Are you ever tempted by cheap flight options? Yeah, me too. Having recently returned from Germany where the winter was rather mild and my adventure ended on an expectedly sour note (more here), I was eager to look into fun weekend trip options to flee the Boston cold.
With that in mind, after stumbling upon a cheap Miami flight and texting the details to my boyfriend, we ended up choosing a weekend and booking the ticket just over 24 hours later. Although the reservations were a spur of the moment decision, the timing for us turned out to be somewhat fortuitous, as we ended up escaping a winter storm on the day of our departure. When we arrived at the Boston-Logan airport at around 4am, we were stunned to see that the departure board was aglow with red “CANCELLED” messages for over half the flights displayed.
Immediately upon landing, the cerulean skies and warm air (77 degrees Fahrenheit in February!) were a welcome change from our beloved (and sometimes unpleasant) Boston home. If you’re contemplating a winter weekend getaway too, here are a few fun interesting notes about Miami:
Spanish. The U.S. isn’t a very “bilingual” country, but the presence and utility of Spanish is more significant here than in other places. As expected, the airport signs are all in English and Spanish; however, more interestingly, I saw several billboards that were exclusively in Spanish (notably for immigration and related services). Also, curiously, on a boat tour, my boyfriend and I were almost persuaded (read: conned) into signing up for a too-good-to-be-true vacation package opportunity where one would “only pay the taxes” by a woman who explained the details to us in Spanish.
Traffic. In our travels, we ended up staying on South Beach, the happening tourist area, connected to the mainland by a bridge. While this was a nice place to stay (filled with shops, restaurants, and beach access), we found out quickly that the trip back and forth between our South Beach hotel and the mainland attractions (like boat tours, museums, etc.) could mean a lot of waiting in traffic. Whenever we looked up our intended journey on Google Maps, we found wide time-estimate windows like 18-to-35 minutes and 22-to-45 minutes—spoiler alert, the trip duration was usually on the longer side.
Beach. South Beach is stunning — even in February — and has public beach access areas. While the water isn’t warm, one can quickly get used to the temperature when the sun is blazing, and the air is humid. The water is definitely still “swimmable” and refreshing during the heat of the day!
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. I was skeptical about making the trip to this attraction. The tickets were $25 for museum and garden access (with the “museum” essentially being a large house with placards explaining the historical significance of the rooms and furniture). I must say — I was pleasantly surprised! Even before entering, it was clear that this place was special. The path leading up to the main entrance was surrounded by thick, lush, jungle-like fronds, which gave the area a tropical vibe. After showing our tickets, we had a clear view of the picturesque museum, which is an Italian Renaissance villa that was the former home to business tycoon, James Deering. The villa is designed with a courtyard filled with large palm plants in the center and with rooms lining the exterior showcasing uninterrupted ocean views. There is a breakfast room on the second floor, as well as what appears to be an auxiliary kitchen flanking it (I found this to be an interesting design choice for some reason — two kitchens!). Many of the interior rooms reminded me of The Breakers mansion in Newport, Rhode Island actually (more here). Outside, the gardens are filled with grand architectural features, benches, statues, pools, and fountains, giving the grounds an elegant, royal, and Southern European appeal. Needless to say, the place was gorgeous — so much so that wedding parties, models, and amateurs alike were setting up their equipment to take photos.
Boat Tour. If you have the time, I would eagerly recommend that you take a boat tour. With miles of coast and an eclectic mix of architectural styles along it, there is a lot to see from the water. In particular, one can cruise past Millionaire Row, where one may witness the eye-catching abodes of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Gloria Estefan among others.
Dining. As expected, there are loads of options and with the temperate climate, there is plenty of outdoor seating (just make sure to shoo the birds away — I’ve seen them steal eggs and sugar packets). Also, of course, Miami (Calle Ocho in particular) boasts a wealth of Cuban cuisine options.
Flora & Fauna. This point probably won’t mean much to you if you come from the southeastern part of the U.S., but there is something enchanting about encountering “foreign” plants and animals. Of course, there are palm trees (very many different species in fact, look closely!), but also the common pests are different — there are lizards (from as small as water bugs to as big as rats) as well as colorful, chirpy birds, big billed waterfowl, and lazy looking ducks (I was trying to compensate for my lack avian knowledge with alliteration — did it work?).
Miami, Florida can be beautiful at any time of the year (if suffocating summer heat doesn’t bother you that is 😉 ), but please note that June 1st through November 30th is hurricane season — so also be careful!