South Florida is a hotbed of celebrities. Stars from the movies, TV and music seem to be around every corner.
But each November, something special happens: Hundreds of literary superstars and thousands of their devotees descend upon downtown Miami for one of the country’s premiere book festivals. This year, the 30th annual Miami Book Fair International happens Nov. 17 to 24, 2013.
“We’re creating this city of books for one week a year,” says Lissette Mendez, program director for Center for Literature and Theatre at Miami-Dade College, which organizes the event. “It’s a big celebration of reading and books, and how stories are so important to us as humans.”
This year’s headliner is Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown. But you don’t need the Vatican’s money to enjoy the event.
“For budget-conscious travelers, the best news is that Miami Book Fair is almost free,” Mendez says. “Except for your entrance, you don’t have to spend a dollar.”
Here’s your cheat sheet for saving money and time at the event.
Plan your day.
Miami Book Fair International is like an amusement park for bibliophiles. So just as you’d pick up a map at a theme park, you’ll want to consult the Fairgoer’s Guide. Build your schedule using the online guide, call 305-237-3258 to have a paper copy mailed to you or pick one up at the festival.
Sometimes, it’s the late bird that gets the worm. The street fair is during the event’s closing weekend on the downtown campus of Miami Dade College is prime for savings. “If you’re budget conscious, there’s no better way to spend a weekend,” Mendez says. Enjoy author presentations, two outdoor stages with music for adults and kids, plus special tents with children’s activities. “They’re like little classrooms,” Mendez says. “The kids go inside and they participate in story times, and they do art projects based on the story.” Street fair admission is free on Nov. 22. On Nov. 23 and 24, entry costs $8 for adults, $5 for ages 12 to 18, and free for kids under 12.
That’s the ticket.
Whether you’re interested in the street fair, author presentations or both, buy tickets online to avoid long waits at the event.
Know a bargain when you see it.
This is your chance to hear A-list authors like Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone, We Are Water) and Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies, Stitches) for less than the price of a hardcover book. Author events cost just $15 per session. The only exception is Anjelica Huston, whose $40 session includes a copy of her memoir, A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York.
Eat on the cheap.
Books may feed the imagination, but man does not live on words alone. If you don’t want to shell out $15 for one of the street fair’s chef demos with tastings, just head to the pop-up park. Really. On Northeast First Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets, there’s a makeshift greenspace complete with sod, a playground and picnic tables. Buy a meal from one of the food trucks on site, or brown bag it.
For those heading to the festival from out of town, American Airlines is offering a 5 percent discount on base fare to Miami, Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale between Nov. 14 and 27, 2013. Contact Harris Travel Service at (305) 666-3907. Harris Travel will also help you find a hotel in your price range.
Which author is a rock star in your eyes? Let’s talk books on my Facebook page.