Miami

Overview

This glittering metropolis in south Florida is a cultural melting pot, with a distinctly Latin American flavour and a whole lot of flair.

The tropical climate, breathtaking beaches and the abundance of activities draw visitors from around the world, many of whom have come to call Miami home. Hospitality, dining, arts, culture, sports and recreation – Miami’s a world leader in all these areas. Discovering why is part of the fun of travelling here.

Miami is also known as the Magic City. It earned the name early in its history due to its rapid growth, which seemed to happen overnight, as if by magic. This tradition continues today. Miami is a city where expansion never stops. The city’s skyline has given rise to a record number of skyscrapers in just over a decade. The highway system is continually being improved. And Miami Beach continues to be an innovator in hospitality and tourism.

Famous for its sun, sand and surf on the Atlantic Ocean, Miami also has hundreds of top restaurants, serving virtually any type of food. In between beach days, you can sample the cuisine while also discovering the museums, parks and recreational activities available both outdoors and indoors.

Whether you visit for pleasure or for work – or both – you will not run out of things to see and do. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll need to return several times, just to see all the major sights. And that would be just scratching the surface. It’s a Magic City, after all.

Miami is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • shopping and dining
  • nightlife

Airport served by: MIA

Destination basics

Miami boasts a subtropical climate, offering an annual average daily temperature of 23 C. The balmy waters of the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current and an idyllic location at the southeastern tip of Florida give Miami its beach-perfect climate.

Although any time of year is a good time to visit Miami, the best seasons are late winter and spring – from January until May. This is when you can enjoy an average daytime temperature of 25 C. During these months, the cooler evenings are perfect for exploring the city’s dining and nightlife.

With the perk of near-constant beach weather also comes high humidity in the summer, from mid-May until October. The days feel hotter and there are more frequent afternoon rainstorms. However, this rarely spoils a beach day. You can usually count on rain to come after 2 p.m., so just be sure to hit the pool or beach earlier in the day for a full dose of sunshine.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Miami

From the beginning, Miami has had a love affair with Spain. Its founding fathers wanted it to be a resort for the rich and famous. “America’s Riviera” was seen as a Mediterranean paradise, with Spanish-revival architecture present in the homes, buildings and hotels of the time. You can still see much of this Spanish influence in the areas of Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and The Roads.

In the mid-20th century, Cubans began to arrive in Miami and established Little Havana, which soon became woven into the fabric of the city. Just about everyone in Miami, Cuban or not, can enjoy a croqueta (croquette), empanada (dough patty with filling) and a cortadito (Cuban espresso topped with steamed milk) for breakfast.

Jamaicans, Bahamians and Haitians also make up a large part of the population. They, too, have provided cultural traits to the city, creating a uniquely Afro-Caribbean community. Enjoy jerk chicken and chicken curry from the islands in a number of restaurants here. Bright colours, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and an insatiable joie de vivre all have become hallmarks of Miami, and they can be traced directly attributed to the wealth of communities here.

It’s hard to believe that Miami was a rural trading post just a little over a century ago. Founded in 1896, many of the city’s original families are still present.

If you encounter older residents whose families span many generations here, you may hear a slight twang in their voice. Not quite a Southern drawl, that twang is an old Florida (or “Flahr-dah,” as they would say) accent that goes back to pioneer days. As you venture toward the outskirts of Miami, you may hear this accent more and more.

On the other hand, the influx of Cuban immigrants in the 1960s gave rise to a new population and a new accent. Several generations later, you can hear this distinct Miami accent almost everywhere in the city, even among non-Hispanic residents. Influenced by Spanish, consonants are slightly exaggerated. If a restaurant hostess asks you to “pah-lese” wait while she checks for a table, you know you’re talking to a born-and-bred Miamian.

Of course, the best sounds to look for are in the music. Popular music styles here are salsa, merengue, soca and zouk – all derived from the Caribbean and Latin cultures in Miami. You’re likely to hear these beats at some point during your visit, whether at a nightclub, a restaurant or even a shopping centre.

It is advisable to carry some U.S. cash with you for general expenses. For entertainment and shopping, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. There are also numerous ATMs inside banks and public spaces where you can withdraw funds at your convenience. Just be aware that transaction fees vary by ATM.

Just off the shores of Miami’s beaches, you can find plenty of coral reefs and diving wrecks. You can also explore numerous ecosystems in the surrounding area, which includes the unique marshlands called the Everglades.

More than 2.5 million people live in Miami-Dade County, making it the ninth-most populous metropolitan area in the U.S. The city of Miami lies on a low, flat plain with an average elevation of only 1.8 metres above sea level. It borders the marshy Everglades to the west and south, and Biscayne Bay to the east, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

Often described as a “river of grass,” the Everglades is actually a system of protected wetland ecosystems including pinelands, cypress swamps, mangrove forests, hardwood hammocks and coastal prairies. This diverse environment harbours a unique array of wildlife that you can admire while you’re on a nature hike or a trail bike ride. And, if you’re a birdwatcher, you’ll love seeing the hundreds of species living here. The Everglades form part of Everglades National Park, the third-largest national park in the United States.

Within Biscayne Bay lie a number of islands, both natural and man-made, connected to the mainland via bridges and causeways. Among them are Brickell Key, the Venetian Islands, Hibiscus Island, Fisher Island and Star Island – all home to exclusive residential enclaves favoured by the rich and famous.

Miami’s barrier islands, which include the cities of Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach, lie east of the bay. They are connected to the mainland via causeways. On these barrier islands, miles of white-sand beaches stretch up the coastline. Walk along the water and bask in the warm Florida sun.

You won’t have trouble finding public transit options in Miami. In fact, the only difficult part is deciding which one to take.

Regional transit Metrobuses run throughout the greater Miami area, accompanied by Miami’s single-line elevated rail system, the Metrorail. The Metrorail provides locals and visitors with easy access to surrounding areas (many of which are local interest points). These include: downtown Miami, Dadeland Mall, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Lowe Art Museum, Miami Museum of Science, Village at Merrick Park and many other places to shop and dine. Adult fare is US$2 per person.

Downtown Miami is home to a free elevated train system known as Metromover. The Metromover is completely free of charge and is an efficient way to get around the downtown core, including some of Miami’s nicest downtown hotels. The Metromover also connects with the Metrorail at both the Government Center in the central business district and at Brickell Station in nearby Brickell.

When traveling within Miami Beach, a good transit choice is the South Beach Local – a shuttle bus that operates in a loop from 19th St. down to the southern end of Miami Beach (buses travel in both directions). Fare on the South Beach Local is a very affordable US 25 cents a person.

Taxis are also widely available in Miami, but it’s often a challenge to flag one down in the street. In this city, your best bet is to call ahead of time or catch one outside of your hotel. Fares in Miami start at US$4.50 and cost around US$2.40 for each additional mile. If you’re headed to or from the airport, ask about flat-rate fares offered by many taxi providers. Just make sure you call ahead to book your ride.

If you plan to travel to a wide range of attractions inside and outside the city limits, you might want to consider renting a car. Although downtown is easy to navigate using public transit, getting to attractions in the suburbs or outside the city can be a bit more challenging. If you opt to rent a car, try to avoid local rush hour times between approximately 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Arrival

Before departing for Miami International Airport, you’ll pass through U.S. customs. After you exit your aircraft, just follow the sign to the baggage claim area and pick up your bags.

From baggage claim, step outside to catch a taxi or hotel shuttle waiting out front of just about any door. Or, grab a shuttle to the rental car vendor of your choice.

Departure

Located in the Central Terminal, Concourse E, you will find smiling WestJetters waiting to help you check in for your return flight home. While you wait, browse the Miami International Airport’s many concession stands, restaurants and shops.

You can also check in and select your seat online using WestJet’s simple Web check-in service to save you time.

Miami is known as The Gateway to the Americas because of its large Hispanic population and close proximity to Latin America. This melting pot of cultures has led to a strong Spanish influence in Miami. In fact, there are neighbourhoods like Little Havana where Spanish is the predominant language. It won’t take you long to find an authentic Cuban restaurant or a nightclub where you can learn how to salsa.

Although Cuban culture once dominated Miami, now there are also large numbers of people from Venezuela, Argentina, El Salvador, Colombia and Nicaragua. There are also significant populations of French, Russian, Brazilian, Haitian, Bahamian, Jamaican, Chinese and Greek people here, among many other nationalities.

Aside from the different ethnic communities, Miami also has distinct neighbourhoods centred around business and lifestyle. In Brickell and downtown, you’ll see glistening skyscrapers that are home to the largest concentration of international banks in the United States.

North of downtown, the Design District and Wynwood Arts District attract a more bohemian crowd that makes a living from the creative arts. And, in the neighbouring city of Miami Beach, beach homes and oceanfront condos offer the best of both worlds to the unique community there.

Perhaps it’s because of this global mix that Miami has another claim to fame: its population’s good looks. The city is consistently ranked highly for having the most attractive people. Perhaps it’s the 365 days of beach tanning, or the ability to play sports outdoors and exercise year-round.

Good looks and great weather make Miami the No. 1 destination for festivals, many incorporating beach activities into the agenda. Among those events are the Miami International Film Festival, Winter Music Conference, Ultra Music Festival, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Miami and South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

But Miami is more than just pretty faces, toned bodies and fun in the sun – you’ll find a thriving arts scene here as well. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is the second-largest venue of its kind in the United States. And The New World Center in Miami Beach have made the opera, symphony and musical theatre must-do activities.

Departing from:

ˆTotal price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions. *Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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