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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Blog from my old blog: Wednesday July 4th

Solo gal Guide Part !: Miami

"Miami is so over-rated," is what I've been hearing lately from other South Florida goers. I think most people only look forward to the partying and drinking, maybe a little shopping, and then get burnt out on the hype. But South Beach really does offer something more. Not only does South Beach have more to offer, but the rest of Miami is still rich in culture, full of activity and hides its best charm in its unpopular, northern, sleepy towns.

The first two times I went to Miami I was ready to let loose and see it all. But to sum it all up, I walked around, danced, walked some more, people watched, drank a Daiquiri or two then went home. Now, that doesn't sound like much of an agenda, but I was new to it all and didn't quite know what to do. The next time I went, I vowed to see more. I wanted to go with the flow of Collins Ave. and explore.

My excuse for the getaway? The WMC. This excursion to Miami was more of a network party for me. I attended the Winter Music Conference. The WMC is said to be one of the biggest dance music festivals and conferences in the U.S. Thousands of people crowd into Miami for a week to attend dance music forums, workshops & parties! You can never grow bored in such a vibrant atmosphere of people and events. There were at least twenty events and activities each night for the conference alone. I spent my days at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa (WMC location) and my nights on South Beach and I partied at the Shelborne Hotel, which houses two clubs and hosts great pool parties, the Raleigh Hotel hosted a Soul Music Session, and Funkshion Lounge and Restaurant held a special event as well. Funkshion gets its name from being a compilation of fashion and music.

Every year they produce a collection of fashion shows that I had the honor of attending. I actually got to preview J.Lo's (Jennifer Lopez) newest clothing line "JustSweet." Female amazon beauties strutted their stuff down the walk to a parade of photographers and sashayed to the rhythm of Miami. I loved every minute of it! During a short intermission there was a bit of frenzy in the lobby. I noticed everyone was eyeing the goody bags being placed on each chair: "JustSweet," black clutches with wavy gold hoops inside! I managed to snag two! Not only did I get a goody bag but I spotted local celebs, popular promoters and familiar models. The sporadic fashion shows in Miami are certainly something everyone should try to check out. Get on a list, STAT!

After the show, the evening was the same as all the others: I WAS HUNGRY!!! Now most visitors of sexy Miami expect to try out posh eateries and maybe even dine on Ocean Drive. It can be expensive eating out on South Beach, but if you keep an eye out and do some research you find some frugal places around Collins and Washington Ave. as well as further up on North Beach. My new favorite place to eat is Dogma. They serve almost every kind of hot dog known to man! You can choose from a traditional beef hot dog, turkey dog or a veggie dog. My pick (almost every night) was the "Pushcart" turkey dog, topped with New York styled cooked onions and spicy brown mustard, with a side of garlic homestyled potato chips (potatoes) all under $7. Yummy. Other places to eat frugally are: Manolo's (not the shoes), located in the sleepy town of Surfside in North Beach. They have different variations of the empanada that are tasty. Chicken, tuna, & spinach empanada's were at the top of my charts. Every morning I enjoyed a cinnamon croissant at this quaint Argentinean Bakery for the low low and bought homemade fettuccine from Mr. Pasta (great to cook in your hotel suite if you have a stove).

If you still need that glitz, Mango's, Located on Ocean Drive's well know with Latin dancers shaking' their bon bon's on the bar, a full daiquiri bar, and great chicken wings. I also hear the Tides hotel has a pretty nifty happy hour and you can customize your own fruity ice pop to cool off with. Before you can eat and after you party, you need someplace to rest your head. I have picks for the quaint & quiet, loud & rowdy, lavish & trendy, and cheap & frugal.

The first few times I ventured out to South Florida, I stayed in the towns of Hollywood,Fl and Aventura. On my second trip in Aventura we were twenty minutes away from South Beach. We stayed at a quaint and simple Marriott owned establishment. Most inexpensive Marriott owned hotels are the Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn and Spring Hill Suites. I don't remember exactly which one I was in but it had to be one of these. While expanding my musical knowledge at the WMC I found the Rode Way Inn: Ocean Way Hotel. This hotel is located in North Beach and is literally steps away from an almost secluded beach. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets entertained my eyes everyday! The Winter Music Conference was held at the Miami Beach Resort and Spa on Collins. (Everything is on Collins!) Now, most buildings in Miami look vintage and weathered, but you can't judge a book by its cover! The Miami Beach Resort and Spa greets you with large, embellished, crystal chandeliers and soft pink and tan colors and textures. The pool is relaxing and the pina colada's at the bar are nice and sweet. There's a spa on hand and tons of conference rooms.

Other posh places: Eden Roc Hotel, with its orange walls and goose down comforters, The Mandarin Oriental for a good celeb watch and the Standard Hotel on Island Ave. The Standard sells inexpensive day passes to their spa, so you don't have to be a resident to pamper yourself! For a quirky stay on the beach, try the Pelican hotel. Each room has a theme in decor and is named accordingly. I hear the "Best Little Whore House" is one of the favorites.

Ok, so now for the cheap and frugal; the best deal in town, generally for young adults, students, and backpackers would be hostelling. It's the best way to go for traveling on a very, very, small budget. Two of the most popular hostels in Miami are The Clay Hotel and Hostel andJazz on South Beach. The Clay Hotel and Hostel is located in the charming and historic Espanola Way. Once resided by gangsters and all their vices, Espanola Way was remodeled to have that charming European feel with the design of its buildings and a Bohemian flair.

The streets are cobble stoned and while walking you'll discover small shops selling things from different cultures and art, restaurants (Try Oh Mexico! Shrimp Taco's), and remnants of its worldly past The Clay Hotel and Hostel houses separate rooms and dorm style bunk beds and spaces for its hosteller's. Jazz on South Beach is actually relocating as I type. Once located a few blocks away from the beach, it's moved on up and into a much bigger space. It wasn't really known as a party hostel but I'm sure it will start a new "tradition" in its new space at the old Atlantica Hotel and Suites. Other hostels to look for: The Tropics Hotel and Hostel, The South Beach Hostel (the newest and includes an all night night-club) and The Miami Beach International Travellers Hostel.

To top off the vastness of this article, I have a plethora of attractions and events that will help to fill any travelers Miami itinerary. If your looking for a "Blast to the Past," "Down Memory Lane," (yea I know), try an Art Deco walking tour around South Beach. Each tour gives history and background on some of the historical buildings and hotels in the area. You'll learn why they call it Art deco and get a little art history along the way. These tours are available with a guide, or on podcast, alone. Other "past" attractions: Villa Vizcaya Victorian home and pool and the Biltmore Hotel. Looking for something more local? Calle Ocho is located in Little Havana, a Hispanic community. Calle Ocho is home to senior citizen males who meet in the park to play dominoes, traditional cigar shops where you can buy your own freshly rolled cigar, and Carnaval Miami.

Museums are everywhere in Miami, believe it or not, even in trendy South Florida. Most people think them to be boring but there are some pretty interesting museums to explore. Well if you need a jolt try the Exotica Museum located on Washington Ave. Dedicated to passion, love and sex, it's hard not to blush, but it will sure keep you awake. More toned down museums would include the Wolfsonian and the Miami Museum of Science.

At the moment my fingers are cramping up a bit here but I still have so much to share about South Florida and So much more to explore! This is just the tip of the iceberg. South Florida is saturated with culture and tons of activities and events to soak yourself in; it's a wonder if its citizens ever sleep. You have a few things in this list to choose from and I have plenty more to share. So when you need more, look me up and we can hang together.

Other than the fabulous attractions pulling me to the tip of Florida, I think its something else that magnetizes me there. The atmosphere, the weather, the sunsets (& rises), the ocean and the flair. I foresee my future. I see myself going back again and again and again.
Peace and Luv ya'll!
Happy Travelin'

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