Here’s how it works: cruise down I-95 from the northeast corridor and at some point, near Richmond, you cross the invisible line separating the North from the South. Now go further, all the way to America’s tip. Somewhere around Orlando, you crossed another line, separating the rest of Florida from reality. Here in Miami, the Everglades and the Keys, things are a little Alice in Sweaty Wonderland. It’s the weather, y’know; all the humidity and hurricanes drive everyone a little crazy. And the alligators. And the mosquitoes, goddamn them. And the people, of course.
What was once a citrus farming town is now a pan-American mosaic, the most Latin city in the world north of Mexico. Throw in enterprising Caribbean immigrants, Jewish Holocaust survivors and their children, a fantabulous gay party scene, mad rednecks, the cast-off spawn of the dinosaur age cruising local waterways, and a South Beach celebrity scene that would make OK! magazine wee itself in joy, and, well…Look guys: it’s weird here. And beautiful. Think of those clean lines slimming down a deco hotel on Miami Beach. The impossibly sexy people lining up at a Fort Lauderdale club. That pale full moon making love to the Everglades on a dank, sweaty night.
Which isn’t to say modern Miami lacks problems. This international city has both the cheerful energy and hungry Third World edge of the Caribbean and Latin America. Economic inequality is rampant, and the grandiose spirit of American capitalism has mixed with Miami’s Latin/Mediterranean flair, making the gulf between the haves and have-nots here seem particularly vast.
But that shimmering mirage of wealth and sex is also what makes this town so fun and fast. ‘The World is Yours’ was the iconic catchphrase of Scarface, a movie that captured the highs and lows of Miami’s hyperextravagant 1980s, and the citizens of this town have taken that motto to heart.
West of here is the Everglades, possibly the most unique ecosystem in North America, a flooded wetland that feels like nature’s own musty womb. To the north, Fort Lauderdale sips a martini by its yachting fleets. Down south stretch the mangrove islands and sultry sandbars of the Florida Keys, islands of both exile and refuge for those nonconformists who are too out there for even South Florida’s misfit mentality.
Sounds good? Come on down. The air feels like a silk kiss and the beach smells like lotion and hormones. Welcome to Miami. The party started five minutes ago. You gonna dance?
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in Miami
Calle Ocho (Eighth Street): a guide to Miami's huge street party
This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals. Location: Calle Ocho, Miami, USA Dates: Early to mid-March Level of participation: 5 – eat, drink and be feliz (merry) Billed as the largest street party in the world, Calle Ocho is the grand finale to Miami’s Carnaval celebration.
Miami destination guides
Top 10 glamorous A-list destinations
Hoping to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous on your next trip? Unfortunately for any aspiring celeb-spotter, those celebs are stealthy types and really aren't interested in being spotted, so while some getaway locales never change, new under-the-radar destinations keep popping up around the globe.
Miami City Tour including Bayside and Biscayne Bay Cruise
On this tour you will discover the beautiful side of the fashionable and exciting international hot spot, Miami. Mansions, yachts, Port of Miami, Little Havana and Calle Ocho, South Beach Art Deco district, Coconut Grove, Brickell Avenue, and Coral Gables are some of the highlights.
Miami Everglades Airboat Adventure with Biscayne Bay Cruise
Visit the Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay Boat Tour all in one day! Leave Miami behind, head to the Everglades in your air-conditioned bus, and start the day with your Everglades Airboat Adventure. A trip to Miami is not complete without touring the Florida Everglades by airboat – it’s nature at its best.
Feasting in Florida
Culinary explorers willing to push past Florida’s thicket of homogenized restaurants are rewarded with a bountiful, sublime feast of land and sea that mixes rustic traditions, gourmet inventions and a hemisphere’s worth of cultures.