Living in Toronto is awesome…for about 9 months of the year. But during the bleak and freezing weeks after Christmas, Toronto can suck the last drops of joy from your soul – cold, snowy, overcast, and my god the wind, the wind! All this is heightened (lowened?) if you’re not busy, and thus have time to think about it and really internalize the suffering. When a last-minute $300 fare to Miami popped up, it was not hard to convince myself that one more charge on my Visa wasn’t the end of the world.
Never having been, I assumed I wanted to be near the beach, in the heart of the action. I was incorrect. Don’t get me wrong – the beach is lovely, and a few minutes on the sand was enough to bake away the memory of Toronto’s -20 C temps.
And South Beach is not without its delights – Art Deco masterpieces, upscale shopping, and lots of really pretty people. But really, if you’re not into beach lounging or late night clubbing, it’s basically dead boring.
By my second day, I was ready for something different. And here’s where my trip got really interesting and fun. Miami has a lovely downtown, and some unique neighbourhoods that rival those in much larger cities.
On of these is Little Havana, which as its name implies is the centre of Cuban culture, music, and dining. You can get a great Cuban meal here for very little coin, and it’s fun to just walk around and people watch. It also features some great bars (like The Union Beer Company) and an art house cinema. The neighbourhood centre (and visitors centre) is located a bit SW of downtown, so if you’re staying in South Beach, you can take a bus or an Uber there. I chose the latter since I was short on time.
Another (and my favourite) is Wnywood – an arts and nightlife district made distinct by its amazing murals and graffiti. Most of the art is right on the street, though the neighbourhood features a couple of mural galleries – both 2D and 3D. By day it can seem a bit abandoned, but at night the shutters roll up and these former industrial buildings transform into restaurants and nightclubs.
Wynwood is also the centre of the craft beer scene. I figured I should give this beer thing a try, so visited several of the breweries (not all on the same day). The Wynwood Brewing Company was the best of the bunch – at least in terms of what they were serving when I visited. But I also very much enjoyed Concrete Beach Brewing and J Wakefield, which is Star Wars themed.
On a long weekend visit, just those two neighbourhoods should be enough to keep you busy, stimulated, stuffed, and not a little tipsy. And since that was all the time I had, I’ll need to come back and explore some more. I got Miami backwards, starting with the boring and not finding the interesting bits until the second half of the trip. Next time I’ll get it right.