, Downtown and Midtown. He recounted tantalizing tales about Al Capone’s trial for tax evasion, Gianni Versace’s murder on South Beach, and the site where Door’s front man Jim Morrison took his appreciation of “freedom of expression” to a whole new level.
Dr. George, named “Best Know-it-All” by the Miami New Times, can tell you about every major crime story dating back to the city’s incorporation in 1896, including the attempted assassination of Franklin Roosevelt at Bayfront Park. The gunman sat in the fourth row listening intently to the speech then opened fire, hitting five people and killing the Mayor of Chicago. It turns out that the murderer was a tour guide.
Here are a few other tours to check out:
Boat Tour: Stiltsville, Key Biscayne & Cape Florida Lighhouse
Set sail with historian Dr. Paul George to one of Miami's hidden gems, Stiltsville, a remnant community of seven houses perched on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Learn about the history of Key Biscayne and hear stories of Bikini Club parties and nefarious mobsters.
Eco-Logical Tour: Old Crandon Park Zoo
Join eco-historian Frank Schena and explore Crandon Park, on Key Biscayne. You’ll run into wild peacocks, geese, ibises, turkeys, herons, swans and maybe even a crocodile.
Miami Circle Tour: Ancient History in the Center of a Modern City
Tour the Miami Circle, a National Historic Landmark featuring a 2.2 acre park where visitors can learn more about the daily life of the Tequesta Indians, early trade patterns between Native Americans, and the influence of other Miami pioneers and people who have occupied or visited the site in its 2,000 year history.
Walking Tour: Little Havana Neighborhood Architecture Walk
Explore the Tower Theater and marvel at the hand rollers at a cigar factory with Dr. Paul Geroge. Visit the Domino Park, Cuban Memorial Boulevard, and see the home of Miami's first mayor.
Gallery Tour: Explore 10,000 Years of History
Visit HistoryMiami’s permanent gallery, Tropical Dreams: A People's History of South Florida, and learn about South Florida’s rich and dynamic history.
If You Go: HistoryMiami offers boat, walking, coach, gallery and eco-history tours. Prices range from $5 to $45 per person. Call (305) 375-1621 or visit www.historymiami.org.