In February, we visited a friend in Miami and she gave us a great all-around tour of the city.  The city is quite large, and there are so many things that you could go do and see, so I was glad to have a tour guide.  It such a good sampling of the city, that I felt like it was worth writing down for all you Central-Ohioans who need a good 4-5 day trip down south in the dead of winter.  

 
For starters, we rented a house through Airbnb called Quiet Canoe Outpost, which was in, what we didn’t realize at the time, one of the most sketchy areas in Miami: Little Haiti.  We met up with some of her friends and when we told them where we were staying, their eyes got big and they said, “are you serious?  It’s not safe there.”  Well, where we stayed was on a quiet street in the middle of the sketchy areas on a property that had just been rehabbed.

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Morning view on the dock
The place was very inexpensive, considering the rest of Miami, and we loved how unique it was.  Weirdly enough, the owners of the property were also the owners of an Urban Farm nearby.  They invited us to stop and visit and so we did.  They had lots of animals and other interesting things.  They were actually filming a Haitian music video when we arrived as well.  It was not your typical “Miami” experience.

 
There were kayaks and canoes on the property we could use, so one morning we went out with them and it was a very peaceful, serene area.  I’ve been to Florida dozens of times, but this didn’t feel like Florida.  I really felt like I was in Central America, and it explains why they call it “Little Haiti.”
 
I’m a fan of Airbnb, but there is another option I would have looked into (if I had known about it!)  RoverPass  lets you book Campgrounds at RV parks, which could be a very fun, and inexpensive, way to stay in Miami.  Miami can be pricey, so I’m always looking for ways to do it for less!
There is a little island in Miami called Key Biscayne that has a great beach and lighthouse you can visit for free.  We walked around the beach, got some great views of the city from on top of the lighthouse and then got some pizza at a nearby restaurant.
Beautiful views of the blue-green water

Of course when you’re in Miami, you want to be in the water.  Even in February, you can get in the water.  It is a little chilly, but that didn’t deter us.  We went to John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park, where we rented snorkeling gear and wet-suits for a two-hour snorkeling excursion.  You boat over to a reef, they give you a little instruction, you pop in the water and look at fish.  The winter is a perfect time to go because the water is calm and you can see the fish.  We went one time in the summer, and everyone was seasick, the water was so choppy you could only see sand.  I drank so much salt water because the waves were going over my snorkel.  So going in the winter was definitely perfect.  

 
Luckily we have a GoPro and were able to document the beautiful adventure.
 
Of course, when you’re in Miami, you gotta go downtown and see some of the nightlife.  She took us to a place called Epic, which is a rooftop bar in downtown Miami with great views of the water and city nightlights.  Be prepared to spend an indecent amount of money on one drink.  Whatever number you have in your head that you’re thinking, double it.  I still think it’s worth it for the view.
 
Sure, we’ll pay $40 for a watered down screwdriver.  When in Miami…

Another fun water sport is paddleboarding. We rented them at South Beach Kayak for $40. This is also great to do in the winter because the water is calm.  It’s near impossible to do this (so I’ve heard) when the water is choppy.  If it’s choppy, you won’t be able to get your balance.

 
Once you get the hang of this, it’s not too bad.  I had an advantage being short because if you’re tall, you have a harder time staying balanced with the wind.  It was a lot of fun, and I was scared at first, but realized the worst that happens is I fall in the water.  So what?  I can swim.
 
Of course if you’re in Miami, you gotta drive down to the Everglades.  I’ve never been there in all my times in Florida, and it is such a fun little adventure.  We showed up and took advantage of the free ranger guides that the National Park provides.  We wouldn’t’ have been able to spot most of the wildlife if we didn’t have a guide.  It was a beautiful day to see alligators and birds.  

I hope this Miami travel-guide will encourage some of your to beat the Ohio winter blues and go to Miami for a long weekend.  If you can’t afford to go to Hawaii, or South America… this is a great, fun alternative that won’t cost you your life savings.  

Nina Thomas

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  • Travel Guide to Miami (Part two) | Traveling with Nina January 30, 2017 on 12:03 AM Reply

    […] Palmetto Bay.  We’ve visited before, and I wrote up a complete review of what we did here: Travel Guide to Miami.  This time, we stayed in Miami Beach for most of the time and got to experience some new […]