The Fast Lane: Three Hours in Miami
I should have taken the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I should have spent the afternoon leisurely unpacking and relaxing poolside. That is what any normal person would have done. But I am not a normal person. I had five hours to spend in Miami after my morning flight and before my evening meeting and damn it, I was going to make the best of them.
Note: You’ll observe that I said I had five hours to spend, yet the title of this post is Three Hours in Miami. That’s because driving time took up almost half of my visit. Which was fine with me, as you shall see.
After all, lots of people spend a very short amount of time in Miami. As the largest cruise port in the country, thousands of tourists spend rushed afternoons trying to see a bit of the city before sailing away or flying home. If they could do it, I could do it.
My plane landed a little after one o’ clock in the afternoon and I was driving across the MacArthur Causeway toward South Beach by quarter after two. It really isn’t very difficult to get from the airport to Miami Beach or South Beach; just follow the signs. And the traffic.
Tip: If you plan to see Miami in a very short amount of time, rent a car. I rented one for less than $20 per day. You won’t be able to take a one-way taxi ride for that little and the freedom this affords is truly priceless. And while yes, traffic is bad, traffic is actually a good thing in this instance. When you are only going five miles per hour, it’s harder to get lost.
I found a parking garage on 13th Street right at Ocean Drive. I highly recommend this parking garage. It was something like a dollar per hour to park and it is practically on the beach. Oh–and the public restroom is at 14th and Ocean, so if you plan to change into a bathing suit (which I did not) it is a super convenient location.
After switching from tall boots to sandals, I set off on foot to explore the immediate area. Because my camera is my favorite travel companion, I was perfectly content for a good hour and a half just wandering around and snapping photos. I took off my shoes and walked on the beach, toes in the sand. I wandered down Ocean Drive and gawked at the art deco buildings and women in bikinis (it was only 78 degrees but really, if I looked like some of these women, I’d wear my bikini in the snow). I watched people roller blade, read restaurant menus and contemplated dinner, and sat smiling in the sunshine.
Tip: When exploring South Beach, walk down the east side of Ocean Avenue. You can admire the buildings on the west side much more easily from this vantage point, and you won’t have to walk through all of the sidewalk cafes. Then, on your return trip, you can cross Lummus Park and walk up the beach.
Eventually my fascination with pedestrian streets forced me away from the beach, a few blocks inland to Espagnola Way where I did what one is supposed to do in a pedestrian area–I strolled and I window shopped; I listened, watched, and smelled. Espagnola way is only a couple of blocks off of Ocean Drive, but it feels like you’ve gone to another world–or at least another country. The cafes were quite welcoming, but watching people sit around and leisurely sip mojitos made me want to, well, sit around and sip mojitos. Which I could not do. Next time, Miami. Next time.
By this time it was approaching 4pm and I’d still not had lunch–or breakfast. So I decided to choose a restaurant and grab a bite to eat. Without any pre-trip research what so ever, I feel I made a very good choice. Don’t worry–I took photos and notes. A detailed blog post is coming soon.
As I enjoyed my lovely meal on a sidewalk cafe table, the sun began to sink lower and I began to get anxious about missing my evening meeting. I knew I had a long drive back to my airport-area hotel–and by ‘long’ I mean ‘eight miles, but it takes an hour in traffic’. So I returned to my car, made my way back across the causeway, and said goodbye to South Beach.
Could I have spent more time enjoying Miami? Absolutely. Would I have liked to enjoy a mojito or three? You know it. But three hours in South Beach was three more hours than I would have enjoyed otherwise. Sure, slow travel is idea. But if you only have time to do something quickly, I say–do it quickly. Three hours is better than nothing. Hell, it was late January and I was barefoot in the sand. Twenty minutes would have been better than nothing.