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The Beach Scene :

The Travel Channel ranked South Beach's broad sand beaches and gorgeous turquoise waters as one of the top ten beaches in the world, and the Surfrider Foundation voted it the premier urban beach in the US.

Public beaches define the 10-mile strand along the Atlantic Ocean, enlivened by colorful, funky lifeguard stations. Collins Avenue, Miami Beach's main artery, carves out a scenic route parallel to the beach, and a raised boardwalk between 21st and 41st street invites strolling along the sea.

But there's more than powdery white sand to this land of exuberant architecture, pulsating nightlife and international flavor in a scene that is as cool as the sun is hot.

Occupying less than two square miles on the southern tip of Miami Beach, South Beach's subtropical sandbar has an identity of its own.

South Beach has been called the American Riviera and an Art Deco Playground.

This magnetic city is alive every minute of every day and night, and has earned a reputation as an ultra-chic, 24/7, people-watching street party.

With its beautiful beaches and whimsical architecture, the area has also become a favored location for films, music and television shows and a backdrop for a myriad of fashion shoots.

In fact, the renaissance of South Beach was a significant factor in Greater Miami and Beaches' growth as a nationally recognized center for film, television and print production, and Latin music.

Today's hottest musical artists film their videos in South Florida and then stay for the reminder of the week - turning local parties into a people-watching nirvana.

The South Florida beach scene offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of some of the world's most outrageous and beautiful people.

Perhaps it's a case of art imitating life, because just like in the music videos, sexy women can regularly be seen traipsing around in their bikinis showing off their sun-kissed bodies, while good-looking, athletic men work it out along Ocean Drive.

Architecture :

Miami Beach has emerged as a real estate hot spot, attracting world-renowned property developers and thousands of investors, residents and long-term visitors to its sunny shores each year.

Miami Beach is a city of architectural wonder ranging from early coral structures that seem to rise from the sea, to Mediterranean Revival castles that evoke old world grace & flair, Art Deco buildings that looked towards the future for inspiration, and Miami Modern architecture with its free form shapes both contribute to the come-as-you-are architectural style of Miami Beach.

The Art Deco Historic District encompasses the largest concentration of 1920's and 1930's architecture in the world. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is internationally recognized as one of South Florida's unique attractions.

Indeed, Miami Beach's Art Deco District is the first and largest district of Art Deco architecture in the world.

A visit to South Beach redefines how you look at buildings - sweeping curves, soaring finials and glass brick expanses of the Art Deco architectural style create a wonderful time warp.

Stand in Lummus Park (a green expanse bordering the beach), and note how the pastel pinks, bright aquas and canary yellows of Ocean Drive hotels fight for space in the sky.

In South Beach, outdoor cafes are ideal for not only people watching, but also "building watching".

The City Of Miami

Say "Miami" , and almost everyone thinks beaches, sunshine, and palm trees - an old image that rests on essential truth. The name "Miami" comes from Mayaimi (a lake - now referred to as Lake Okeechobee), which means "very large."

In the midst of a tropical paradise, one of America's most dynamic cities is greeting the 21st century with a burst of passion, creativity, and international flair.

Miami is at a vibrant cultural crossroads, and for the last 20 years, Miami-Dade County's cultural community has grown more rapidly than any other American city.

Much of the area's success is due to its diverse neighborhoods, whose residents contribute in their own singular way to making Greater Miami and the Beaches one of the best - and most fascinating - places to live in the world.

Low buildings, shopping arcades and storefronts tightly packed with merchandise evoke Miami's origins as a trading town.

On West Flagler Street the original 1920s Olympia Theater has become the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, a worthy venue for concerts and performances.

A few blocks away, a broad Mediterranean piazza is at the heart of the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, bordered by the graceful arches, barrel tile roofs and cream-colored stucco of the main public library.

Also on the piazza, the Miami Art Museum showcases changing exhibits of international art, while the Historical Museum of Southern Florida interweaves the tapestry of local and regional history through permanent and special exhibits.

Biscayne Boulevard

On Biscayne Boulevard, the Freedom Tower, built in1925 as Miami's first skyscraper, recorded city events when it housed the offices of the Miami Daily News.

It then played a starring role as the gateway to freedom for thousands of Cuban refugees.

Across the Boulevard, the modern sculpted curves of the American Airlines Arena mark the home of the NBA's Miami Heat.

Football is played in the Orange Bowl, home of the University of Miami Hurricanes team.

Downtown Miami

Downtown Miami offers big city shopping with an urban flair.

Department stores and emporiums that sell clothes, electronics, sporting goods and more, fill the historic Downtown Miami Shopping District (from SE 1st Street to NE 3rd Street).

Spanish and Portuguese are routinely overheard, and the aroma of Cuban coffee wafts through the air.

Downtown is also the place for jewelry, with dazzling displays in the stores and workshops that comprise one of the largest jewelry districts in the U.S.

Bayside Marketplace

On Biscayne Boulevard, next to Bayfront Park, Bayside Marketplace borrows from the past as it looks towards the future.

The open-air shopping and entertainment complex was built on the site of the former Pier 5 fishing pier (one of Miami's most popular tourist spots in the 1950s), and is now a waterfront destination for shopping, dining and outdoor performances.

Here you can browse through shops and vendors' pushcarts, where everything from T-shirts to one-of-a-kind souvenirs is sold.

The Design District

Just a few minutes north of downtown, the city's historic Buena Vista Village, is the charming setting for the Miami Design District, which overflows with interior design showrooms and stores; art studios and galleries; movie production and theatrical costume companies and much more.

Distinctive furniture, rugs, lighting, fabric and cutting-edge design accessories are all presented in a stylish shopping environment.

Don't miss the unique opportunity to explore the area's vast galleries during Gallery Night at the Miami Design District, which is held the second Friday of each month.

Coral Gables

A Coral Gables walking tour will take you past some of the meticulously preserved landmarks that grace this old "city within a city ".

Coral Gables City Hall, the city's most important publicly owned building, is decorated with interesting interior murals and a distinctive portico.

Not far away, two fountains mark the ornate entrance to the Country Club of Coral Gables Historic District, typical of the master-planned city.

Just beyond, residential areas featuring well-appointed houses can be viewed.

The Venetian Pool, carved out of a spring-fed coral rock quarry, is a local landmark and popular attraction.

Other Coral Gables landmarks include the University of Miami; the oldest university in the Greater Miami area, which dates back to 1925.

The University of Miami enhances Coral Gables' cultural amenities with the on-campus Lowe Art Museum, The Gusman Concert Hall, the Bill Cosford Cinema and the Ring Theater.

Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove's waterfront parks offer the best vantage points for observing manatees, wildlife and sailboats in Biscayne Bay.

Dinner Key, originally the base for Pan American World Airways' seaplane flights from Greater Miami in the 1930s, now houses Miami City Hall, which was converted from the original hangar.

Earlier Grove history is also evident at The Barnacle, the 110-year-old home of pioneer Commodore Ralph Munroe.

The grandest home of them all is now the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an Italian Renaissance-style villa built by millionaire James Deering in 1916.

Set on 10 acres of formal gardens and fountains - with Biscayne Bay as backdrop - the 70-room estate is filled with fabulous furnishings and antiques. In 1952, Vizcaya was purchased by Miami-Dade County and opened to the public as museum.

Nearby, the Miami Museum of Science & Space Transit Planetarium features hands-on exhibits of everything from robotic dinosaurs to virtual reality basketball, as well as star and space shows.

Festivals and street fairs such as the extraordinary Coconut Grove Arts Festival; the Coconut Grove Food and Music Festival (formerly Taste of the Grove); the Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival and the Banyan Arts Festival, add to Coconut Grove's excitement.

Bal Harbour

Bal Harbour may be one of the smallest municipalities in Miami-Dade County, but it is also one of the best known.

Covering a third of a square mile, the village has long been the favored hideaway of the rich and famous (including a recent American president), and celebrity spotting here is easy.

In Bal Harbour, Collins Avenue becomes a wide boulevard graced by stately palm trees and greenery.

Heading north out of Bal Harbour the road rises to a crest over the Haulover Bridge and the park beyond.

Bal Harbour Shops is the village's crown jewel. This upscale mall is open to the sky, but designed to protect shoppers from the elements in a tropical garden setting swathed in scarlet and purple bougainvillea.

Be sure to browse amongst a unique collection of internationally renowned boutiques and stores evoking the style centers of New York, Paris, Milan and London.

The latest designer fashions and accessories, precious gems, and fine decorative objects may be found in Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as in stores such as Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Georg Jensen, Chanel, Christofle, Tiffany & Co., Bulgari, Prada and Pratesi.

The State of Florida :

With it 660 miles of beautiful beaches, more than 8,000 lakes (including Lake Okeechobee, which measures 700 square miles), more than 33 springs and 4,500 islands, Florida is an American aquatic paradise.

And since the earliest of times, Florida has meant the dream of a new life in paradise for many: Creek Indians escaping the British; Spaniards and Greeks looking for a better life; Cuban refugees dreaming of political freedoms and tourists escaping cold weather and industrial cities.

The "Sunshine State" has always been a place where almost everyone is from somewhere else.

People first reached Florida at least 12,000 years ago.
The rich variety of environments in prehistoric Florida also supported a large number of plants and animals.

Written records about life in Florida began with the arrival of the Spanish explorer and adventurer Juan Ponce de León in 1513.
Sometime in April, Ponce de León waded ashore on the northeastern coast of Florida, possibly near present-day St. Augustine.
He called the area "La Flórida", in honor of Pascua Florida ("the feast of the flowers"), Spain's Easter time celebration.

Other Europeans may have reached Florida earlier, but no firm evidence of this has been found.

Britain gained control of Florida in 1763 in exchange for Havana, Cuba, which the British had captured from Spain during the Seven Years' War (1756-63).
Spain evacuated Florida after the exchange, leaving the province virtually empty.
The British had ambitious plans for Florida. First, it was split into two parts: East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine; and West Florida, with its seat at Pensacola.
British surveyors mapped much of the landscape and coastline and tried to develop relations with a group of Indians who were moving into the area from the North. The British called these people of Creek Indian descent "Seminolies", or Seminoles.

The two Floridas remained loyal to Great Britain throughout the War for American Independence, however, Spain regained control of the rest of Florida as part of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution.
Finally, after several official and unofficial U.S. military expeditions into the territory, Spain formally ceded Florida to the United States in 1821

As a territory of the United States, Florida was particularly attractive to people from the older Southern plantation areas of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who arrived in considerable numbers.

Among Florida's native population, the name of Osceola has remained familiar after more than a century and a half.
Osceola was a Seminole war leader who refused to leave his homeland in Florida.
Seminoles, noted for their fighting abilities, won the respect of U.S. soldiers for their bravery, fortitude, and ability to adapt to changing circumstances during the Second Seminole War (1835-42).

Today, reservations occupied by Florida's Indian people exist at Immokalee, Hollywood, Brighton (near the city of Okeechobee), and along the Big Cypress Swamp.
In addition to the Seminole Indians, the Miccosukee Tribe also calls Florida home.

Prior to the Civil War, Florida had been well on its way to becoming another of the southern cotton states.

Afterward, however, the lives of many residents changed.

The Ports of Jacksonville and Pensacola again flourished due to the demand for lumber and forest products to rebuild the nation's cities.

Beginning in the 1870s, residents from northern states visited Florida as tourists to enjoy the state's natural beauty and mild climate.
Steamboat tours on Florida's winding rivers were a popular attraction for these visitors.

In 1898, national attention focused on Florida when the Spanish-American War began.

The port city of Tampa served as the primary staging area for U.S. troops bound for the war in Cuba.

Many Floridians supported the Cuban people's desire to be free of Spanish colonial rule.

By the turn of the century, Florida's population and per capita wealth were increasing rapidly; the potential of the "Sunshine State" appeared endless.

By the end of World War I, land developers had descended on this virtual gold mine.

With more Americans owning automobiles, it became commonplace to vacation in Florida.
Many visitors stayed on, and exotic projects sprang up in southern Florida.
Some people moved onto land made from drained swamps.
Others bought canal-crossed tracts through what had been dry land.

The real estate developments quickly attracted buyers, and land in Florida was quickly sold and resold. Profits and prices for many developers reached inflated levels.


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