Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cruising From Miami

In 2015 nearly 4.9 million passengers embarked on their cruise through the Port of Miami.  No wonder it is known worldwide as the "Cruise Capital of the World!" You too may one day pass cruising from Miami, and if you find yourself with some hours to kill before or after your cruise, allow me to make a few suggestions as to how you can spend your time.

Everyone has heard of South Beach. Clear blue water, white sand beaches, gourmet restaurants, trendy art galleries and a buzzing nightlife…the options are limitless! You can spend the whole day shopping at boutiques, relaxing at an opulent spa or just strolling along Ocean Drive admiring the iconic Art Deco architecture. Or rent some beach chairs at Lummus Park, which runs roughly from Sixth Street to 14th Street. Here you'll find white sand, beautiful water, volleyball nets and lots of people-watching opportunities.

Can’t get enough of fabulous architecture? The Villa Vizcaya in Miami is a National Historic Landmark that provides a window into the elegant Miami of the early 20th century, when Vizcaya was a private estate. Agricultural industrialist James Deering, who wintered on the property from 1916-1925, built the villa.  Designed in Mediterranean Revival and Italian Renaissance styles, Vizcaya was created to resemble a typical Italian villa. Today, the house, including its expansive gardens, is a museum and major Miami attraction.

If you were looking for a quiet and peaceful way to spend the afternoon I would recommend a visit to the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux.  It has a rather crazy history. Built in A.D. 1133 in northern Spain, monks inhabited it for nearly 700 years but after a revolution in the 1830s, the monastery was taken over and sold. In 1925 it was purchased by an American businessman and shipped to the U.S. The monastery was rebuilt and reopened to the public in 1964 as a not so popular tourist attraction!  Thank goodness it was then sold to a local diocese and was turned into a church. Definitely worth a visit to admire the monasteries beautiful architecture and its surrounding gardens.

A family favorite, the Miami MetroZoo is one of the best zoos in the nation. Southern Florida climate allows it to keep a wide variety of animals from Asia, Australia and Africa like no other zoo in the country. It is the only tropical zoo in the continental United States. It is a free-range zoo, meaning the exhibits are entirely cageless. Animals are grouped according to their geographic territory and animals that live together peacefully in the wild are placed in exhibits together. Moats and other natural barriers separate predators and prey. Even the trees and foliage imitate the native habitat of the animals.

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