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Transcript: Miami Vacations

Mark Ellwood answered your questions February 17, 2004

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New York, NY: My friends and I are going to South Beach for the music conference. Can you recommend us a good place to stay, which is not far from all the action, has an affordable price, and has decent quality standard? Please, also mention some good places to eat and must see clubs. We are flying into Ft. Lauderdale and are not sure what is the best and cheapest way to get to South Beach.

Mark Ellwood: The cheapest way to South Beach from Lauderdale for a group is definitely to hire a car: rates are very reasonable in Florida, and most firms offer pretty similar prices.

Aside from Townhouse & Albion, another funky, cheap option is Aqua, on Collins & 15th - it's a remodeled motel with concrete floors & modernist, brightly colored decor.

Must-see clubs? Well, Mynt is a good bar/club hybrid -- Miami's a place where clubs are often bars or restaurants earlier in the evening. Everyone's looking out for the opening of Mansion, where the legendary Level used to be, though there's no firm date yet; ditto Rok Bar, next to Mynt - it's co-owned by Tommy Lee & won't be a dance music place, but sounds like a really cool hangout.
As for eating, I love David's Cafe, the cheap Cuban off Lincoln Road; and there's a fantastic hidden gem further up the beach if you want to get away from the crowds - Cafe Prima Pasta on 71st St is a real local's favorite, cheap, fantastic Italian food.

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Anonymous: If you were visiting Miami for only 2 days, what sites would you be sure not to miss?

Mark Ellwood: Must sees?
1. The Holocaust Memorial on South Beach, which is one of the most moving, disturbing such memorials anywhere
2. Dawn on Ocean Drive: it's so full of people these days that the only time you can really amble & enjoy it is before the crowds tumble out of bed. And the light at that time shows exactly why all the photographers loved Miami so much in the early 1990s.
3. A stroll down Lincoln Road to see the locals strutting.
4. A trip to the mainland - the real action these days is migrating to a new strip north of downtown called the Biscayne Corridor: go to the Design District to see the Living Room building, an office that's been built to look like someone's living room (hence the name) and see all the trendy stores there. Then grab lunch at Dogma hot dog stand at 73rd & Biscayne.

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Pickering, Ontario: We would like to take a trip to Miami during mid-March during spring break, but we are over 50 and looking for a bargain that doesn't include a lot of 'party animals' from the high school and college set. What would you recommend? Also, just because we're over 50 doesn't mean we don't like to dance, etc., but we do want to be beach bums with a little ambience, without the price tag. Think in terms of the movie "10", rather than "Animal House" for this ROAD TRIP! Please advise. Thanks!

Mark Ellwood: It's quite simple to avoid the Animal House action now. Most of the raucous, rowdy bars are crowded along Ocean Drive south of 14th street, so stay away from there & you should be fine. The Roney Palace hotel at 23rd & Collins has lovely, large rooms plus balconies; or on the mainland, you could try the Miami River Inn in Little Havana, which is a cluster of houses turned into a B&B, decked in lovely old furniture and with very friendly, helpful owners. For the beach, just get in a car and head to Haulover Park at 104th on Miami Beach: it's primarily known as a nude beach, but there are plenty of sections there for anyone who prefers to keep their costume on, and the sand's frankly much nicer than down south. Or head over to Key Biscayne to one of the parks there, which are always less crowded.

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Spickard, MO: My husband and another couple are flying to Miami this next coming week. Please give us a heads up on reasonable, but nice places to go to have a nice supper. Then also be sure and let us know the places we must go to see. We will be staying at the Trump Sonesta and they say they have a shuttle bus service, but should we rent a car? Thank you for your time.

Mark Ellwood: I would definitely rent a car from Trump Sonesta - it's a lovely resort in Sunny Isles, but you'll feel you can zip around to the sights more easily with a car of your own.

For a wonderful old time Miami diner experience, you don't have to go far though: the Rascal House at 171st and Collins is the diner that time forgot, staffed by the same people for the last 50 years. Fantastic for breakfast.
As for dinner, treat yourselves at Tambo on 18th & Purdy Ave - it's Asian/Peruvian fusion, but the food's fantastic and the wine list impressive. And Cafe Prima Pasta's not far away either -- again, great place for a lovely supper.

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