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Transcript: Miami Vacations

Mark Ellwood answered your questions February 17, 2004

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St. Simons Island, GA: I saw and taped the Today Show recently with travel tips. It was great and informative, but I am a single mother with a 6-year-old. I know about the all famous trips for kids; in fact, I plan to go for a Disney cruise next year, but have a hard time thinking of a kid-friendly trip or getaway. My husband and I went on some great trips (he is now deceased) and eventually I will take her to some of them: Montana, Hawaii, Maine, etc. Can you guide me now on where to look for kid-friendly trips other than Walt Disney, cruises, etc.? Anything else out there that is also good for kids? Thanks.

Mark Ellwood: Check out singleparenttours.com-- it's a company that runs trips expressly for parents who'll be traveling solo with kids. Not sure when they're planning a Miami trip, but they certainly offer sun & beach vacations.

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New York, NY: Where, in your opinion, is the best sushi in South Beach?

Mark Ellwood: I love Bond Street's sushi - it's in the basement of the Townhouse hotel on 20th St, and the rolls are really, really good - especially some of the vegetarian options. What's even nicer is that it's a scene, but not a crazy one. Otherwise, Tambo's also an option on Purdy Ave.

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New York, NY: What makes Miami more appealing than the Caribbean and is it safe?

Mark Ellwood: Firstly, Miami is now as safe (if not more so) than any other big city in America. The tourist violence which really plagued it during the early 1990s is gone - certainly, you have to pay attention in some areas, but that's no different from NY, Chicago or LA. If you stay on the beach, you should be fine wherever you go.

I think Miami's distinct appeal is its schizophrenic personality. Downtown, where you'll hear more Spanish spoken on the streets than English, could be in any Central American country; while there's a vibrant Haitian community on Biscayne Boulevard north of 50th street (the signs there will be in English & Creole). There are growing groups of Nicaraguans and Dominicans, as well as the long time Jewish community. In that way, it's thrillingly mixed and mixed up place. In many Caribbean resorts, you'll go simply for the sand & sun - in Miami, there's so much more.

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Anonymous: I'm flying into Miami on Thursday night and will be driving to the Keys on Friday morning, then returning to Miami on Monday to fly home Tuesday morning. Any suggestions for: 1) a place to stay Thursday night with a great view of sunrise and 2) things not to miss during some free time on Monday and Monday night? Thanks!

Mark Ellwood: Wow. Quick visit. The Keys are fantastic though.
Here's a couple of thoughts: the Pelican Hotel on Ocean Drive is great fun, and has good views from its beachfront rooms. But if you're brave enough to stay somewhere other than the beach, try the Grove Inn Guesthouse near Homestead - the owners are lovely, and it will mean you'll break your drive into equal halves.

Things not to miss? Aside from everything else I've mentioned, try eating at Yambo in Little Havana - it's a Nicaraguan place that seems as if it was shipped wholesale (customers included) from Nicaragua. Fantastic, so cheap and buzzing any night even Monday.

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Atlanta, GA: I am taking a group of 150 21 to 35-year-olds on a cruise in November that leaves out of Miami on Sunday the 7th. Most of us will be flying in on Friday the 5th to hang out and see the Miami sights. For our age group, what do you think would be an ideal (and not very expensive) hotel to stay at? In what area of town? Also, what clubs would you recommend contacting to see if we can get group rates on bringing our group there? Gracias.

Mark Ellwood: 150 people is a lot - and most of the hotels in Miami are boutique sized. I'd recommend contacting the Loews Hotel on Collins, close to Lincoln Road - it's large enough to house your group, and you should be able to negotiate a good discount.

Club-wise, things change so rapidly, and frankly a lot of promoters won't worry about discounting to get you there on a weekend. I'd check the larger places like Crobar, which is terrific & really cool, despite being open for several years; or the new place Mansion I mentioned, as that should be quite large & good for groups.

Check newtimes.com closer to the time to see what's opened up (and closed) - 9 months is a lifetime in nightlife as far as Miami's concerned!

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