Theme song - "Let the bass kick in Miami, girl", by LMFAO
Miami is the largest city in Florida (8th largest in the US); its financial hub, commercial centre and a tourist magnet. 38 million tourists come here every year and almost all venture down to the Art-Deco district of South Beach.
South Beach has miles of beautiful sandy beaches and this began drawing mass tourism in the early 1920s. The resultant building boom invariabily reflected the latest architectural style - Art-Deco. There are 960 historic Art-Deco buildings in the South Beach historical district.
War is often the mother of invention and World War One promulgated quantum leaps in weaponry, poison gas, aviation, industrialisation, communications, women's rights and concrete. The Germans made extensive use of steel-reinforced concrete in their trench fortifications, which even today some of their many bunkers dotting the fields of Flanders have proven difficult to demolish. Prior to the war buildings were primarily constructed of brick and decorative flourishes such as columns, marble or plaster inserts, or decorative brickwork were expensive and required specialised skills. The new concrete technology offered architects the ability to mold decorative features directly into the building itself. This led to an explosion of curves, awnings and facades on buildings and the development of a whole new artist style.
During the 1920's boom years every building in South Beach from the Strip hotels, to cheap apartments and even industrial buildings received the art-deco flourish. By the 1940's South Beach was beginning to decline and in the late 50s and early 60s the area was flooded with Cuban refugees. The District became something of a slum and because it was difficult to demolish these concrete 'monstrosities', this area missed out on the redevelopment that was going on in the rest of Miami - thankfully! In the 1980s the character of the Art-Deco District was finally recognised and was protected from redevelopment. It's now a fabulous area of hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and nightclubs.
We stayed the magnificent Park Central Hotel, right on South Beach. The hotel has been beautifully restored and is one of the hightlights of the strip. It was quite a step up for us and not really that expensive.
While the Art-Deco District may have tons of architectural style, it would be fair to say Miami 'fashion style' is something of a misnomer, unless leopardskin leggings and body hugging lycra count as style. That said though, attractive girls walking the streets in bikinis was quite pleasing on the eye! As always though, this was a look that not everyone can pull off (I know I can't! - my ass looks huge in a thong), but it seemed like everyone was going to try. We found ourselves repeating the words "Oh my God" alot - and not in a good way!
Despite the abundance of restaurant bars on the strip, we tended to avoid them. Every restaurant had spruikers touting for business from morning to night. Competition between them was fierce. Our experience from elsewhere is that restaurants relying on spruikers to get their trade tend to be pretty ordinary. We did visit the quaint 11th St Diner - a genuine 1930s steel dining car for a very late breakfast / lunch (around 2pm - we found ourselves eating quite late and irregularly while travelling).
Other than that it was all bar hopping. Miami has intense nightlife. It seemed every restaurant / bar had happy hours that ran for six hours, huge cocktails and two for one deals. It was hard not to drink and as the nightclubs don't really open till around 10pm iti took real self restraint not to overdo it before heading out dancing. We ended up having a big second night bash ending up at the Mansion Nightclub. It was really flash and absolutely pumping, but the bar prices were exhorbitant compared to normal US bar prices.