We were in Miami the day before a family member graduated from the University of Miami. So, Valerie and I had one day on our own to explore the city before the rest of the family flew into town for the festivities.
We didn’t have a car, so the first order of business was to get train fare for the Metrorail. The closest station from our hotel was a quick, five-minute walk from our hotel. Riding the train is pretty simple. Each time you ride it costs two dollars. However, if you plan to ride the train and/or take a bus more than twice in one day, you can get a day pass for $5 and travel the trains and buses as much as you like. All tickets have a microchip embedded in them, so all you have to do is “touch” the big green button with your ticket and you go through the gates. Same procedure when you board a Metrobus.
The Miami area has a second rail system called the Metromover. This is a series of three loops with 22 stations around the central downtown area. The movers are free, so you can hop on and off wherever you like and not worry about fare. The mover is elevated well above the street level, so it’s fun just to ride around just to get a bird’s eye view of the city. We transferred to the mover from the rail line not really knowing where we wanted to go. After some time circling the city, we got out at Bayfront Park and went for a pleasant walk along the waterfront. After our short walk, the heat and humidity was really starting to get to us, so we hopped back on the Metromover for more looping around the city to find a nice, indoor spot to spend an hour or two. We got off at the Government Center station and headed over to the Miami-Dade Cultural Center.
The Cultural Center contains impressive architecture that houses the art museum, history museum, and public library. Since our time was limited, we decided to check out the history museum. The museum contains an extensive collections of artifacts and history of South Florida dating from when the first native americans settled the area thousands of years ago to contemporary times. The museum would have been empty, but we happened to go in during a huge school field trip. Having to work around the various school kids getting their history lessons was only mildly challenging.
After our visit to the museum, we stepped into the public library cafe for a beverage and figure out a place to have lunch. We wanted to find a good Cuban restaurant in the city. We met a local who recommended a nearby restaurant called Perricones which she said was one of the best in the city. This bit of advice was the first in several experiences in the city where I found locals to be very friendly, but their advice not completely accurate. Turns out this restaurant is really good, but it was Italian, not Cuban. Oh well, we were starving, and it’s still a great place. I’ll review in my next blog post.
Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to find a nearby beach to hang out and cool off. From the Brickell train station, we caught the “B” bus to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area at the far end of Key Biscayne. The bus ride to the Key was where we got our next bit of well-intentioned, but inaccurate, advice from a local. We wanted to walk to the lighthouse at the end of Cape Florida, and one of the other bus riders told us it was only two blocks from the end-of-the-line. Well, it was more like two miles. We didn’t want to walk that far in the sweltering heat, so we settled on a nice beach just inside the park boundary. Never thought I would find a beach this quiet and secluded yet so close to downtown Miami. Great place to hang out for a while and get away from the crowds. The stiff sea breeze blowing in from the Atlantic was a welcome relief from the 90 degree heat.
Using the Miami metro transit system worked like a charm and was a nice alternative to sitting in the car fighting traffic. We liked it so much, we even used it to take Valerie’s parents out to the beach the next day, even though we had access to a car by this time. Even they were impressed how easily it worked. So, the next time you’re in Miami, try leaving the car in the parking lot and take the train/bus.