Once a no-man's-land after dusk, and the nine-to-fivers departed for rush hour, today Miami's downtown is a thriving dining and entertainment scene that promises, with the championships of the Miami Heat and the rise of the user-friendly Miami Marlins Stadium, to only keep developing.
In fact, the American Airlines Arena gets a ton of extra use in the basketball off-season, with everything from Barnum & Bailey's Circus events to Lady Gaga concerts taking place there. Next door, Bayside Marketplace, where visitors can catch everything from a live concert to a "Duck Tour" to a small ship setting sail on a sunset cruise of the islands in Biscayne Bay, continues to offer an assortment of shopping, drinking and tasting opportunities. The Port of Miami, where the cruise ships depart, often dock for a day or two, allowing guests time to explore the city; likewise, if you're staying in Miami for a time, a weekend cruise to the Bahamas is always an option.
Near Biscayne Bay, Mary Brickell Village provides similar services as Bayside in the business district, albeit more expansively and more expensively. Martini bars and oyster bars raise the bar here, giving those in the sector a place to take clients as well as meet after hours for cocktails. Another high-end option: high-rise hotels. Completed in the last couple of years, boutique-style lodgings such as the Epic and Viceroy—and their respective restaurants Area 31, Zuma and Eos—have brought more than a dash of eco-urban style to these formerly mean streets. At the catty-corner J.W. Marriott, über-chef Daniel Boulud moved in his superior db bistro, much to the delight of full-service foodies.
Another peer of the realm, Norman Van Aken, reigns over the working dining room at the Miami Culinary Institute, which is part of Miami Dade College, located on the Wolfson Campus. This campus is also the site of perhaps the largest book fair in the country, the Miami Book Fair International, attracting more than 350 authors to read and discuss their work every November.
If that's not enough culture, check into the museums in the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, particularly HistoryMiami. Formerly the Historical Museum of South Florida, this is worth a visit not only for its exhibits—as relevant as "The Guayabera: A Shirt's Story" to "Teen Miami," teen-related artifacts from the 1930s-1990s—but for its walking, biking, boat and coach tours. You can join historians on the Miami River, at the Miami Circle, in the Everglades, at the Tropical Fruit & Spice Park…the list, like Miami's many attractions, is endless.© NileGuide