Hey everyone, sorry that it’s been a good while since I updated. Even from home, school has been kicking my butt. This whole stay-at-home corona business really sucks, huh?
At the very least though, it gives me a chance to catch up on the travel updates I didn’t have time to write in real time. Like the spring break trip I took to Miami with my college roommates, whatta time! We joked the whole trip that this was our “generic-crazy-college-spring-break-drink-a-palooza-in-Miami”, and while it was a little of that, I’d like to think we accomplished a bit more than stumbling up and down the beach with a whiteclaw in hand all day (I’m only joking, nothing wrong if that’s your thing!).
Miami was just as vibrant and tasty as I’d heard, and so here’s a little rundown of what we saw and did in Miami!
After hours of my roommate’s careful research, we found an awesome and budget-friendly hotel right across the street from ever-famous Miami Beach beach! That meant that we could visit the beach pretty much every day, and took full advantage.
I feel as though this goes without saying, but Miami beach is pretty much exactly what you’d imagine if someone told you to close your eyes and think about the beach. Bright blue-green water with waist-high waves, powdery white-gold sand, and seagulls and sandpipers flying all over the place.
They even had those neon-painted wooden lifeguard stands that you see in movies, and I was especially thrilled to see them in person !
(evidence being that I took 331 pictures in front of them, and that is not an exaggeration)
Red and purple tandem flags waved from the lifeguard stands every day of our stay. Red indicates that there are riptides and rough seas, while purple flags indicate that there is dangerous marine life in the water. In our case, jellyfish and man-of-wars were the culprits. From what I’ve heard though, these flags stay up for the entirety of March to early May, which is a good thing to keep in mind when planning your trip.
So although swimming wasn’t really an option, we basked in the sun and took to the trails between the beach and the streets. This ocean-side path extends pretty much all the way up and down Miami beach, and it’s a great way to explore the area.
There are little palm forests on either side of the path with lots of lizards, as well as several boardwalks where you can access the public beaches.
As someone with a travel blog, I bet you’d never guess that this is where I would end up.
Just kidding! Wynwood Walls is so much more than just an instagram backdrop, and hearing about the history of this area in Miami made it one of my favorite places we visited all week.
From what a local friend told me, Wynwood used to be considered one of the more dangerous areas in Miami, and in order to change that, some contractors gave local artists the go-ahead to paint the walls however they wanted. The results, let me just say, are stunning. Blocks and blocks of Wynwood’s streets now boast huge murals; some hosting a row of portraits, some looking like an acid trip threw up on it, and some are just really pretty patterns. I loved them all! In the central part of Wynwood, there’s an indoor gallery that you can look around and learn a little about the history of the area, and the walls surrounding the building boast some of the more renowned artist’s murals. This particular set of walls is repainted often, so you never know what you’re going to see here!
Another interesting part of the Wynwood area history is the controversy behind its development. Some locals are happy with the businesses and subsequent revenue that the Wynwood Walls have brought to the area, while others consider them problematic because it’s been encouraging gentrification. I’m not nearly knowledgeable enough on these topics to be able to speak on them, but it is a bit of food for thought when visiting.
Going ~crazy~ at Ocean Drive
Speaking of food, we visited Ocean Drive twice on our trip: once for dinner, and once for drinks. To be honest, it wasn’t really my scene. I’ve been to enough frat parties that the charm of sweaty, crowded dance floors and vape clouds has worn off a bit. All that being said, Ocean Drive is a fun place to walk, and an even more fun place to watch my fellow collegiate spring breakers going harder than I ever could, and rocking outfits bolder than I could ever imagine trying on. While we visited we got some really great tacos, walked along the beachside paths, marvelled at the dozens upon dozens of police cars lined up in the trees, and had some of those absolutely GIANT mojitos. Can you say ~SpRIng BReaK 2020~?!
South Pointe Park
Just south of Ocean Drive, South Pointe park has an entirely different atmosphere. As the name would suggest, it’s a bright waterfront park at the Southernmost point of Miami Beach and full of residential high rises that cater to the young-hip family crowd (i.e. it’s expensive. You can tell because it spells “pointe” with an ‘e’ on the end).
We spent most of our visit here enjoying South Point Park’s main feature- its sunny promenade. The promenade took us along the waterfront, past towering modern sculptures, and all the way to the South Pointe pier, which I was delighted to learn is free to enter!
The pier is 522 feet long, and stretches out into the great blue Atlantic ocean. Supposedly, it’s a great place for seeing manatees and other Floridian wildlife, though sadly we didn’t see any this time around.
(it’s also VERY windy so avoid my common pier mistake by bringing a hair tie with you)
University of Miami
As my roommate’s best friend goes to the University of Miami, we ended up spending quite a bit of time here over our 5 days. I actually really enjoyed it here, and ended up seeing more wildlife around the campus’s intricate water ecosystem than at some of the parks we visited.
It makes me wonder what graduate school here would be like…
Coconut Grove parks
Coconut Grove is another area of Miami that we briefly visited. It was more of a time-filler excursion between other attractions, but I enjoyed the tropical-ness of the area.
Coconut Grove has a ton of parks and trails. It seems as though you can’t go 10 feet without stumbling upon another park, to the point where they all just kind of bleed together. My favorite was probably the David T. Kennedy park, because its walking paths lead through fields of coconut trees, mangrove forests, and across boardwalks over the bay.
Before leaving, we stopped at Monty’s Raw bar, a Caribbean tiki bar that specializes in raw seafood happy-hour and the “pain remover” daiquiri. I took a chance and tried a raw clam for the first time, but I’m gonna be honest, it was probably my first and last clam experience.
We also tried fried plantains with mango salsa and an appetizer dubiously called a “fish ball”. Now that was some good eating!! Complete with live Caribbean music played on a steel drum, I was feeling Miami-beach happy 🙂
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
My favorite place we visited during our time in Miami was Vizcaya, the former villa of an affluent Miami businessman, complete with tropical gardens that sprawl for acres.
The main villa itself feels like a manor or a small castle. As you’d expect from an exorbitantly rich person’s old house, there are dozens of grand rooms, full to the brim with all of the luxuries of the 1910s and 20s- like canopy beds and gilded mirrors. It makes me wonder how none of it got damaged in Miami’s humidity. Especially seeing as the villa appears to have an open plan with a sunny grotto in the middle of the home. If you love fancy old mansions, then you would love Vizcaya my friend!
While touring old manors isn’t at the top of my “favorite places to visit” list, it’s fun to pretend you’re royalty (or in this case, business owner-y) strolling about your chambers and wistfully looking off the balcony towards some stunning vista. In this case, the massive Eastern-facing terrace offers a view of Biscayne Bay, and right in the middle of your line of sight is… a stone ship.
As you would expect, a ship made of stone is not going anywhere.
However, the clear signs of erosion and the boat’s missing pieces are a sign that the stone barge has, and continues to serve its true function- as a sea storm buffer.
Since the mansion is so close to the water, this decorative buffer was crafted to block the heavy surf from damaging Vizcaya. This was an attempt to hurricane-proof the place, and it appears as though it’s helped. We didn’t see any waves crashing on shore.
To either side of the stone barge are gazebos that reach out into the Bay, and like much of Vizcaya’s gardens, it’s picture perfect. You can especially tell because there were lines just to get on the gazebos because everyone wanted a picture, and I don’t blame them! Their location over the water also makes the gazebos a great place to spot ocean life, just by standing there we spotted schools of fish, barracudas, and even an eagle ray!
We then made our way around the villa to the rest of the gardens, which I would argue is the best feature of Vizcaya. What can I say to do Viscaya’s gardens justice? Nothing, I cannot. But I’ll try. And I’ll include pictures.
The gardens closest to the mansion are the most heavily manicured, with gravel paths winding through expertly cut shrubs and grass patches. On either side of these gardens are coral pink walls lined with actual sun-bleached coral shards, along which you can find ponds full of flowered lily pads and staircases leading up to Ivy covered gazebos.
I’ve never felt like so many different Disney Princesses at once.
As we wandered deeper into the gardens, I channeled my inner Alice (in wonderland). This part of the gardens gives way to thick, tropical forest with staircases almost hidden by palms and paths that zig zag seemingly at random. There is also a lot of wildlife here, the place is practically lizard paradise! Depending on which paths you follow, you could end up on the edge of a mangrove lagoon, or in the middle of a hedge maze. I won’t give too much away though, you’ve gotta discover Vizcaya for yourself!
Overall, our visit to Vizcaya was strange, incredible, and expensive; though I should say the gardens are really what won me over and made the visit worth it.
My spring break 2020 in Miami may not have been as crazy as the title would have led you to believe, but Miami showed us a huge variety of things to do and an incredible time! It was also surprisingly easy to save money, the only activity we paid for was Vizcaya. I know you probably think I’m crazy for not visiting iconic sights like Little Havana and the Everglades, but we just didn’t have the time or the money to make them happen this trip. Don’t worry though Miami, I plan on coming back someday 😉 .
Miami is home to so many lizards that I couldn’t possibly, in good conscience, write a post without giving them their own section.
So here you go!
Following our 5 days in Miami, we took a day-long road trip down to the Florida Keys. It was probably my favorite part of our Florida trip overall, and I’m working on the post as we speak, so look out for that!
I’m also considering writing a post on how to save money in Miami super easily, and was wondering if you all would enjoy a post like that? Please let me know in the comments! I love to read them 🙂