Before and after setting foot on the Carnival Victory, we had a little extra time to explore the vibrant city of Miami, FL and surrounding areas. From the tourist attractions such as Bayside Marketplace and Miami Beach to the sports enthusiast’s highlights such as the American Airlines Arena, you can always find something to do in the south Florida hot spot.

 

During this trip to Miami, we decided to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark, and the former winter estate of Chicago businessman James Deering. (Also apparently the site for a scene in the new Iron Man 3). Although no photographs were permitted inside the lavish European-styled early 1900’s home, the surrounding gardens are impressive and encompass elements of Renaissance Italian and French designs.


 

A gazebo also created a scenic doorway to Biscayne Bay, while poles rose up out of the water depicting Venetian moors. Tropical flowers laced the walkways around the gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After exploring the Vizcaya grounds, we drove over the toll bridge to Key Biscayne to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and took a quick look at the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County, a lighthouse built in 1825.

We then headed over to Miami Beach, where it was bumper to bumper traffic up and down Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive, the main streets through the area.  We eventually grabbed a bite to eat further north at a South American joint called Manolos, which specializes in churros and other tasty treats. We ended the night back downtown strolling through Bayside Marketplace, listening to live tango music as the crowd vigorously danced the night away. At night, the city comes alive with a display of vivid color.


Our last stop in Miami, before flying back home, was to the Everglades.  In the wilderness area encompassing 1.5 million acres, you can find American crocodile, alligator, turtles, several species of birds and the Florida panther.  Since we were on a tour operated in conjunction with the cruise line, we were limited as to the areas we could explore, but we still enjoyed the region by taking an airboat tour and watching a daring alligator show.

 

 

Miami is a great place to visit no matter what your interest may be. This time around, we were only able to explore a very small percentage of the sights Miami has to offer, but of what we did see, as usual, Miami proved to be a lively, energetic and fun place to be (even on a rainy day).


 

Quick Tips:

Upscale hotel downtown MiamiIntercontinental Miami (If you can find a good rate on Hotwire, it’s a steal!) 
 
Is a rental car needed? Miami has a lot of public transportation options including the Metromover, which transports people throughout the downtown area. However, if you want to explore some of the outer areas of Miami, it’s likely worth waiting in line for a rental car. We rented from Dollar Rent-A-Car. Although the line took FOREVER, they offered a cheap rate for a high-quality vehicle.
Cool place to eat a little off the beaten track: Manolos 7300 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33141
Fun fact: If you do stay downtown, walk on the walkway behind and around the Intercontinental hotel to find some unique and fun artwork. 
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