Eating Ice Cream in Miami, Florida

Cream Parlor8224 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33138

This right here is some of the best tasting I’ve ever had! The employees are so friendly and genuinely seem excited to offer you samples. The flavors are off the hook and very creative. The most popular are unicorn poop which is a cotton candy/birthday cake like experience and purple rain with is a black raspberry with chocolate chunks.I’m a fan of the cereal trend and loved getting lucky charm marshmallows (my childhood dream to rid the box of the cereal portion) atop my dish. The whole feel of this place is warm and fuzzy, the décor is adorable, and there is an outdoor patio in the back. Be aware that there *is* a parking lot, but it is easy to miss it while you’re driving down the busy road.

Lulu’s Nitrogen Ice Cream2001 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137

A new trend in ice cream is to flash freeze it with liquid nitrogen to make it fresh on the spot, plus a creamier and denser texture. The shop looks like a science experiment, it’s really neat. I went for nutella topped with condensed milk and bits of fresh waffle cone mixed in and Jeff went for cookies and cream with more oreo on top. I really loved the taste and feel of the ice cream, and whole experience.

Azucar Ice Cream Company1503 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135

Delicious ice cream with Cuban inspired ingredients in the heart of Little Havana. I tried the Abuela Maria and guava flavors, spectacular! Read more on experiencing Cuban culture and cuisine.

Mr. Bing at the Wynwood Yard56 NW 29th St, Miami, FL 33127

Another trend alert in Miami’s trendiest neighborhood, Shaved Ice Cream! A Taiwanese creation which mixes ice cream and shaved ice making ribbons that look really cool. To be honest, this isn’t a place I would return because the quality of the ice cream wasn’t top notch – it would be more for the experience of the craze.

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

Gardens of Miami, Florida

Pure garden: Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden

If you’re looking for a true botanical garden experience, there is no better place in the area! Expansive grounds are filled with exotic plants and flowers and miles of trails to walk. I specifically loved the spiny trees in the Forest of Madagascar and the brilliant orchids and waterfalls.

The conservatories are otherworldly – imagine white flowers and blue fish.

What did surprise me was the fact that I could enter the butterfly house at no extra cost. Tons of exotic butterflies flying around, gorgeous flowers, and hummingbirds!

Outside you can see plenty of wildlife including hummingbirds, and other birds of course, lizards, and one of the workers told me there was a crocodile in the pond! There is an edible garden, but nothing was visibly in bloom. Another fantastic feature is the glass Chihuly pieces around the garden – one of my favorite artists who has a love for working his art in harmony with nature.

Admission is hefty, be sure to ask for AAA, military, or any other discounts you may receive. You can definitely get your moneys worth by spending many hours enjoying the garden.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

10901 Old Cutler Rd, Coral Gables, FL 33156

Garden and historic house: Vizcaya Museum and Garden

Sometimes architecture and landscaping is so skilled it can transport you to another place. Entering the garden I felt like I was back in Versailles! The massive former estate of James Deering is filled with artwork and ornate furniture.

There are no pictures inside the house, but plenty to take outside. I love backside of the house at the waters edge.

A barge is used as a breakwater to protect the house from waves, but it’s also fancily decorated with mythical sea creatures. There are so many little enclaves, nooks, crannies, and a maze garden – even with so many people you can still find yourself alone.

It’s so cool how the structures are built from coral different shells material.

The formal gardens are meticulously maintained.

Flowers, exotic tree, and wildlife are in no shortage. This is another hefty price tag, but be sure to ask about various discounts. It is another garden which you can spend at least a half day exploring.

3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129

Odd Ball: Ancient Spanish Monastery

This little hidden gem of a garden houses the oldest building in America: a 12th century medieval Spanish monastery which was shipped over to America. A technicality, maybe, but amazing nonetheless. The architecture is exquisite and there are some informational plaques to learn more about it.

The gardens are small, but lush. Sit in the shade of the banyan tree out on the lawn, or take the path less traveled.

A short hike will lead you to a secret treasure, the labyrinth serenely placed in seclusion.

There are many cats, lizards, butterflies and birds.

Free, unless you want to pay for the museum exhibit. I wouldn’t plan your whole day around this little attraction, but it is a fun pit-stop.

16711 Dixie Hwy, North Miami Beach, FL 33160

Skip: The Kampong

I expected a lot more from this National Tropical Botanical Garden, which you have to call and make reservations in advance to visit. There was some beauty here to be sure, but on the whole it seemed a bit unkempt and not a lot going on overall.

Maybe I visited at the wrong time, but I didn’t think it was worth the hefty ticket price!

4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL 33133

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

Watch Jai Alai in Miami, Florida

It’s the world’s fastest game and you may never have heard of it. Jai Alai isn’t very common in the United States, but more popular in Latin America. However, you can discover the sport at Casino Miami [3500 NW 37th Ave, Miami, FL 33142] and watch matches for free.

How often is it that you get to experience a completely new sport? Wikipedia was great for clearing up any questions to help you understand the game.

You can bet to make things more interesting. You can enjoy the amazing old Cuban men screaming in Spanish at the players.

Comically, they reminded me of my grandpa who used to come here and bet back in the day. Perfect rainy day activity or to get out of the sun and heat – games are played everyday except Tuesday, check the website for times.

Posted in Miami | 2 Comments

Hit the Beach in Miami, Florida: Bill Baggs Cape State Park

Bustling South Beach is the place to be in Miami. Walking down Ocean Drive and Collins Ave with all of the restaurants and shops is something you should experience.

But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t necessarily want to be in the place to be, there are other beaches. A half an hour south of Miami is Key Biscayne, a whole different scene. Bill Baggs Cape State Park [1200 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149] is a popular park, but it has more of a natural setting.

There is over a mile of sandy beach to spread out on and swim. You’ll find kayak rentals, hiking trails and biking paths (and bike rentals too). The Cape Florida Lighthouse is open for tours.

You can also see out to historic Stiltsville – a group of raised houses a mile off the coast.

It’s a prime location to watch the sunset into the ocean, which isn’t always common on the East Coast.

This multifaceted park is a great alternative to the party vibe on South Beach, for a more low-key day.

*Note there is a toll to cross onto Key Biscayne and an entrance fee to visit the State Park*

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

Exploring the Wynwood District of Miami, Florida

Not too long ago, the Wynwood District was an industrial area you’d have no reason to go, and may feel uncomfortable driving through. But if you build it, they will come. Some paint transformed the drab slum into a hipster haven, and it is thriving. Today, Wynwood Walls is one of the top attractions in Miami, and it’s free.

The park has a large concentration of street art, sculptures, a gallery, and a restaurant on site.

A whole artistic community and camp followers cropped up in the wake of the park, expanding outside of the walls. Walking around the district there is a treasure trove of art.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not only on the buildings, but inside as well. There are some incredible galleries to explore to fulfill all of your artistic needs.

My favorite of all was Plant the Future, filled with terrariums and planters in the most absurd(-ly awesome) forms.

You could spend the whole day in this area and not see every hidden gem, but trying is half the fun. You will get hungry, and thirsty, so it’s a good thing the hip camp followers are there to provide provisions.

Where to eat and drink?

+The Wynwood Yard – a group of food trucks including options like World Famous House of Mac and Shnitz N’ Fritz. You can try trendy ice cream at Mr. Bing.

There is also a bar, a little boutique, yoga classes, and just a generally great place to hang out (perhaps in a hammock).

56 NW 29th St, Miami, FL 33127

+The Salty Donut – when I reached my destination, I didn’t see a storefront so I got nervous thinking I may be on a wild goose chase. I followed my donut instincts and went into the corridor flanked by art to find a few shops, and one nondescript entrance that had a queue – hop on it. Everything looked amazing, we tried the brown butter which was biscut-like and not too sweet, the cinnatoast crunch with dead on flavors, a tres leches white chocolate on top, and an apple dulce de leche. Everything is made in house and they close at six or when they sell out, get there early!

50 NW 23rd St #112, Miami, FL 33127

+J Wakefield Brewery

Come for the great beer, stay if you’re a Star Wars fan. Tours of the brewery on weekends and a food truck is out front.


120 NW 24th St, Miami, FL 33127

*Pro-Tip: the city uses a Pay for Parking app. There are no meters and very few pay stations. You may want to download the app beforehand when you have wi-fi, it will be helpful parking all throughout Miami*

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

Experience Cuban food and culture in Miami

Cuba is just a few hundred miles off shore from Miami and the culture of its people has enriched the city and blessed it with some of the best food you will ever eat. After spending a month in the Miami area, here are the best Cuban restaurants in the city and what to order:

Breakfast at Puerto Sagua, South Beach
This is a family tradition of mine. My grandparents had a place in Miami and every morning on our way to the beach we would stop for breakfast here. For me it is absolutely nostalgic, but returning two decades later thankfully nothing had changed. Not the old school décor or the quality of the food, everything was just how I had left it. What you need to get: café con leche, Cuban bread and grits, some eggs with whatever you like scrambled in.

700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

*Street parking only

A frita at El Mago de las Fritas, Little Havana
I stepped in the door and was greeted with a ‘welcome home.’ You can’t feel any more comfortable than that, the service here is like you’re with family. Everything is homemade, what you need to get: a frita! A frita is a Cuban hamburger with shoestring fries, you can get a veggie or chicken variation too. From the crispy bread to the wispy potato strips, the seasoning on the meat the tang of the raw onion, and the special sauce – holy incredible goodness. You’ll need to order two of these. And get a watermelon agua fresca. This is my FIRST stop next time I’m in Miami.

5828 SW 8th St West Miami, FL 33144

*Private parking lot

Lunch or Dinner at El Palacio de los Jugos, Little Havana
The mecca of Cuban food, this is a small franchise with absurdly delicious food. It can be a bit confusing a first because it’s a little market with multiple places to order from. Little English spoken here more of a point and pay. Roasted chicken melted off the bone, pulled pork was like nothing you’ve ever tasted…this is very cheap authentic food and there is WAY too much of it for one sitting. You will have leftovers. You can also stock up on fruits, grocery items and desserts. Grabbed a box of two different kinds of cookies from local bakeries they were some of the best I’ve ever had.
Don’t forget to order a drink! This is of course the palace of the juice.

5721 W Flagler St Miami, FL 33144

*Private parking lot

Lunch or Dinner at Las Olas Café, South Beach

Your fix for cheap authentic mouthwatering Cuban food by the beach. We went just before closing and they were all out of chicken or fish, so I opted to eat pork (which I rarely do) – loved every minute of it. Got one meal to split between two people and it was enough food, a little two much with the two tamales we got on the side. Also ordered some more tasty juices, try the soursop!

644 6th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

*Street parking only

Seafood at La Camaronera, Little Havana

What you need to get: the pan con minuta. It’s a fried snapper sandwich tail on with a slathering of ketchup, tartar sauce, and raw onion on a fluffy Cuban roll. Be aware, it comes out scorching hot and fresh. This little sandwich is made simple, yet has a divine satisfying summery flavor profile. You may also want to try the fried grouper cheeks and the grouper soup, which were also very tasty. Cash only!

1952 W Flagler St, Miami, FL 33135

*Private parking lot

Pastries at Karla Bakery, Little Havana

You can get sandwiches, empanadas, cakes, really anything you are hungry for here. However, I came with a specific intention. What you need to get: guava and cheese pastelitos. These sweet and savory pastries are so indulgent, reminding me of a Cuban Danish. Best thing? The bakery is open 24 hours a day, so you can get your fix at any time.

6474 W Flagler St Miami, FL 33144

*Private parking lot

Ice cream at Azucar Ice Cream Company, Little Havana

Who doesn’t want some cold ice cream on a hot Miami day? You can’t miss this signature dessert spot in the heart of the Cuban community, right across the way from Domino Park. The ice cream is made with local and natural ingredients. You will find a dizzying amount of flavors begging you to come back to try them all. What you need to get: the Abuela Maria – vanilla ice cream mixed with guava, cream cheese, and galletas Maria. What other flavors do they have? Café con Leche (Cuban Coffee & Oreo), Platano Maduro (Sweet Plantain), Sweet Potato Ancho Chile Chocolate Chip, and tropical fruit flavors like passion fruit and mamey. It is really delicious and made with love, be ready to wait on line!


1503 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135

*Street parking

Do you want to learn more about the Cuban culture in Miami?

+Visit the Bay of Pigs Museum [1821 SW 9th St, Miami, FL 33135] to better understand the failed invasion.

+Follow the clinking sounds to Domino Park [801 SW 15th Ave, Miami, FL 33135], where a Cuban man was standing by the entrance with a huge welcoming smile, beckoning us to come on in and take a look at the game of his culture.

+Walk down Calle Ocho in Little Havana and count the roosters, watch workers hand roll cigars, and pop into the galleries.

Posted in Miami | 3 Comments

The Snowbird Life: Three months in Florida

This winter I escaped the usual snow and cold temperatures of New York and retreated to Florida just like a snowbird! In the state I learned about birds I never knew existed, ate bizarre and wonderful fruits, and learned deeply about a world outside of my native Northeast.

Florida is huge, but I wanted to get a good feeling for the whole peninsula so I split up my time in three spots to best explore the area. I spent a month in South Florida based in between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, a month on the Gulf Coast in the wonderfully cool little city of St Petersburg, and a few weeks up north in Jacksonville. I’m hoping to explore the Panhandle next winter!

Miami

What I loved:

+The most incredible Cuban food

+Endless things to do in a big city

+Access to Florida Keys and Everglades

What I won’t miss:

+Serious traffic and paying for parking everywhere

St Petersburg

What I loved:

+Best beach I have ever been to, nothing like the Gulf

+Excellent hiking, paddling, and wildlife viewing

+A small city done right with well cultivated museums, shops, and activities

What I won’t miss:

+The food scene wasn’t as elaborate as bigger cities

Jacksonville

What I loved:

+The ability to hop over the border to another state, Georgia

+Plentiful free beach parking

+Less touristy than other parts of Florida

What I won’t miss:

+The CRAZY road system

This was my first time living outside of NY and it was an interesting cultural change, even though there are a lot of other northern transplants. Over the next few weeks I will be going over my favorite beaches, restaurants, day trips, and all the hidden gems I discovered. Stay tuned!

Posted in Florida | Leave a comment