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The Chill Side of Miami

Miami has a certain rep: the party vibe, the heat, the pricey booze.

But the city Hannah Sampson of the Miami Herald likes to show off—the one that makes this tourist mecca a hometown—charms with quiet parks, cultural gems, Latin flair, and, of course, gorgeous water views.

Here’s Hannah’s guide to the chill side of Miami:

Life’s a Beach: My favorite jogging route takes me along the water in South Pointe Park. The 17.5-acre oasis leads to my preferred stretch of sand, where surfers gather and beachgoers wave at cruise ships lumbering out of Miami’s port.

Better known to viewers of Miami Vice is Ocean Drive, a collection of neon-trimmed art deco hotels, restaurants, and bars that is largely the playground of tourists. One exception: the Official Art Deco Gift Shop, run by the Miami Design Preservation League, which lures this local with Gatsby-esque posters, Bakelite jewelry, and vintage clothing.

Park Pleasures: Though normally crowd-averse, I join the masses to squeeze into SoundScape park for simulcasts of classical

music concerts projected on the outside wall of the New World Symphony building. The “Wallcast” concerts are free, and the communal experience is glorious. For a picnic in the park, I order the veggie sub with French vinaigrette at the open-air La Sandwicherie shop.

Taste of Cuba: Back in Miami proper, I head to Little Havana for Cuban-tinged culture. Just down historic Calle Ocho from Domino Park (a.k.a. Maximo Gomez Park), Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater screens indie and foreign films, and Azucar Ice Cream Company features typically Miami flavors such as café con leche and coconut flan.

Heat Advisory: “Living here is therapeutic because it’s so slow—the whole ‘Miami time’ thing,” my friend and fellow Miami native Adam Gersten likes to say. “It’s a tropical environment. You don’t want to move that fast.”

When out-of-town guests come to visit, Adam exposes them to “Floridian dockside dining” at waterfront restaurants, like Monty’s Raw Bar on Biscayne Bay in the Coconut Grove neighborhood. He’s a real-deal bar expert, having opened his old-school Gramps, a hangout for creatives and local journalists, in the city’s Wynwood area last year.

My Mellow: Northeast of artsy Wynwood, Lagniappe cultivates a cozy setting for those of us who can’t be bothered to get past velvet ropes. The grill is fired up out back; inside, the bar serves wine and beer. Musicians perform in the intimate living room or sprawling backyard, where mismatched, thrift-store patio chairs and tables create an overall sense of chill. The word “lagniappe” means “an unexpected gift,” and Miami is full of them—if you know where to look.

This piece appeared in the October 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. 


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