When Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas and Edward James Olmos put the city on front exposure, sent chills down the viewers' spines and started a whole new love for alligators, Miami was still in the infancy of the greatest town on Earth. While revolutionizing the way men dressed and the way cops acted, the TV series Miami Vice showed how rundown and desperate the city by the sea was back in the '80s.
Then Miami became slicker, meaner and a lot more hyper than the cute little retirees place it was 30 years ago. Same drugs, same cops, same beautiful bodies in skimpy attire, but the town has evolved into a huge non-stop city, always fabulously gleaming in the sun, but with the increased road traffic that comes with a whole lot more people. The Miami makeover will never end, but now that flashy pink is back in style, the licked image of the city shows a very chic urban oasis, with still a lot of models, a lot more movie stars, fashion photographers, and of course, the paparazzi.
Celebrities like Miami (and they love SOBE); it's more relaxed than LA, friendlier than New York, saner than Vegas, less uptight than Palm Beach; more fun, more sun, more glam, and definitely more design than any other city, with the most incredible architectural alignment in the USA. This is after all the loft capital of the planet, with over 100 skyscrapers along Biscayne Boulevard alone.
The elegant and crowd-pleaser happenings that the Art Basel art fair has offered for the past 11 years to buyers, sellers, and collectors make all major figures of the art world converging under the sun for four days in December, when it's cold everywhere else, for their fix of art, culture, fashion and food. The gigantic event has allowed many new hotels, bars, restaurants and beautiful people (and rich ones too) to come and soak the experience. Finally, Miami is on the map for other reasons than lame visuals and dangerous dealings.
A little history of Miami: Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was the first settler from Europe moving into Florida among the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes. Then the French showed up, and again the Spanish, who fought the English attackers several times, to finally give up to the Brits, and exchange Florida for Cuba, some deal.
Some settlers have tried and tried again to tame the wild and wet expanse of land that forms the marshy peninsula; they saw the potential but moved up the coast anyways to seek higher dryer grounds. Finally in 1821, the U.S. took over and that was it.
In 1881 Henry Lum cleared out most of Miami Beach in the hope of growing coconuts, but when that did not work, he left with the cocos, the nuts are still there.
As history shows, the Brickells, the Deerings, the Tuttles and the Flaglers knew already that Miami and the beaches would one day have an international airport with purple carpet, and a cool look to attract visitors.
The main attraction in town is still Miami Beach, located east of inland Greater Miami, with SOBE the bottom part at the tip of the long tongue of narrow sand stretching from 100th street, down to First Street. Miami Beach is linked to the mainland by five causeways anchored to the sea floor.
The Tropical Art Deco buildings from the 1940s and '50s are still there, although sometimes only the outside facades remain of the thousands of small edifices in the rectangle officially named the Art Deco District, between 15th Street to the North, First Street to the South, and from Biscayne Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.
Pastel colors and classic deco architecture houses are now drowned amidst gigantic steel and glass towers, making them look like pillboxes or weddings cakes. One wonders how the whole city does not sink to the bottom of the ocean under the enormous weight of the humongous structures.
Government Cut (where the land stops to the South) has great views of unusual proportion as you can watch giant cruise ships floating by on their way to somewhere, taller than some buildings, you may lose your bearings just watching them float by.
Ocean Drive is the main drag alongside the ocean, but a buffer of dunes and large wavy sidewalk makes it impossible to see the Atlantic waters from the street level. Second stories are the key to a view.
SOBE by night is a sight in itself: teen models on skyscrapers-heels, beautiful males of every color, great music blaring through the clubs' open doors. Some have red velvet ropes, to indicate that you need to know someone who knows someone to be able to get in, or if you simply wear the trendiest designer outfit you might get in as well.
If you must see the steps where Italian designer Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997, the Italian villa sits at 1116 Ocean Dr.
Temperatures in Miami are warm in the spring, hot and humid in the summer, hot in the fall, and warm again in the winter. Some welcome days of chill may happen around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but as a general rule, the weather is always nice. Hurricane season stretches from June 1 to November 1. The ocean waters are carefully watched by eager lifeguards perched on top of pastel-colored wood shacks, and color-coded flags let swimmers know if they can dip or not. Unsafe conditions range from rip currents to bacteria, from jellyfish infection to shark sightings (pretty rare.)
English and Spanish are the spoken languages, if you don't speak Spanish but can learn the phrase "no entiendo'', people will know to speak English to you.
Miami is no longer a fun-in-the-sun little resort town, but a giant metropolis, very welcoming, and always in need of love, life and alligators named Elvis.