Weekend In Miami: An Overview

Due to the anti-chronological nature of blog posts, we wanted to provide an easy way to go back and review the various locations Gadling visited. To that end, we created an interactive map of the weekend. Clicking on any of the blue placemarks or the blue shaded areas will take you to the blog post that discusses it.

Alternatively, here’s a chronological presentation of the weekend:

If you have any ideas for hot-spots Gadling overlooked, please let us know!

Weekend In Miami: Next Weekend

Before embarking on this Miami trip, I spent a lot of time doing pre-departure research, deciding what I wanted to do and see, and even plotting the best way to get to destinations. Some travelers may think I over-planned the trip, but without some planning, there was no way I was going to see everything I wanted to. If you’re curious, here’s how I scheduled our weekend, Saturday on the left, Sunday on the right:

Yes, those are removable stickies, which make rescheduling easy. No, I didn’t get to everything I wanted.

By the way… a special thanks to my accommodating wife for letting me drag her around Miami all weekend. And for the record: she claims she had a great time and was fine with our hectic schedule.

Now that we know so much about Miami, we can’t wait to get back. So what are we going to do? As you might imagine, I’ve got the whole weekend planned out already…

We’re going to head up on a Thursday afternoon, and check into one of these hotels:

On Thursday night, we’ll grab dinner at Tap Tap and then head to the funky Pawn Shop Lounge. (Our waiter at Afterglo claimed this was the best night to go.)

On Friday, we’ll have breakfast at the (oceanfront) Front Porch Cafe. Then, we’ll head to Kampong and explore the beautiful gardens (appointments required!). We’ll grab lunch at Scotty’s Landing (overlooking the water), and swing by M-80 for some edgy, hipster clothes. We’ll relax on the beach for a while, and head to the Delano Poolside Bar for late afternoon cocktails (mmm… mojitos). After dinner at Madiba’s, we’ll have a few drinks at Ted’s Hideaway (hope it isn’t too smoky), and then catch some live music at either the Slak Lounge or Jazid. Sleep.

On Saturday, we’ll wake up and go on a Stiltsville & Key Biscayne Boat Tour. (If the tour isn’t running that day, we’ll either do some (free) Yoga in the Park, or go sea kayaking around Key Biscayne.) We’ll grab a late, healthy lunch at Pasha’s, and then take a nap on the beach — or in the room, if we’ve already spent too much time in the hot, Miami sun. We’ll play dinner by ear (See? I don’t plan everything!), and then head to Aqua Booty, for a relatively laid-back club scene. (If we’re just too tired, then maybe we’ll catch a Ghosts of Miami City Cemetery Night Walking Tour.)

On Sunday, we’ll have brunch at the chilled-out Ice Box Cafe, swing by either the World Erotic Art Museum or the Flying Trapeze School, and then buzz by Romanico’s Chocolate as we head out of town — so we have a small treat back home to remember our weekend by.

Now, let’s see… What have I forgotten…

Weekend In Miami: Jimbo’s Place

After leaving the lighthouse at Bill Bagg Park, we traveled north — back through the Village of Key Biscayne, back through Crandon Park, and off the island. Before hitting mainland Miami, we approached a small key on our right. This is Virginia Key, a wonderfully underdeveloped barrier island that boasts several nice beaches. However, we weren’t interested in seeing the beaches. We were interested in seeing Jimbo.

Jimbo’s Place isn’t really a bar, but you can get cold drinks there.

Jimbo’s isn’t really a restaurant, either, though you can get smoked fish there. (That’s what the sign on that wall says… trust me.)

Jimbo’s isn’t really a music venue, but you can hear live music there.

However, Jimbo’s is among the best bar/ restaurant/ music venues around.

Be warned that if you’re high maintenance, you might not feel too comfortable at Jimbo’s.

But if you go, Jimbo Luznar — the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Man on Earth” — will make you feel very welcome.

I’d heard about Jimbo’s Place while researching Miami. I was looking for an unusual, off-the-beaten path sort of destination for us to enjoy. A sprawling, ramshackle, ad-hoc-sort-of bar, ultra-casual Jimbo’s fit the bill.

Fifty years ago, Jimbo lived on the mainland. However, since the Miami Herald wanted the real estate Jimbo legally owned, the city cut a deal with him: move to Virginia Key, and you can stay out there the rest of your life. Jimbo didn’t care about the land. After all, he was a shrimp fisherman, and the location they offered him was better for his boats. He accepted.

Fast forward 50 years. Now, Miami is a boom town, and Jimbo is sitting on prime real estate. Of course, the city wants it back. However, they’ve wanted it back for years. When I was at Jimbo’s Place, Jimbo told me that the mayor has informed him personally that he can keep his place as long as he’s alive — even though he doesn’t have a license to sell beer, or have a license to smoke fish, or even hold a lease to the place. This past weekend, Jimbo — a great-grandpa — celebrated his 80th birthday. Who knows how long Jimbo’s will remain.

Anyway, Jimbo’s is like no other bar/restaurant I’ve ever been to. It was a fun, eclectic, wide-ranging group of people — — from hipsters to bikers; from hippies to retirees — and everyone got along fine.

There’s bocce ball, if you want to get competitive.

There’s a dock, if you want to hang out and chat.

Jimbo has a great view of the city. This lagoon was the film site for several Sixties-era television shows, including Flipper and Gentle Ben.

There are plenty of places to sit and relax and chat with friends.

Jimbo is so popular, he even has groupies on site, selling stickers of him…

…and singing his praises…

If you think I’m crazy for liking Jimbo’s, consider that I’m not the only fan.

Out of the entire weekend, I think visiting Jimbo’s Place was the highlight. It was the most relaxed. It was the most casual. It was the most fun. And Jimbo made me feel so welcome. I’m really sorry I missed your 80th birthday, Jimbo. I hope I get to attend next year!

Jimbo’s Fast Facts:

  • Jimbo’s movie credits include scenes from True Lies, a 1994 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Blood and Wine, a 1997 film starring Jack Nicholson. The film crew for 1983s Porky’s II built a riverboat in the lagoon behind Jimbo’s.
  • Jimbo’s has been the site of numerous fashion and music video shoots. Mariah Carey shot her first album cover there.

Weekend In Miami: Key Biscayne

After we’d cooled off at the Venetian Pool, it was time to get hot again. So we put the top down on the convertible and headed to Key Biscayne. A barrier island only 6 miles off the southeast coast of Miami, the beaches on Key Biscayne are way more fun — or way more laid-back! — than any ordinary beach. Plus, Key Biscayne has a cool lighthouse.

Key Biscayne is home to two great beaches. After leaving mainland Miami and traveling over the Rickenbacker Causeway, past Virginia Key, and past the Miami Seaquarium, we came to Crandon Park. Here, on the northern end of Key Biscayne — with the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and Biscayne Bay to the west — parking costs $5. Nature-loving visitors can explore the various ecosystems of the Key (dunes, mangroves, coastal hammock, and seagrass beds) and observe herons, ospreys, songbirds, hawks, sea turtles, and butterflies. You can even track rare plants like the beach peanut, Biscayne prickly ash, and the coontie. This area, set aside as a Nature Area, is rough and wild — just like Old Florida.

Don’t want to hunt wildlife? No problem, because the adjacent beach is picturesque. Often ranked among the world’s best beaches, Crandon Park’s beach features an offshore sandbar, which makes wading in the area’s warm waters very enjoyable. Alternatively, if you’re a “beach active” person, there’s plenty of opportunities here for great fishing, parasailing, ultralighting, or jetskiing.

With virtually no waves and a shallow lagoon, it’s easy to see why Crandon Park is popular with day-trippers wanting to get away from the mainland’s more tourist-y beaches. Finally, with its soft, white sand, just sitting on the beach is pretty fun, too.

After checking out Crandon Park, we passed through the Village of Key Biscayne and wound south to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which is totally worth the drive. Entrance to the Park is $5. We parked and darted to the beach (also awarded a “best beach” status), which wasn’t nearly as crowded as Lincoln Road Beach. Then I saw it: the lighthouse.

I had to climb it.

We hustled back out into the parking lot and around to the entrance for the lighthouse. As we approached, it slowly revealed itself.

Almost there…

We rushed to the door and raced up the 119 stairs to the top. On the way up, there were several windows to peer through. From some windows, you could see the ocean…

…from others, you could see the Keeper’s Cottage below.

Finally on top, we gazed out at the Atlantic Ocean.

In the distance, you can see some small buildings on the water. This is Stiltsville, a small collection of “shacks” in the flats of Biscayne Bay, built in the 1920s. These well-known landmarks are in danger of being torn down.

The view looking back at Miami. Uh… not so pretty.

The original lighthouse and cottage, built in 1825, were attacked and burned in 1836 by Seminole warriors protesting U.S. presence in the South Florida wilderness and resisting deportation from Florida to the West. Both structures were rebuilt in 1855. You can guess what happened to the Seminoles.

Looking down was exciting… but somewhat disorienting.

Nearby, a sea kayaker was enjoying the area’s lack of waves.

We clambered back down the steps and walked over to the Keeper’s Cottage.

Inside the cottage, you can watch a short film about the life of a Cottage Keeper.

If you’re in Miami, and you have a car and a free afternoon, I definitely recommend a trip to Key Biscayne. Although the Village doesn’t have that casual, anything-goes feeling shared by the rest of the Keys, the Park and beaches are beautiful, and there are plenty of opportunities for either beach-y adventure activities OR for just sitting on the sand.

Despite the beautiful day, the great beaches, and the fresh air, however, it was time to leave. We still had another stop to make! And it was bound to be the most fun — and the most unusual — yet!

Previously: Weekend In Miami: The Venetian Pool

Weekend In Miami: The Venetian Pool

After enjoying our fine cafe con leches in Little Havana, we decided to get some exercise. Though we had visited the beach the day before, we wanted to test the waters of the Venetian Pool. I know, it sounds weird to visit a pool when you’re in Miami. However, this isn’t just any pool. The Venetian Pool is “world’s most beautiful swimming hole.”

Originally a coral rock quarry, in the 1920s the Venetian Pool was converted into a swimming pool. Today, it’s filled with 820,000 gallons of cool — and I mean cool! — spring water. Featuring two waterfalls, as well as coral caves and grottos you can swim through, this isn’t just the “world’s most beautiful swimming hole” — it’s the world’s coolest swimming hole.

Located in Coral Gables, the Pool is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Playing host to thousands of families and visitors who want to swim in artesian water and pretend — if only for a while — that they’re on a movie set, the Pool is a great way to kill a few hours under the glare of the Miami sun.

Upon entering, visitors enter a small foyer celebrating the history of the Pool.

Thereafter, the building opens up into an expansive courtyard…

…and, of course, the Pool itself. There’s a small island on which people may lounge.

But the focal point of the Pool is definitely the large waterfall in the corner.

The Pool is so big that there are plenty of places to splash and play and not bother other people. In fact, during its heyday, visitors to the site enjoyed gondola rides! Entire orchestras surrounded the Pool, serenading poolside dancers and visiting dignitaries.

Don’t feel like swimming? There’s a good-sized beach on one side of the pool for relaxing.

My favorite part of the Pool is the caves you can swim through. Situated right below where I’m standing when I took this photo…

… the caves are so cool, I spent most of my time in them. I even shot this short video. Come with me on my tour of the caves.

Don’t like caves? Here’s a 360-degree look at the Pool — from inside the Pool.

If you want to chill out in Miami but the beach isn’t your bag, this is the coolest place in town to kick it.

Now that we were cooled off, it was time to do some more sight-seeing. Biscayne Bay, anyone?

Previously: Weekend In Miami: Calle Ocho & The Hunt For The Perfect Cafe Con Leche