Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break Guide: Miami

Derrik Chinn, travel planner extraordinaire and owner of Tijuana tour company, Turista Libre curated six Spring Break guides for Made to Last. He is our featured guest blogger and is giving tips and tricks for all of the hottest Spring Break destinations. This week we are featuring Austin, Texas..


When talking up Miami, with its ivory beaches, taut beach bodies, eternally tepid ocean temps and urban patchwork of sun-bleached pastels, what's to be said for the palmy oasis that simultaneously serves as home sweet home for Univision telenovela stars, countless Midwestern grandmothers and Brooke Hogan? Lil' Kim's poignant epiphany arguably wins:

"You can't come to Miami and not show any skin. You gotta show something. If you're all covered up in this heat, you're gonna make me pass out just to look at you."

She's right. What can we say. There's no way we're topping that. Bienvenido a Miami.

Beach breakdown. South Beach is for showing off your all those hours you've been clocking at the gym. Bill Baggs comes with an optional side of history via the nearby 1825 lighthouse. Virginia Key is easily accessible but spotted with secluded spots. North Beach, South Beach and Surfside are for surfing. Haulover Beach is for birthday suits.

South Beach's Art Deco District. The first 20th century neighborhood to make the National Register of Historic Places, more than 800 architectural gems -- mostly hotels -- dating to the 1920s, '30s and '40s are spread over some 30 blocks, from Fifth Street to the south and Dade Boulevard to the north. Walking tours depart the welcome center (1200 Ocean Drive) daily.

South Beach's Art Deco District

Coral Castle. No one's really sure how a 5-foot, 100-pound hermit carved more than 1,000 tons of oolite limestone into his own personal palace using only homemade hand tools. When asked how he managed to move the massive stones, the largest of which weighs in at 30 tons, Edward Leedskalnin claimed to know the secrets used to build the pyramids, and that accomplishing such a feat isn't "difficult if you know how." He died in 1951, long before anyone could coax him into a "Single-handed Megastructures For Dummies" book deal. The castle, 25 miles south of Miami, remains one of America's unexplainable architectural marvels.

Venetian swim party. Pretend you're in Caesar's bathtub at this 820,000-gallon pool in Coral Gables. Carved out of a coral rock quarry in 1923, the grottoes, pillars, waterfalls and other nods to Mediterranean architecture have it on par with a Roman temple. But what's really heavenly at a high-traffic like this is that all 820,000 gallons are filled and drained daily with fresh spring water from a subterranean aquifer.

The Venetian Pool at Coral Gables

Fruity spice. Buy your mom something nice at the Fruit & Spice Park in Homestead, a 37-acre mega-garden that grows 500 fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, nuts and exotic edibles (i.e. things you never knew you could actually eat but it turns out you can, which isn't to say you'd necessarily actually want to). Open to the public and the only one of its kind in the U.S., the park's mango department, appropriately dubbed Mango Row, harvests 160 varieties of the fruit alone.

Alligator Dundee. More than 2,000 Everglades Alligator Farm, southern Florida's oldest reserve of its kind. Located on the edge of the Everglades National Park, the farm offers in-house shows and group hovercraft tours through the wetlands. Get over your herpetophobia with baby gator show-and-tell, finally figure out the difference between alligators and crocodiles (the Everglades are the only place on the planet where both are found in the wild), and save some shock and awe for the grand finale: feeding time.

After dark. Body warehouse Club Space and Cameo, a renovated cinema, both play host to DJ superstars. Even though it's been around since 1926, Mac's Club Deuce, with its neon-pink naked lady lights and two-for-one, early-morning drink specials, is a fresh breath of dive bar stank in South Beach's increasingly bottle-service-only zone. Bocce ball and $1 beers are at Jimbo's, a semi-hidden band of shacks on Virginia Key that sounds on par with drinking in papaw's rec room.

Dance the night away at Cameo

Deco rates. It's not every day you find yourself in a vintage Art Deco mecca such as Miami, nor is it every night you have the chance to sleep under its roof. More than 10 hotels scatter the district, most of which date to the mid-1930s but underwent renovations in the later half of the 20th century. The five-story Clevelander totes a poolside bar and a rooftop lounge. The Park Central often housed Hollywood glitterati like Clark Gable and Rita Hayworth. The Raleigh Hotel pool is no stranger to fame either, having logged silver screen moments with Esther Williams in the '40s and in the '90s airtime on MTV's The Grind.,,