The Perfect Miami Weekend Vacation Guide
“Party in the city where the heat is on! All night on the beach til the break of dawn! Welcome to Miami! Bienvenido a Miami!”Every time I go to on a Miami vacation I still sing this song in my head! It is such a classic song! So this post in part of my Mini Vacation Series! The point of this series is to give some ideas of some nice spots to do a mini vacation (less than a week) at if you do not have a lot of time or money. My husband and I love to vacation and see a lot of nice spots. Some may think we spend a lot of money, but I am really good about finding deals and ways to have a nice time without spending a whole lot of money.Miami is one of my favorite vacation spots! It is actually not because of what most people love about Miami (clubs, parties, etc). I love that it is such a melting pot of people from all over the world. Many Europeans and Latin countries vacation and live there so as you walk down the streets you hear several of accents! Sometimes I hear people talk about Miami in a negative way especially when I tell people I am going there simply because South Beach is known of being a bit risk-ay! But there is more to Miami other than South Beach. I actually don’t spend the majority of my time in South Beach. There are other areas of Miami that are beautiful and worth visiting and I will discuss it here in this post. Our stay in Miami was just 3 days after doing a mini cruise to the Bahamas which you can read all about our first cruise experience here.
One of the tips I always give people when you want to go in Miami is to fly into Fort Lauderdale (FLL)! The flights are usually about $100 cheaper flying out of here versus flying in to Miami and rental car prices are slightly cheaper as well. Also Miami International airport is not my preferred airport. It is so much busier and I had delays coming out of this airport as well.
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to South Beach is about 30 minutes on I-95. However my preferred way to get to South Beach upon arrival is the “scenic route”. Ever since my sister and I first went to Miami we love taking A1A/US1 all the way down to South Beach. It adds another 15min but it’s the street where you can see all the high rise condos, expensive hotels, boats etc! We would turn on Miami radio which plays that Miami flair of Latin songs and roll down the window and enjoy the views!
TRAVEL TIP: If you fly international a lot and racked up bunch of miles, you can use those miles for flights to Fort Lauderdale or Miami. For our dates, it was $12,500 miles each way on American Airlines. If you only have enough for a one way ticket, you can still get it and look for one way options on Spirit Airlines, Virgin America or Southwest Airlines. American Airlines can sometimes have reasonable priced one way ticket but Spirit and Southwest or Virgin America would be your best option and all through only fly into Fort Lauderdale as well. SPIRIT AIRLINES TIP: Try going to the airport on a Tuesday or Wednesday and see what the flight prices are showing there. I have saved 50% our flights booking it at the airport vs online.
RENTAL CAR & PARKING IN SOUTH BEACH
You can also use miles to get your rental car as well by going to www.useaamiles.com. We opted to use our miles for our lodging and booked our rental car using the Priceline app. By using the app, you can see deeper savings vs what you see online and when you sign up they always send you coupons for you to use as well. You will read that many people say that in Miami you do not need a rental car and just take a taxi, which may be true but I am an explorer and I like the convenience of having my own car to get to different areas. After a while, Uber and taxi fares add up and then when you compare, it would have been better to just have the rental car instead. Our 3 day rental price was $104 (+ $10 for Sun Pass for tollway) with tax for a standard size which is really good! Sometimes depending on the period it can be more. Parking is a downside in Miami. It is sooo expensive in South Beach and Downtown Miami including the meters are expensive. There are two apps that you can download for parking in lots or meters which is Parkmobile or PayByPhone. The further north in Miami you go, the cheaper parking is….like a difference between $3 an hour to $1 an hour.
MIAMI, FLORIDA HOTEL
Where you should book a hotel is dependent on what do you want to get out of your trip. If you want something more calm and relaxing but still beach, then I would stay north Miami area near 69th and Collins! which is actually the beach we prefer. The water is calmer and less crowded. If you want the party scene, then south beach near Ocean Drive is your area! If you want less crowded, a bit more calmer but still nice views with close access to fine dining and chic areas, I would such downtown Miami and Brickell area. We used our AA miles for our hotel stay and American Airlines provided a wide range of hotel options and some very nice for not a whole lot of miles.
We chose the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club on Collins Avenue in South Beach which was one block north of the famous Lincoln Road Mall. I had enough miles to get the whole stay free but was willing to pay miles and cash to save some miles for my next trip. So the stay would cost us 21,000 miles and I only used 17,000 and paid $30. TRAVEL TIP: You can use American Airlines miles to discount hotel or car rental stays. This way you can save miles for another occasion. You can read my full review of the hotel here! We had a nice stay here and one nice feature that you can read about is how they offer 1 hour of Happy Hour for FREE at this hotel and all their sister hotels too and it has a rooftop pool! You can read the full review of the Catalina Hotel here.
THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI
- Bayside Marketplace – This is the area in Downtown Miami off the bay where you can shop, eat and listen to live music. Many people come here to also hang out before the cruise departs which is exactly what we did!
- Thriller Miami Speedboat Tour – If you want that fast action, Miami Vice feel then the definitely do the Thriller Miami! I have done it twice and I love it! It is a great way to enjoy Miami and see celebrity homes while zooming down the bay with the music pumping.
- Brickell – I love this little area Miami as well full of entertainment, music and restaurants. Blue Martini is a great spot for drinks and live music!
- Coral Gables – Great stop for fine dining, shopping for a world class tropical feel! A very classy area that must be visited! You can also find the famous Bitmore hotel here too!
- South Pointe Park – This is a great spot to walk on the pier and relax and watch the cruise boats sail by at sunset! (see photo above) It is also a less crowded area of the beach which you can usually find models and brands doing photo shoots here. They also have restaurants along the water so you can enjoy an appetizer as you enjoy the amazing view and sunset!
- Key Biscayne – Island Village near Miami with great views, beach and view of the Miami skyline
- Lincoln Road Mall – Outdoor mall full of shops and boutiques and restaurants. I love it here to walk around and do a little shopping and people watch.
- Espanola Way – Nice area where it has a Spanish feel on 15th and Washington that is full of restaurant, shops and live entertainment at night.
MIAMI RESTAURANTS & BARS
Miami is full of restaurants and bars! One thing to keep in mina watch out for is in South Beach especially on Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road they automatically put a 20% gratuity on your tab. Here are a full favorite restaurants and one alert.
- Ceviche 105– Peruvian cuisine with award winning ceviche!!
- Juvia Miami – The rooftop view and atmosphere is amazing! This is our #1 spot to visit when we are in Miami. The price point is pricey but we usually just get an appetizer for the experience. One thing when we travel is we don’t let expensive restaurants scare us too much. If we find an awesome restaurant with a view, we just have a drink and share an appetizer or dessert. There is nothing wrong with that!
- Toscano Divino – Great authentic Italian food in Brickell area! The price point is reasonable also!
- Sushi Samba – I love this spot! It is a fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine! It is in the heart of Lincoln Road Mall and has great sushi! I love getting a table outside to people watch! My favorite drink here is the Samba juice! You gotta try it!!
- Cala Café Miami– I am actually putting this one on here NOT for you to go and eat here but to BEWARE!! The service here was ok and I wished we would have read the online reviews before coming here. They really do rip you off. Advertise 50% off the surf and turf (which was really good) but then then jack up the price. I asked the hostess that we were not really hungry and we wanted to share something small so we can go swim. She told us to get the Surf & Turf which would have been $55 each but half would be $27.50. I asked specifically are we required to order to or can we really just order one and split. She stated we can order one and split. We explained the exact thing to the waiter and we got our food it seemed a lot for one portion. The Italian waiter stated “well if I ordered one it would not be enough food for two so he ordered two instead.” We were sooo upset that we actually didn’t know what to do. We explained to him what we wanted and he just stood there. Thank goodness the food was actually good but just be very careful here. I do not think we will come back.
Restaurant Tip: If a restaurant price point is too high but you want to enjoy the amazing view, just go for a cocktail and split an appetizer like we do! You will get the same experience without putting a hole in your wallet!
- Area 31 Restaurants (Epic Hotel) – Happy Hour with amazing views (photo above)
- Juvia – Appetizer or Dinner with amazing view and live relaxing DJ
- Mango’s Miami or for a less Risk-ay crowd go to Mango’s in Fort Lauderdale (Las Olas)
- Bayside Night Party Cruise – Take a 90 minute party boat cruise with DJ and enjoy the views of Miami on the bay
- Seminole Hard Rock Café & Casino – Free to get in and full of shops, restaurant a Casino.
- Ocean Drive – Many of the restaurants and bars turn into clubs and lounges at night! If clubs are not your thing, then just walking down ocean drive to people walk can be sometimes nice.
- Dance Clubs – Miami is full of dance clubs and popular night clubs like LIV. Clubbing is not really my thing but you can click here on some choices!
I hope this travel post helps you with your next Miami vacation plans! I keep coming back again and again! Don’t forget to stay tuned to the full review of the hotel we stayed at Catalina Hotel & Beach Club!