Notes on Miami: The Capital of the Americas

Going To Miami

It wasn’t my original plan to visit Miami on this trip to the USA. I was planning to road trip from Chicago back to Newport, RI, where I have based myself. It turns out that there is hardly a hostel between Chicago and Newport, so my accommodation budget was facing a blowout of epic proportions.

Instead I found a cheap flight to Miami – where budget accommodation is plentiful – so this detour was a no-brainer. As soon as I got off the plane and sucked in a breath of that sub-tropical air I knew I had made the right choice.

Miami Beach

South Beach

Rows of neon lit Art Deco hotels is the world famous image of Miami, and they can be found on South Beach. I knew Miami was famous for Art Deco, but I thought it might have been a dozen or so key buildings that survived the wrecker’s ball. South Beach in fact has over 700 Art Deco buildings, making it the undisputed Art Deco capital of the world.

Collins Ave Art Deco Hotels
Collins Ave Art Deco Hotels – South Beach Miami

South Beach seems to be the place to stay in Miami. I stayed the the Jazz on South Beach Hostel, which is one of the best hostels I have stayed at in the US. There are plenty of accommodation options in South Beach and it is easy to walk around. If you tire of walking there is a 25 cent local bus that runs a loop around South Beach. Then of course there is the beach, which is of the white sand and warm water variety.

Downtown Miami

South Beach is part of the Barrier Island of Miami Beach, and downtown Miami is on the mainland.

View Larger Map

The downtown area looks as though it’s going through an urban renewal. It is mostly made up of new apartment blocks and the financial district, and there is not much in the way of shops there yet.

Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower – One of the few remaining old buildings of Downtown Miami.

Biscayne Bay

Of course you don’t come to Miami for its downtown. It the beaches and waterways that make Miami famous.

Separating Miami and Miami Beach is Biscayne Bay. This waterway is sprinkled with man made islands and super yachts. I took a cruise of Biscayne Bay, which takes you past the homes of the rich and famous and gives you a better feel for the geography of Miami.

Al Capone's Former Mansion
Al Capone’s Former Mansion.

This is the Miami I had in my mind’s eye. Perhaps my perception of Miami was influenced by Will Smith.

¿Hablas inglés?

One thing you will notice about Miami is that Spanish is spoken everywhere. The Organization of American States may be headquartered in Washington, DC, but surely Miami is the true capital of the Americas. All of the nations of the Western Hemisphere are represented here. Walking around and listening to the accents from the region made me want to head south. I don’t have time to do that on this trip, but I will come back to Miami again to use it as a hub for Caribbean and Central American travels. If you can’t travel to Latin America, Miami is the next best thing.

Trip Notes: Thanks to Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Island Queen Cruises.

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  1. oh great
    I have been waiting for your report
    and it was-
    gold star great are all the buildings!

    love this blog
    thanks, I feel like Buggs Bunny
    when he pops up at places on the way to pismo beach
    after he took a left turn at alberkerky !!

  2. Hi Eddy, thanks for the comments. I spent a week in South Beach and could have easily lingered longer. Great buildings and surprisingly the best coffee I have had in America at the Cuban cafes (more on that later).

  3. Great post on a great city! My fave part of Miami is the Cuban influence.

  4. I had to comment on this one. I love Miami, especially South Beach! If you think it’s great this time of year, go there when it’s about zero degrees Fahrenheit in the Northeast winter, and in the 70s and 80s in Miami. There is nothing better. I’ve taken that cruise around the homes of the rich and famous, too. Those mansions and private yachts you see just boggle the mind.

  5. @Andi me too. It’s the Cuban coffee and sandwiches that does it for me.

    @Gray I’m told their “winter” is better climate, not so humid. I will be back for sure.

  6. Ok, that does it. I really want to go to Miami. Those art deco buildings are amazing – and 700 of them?! Fantastic photos.

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