It’s nearly 9:00pm. Under the dimly lit overpass of the FLL Uber pickup line where we’d been standing for less than five minutes, Katie points at my chest – “what do you have on your shirt?” I look down, confused about what I could’ve possibly spilled on myself during the 2-hour flight from RDU after Nicole’s wedding. I cannot believe my eyes. I got pooped on by a bird smack dab down the middle of my buttons, no more than 100 yards from baggage claim, and didn’t even notice. Welcome to Miami.
For what it’s worth, getting pooped on is supposed to be good luck. We certainly had some good luck throughout our trip – an unseasonably warm winter all over the States meant fantastic beach weather (when it wasn’t raining) in December. We also had some bad luck, like when our rental car in Key Largo never arrived. But overall, in total opposition to Vegas I think it’s hard not to have a great time in a city as vibrant and full of culture as Miami.
We spent the first two nights in the relative peace and quiet of an affordable little Airbnb right on the boardwalk in Hollywood beach. It made perfect sense to crash between FLL and Miami proper, before all the excitement of New Year’s Eve on South Beach.
- The Taco Joint (not to be confused with Taco Spot). We waltzed in thirty minutes before closing, famished, and were served with a smile. We ordered chicken, shrimp, and taco platters that came with with rice, beans, and – my favorite – Mexican elote (corn on the cob). Simple but incredible! There’s nothing like eating outside with no jacket on in December, the sounds and smells of the ocean just steps away.
The Hollywood beach boardwalk is over two miles long and lined with beachy shops and restaurants, a bit like a less grungy version of Venice Beach. We spent time lazing around the beach, watching kids try to surf at Margaritaville’s FlowRider thing that makes fake waves, and getting massages when it started to rain.
- Cafe Club – tiny and unassuming brunch spot serving sandwiches, crepes, coffee, etc. I had their special for the day, a breakfast sandwich with egg and spinach on french toast. I wasn’t hungry again for so long! Their 5-star status on Yelp is legit.
- Rent a Citibike – after getting to South Beach, one of the easiest ways to get around is on a bike. Several docks along Lummus Park were empty, so we had to walk around a bit to find three that worked. The paths aren’t as well-marked to separate pedestrians vs. wheels as they are in Santa Monica, but it’s still a great way to cover more distance than you can on foot!
- Le Sandwicherie – one of the spots I’d heard over and over that I can’t miss, and would have to agree. We grabbed sandwiches on New Years Day after a morning at the beach and ate under the shade of palm trees in Lummus Park.
- Shepherd Artisan Coffee – cute coffee shop with outdoor seating and amazing chocolate croissants. They have a little library in the back so you can sit and read if you’re traveling alone.
- Nikki Beach – this popular outdoor beach club with tables in the sand was where we got tickets to ring in the new year with a private fireworks show.
We were a bit out of place with the clientele there, since table service in Miami on NYE is thousands of dollars. I’ll probably never pay to go out for New Year’s again, but if I was going to go big or go home anywhere, Miami was it! I started the new decade with my feet in the sand, a drink in my hand, and some of my best friends by my side – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Wynwood Walls – you’ve probably seen this arts district all over Instagram, and for good reason. There are dozens of huge murals all over the neighborhood that frequently change, not just within the four walls of the official outdoor museum.
- Wynwood Kitchen and Cafe – next door to the outdoor display is a colorful bar and restaurant serving yummy tapas and drinks! Katie introduced us to the espresso martini, which is now my pregame beverage of choice. What better way to rally for a night out way past my bedtime than alcohol and caffeine?
- Ball and Chain – an iconic Calle Ocho (8th Street) institution in Miami’s center of Cuban culture. The restaurant turns to salsa dancing, then to regular club beats late at night… but it has an interesting history going way back to before the influx of Cuban immigrants to the neighborhood. I was mesmerized by the vibrant, carefree culture of families dancing together and in awe of the talented salsa dancers (whose hips don’t lie). Grab a drink here and soak it in until you’re mustered up enough liquid courage to join!
- Versaille – this Cuban restaurant was highly recommended by different people, but was a bit out of the way from the main drag of Calle Ocho so we skipped it. Mistakes! Spoiler alert: just go here instead of settling for mediocrity.
We waited for twenty minutes after being seated at El Pub (on the corner) without water or menus and gave up to try El Cristo across the street, which was out of half their menu.
- Caesar’s acai – a pre-airport snack on our way home. The acai actually wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed walking around the area and watching people’s yachts come and go on the river.
hasta la vista, miami – i’m sure i’ll be back