The quiet roads submitted only to the elements, not of the familiar bustling crowds. Silence was only broken up by an occasional sound of thunder or a gust of wind. Squeals of laughter and merrymaking had come to a screeching halt. No light could penetrate the thick wooden board coverings over each window of numerous stuccoed buildings. It was by all accounts, a ghost town.
Was this some long-forgotten city, perhaps a victim of a monetary or cultural crises. No, this is Miami Beach, or rather it WAS the beach during the summer months, perhaps well up into the 1970’s.
It’s hard to fathom for a city that truly never sleeps ( I know New York City wears that crown, but truly Miami Beach competes well with the Big Apple for the 24/7 life), that there would be any time that Miami Beach rolled up the carpets and batted down the hatches. But come the summer months, you could literally set up bowling pins on Ocean Drive and have yourself a game due to the lack of tourist activity. Even the permanent residents flocked to their northern relatives to find refuge from the sweltering heat. And just over the bridges, Miami itself was pretty sleepy as temperatures rose. Today’s popular neighborhoods like Wynwood, Coconut Grove, Brickell and Coral Gables didn’t have that much going for them to begin with except as residential enclaves; the dearth of attractions further helped empty these neighborhoods come summer. During the latter half of the 20th century however, that all changed and Miami and Miami Beach to this very day are great destinations all year long.
While the summer humidity hasn’t diminished, improvements in that best invention since sliced bread we call air conditioning, has made a stay in Greater Miami so much more comfortable. And with so many things to occupy your day besides just sun and sand, you needn’t write off hopping a flight to South Florida when the calendar flips to late June through early September. Actually there is no time of year when Miami and Miami Beach are better than other times; each month has its merits and you might just stumble of some the city’s real gems when you’d least expect to.
Let’s take a spin around the roster of seasons as the appeal of Greater Miami any time of year cuts a wide swath.
Winter in Miami:
Undoubtedly this is still the most popular time to descend south. With all the advantages of warm, yet not sticky weather, coupled with so much to do, it’s no wonder that every American Airlines flight is packed as it heads below the Mason Dixon line. However, I’d recommend making your reservations later on in the season. In December and January you’ll be competing for elbow and booty space at the bars, restaurants, clubs, beaches and more. If your tolerance for crowds is high, then you’ll be rewarded with enjoying the peak of the energy the area has to offer. Spending time at the very populous and world famous Art Basel show or a having a tropical New Years Eve celebration while your northern friends shiver with jealousy, are two great reasons for visiting on the last and first months of the year.
But as the vitality of the Miami and Miami Beach may be at its zenith, so are all the prices. Airfare, hotels, Airbnb and more expenses will put a deep hole in your wallet. Come later in February and March and you can enjoy just a notch below the frenetic atmosphere and still have cash saved for your next trip.
Why not schedule your winter vacation in time for the February International Boat Show. While a super deluxe yacht may not be in your future, it’s still a blast to wander the marina and dream of sipping from a tall flute of champagne as you lean over on the bow watching the cool ocean waves. Not only luxurious vessels are on display, but various monohulls and catamarans are also in the show, offering the hearty sailor a chance to attend exciting sailing seminars.
Maybe a neighborhood arts festival is more your speed, so a good reason to pack your shorts and flip flops is to visit the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in February. Art lovers can wander from stand to stand in a gorgeous al fresco setting where friendly artisans display every imaginable art form from fiber to clay to metal works. For those whose idea of art is a poster from high school days, the festival also offers culinary workshops, international foods and family friendly activities. Stroll around this bohemian neighborhood after you leave the fair grounds to get a good sense of Miami life away from the beach.
Come March, head to Coral Gables for the weekend celebration of Carnaval on the Mile. Created to celebrate the vibrant Latin and Caribbean cultures of Miami, artists take over the main drag of Miracle Mile selling everything from arts and crafts, jewelry, paintings and sculptures while being flanked by two large stages for live entertainment including jazz, funk, and rock music. The scene captures the spirit of beloved Carnavals around the world and Miami’s is right up there with the best of them.
Spring in Miami:
Come April stir up your thirst discussing for social issues at the Out in the Tropics Festival. At various venues sprinkled throughout Miami and Miami Beach you can enjoy thought provoking local and international artists who boldly address issues of gender politics and sexuality. There are face-to face opportunities that allow the visitor meaningful personal interactions with agents of of change.
Why fly the miles to Paris, when Miami has its very own Miami Fashion Week in May. With runway shows and glittering parties, the city positively glows in the melange of fashion, art, fun, and luxury offered over seven days in late spring. And true to form, colorful resortwear, not stiff and stuffy monochromatic outfits, are featured and the shows provide an excellent platform for distinguished designers to capture the sunny Miami spirit.
Summer in Miami:
They say spicey is nicey and a perfectly fine reason to accept your hair may sport a bit more frizz is to come for the Miami Spice two month dining promotion. Those restaurants that will send sticker shock up your spine in December, are now heavily discounted. There’s a menu for everyone as nearly 250 restaurants participate in this beloved tradition. If you are someone who plans their vacation solely around food, then find a time over the summer to enjoy a week or weekend filling your belly with exquisite morsels from full service luxury establishments to the hip and trendy eateries.
Perhaps spending time in an air conditioned deluxe spa is your idea of heaven. Miami Spa Month which technically lasts from the first of July to the end of August, will have you in an quandary of whether the mud mask or the Lomi Lomi massage should be your choice of treatment. I say why choose? With prices deeply slashed, you can indulge every sense with multiple appointments at different spas throughout the area. So wash away your stress in a foaming lavender bath in the summer so that heading back into your fall routine won’t be so jarring.
Continue to stay inside and discover Miami’s museums. With the cool air circulating all around your overheated body, take advantage of the Perez Art Museum, Frost Science Museum, The Wolfsonian, The Jewish Museum, HistoryMiami, The Bass and so many more. You’ll be able to get up close to your favorite exhibit while seeking shelter from the highest temperatures of the day.
Fall in Miami:
Less crowded and much more enjoyable IMHO than the chaotic and overpriced
winter South Beach Food and Wine Festival, discover the South Beach Seafood Festival in October instead. Local chefs will shuck, filet and debone all your crustacean favorites at this scrumptious festival. You never knew just how many ways Florida chefs can turn local mahi mahi into innovative variations until you spend time chatting with these masters of the sea.
Are you a runner? Lace up your sneakers and come on down for the Halloween Half Marathon. Less crowded than the winter Miami Marathon, but no less fun, you won’t feel guilty afterwards if you want to stuff your face with fun-sized Milky Way bars. You can even dress up in costume and you can walk it if you wish ( it won’t burn as many calories, so be discriminate when it comes to apres-event candy)
Speaking of Halloween, why spend it all bundled up in cold weather when you can shed the mittens and scarves for a skimpy costume at the HalloWYN event on the streets of Wynwood. Don your craziest outfit and join the crowd for free entrance to the festival complete with live entertainment and spooky specials.
There’s a reason many snowbirds, myself among them, become eventual year-round residents. While we cherished getting away from snow and ice in the winter months, we discovered that there was more to life than just making our back home neighbors envious. Greater Miami has truly taken its place as a world-class city and a continuous place to live and visit.
But wait….no matter what the season there is always an award-winning Miami Culinary Tour to join! Come locally eat and learn from our master storytellers all about what makes Miami neighborhoods special. From Little Havana to South Beach, you’ll come hungry for fun and food and leave with full tummies filled with our specialties and a mind full of new discoveries.
By Robyn Webb