When foreign folks ask which cities in the United States I most recommend to visit (cities, not unmissable national parks like the Grand Canyon), I always say: New York City, Boston (I’m biased on that one), Washington DC, San Francisco, and… South Beach, Miami!
Because it’s so far “down there,” a lot of people skip Miami and focus upward, but Americans and visitors, alike, if you haven’t yet been to Miami, put it high atop your list!
Here’s why you’ve got to get yourself to South Beach, Miami at some point soon:
ONE: MIAMI’S MANY TYPES OF EYE CANDY.
1. The Beach!
Miami is geographically right by the Bahamas, Cuba, Cancun, the Dominican Republic, and most everywhere in the Caribbean that you associate with gorgeous beaches, palm trees, and clear, azure blue water that’s bathtub warm. What this means is that Miami has all those beautiful traits, too!
Part of what makes Miami so entertaining and economical is that whenever you want something free and fun to do, just mosey down to the miles and miles of white sand beach and get instantly happy!
(Side note: Technically, Miami’s beaches aren’t “natural,” because the sand was artificially pumped in from the ocean floor far offshore… but still. Don’t overthink it, man. Just swim and enjoy.)
2. Amazing Architecture.
South Beach, Miami is rightly famous for its Art Deco architecture.
Stroll the streets and feast on the creamy yellow, pink, blue, and purple walls around you, walls flowing into the fanciful shapes of Art Deco style. Simple circles, squares, and diamond-shapes abound, and suddenly you feel like a gleeful kid again.
There’s just something about Art Deco Architecture that makes people happy. In New York City, the Chrysler Building is a Northeastern example of the style, and perhaps it will help you see what I mean: Art Deco is simple, accessible, and friendly: almost Disney-esque. It’s basically the opposite of the “Brutalist Architecture” demonstrated in Boston’s City Hall (aka, “The Unsexiest Building of Boston.”)
3. People Watching.
Miami may be one of the best cities on earth for people watching. You will see every single body type, ethnicity, and state of undress if you sit and gaze for long enough. You will ogle some of the most beautiful faces and figures you’ve ever imagined, and you will also glimpse some seriously obese folks wearing nothing but a swimsuit and a smile.
In fact, I have a photo of a man walking boldly down the street wearing only a blue thong speedo.
Shall I post it? Shall I???
Ok fine, I won’t. But know that sights like that are common in Miami. Upon returning to Boston, my travel buddy gasped: “Why are people here wearing so many clothes?!” You kind of get used to near-nudity.
Miami loves cars. I don’t even know how to drive, and I salivate over the vehicles that pass by in one minute on a South Beach Street. In short: Miami provides eye candy in every way!
PART TWO: MIAMI TRAVEL CAN SAVE MONEY.
1. Cheap Flights.
The Miami area is one of the cheapest areas to fly to in all of the U.S. With three nearby airports (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach), there always seems to be some sale or other going on.
2. Cheap Housing.
It drives me nuts how much people pay to stay in Miami when there is a secret to staying there for RIDICULOUSLY cheap: international hostels!
This actually may be the top travel tip you get from my whole website: Whether you’re an American or a foreigner, consider hostels for your housing.
So for example, (the following links are affiliates that provide a small commission at no extra cost to you) if you click this link, it will take you to a search I’ve done for super cheap hostels right on Miami Beach. Do you see that you can stay right next to the beach for $16 instead of $150???
Yes, there are shared dorm room options (which can lead you to meet wonderful people from around the world), and there are also private rooms. I have stayed in a number of these Miami hostels and have loved all of them. There’s no need to pay hundreds for your housing!
There are also tons of very affordable places to stay in Miami that aren’t hostels. Click here to browse affordable hotels in Miami. Another brilliant way to save money is to rent a house or condo.
Especially if you are traveling with several people, renting a place rather than using a hotel can save hundreds. Click here to browse Miami vacation rentals of condos and houses. Argh — looking at that link when I put it in made me long for more Miami right now!
3. Cheap Food and Drink.
There are constantly discount promotions in South Beach. As you stride down Ocean Drive in Miami, you pass about three hundred open-air restaurants. How do they stay in business?
By offering cheap lunch, dinner, or two-for-one specials. Just walk a few blocks and someone will soon thrust a coupon or advertisement into your hand! Find one that appeals to you, take your seat, and get ready for deliciousness.
4. Cheap Entertainment.
We’ve already discussed how amazing the (free) beach is in Miami, but there’s another intriguing option for swimming: the many crystal-clear hotel pools that line Ocean Drive!
Now, you are supposed to be a hotel guest to swim… but let’s just accept that you can usually walk right in without a key if you’re not, and you probably won’t get caught for a little cooling dip in that water. Just saying. :)
Other delectable and free Miami pastimes (besides people-watching, which is really number one), include outdoor performers, outdoor dancing (I spent a great New Year’s dancing on the beach with hundreds of other people paying nothing), museums, and self-guided walking tours (many of which are detailed online).
Because of the large Latino population and other ethnic groups, very happy free days can be spent strolling through “Little Havana” and other “Little” enclaves, getting a taste of another world without leaving U.S. soil. (Okay, so this isn’t totally free, because if you have the willpower to resist buying any of the fragrant ethnic foods sold all around, I salute you.)
PART THREE: MIAMI = FUN.
1. The Vibe of FUN.
Bikini-clad folks on one side of you, sports cars zipping around on another; ocean in front of you, open-air restaurant behind; prices for any budget, culture from around the world, air and sea as warm and comforting as a hug… there’s a lot to love about South Beach.
Now, don’t get me wrong: Boston is my home and heart, and I’m not about to pack up and move south. I couldn’t deal with Miami for more than a vacation, because I’m too, well, Northeastern.
But that said, if you asked me for the #1 best place to go in America for a super-FUN, super-economical (when done right) vacation, I would sing loud and clear: SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI, baby!
So chime in, readers: Have you been to Miami? If so, how’d you like it? If you haven’t been already, does it appeal to you? Post your comments!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!