Ocean Drive

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I formerly met Miami. And not with a formal handshake; more like a eye-opening, culture shock slap in the face. Being in Florida now for about 4 years, I always wanted to take a trip down, but between work and school, somewhere, I got entangled in the business that is life.  Martin and I decided to take a weekend trip down about a year ago, and that was my first taste of the intoxication that is Miami. It’s funny how central Florida and south Florida are seemingly, two different countries. Its like night and day. South Florida definitely embraces that whole ‘tropical’ feeling, the number of palm trees far exceeds that of central Florida. Just taking a drive anywhere in south Florida, one can definitely draw out some comparisons. People take more integrity into their homes; lawns are manicured nicely, landscaping maintained, the entrances of homes are marked by gates, from rustic to pearly. And when it comes to color, most homes are bright colors associated with the tropics; bright pinks, turquoise, yellow, and cool greens. Everything is more aesthetically pleasing. From Orlando to Miami, the drive takes about 3.5-4 hours. Well, thats with my driving skills. It’s a pretty desolate, boring haul, but it’s so worth it when the sprawling beach front condos and timeshares creep into view.

The one thing I love most about Miami is the diversity. The mix of people, from young to old, from rich to poor, from white to black, Cuban and Brazilian, to gay and straight. I love the uncensored openness of the area where people are somewhat uninhibited, there’s a definite feeling of freedom and acceptance in the air…Such as the time I was walking down Ocean Drive, two men who were openly gay, holding hands walking merrily down the sidewalk. I looked and thought to myself, now that’s the kind of society I’d like to be a part of: one where no one cares if you’re gay, as long as you’re happy, go on with it! You’ve only got one shot at this life, might as well make it a happy one, right? *Applause*

I’m not naively assuming that Miami is totally without the occasional conservative, narrow-minded soul…but they’re definitely concentrated in smaller numbers than central Florida. The general consensus of the area, is a welcoming, uninhibited place, seemingly free from judgement upon minorities such as gays or people of another ethnicity. Miami is alive with so many different cultures, to go to each club or restaurant makes for an exciting trip down ‘Culture shock lane’.

Brazilian dancers at the Clevelander

Miami has always lured me with its beauty, aside from the teal cast of the ocean and the mellow flutter of palms in the wind,  it’s Miami’s architectural beauty that gets me every time. When I compare downtown and South Beach, Miami’s downtown is just, a concrete, steel jungle, with high rises scratching at the sky, angry taxi drivers being honk-happy and not to mention, parking downtown is a real labor! I think Miami is one of the few cities where people do the opposite when looking for a fun filled evening; they don’t flock downtown, they flock to South Beach.  It’s like a mecca, attracting people from short and long distances just to be at this one place, at this one time, all together. South Beach really comes alive at night- with some clubs not even opening until 22:00 and staying open until 5:00 or later, South Beach is a gem for night owls (myself being one of them).

I really get lost in the art deco district of South Beach. Primarily situated on Ocean Drive, which is the main artery of traffic through South Beach, the district is a continuous promenade of historic hotels, apartments, hostels and eateries, some of which were erected back in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Anytime I visit this favorite area of Miami, I go photo-happy. One of my favorite things to do is to photograph the architecture, I’m hungry for shots at weird angles, of corners, rooftops, verandas, friezes…

I really admire how South Beach has retained its vintage feel, keeping loyal to the original construction and art deco design of the hotels and apartments, only making necessary renovations, most of these being to the individual rooms of the hotels.

Love the canary yellow...

Picturesque blue window awnings...

A splash of coral...

Loved the light chocolate brown of this building...

One of my favorite shots...

Something that sets Miami apart from many cities in Central Florida is the amount of outdoor dining. Walking along Ocean Drive, you’ll pass by a plethora of restaurants (some independent, others hotel restaurants) under canopies, all competing for your business. Don’t be surprised if while you’re walking, a hostess approaches you flashing the menu and informing you of today’s specials. A big percentage of Miami’s revenue comes from slinging overpriced drinks and entrees to visitors. What’s that old adage? You pay for the location. That definitely rings true if you’re in South Beach. It’s common for most restaurants to have a display of food and beverages that they offer…

Food display

Outdoor dining at the Betsy

When looking at the endless nightspot promenade that is Ocean Drive, I can narrow it down to two of my favorite spots.

1.) The Clevelander

I love those blue umbrellas...

Let me just start by saying, this place effortlessly awesome.  You can hear the party from a few blocks away, blasting rock and roll music into the air, and house and trance by nighttime. It encompasses 3 main ideals that tourists and locals alike, have come to admire when visiting Miami. Those being:

A.) Great food and drinks. Compared to some of its neighbors, the Clevelander isn’t painfully overpriced for the typical blue-collar traveler such as myself.  Average cost for a drink runs from $9- $15. I enjoyed my Pina Coladas down to the very last drop, even requesting an extra shot for Rum in one of them 😉 Now, if you’re seeking bubbly, then be advised: MUST HAVE DEEP POCKETS. See below…

Champagne price list...

B.) Atmosphere. The Clevelander’s outdoor patio consists of a bar, dining area, huge dance floor, stage and swimming pool. They host various shows throughout the week, from Burlesque dance, Brazilian dance, fire eaters, and a model showcase, just to name a few.

C.) The variety. Although just one hotel, the Clevelander, as a venue, accomplishes the task of catering to different tastes. If sports is more your thing, there’s a sports bar inside where you can catch the latest action with the Miami Dolphins. If you’re looking for more of a chill night out, go check out the 1020 Music lounge. If catching some rays is your idea of relaxation, get a day pass and enjoy the SPF4 Rooftop, where you can still enjoy the patio party down below, but from your own vantage point, under umbrellas and in posh lounge chairs. The hidden gem of the Clevelander is the C-level Rooftop. This puts you at a comfortable 66 feet above sea level, dispensing you at spectacular views of the city, from downtown, Ocean Drive, Lummus Park  and the Port of Miami. Although I’ve never made it to the C-level Rooftop, it’s on my Miami bucket list.

Clevelander patio area...

Patio area...

Babe & I

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2.) Mango’s

Not for the conservative or tight lipped…haha. If you don’t mind the loud, hypnotizing trance of house music all night long, or Brazilian dancers twisting their hips, doing dips, and the occasional erotic move, this place is for you. The interior of Mango’s resembles something of an aged, wooden, island hut. It’s dark inside and most of the walls are covered with tropical murals that glow under the black lights, über cool.  The staff is seemingly allergic to ugliness; I didn’t see one unattractive employee in there! I was wondering if part of the job requirements was to have a hot and taut body!  The main attraction at Mango’s were the dancers. They didn’t dance on the floor, they danced on the bar (awesome!) There’s an attractive mix of dancers, female and male, all boasting tight bodies, probably from hours of moving around all night long. Although not sure if they’re all professionals, it’s evident that they all have rhythm.

The bar at Mango's

I definitely enjoyed all the dancers’ talents, each performance pulled you in, eyes glued to the dancer. The average performance seemed to be around 20 minutes. The real treat of my night out at Mango’s were these male dancers who performed to a few Michael Jackson songs. My favorite was their rendition of “Smooth Criminal”, complete with the fedoras and suspenders. Priceless.

Michael Jackson tribute

Doing the moon walk!

They were good; real good.

And not to forget this small memento right outside the entrance to Mango’s. I love this piece of art, tropical and happy…

Flamingo in front of Mango's

Miami, I love you, when’s our next date? 😉

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