The palm-fringed Art Deco hotels and glitzy Ocean Drive familiar from the movies and fashion magazines are actually across Biscayne Bay on the island of Miami Beach, so stay at a hotel in the South Beach neighborhood where a lot of the fun is an easy walk away.
Slather on the sunscreen and go for a swim in the ocean. Stroll the white sand beach on the east side of Ocean Drive, and check out the goofily coloured lifeguard stands.
Walk the streets. Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue are lined with colorful Art Deco hotels housing patio cafes and boutiques. Learn more at the Art Deco Welcome Center at 1001 Ocean Drive. Gawk at the ornate mansion where Italian designer Gianni Versace was murdered at 1116 Ocean Drive. Leer at the World Erotic Art Museum at 1205 Washington. When your feet give out, pay 25 cents and hop onto the South Beach Local bus, which circles the southern end of Miami Beach.
Stroll through South Pointe Park at the tip of the island and go to Monty’s South Beach overlooking the marina at 300 Alton Road. Sit at a picnic table under the thatched roof and watch the sun set over the Miami city skyline across the bay.
Go to Joe’s Stone Crab at 11 Washington Avenue for exquisite crustaceans and mustard sauce. If you don’t want to bribe the maitre d’, skip the long wait for a table by getting take-out.
Stroll and ogle on Ocean Drive. This neon-lit party street will be closed to traffic during Super Bowl weekend but delivers great people-watching any time, and the party lasts all night. Cap it off with a game of pool at a cheap and friendly dive, Club Deuce on 14th Street.
Haul yourself out of bed and head south on US 1 to Key Largo for some snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. If you can float, you can snorkel, so plunge in and admire the vibrantly colored fish in this protected sanctuary. Allow at least 90 minutes for the drive and give yourself time to rent your gear before catching the 9 a.m. tour boat that will take you out to the shallow reefs. There are afternoon boats but the seas are calmest in the morning.
On the way back, veer onto the Card Sound Road and stop at Alabama Jack’s for conch fritters, a fresh fish sandwich and Old Florida atmosphere at this open-air restaurant on the water. Live country music starts in the early afternoon. 58000 Card Sound Road.
Drive north and west to Everglades National Park, entering at the Shark Valley Loop Road, and take a two-hour tram tour through the River of Grass with park rangers to brief you on the alligators, exotic plants and wading birds. Or rent a bicycle and explore on your own, from a paved 25km loop path. This is a swamp, best seen in the dry winter months and avoided in the steamy summertime.
After a shower and a nap, dine on classic Cuban food at Versailles, the noisy heart of the Cuban exile community at 3555 Calle Ocho in Miami, or sample the Asian-influenced grouper and mahi mahi at Pacific Time in Miami’s Design District, 35 NE 40th Street.
There are plenty of cavernous clubs but the more intimate Jazid, at 1342 Washington Avenue on Miami Beach, has live music that runs the gamut from Latin, jazz, funk, son, soul, hip hop, reggae and every possible blend.
Stroll Lincoln Road, the cafe-lined pedestrian mall that traverses South Beach and is popular with dog walkers, skateboarders and buskers. Buy fresh fruit and homemade jam at the farmer’s market. Browse at Books and Books, 927 Lincoln Road, then brunch on seared tuna nicoise salad or tropical shrimp salad with mango at the bookstore’s sidewalk restaurant.
If you don’t have Super Bowl tickets, catch a movie or take in a performance by the New World Symphony on Lincoln Road. Then stroll down to David’s 24-hour Cuban cafe near Meridian and fuel yourself with some hot, sweet Cuban coffee, the strongest stimulant you can buy legally on the streets.