A Long Summer Weekend in Miami

July 10, 2018




Summer weather hit the East coast pretty late this year, so we only started getting the 90 degree heat waves just a few short weeks ago. I bet you I wasn't the only one looking forward to fully switching my wardrobe over to shorts and dresses without constantly being unsure of whether I would need my thick sweater one day or tank the next. While finally being blessed with beach weather is great, it also comes with long, sweaty waits on subway platforms and that constant, icky feeling of stickiness walking in a sea of locals and tourists in NYC. Last July 4th, I spent my evening sitting on a plane coming home to New York from San Francisco, and I actually got to see all the fireworks light up the sky during my flight, which was a pretty cool experience. This time around, I wanted to spend my holiday week in a different city since my firm gave us the entire week of July 4th off this year and I had some Delta skymiles to burn. While I actually spent the day of the 4th back at home in NYC with friends and my boyfriend and the second half of the week working remotely, I had such a fun few days in Miami with one of my close childhood friends (and current roommate), Crystal, to ring in the month of July! I have flown to Miami once a couple of years ago in order to board a cruise to the Bahamas with some friends, but I've never had the chance to explore this city until this time around. Here is what we managed to see in our few days in the Magic City.


One (obvious) last thing - If you can't take the heat, DON'T go to Miami in July! While we had gorgeous and practically rain-free weather every day during our visit, we were melting in the high heat and humidity. I got a great tan though, so thanks Miami!


The Crib: Room Mate Lord Balfour

While there are tons of affordable hotel and Airbnb options to choose from in Miami, Crystal and I decided on South Beach early in our trip planning because we wanted to have the beach in our backyard and a fun home base to come back to during the day. Room Mate Lord Balfour was perfect in terms of location and price and we were able to get anywhere we wanted and back without any issues. Best of all, we were one block away from the beach and right on Ocean Drive for optimal nighttime adventures.


South Beach

When I think Miami, I think South Beach! There is without a doubt an air of luxe and glamour here, as beautiful and wealthy people from all over the world come here to party it up and relax on the beach (on repeat). Since we stayed right in the heart of South Beach close to the ocean, we were really in a great location to walk along Ocean Drive, tan on the white, sandy beaches, and explore South Point Pier at sunset. There are also tons of great restaurants in SoBe and many shops, from local boutiques to large fashion chains. Add in some of the most popular workout classes in town, and you're sure to never be bored even if you don't leave South Beach your entire trip!



Ocean Drive

Iconic Beach views, boutique beach shops, giant martinis, and pastel Art Deco buildings and hotels. You'll find all that and much more on the famous Miami Ocean Drive. If you're ever sick of soaking in the rays at the beach and want a change of scenery, be sure to walk from 1st Street to 15th Street on Ocean Drive for a great time and endless entertainment. The mornings are quiet and peaceful for that cup of Joe and for that sunrise run along the lush palm trees lining the street. But the fun really comes when Ocean Drive lights up with great nightlife when the sun goes down. I really can't think of a better place to people watch over a giant cocktail with some friends!


Wynwood Walls

As a content creator with a passion for traveling and discovering new cities, I am often bookmarking places that I see on social media that inspire me enough to want to visit. Wynwood Walls has showed up in my multiple newsfeeds for as long as I could remember, and I knew that someday I would come and take my picture there too! I have visited the Berlin Wall just short of 3 years ago, which is the closest thing I can compare Wynwood to, but it's also interesting to learn about Wynwood's own unique history. Wynwood was once a warehouse district with a large stock of windowless buildings, the perfect canvas for street art and wall graffiti. Since its inceptionin 2009, the Wynwood Walls program has seen over 50 artists representing 16 countries and have covered over 80,000 square feet of walls.


Each wall has a unique story behind it, and the funnest part about visit Wynwood Walls and wandering through the district is discovering new art and making your own interpretations.


Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Located on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Vizcaya is a large private estate that was built from 1914 to 1917 for millionaire James Deering. The villa and estate was originally a whopping 180 acres, though only 50 acres eventually was sold to Miami-Dade County in 1952 for $1 million. After much restoration over the years, Vizcaya was eventually designated a National Historic landmark in 1994. Along with the beautiful architecture of the buildings is an equally impressive surrounding landscape. The 10-acre gardens of the property were designed by Columbian-born landscape architect, Diego Suarez, who had previously studied on the outskirts of Florence, Italy. His European schooling influenced him to adapt a classical European and Baroque landscape design for the Vizcaya escape in a way that fit it's tropical location in Miami.


Having spent a lot of time in Europe over the last couple of years, I really appreciated visiting this gorgeous estate, reading about what life used to be like at Vizcaya, learning about the history of the rooms, and admiring the building architecture and manicured gardens outside.


Regular admission is $18 for adults, but if you have a student I.D., you can get in the door for only $10.



Paddle Boarding

We didn't have too much time in Miami, so Crystal and I made the executive decision to go paddleboarding over kayaking or taking a river cruise. We bought some cheap Groupons the night before and signed up for an hour time slot with Miami Beach Paddleboard. For 10 bucks, we got to explore the canals near Sunset Lake and it was so much fun!


While I have kayaked and canoed many times in the past, I actually have never had the chance to paddleboard before. The people I have seen crossing rivers and lakes make standing and paddling look quite easy, when in reality, it's actually much harder than it appears! I spent a part of the hour standing and the rest just on my knees for better balance. Since there weren't too many people in the water during our time slot at 1pm, we basically got to paddleboard virtually alone and were free to admire the beautiful waterfront homes and privately owned boats along the way. 


Biking the Venetian Islands

These past few months have been full of biking explorations, from Death Road in Bolivia and mountain biking in Boulder, to leisure riding in D.C. through the cherry blossomms during Easter weekend.  But even though I prefer cycling class more than biking outdoors, I was excited to grab a Citi bike in Miami, ride down Ocean Drive through the lush palm trees, and cut through Miami Beach to get to the Venetian Islands via the Venetian Causeway.


Located in Biscayne Bay, the Venetian islands are actually a chain of artificial islands in Miami and Miami Beach (Biscayne Island, San Marco Island, San Marino Island, Di Lido Island, Rivo Alto Island, and Belle Isle). All of the islands are connected by bridges from Miami Mainland to Miami Beach. Since it was so hot during the day, we waited until evening, just an hour or so before sunset, to go for a ride. We had a great time zooming in and out and across each individual island and admiring the beautiful homes there, wishing we had a vacation home in Miami ourselves. While there was a lot of construction going on on many of the islands, it was still worth a visit to see some of the prime real estate in Miami. We ended up dropping off our Citi bikes in downtown Miami and then heading to Toro Toro for a well-deserved last dinner


Shopping on Collins Ave

There is no shortage of luxury shopping and wealth in South Beach, so you better hold that wallet tight or you might get yourself into some trouble. You can find affordable fashion from H&M and Zara to higher end boutiques and the famous Kardashian DASH store right on Collins Avenue. We even spotted a HULK-inspired Lamborghini that I desperately wanted a ride in to escape the heat. Doing some light shopping is the perfect escape from the afternoon heat and after hanging out at the beach. I made sure to grab a yummy mocha from Shepherd Artisan Coffee before jumping into the ocean.




Little Havana

Havana..na na na. This famous Cuban neighborhood is located just west of Downtown Miami and was a must-visit for us after touring Vizcaya. Miami's large Cuban exile and Central/South American immigrant population has had a huge influence on the cuisine, landmarks and culture of both the city and specifically, Little Havana, named after the capital of Cuba. While we stopped to grab some cuban coffee and ice cream from the famous Azucar ice cream shop, there are plenty of great Cuban restaurants on and cigar shops to peruse through on Calle Ocho.




While Miami is known for its wild parties and beautiful white sand beaches, it is also home to some fabulous restaurant and great eateries around town. I wish I had more days to fit in more food in my belly, but I'm glad we left in time before I gained 10 pounds from a week of eating here! Luckily, we stayed pretty active and I made it a point to work out everyday, either going to Barry's Bootcamp or running along Ocean Drive in the morning so I could kick-start my foodie days.



This place is an institution Miami and easily one of the best chicken and waffles I've ever had. For a whopping $26, the famous Chicken "N' Watermelon "N" Waffles isn't the cheapest brunch item, but it is huge and totally shareable! We gobbled it all up and split some fried green tomatoes to fill up before paddleboarding before heading out to Wynwood. 


FRIED GREEN TOMATO BLT  - Smoked pork belly, pimento cheese, frisée, smoky tomato jam lemon vinaigrette 
CHICKEN ‘N’ WATERMELON ‘N’ WAFFLES - Honey hot sauce, chilled spiced watermelon Vermont sharp cheddar cheese waffle, bourbon maple syrup

Pura Vida

I'm all about the acai bowl life, and I used to be obsessed with a cute little juice spot in East Village when I lived there last year. I have't been eating as much fruit lately due to it's high sugar, but I was really excited to try a bowl in one of the many shops in South Beach for breakfast. After my Barry's Bootcamp Class, I headed straight to Pura Vida on Washington Ave, which. was near our hotel. This cute, local restaurant serves up some delicious looking avocado toasts and salads, and offers a variety of fruity and nutty acai bowls.

Try the delicious PB Energy!
Raw organic Brazilian acai blended with banana and peanut butter.  Topped with strawberries, bananas, granola, goji berries, almonds and cacao nibs


Toro Toro

This Pan Latin steakhouse can be found inside the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown Miami, and let me tell ya - it is  a GEM. Our dinner here was easily of of my favorite meals of this trip! 


Grilled Spanish Octopus -  Beet chimichurri / sweet potato / jalapeño yogurt


14 oz Prime Ribeye


La Bomba dessert- A literal explosion of flavors when the waitress drops a perfect chocolate sphere all over the table, revealing scoops of dulce de leche and strawberry ice cream, dollops of cream cheese mousse, almond cookie crumbles, edible flowers, and fresh berries. The entire dessert is then drizzles with caramel, vanilla and berry sauces for that real sugar overload!


Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop

If you're in the Wynwood Art District and find yourself with a sweet tooth, make sure to stop by Fireman Derek's Bake shop for a slice of pie! They're famous for their best-seller, key lime, but there are almost a dozen flavors to chose from, from the crack pie and sundae pie to the Oreo pie we chose to share.


Cuban Coffee at Colada Gourmet (Little Havana)


Puerto Sagua (South Beach)


The Local House

Our first meal in Miami was actually right across the street from our hotel and a cute local, brunch spot called The Local House. Some of my friends were actually in town for a birthday weekend, and we decided to meet up since they were leaving to go back home later that afternoon and we had just arrived. It was so fun to catch up and hear about some of the things they did and food they ate in Miami. We also got some great recs for going out at night. Luckily, our reunion will continue when I visit D.C. this weekend!


Crab Cake Benedict - w/ basil citrus cream sauce, spinach and home fries

Thank you so much for reading my Miami Diaries! There's so much to love about this city, and humidity is definitely NOT one of them! I look forward to visiting again soon, eating more, and hopefully get invited on a yacht next time. Until then, there will be plenty more I can't wait to share this year with you on Penny & Dash!


~ Jess

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