If you have been following me on Instagram, then you would have seen several posts based in Miami. I recently came back from the United States (as mentioned from the previous post) and yes, finally my jet lag is cured, the key solution was one weekend.
I started off in Houston, as we found super cheap tickets through Air New Zealand, and spent a couple of days there to explore. Houston is not very touristy; there's not a lot of sightseeing and commuting with public transportation was basically out of the question. Luckily my travel buddy, Christina, has family there so transportation wasn't a big problem, otherwise hiring a car would be the best option. I didn't take too many photos since our time was limited and we mainly just ate and shopped. However if you every visit Houston, I do recommend to visit The Galleria which is one of the biggest shopping malls I have ever been to and it houses an epic collection of American and international brands. There is a gorgeous Waterwall Park to check out as well, only 5-minute walk from the shopping centre.
On Sunday early morning, we flew domestically to Miami with American Airlines and spent a total of 5 days. Our main purpose is to attend a conference, but luckily since they are 4 half days, we got to explore the paradise.
We feel that Uber was the most convenient way to commute around the city as it is easy, quick service and relatively cheap. Uber fare from the airport to Miami Beach, which is where we stayed, is approximately USD$17 - 20. In addition to travel to South Beach from our Airbnb house is approximately USD $5-7. It does add up, but we both liked how we don't have to think about parking, directing and getting used to driving on the other side. There is a "South Beach Local" shuttle by Metrobus which stops in popular areas of Miami Beach and only cost $0.25 if you prefer.
Where to Stay?
Christina and I chose to stay at an Airbnb since it was a cheaper option and we found one that is located near the conference site at Fontainebleau Hotel, which was ideal for our situation. I am not a Miami expert, but I would recommend to stay around Mid-Beach or South Beach for its close proximity to shops, restaurants and touristy sites. If you are willing to splurge, then check out hotels such as Loews, Marriot Stanton and Hilton Bentley which looked incredibly lavish from outside with great views of the beach.
What to do?
1. Nom Noms - Evident from my insta-feed , it's no surprise that food is on my top priority list when it comes to travelling. I love trying out new things, especially dishes that I can't get back at home. As a general rule of thumb, I feel that food in the USA comes in huge portions and are more greasy, buttery and very salty. At the start, Christina and I struggled when it comes to ordering as we always have leftovers. However with more experience, we finally adjusted by ordering everything in the smallest size possible and sharing. My culinary highlight of this entire trip has to be Joe's stone crab. I am a sucker for seafood, so when I found this restaurant on numerous Miami's Food lists, I knew I had to try it out. Be mindful that they do not take bookings, so come early as the wait line can get super crazy despite the huge size of the restaurant. There's a lot of fusion food as well such as Sushi Samba, we absolutely loved the ceviche for it's clean and refreshing taste. And of course, most importantly Southern Fried Chicken, typically served with waffles and maple sauce, because who doesn't love fried chicken? I'll write a post later on to specifically outline our culinary experience in Miami.
2. Shop 'til You Drop - No trip is complete without spending at least a day shopping. The US is one of my favourite places to shop for certain things including make up, cheap clothes and American brands such as Coach an Kate Spade. South Beach and Lincold Road Mall are perfect for all these. One of my favourite American retailers has to be Anthropologie (can be found at Lincoln Road Mall) which houses a range of women's fashion, accessories, home furnishings, gifts and a lot more whimsical stuff. The design district is a cool neighbourhood which primarily consists of high-end retailers, innovative architectures and art galleries. As much as I love the area, this wouldn't be my top priority to visit as the retailers are not affordable, except for Target across the street. However, it is a picturesque suburb, great location for photos.
3. Typical Tourists - Unlike Houston, Miami is a very touristy city so the list of places to visit is endless. With our limited time there, we had to be selective and on our must-do list was South Beach as it seems to be the primary landmark of Miami. South Beach lived up to all the hype we heard, it's gorgeous and iconic, I now understand why people love long walks along the beach. Another location that is high on our list was Vizcaya Museum and Gardens which is a historical site that showcases an Italian Renaissance style villa, built in 1916. Initially, Christina and I planned to spend a couple of hours but as the estate is huge and there is a lot of rooms, places to explore and artworks to see, we ended up spending more than 4 hours in total. The whole place feels magical and it seems like the villa is a common place for photoshoots as couples and girls in their prom dresses stroll around, followed by a photography team. The cost is USD$18 to get it, but trust me, it's worth it. I loved it even though I'm not a very historical and arty person.
4. I'm on a Boat - Cruising along the coast of Miami is another great way to explore the city and enjoy the skyline from another angle as you sit and chill on the boat. Ideally we wanted to catch the 5pm cruise so we can catch a glimpse of the scenery during daylight, dusk and night time. However we spent too much time in Vizcaya Museum so we missed the cruise, so make sure to check the times and be there 15 minutes earlier that the scheduled time. The tickets that we purchased are from GetYourGuide and overall we were happy with the service provided, great boat, friendly staff and detailed narration.
5. Chillin' Like a Villain - Besides the art deco buildings, Cuban influence, trendsetting nightclubs, Miami is known for its grand and luxurious hotels, especially along the coast line. What better way to start or end the day than chill by the pool with a glass of cocktail in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other, after a long tiring day exploring?