elcome to South Beach, Florida and “la vida loca”— the crazy life. The southernmost part of glittery Miami Beach, this trendy area may look laid back and inviting but even on the beach there is a constant buzz of excitement.
Known familiarly as “SoBe” the area is the chic-est place to be in all of Miami and Miami Beach and has been referred to as “America’s Riviera.” (Did you see that cover girl over there? Isn’t that someone famous rollerblading by? Who’s that across the street at the outdoor cafe? Is it, could it be, no, yes– CindyCrawford RobinWilliams CubaGooding DrewBarrymore…) Lucky you that timeshare is available nearby!
Located a few degrees above the Tropic of Cancer, Miami is comprised of a network of barrier islands, coral rock and mangrove swamps, connected by manmade additions of soaring bridges, stately causeways and panoramic roads. Miles and miles of white sand beaches hug the coastline, with the waters of the mighty Atlantic Ocean and tranquil Biscayne Bay for punctuation.
To the south and west, Everglades National Park, the third largest in the U.S. National Park System is a unique 1.5 million acre eco-system of sawgrass prairies, mangrove swamps subtropical jungle and the warm waters of Florida Bay. Nearby, the primarily underwater Biscayne National Park is teeming with sea life and plants, and features living coral reefs as well as the longest stretch of mangrove forest left on Florida’s east coast within its 173,000 acres.
A meandering collection of more than 30 municipalities spread out over 2,000 square miles, the US Census Bureau rates Greater Miami as the seventh most populous and fifth-largest urban area in the United States, with an estimated population of 5,547,051 in 2009. In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Miami “America’s Cleanest City“, for its year-round good air quality, vast green spaces, clean drinking water, clean streets and city-wide recycling programs. According to a 2009 UBS study of 73 world cities, Miami was ranked as the richest city in the United States, and the world’s fifth-richest city in terms of purchasing power.
More than half of its residents claim Spanish as their native language, while the lilting tones of Portuguese, French, Creole, Italian, Russian, Yiddish German, Italian, Dutch and Hebrew are also heard throughout the city — in the homes, cafes and gathering spots of the dozens of Miami’s distinctly different neighborhoods.
Perhaps the area’s most famous neighborhood, east of Downtown across Biscayne Bay, is South Beach, and within South Beach you’ll find the Art Deco National Historic District, a whimsical collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s. This is definitely the IN place to see and be seen. If you like to people watch, you will find no better place for it than here. Residents of this eccentric, urban neighborhood are as varied as its visitors, ingredients in a spicy, multi-cultural stew. A visit to the neighborhood’s retro-modern supermarket or a stroll on charming Espanola Way quickly reveals its diversity — Hasidic Jews and Cuban immigrants, a strong gay and lesbian community, European businessmen and ex-New Yorkers all are part of the fabric of daily life.
From the 1920s through the 1960s, South Beach served as a playground for Hollywood stars such as Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. Then it struggled through years of decline, when $40 bucks a week would allow you to live in a faded art deco hotel with a view of the ocean. But in recent years it has undergone a remarkable renaissance. Natalie O’Neill of the Miami New Times said in 2009 “Until the 1980s, Miami Beach was a peculiar mix of criminals, Cubans, and little old ladies. Then the beautiful people moved in.”
In the late 1980s, a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving into the area. In 1989 Irene Marie purchased the Sun Ray Apartments (famous for the chainsaw scene in Scarface) and opened Irene Marie Models – the first international full-service modeling agency in Florida. Many of the large New York based agencies soon followed. And it’s been on an upward swing ever since.
If you are staying somewhere else and plan to drive to the beach here, you’d better arrive early– the parking spots fill up real fast! Anyway, everything is within walking distance, so cars are unnecessary. Along the 10-mile beach, the cafe society and in-line skaters can look on from the sidewalk as you sunbathe, jog, fly kites or play volleyball. The beach is wide enough for all these activities without having to jockey for space.
The most famous of its streets is probably Ocean Drive, home to some of the better known hotels and sidewalk cafes. For starters, hit the take-out counter at one of the local cafes on Ocean Drive, then walk to South Pointe Park, grab the first empty bench you see and spend a leisurely hour feasting on local fare while you watch the cruise ship fleet set sail from the Port of Miami to all points in the Caribbean.
Just behind Ocean Drive is famous Collins Avenue, the Designer District of South Beach. On the north end is where you’ll find the large Art Deco hotels like the Delano, the Raleigh, and the Shelbourne. To the south, the intersection of Collins Avenue and 8th Street is where to start looking for designer shops with names like Armani, Versace, Nicole Miller, Benneton, Hugo Boss, and Betsey Johnson.
The next street inland is Washington Avenue, the “Main Street” of South Beach, the street that never sleeps. The Designer District continues on this Avenue, and this is where local residents do their food shopping, banking, and other normal chores in the morning. From midday to early evening, the more than 60 restaurants and cafes are crowded and in constant movement, and another set rollerblades in for a haircut and a little shopping.
It’s when the sun sets, though, that Washington Avenue really comes alive. With 30 plus clubs and bars (some of them owned by major stars) the celebrities, the jet-set, and the locals who want to be in the limelight come out to party the night away.
Not far away from SoBe is the Town of Surfside, a lovely oceanfront community with a population of only about 4,500. The small community — only nine blocks long and ten blocks wide at its largest point — is nestled between Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. (More specifically, it occupies a niche from 88 Street to 96 Street just above Miami Beach.) The ocean, the Bal Harbour Shops, movies, parks and an elementary school are within walking distance. Some of Surfside’s streets are named after famous writers such as Byron, Carlyle, Dickens, Emerson and Hawthorne. Recently, the town renamed 95th Street Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard in honor of the Jewish writer who lived there until his death.
Situated right on the ocean (step out the back door of the resort, and your feet are practically in the sand…), this RCI Gold Crown resort has a stunning Art Deco-inspired décor that fits right in with its location. From the outside in, Solara Surfside blends with the local Art Deco architecture. The pale blue and green exterior with white accent design reflects the hues of the ocean, and the dramatic night lighting, punctuated by tropical palms, is a spectacular sight.
And with most of the studio, 1- and 2-bedroom suites offering private balconies, you can enjoy panoramic ocean views. The concierge can help you with all your vacation needs, while your children can enjoy an array of activities, including a game room. Among its many popular amenities are a pool (heated year round), 3 barbeque grills, shuffleboard, ping-pong, foosball, Sega dreamcast, board games, darts, social room, nice volleyball net, fitness room, hot tub, laundry…
Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!
Some Web sites you might want to visit for more information:
- http://www.bluegreenonline.com/ – Solara Surfside at the Bluegreen Resorts website
- http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/ – Greater Miami and its beaches
- http://www.mdpl.org/ -The Miami Design Preservation League
- http://www.miamibeach411.com/ -Travel Articles and more
- http://www.visitsobeonline.com/ -A visitor guide to South Beach
- http://www.southbeach-usa.com/ -South Beach Magazine
- http://www.gmcvb.com/ -Greater Miami Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau
- http://visitsurfsidefl.com/ -Visit Surfside, Florida
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of "On the Road" is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. 5-Star quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out--- enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
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