Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
updated 5/15/2006 12:10:53 PM ET 2006-05-15T16:10:53

Driving Along Florida A1A: This oceanfront route, which runs north up Miami Beach, through Sunny Isles and Hollywood, and into Fort Lauderdale (starting at Ocean Dr. and First St. in Miami and merging onto Collins Ave. before running north), embodies the essence that is South Florida. From time-warped hotels steeped in Art Deco kitsch to multimillion-dollar modern high-rises, A1A is one of the most scenic, albeit heavily trafficked, roads in all of Florida.

South Beach Nightlife: If you can handle it, you can boogie down until the sun comes up in cavernous, pulsating dance clubs, which are considered amongst the best in the world. Lounges aren't too shabby either. There's Rumi, a swank resto-lounge in which the likes of Jennifer Lopez and members of Mötley Crüe mix with a colorful crowd of local and international hipsters and then there's Skybar at The Shore Club, Mynt, Opium, and, well the list goes on. Where else can us ordinary folk brush elbows with -- or spill Cosmopolitans on -- Hollywood starlets, entertainment moguls, and living legends but in South Beach's hot clubs, bars, and restaurants, many of which don't get going until the crack of dawn?

Airboat Ride Through the Outskirts of the Everglades: Unfettered by jet skis, cruise ships, and neon bikinis, the Everglades are Florida's outback, resplendent in their swampy nature. The Everglades are best explored either by slow-moving canoes that really get you acquainted with your surroundings or via an airboat that can quickly navigate its way through the most stubborn of saw grass while providing you with an up-close and personal (as well as fun) view of the land's inhabitants, from alligators and manatees to raccoons and Florida panthers.

Dining at Big Fish Restaurant on the Miami River: Some consider dining on the Miami River to be industrial chic; others consider it seedy in a Miami Vice sort of way. However you choose to look at it, by all means do look at it; the sleepy Miami River is nestled below the sweeping downtown Miami skyline, reminding you that even though you're in a major metropolis, things in this often-frenetic city are capable of slowing down to a more soothing pace.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: Built in 1916, this Italian Renaissance-style manse on Biscayne Bay in Miami features 34 rooms of antiques, art, and tapestries; 10 acres of Italian gardens, statues, and fountains; a new orchid display; and a picture-perfect view of the skyline and Key Biscayne.

Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House: You will wait on line at Miami Beach's landmark diner, but it's never dull, as the cacophony of mostly Northeastern U.S. accents will keep you entertained until you are seated in what seems to be an ancient vinyl booth. The octogenarian waitress will serve you corned-beef sandwiches, brisket, or potato pancakes, and, if you're lucky, she may tell you about the time Sinatra and his Rat Pack came in way back when.

Moonlight Concerts at the Barnacle State Historic Site: Once a month, on or near the full moon (except during July and August), the Barnacle State Historic Site hosts a concert in the backyard of their charming 1908 Coconut Grove bungalow built on 5 acres of waterfront property. Listeners are welcome to picnic and bask in this sublime setting for a mere $5.

Midnight Snacking at Versailles: This iconoclastic, gaudy Cuban diner in the heart of Miami's Little Havana is humming with the buzz of old-timers reminiscing about pre-Castro Cuba, local politicos trying to appease them, and a slew of detached people only there for the fantastically cheap and authentic Cuban fare. Much like its French namesake in whose image it's been literally mirrored, Miami's Versailles provides a palatial view of Miami's ever-changing Cuban landscape.

Watching the Cruise Ships Set Sail from South Pointe Park: Unless you're already on a boat, you can't get a better view of the monstrous cruise ships leaving the Port of Miami than from South Pointe Park, located at the southern tip of South Beach. If you stare long enough, you will feel like you're moving, which is almost as much fun as being on board.

Lunch at News Café on Ocean Drive: The quintessential South Beach experience, lunching at News Café is more of a spectator sport than a dining experience. What the Big Mac is to McDonald's, people-watching is to News Café, whose Ocean Drive location is one of the best sidewalk spots from which to observe the wacky, colorful mix of pedestrians on parade.

Relishing the View from Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area: You haven't truly seen South Florida until you've checked out the view from the southern point of Key Biscayne. Whether it's the turquoise water or the sight of Stiltsville -- seven still-inhabited aquatic cabins dating back to the 1930s, perched smack in the middle of the Biscayne Channel -- it may take a little coercing to get you to leave.

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Scuba Diving off Jupiter Beach: In 1988, Jupiter Beach lifeguard Peter Leo spotted an anchor and a cannon while on his routine morning swim. Turns out, they belonged to what is believed to be the shipwreck of a Spanish galleon dating back to the 16th or 17th century. Giving literal meaning to South Florida's Treasure and Gold coasts, this wreck is worth holding your breath for.

Happy Hour at Mai Kai: Polynesia meets Fort Lauderdale at Mai Kai, the trippiest Tiki hut this side of Tahiti, with its sarong-clad bartenders, a fiery hula show, and an exhaustive menu of frozen concoctions.

Discovering Your Inner Flipper at the Dolphin Research Center: Learn to communicate with and touch, swim, or play with the mammals at the nonprofit Dolphin Research Center in Marathon Key, home to a school of approximately 15 dolphins.

Eyeing the Estates on Palm Beach: The winter playground for the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous set, Palm Beach is lined with jaw-dropping palatial estates. While many of them are hidden behind towering shrubbery, head south on South County Road, from Brazilian Avenue, where you will see some of the most opulent homes ever built. Make sure someone holds the steering wheel if you're driving, because you will do a double take.

Lounging Poolside at The Shore Club: In addition to tanning, the scene here is about striking a pose and pretending not to notice the others doing the same thing. If you're staying at Miami's The Shore Club hotel, and if you're savvy enough to score one of the luxe lounges, prepare to overhear some interesting conversations between the movers and shakers who bake here.

Boating Through the Intracoastal Waterway: The waterway that connects the natural bays, lagoons, and rivers along Florida's East Coast snakes around from the Florida-Georgia border all the way to the port of Miami. A ride through the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal provides a sublime view of million-dollar waterfront houses.

Salsa Lessons at Bongo's Cuban Café: If the only salsa you're familiar with is the kind you put on your tacos, get over to Bongo's, the hottest salsa club north of Havana, where Miami's most talented salsa dancers will teach you how to move your two left feet in the right direction.

Exploring the Design District After Dark: After waiting patiently for this arty, funky area to hit its comeuppance, Miami's hipsters have finally been rewarded with cool bars, lounges, and restaurants that exude that New York City SoHo meets Meatpacking District vibe.

Sundays at Alabama Jack's: There is nothing like hanging out, chugging a cheap beer, chowing down on amazing conch fritters, and watching a bunch of sauced octogenarians dressed like extras from Hee Haw line dancing to incredible live country music, all in a Sunday's afternoon. Even better is the spectacular waterfront setting that makes you truly appreciate why you're in Florida in the first place.

Star Stalking at the Skybar: If you can get past the doorman here, you'll enter an oasis of fabulousness, where the likes of Britney Spears, Jay Z, Beyonce, and just about every other A-lister bask in their own self important glow while the rest of us just sip $12 cocktails and hope we can pay the rent next month.

For a complete listing of what to see and do in Miami, visit theonline attractions index at

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Miami: Sunshine statement

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  1. Tower to the people

    Lifeguard towers on Miami Beach are colorful and easy to distinguish. Lifeguards care over swimmers who play nearby, and the towers make a great meeting place when surrounded by an endless area of sand, surf and beach umbrellas. (Richard Cummins / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hot spot

    Thousands of people descended on Miami Beach for Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. The city hosted a number of private and public events ahead of the big game. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Wet and wild

    Jet skis cruise along Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach Marina. Tourists visiting the Bay can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and more. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Life's a beach

    South Beach, also nicknamed "The American Riviera," is well-known for celebrities, chic lifestyles and, of course, beaches. The man-made beach runs along the Atlantic Ocean for miles. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Savoring history

    The Art Deco district of South Beach is a hot spot for celebrities and is home to eccentric residents. The district has more than 800 buildings, built in the '30s and '40s, that are architecturally protected, helping its image as a chic, popular destination. (Randy Faris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ear to the ground

    Caribbean Flamingos -- this one eats from a pond at the Metro Zoo in Miami -- gets their color from the carotene in its diet. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Dolphins walk, whales fly

    The Miami Seaquarium is a popular attraction that features eight marine animal shows. General admission tickets cost $37.95, and kids between the ages of three and nine get in for $27.95 (plus 7 percent sales tax). (Jon Davison / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Luxe lodgings

    The Biltmore Hotel of Coral Gables "has been a favorite of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars since its opening in the 1920s," its Web site boasts. The resort features 275 rooms, including 130 suites, a spa and fitness center. (The Biltmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pretty in pink

    Classic buildings aren't the only thing visitors to Miami Beach will find. Vintage cars are often spotted in the Art Deco district. The annual Art Deco Weekend hosts a classic car fest where proud owners can show off their treasures. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Colorful celebration

    A dancer wears a costume as she participates in the Miami Carnival. The carnival has been an annual event since 1984. It has grown from a small neighborhood festival to an international event bringing live bands and calypsonians from the islands. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Collins mix

    The renovated Delano Hotel (left), National Hotel (center) and the Sagamore Hotel line up Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. The city has a concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Double-tall MOCA

    Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art "is internationally recognized as a force in defining new trends and directions in contemporary art," its Web site says. Admission is $5 per person, $3 for students and seniors. MOCA Members and kids under 12 can enter for free. (MOCA Miami) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bass appeal

    The Bass Museum of Art was established 47 years ago ater Miami Beach accepted the art collection of John and Johanna Bass, and agreed it would maintain the works and make it available to the public. (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Different strokes

    A visitor looks at "Thinking" during Art Basel Miami Beach back in 2008. "Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas," the event's Web site boasts. This year's event takes place Dec. 2-5. (Juan Castro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Reflective moment

    Artist Jude Papaloko is reflected in a mirror on a painted wall in his gallery, the Jakmel Gallery, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Feeling the groove

    Club patrons enjoy themselves on the dance floor at Mansion nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla. Once thought of as a place to visit Grandma in January, Miami's reputation as a party city has grown since the days of "Miami Vice," through the birth of the Art Deco fashion district in the early 1990s and the more recent explosion of the South Beach club scene. (David Adame / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Port of call

    Frequent cruisers can be forgiven for seeing Biscayne Bay and Miami simply as a departure point. However, the area offers a wealth of activities and events that can satisfy tourists with a variety of different interests. (Jeff Greenberg / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Can I get a refill?

    The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Miami, started out as a quarry pit and was transformed in 1924 into the Venetian Casino. Now, more than 100,000 people visit Venetian Pool each year. During summer months, the pool is drained nightly and replentished from a subterranean aquifer. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Year of the crab

    Plates full of cracked stone crab claws are ready to be served at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach. Joe Weiss opened a lunch counter in 1913, and the eatery has been serving the public for 97 consecutive seasons. (Wilfredo Lee / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Feeling the beat

    A crowd dances to the rythmic sound of congas at a local latin club in Calle Ocho (8th street), the main street of the Little Havana district of Miami. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Home field

    Miami's Sun Life Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 31-17. (Dave Cross / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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