1. Indulge in sheer pleasure on South Beach
South Beach, surf capital of Miami is the place to enjoy yourself. The scene certainly lives up to the stereotype of Miami. You'll find surfers catching the waves in a turquoise ocean, models sauntering along golden sands and rollerbladers gliding down Ocean Drive. Hyper-tanned celebrities rub oiled shoulders with hipsters in the sidewalk cafés, designer boutiques, lounge bars and dusk-til-dawn clubs. They make this a perfect place for chilling out after browsing through the World Erotic Art Museum. Among the quintessential hangouts are the Nikki Beach Club and the Opium Garden, while great restaurants include Joe's Stone Crab, which is known for its legendary lime pie.
2. Feel like a flapper on Art Deco Ocean Drive
Forget the sand: take a stroll around the art deco buildings on South Beach to catch its golden era of architecture. Here you'll find a glamorous array of hotels, which grew up when a theatrical style swept the design world in the 20s. Crowded along Ocean Drive are the best of these giddy individuals. Park Central Hotel and the Imperial, designed by New Yorkers Henry Hohauser and L Murray Dixon, feature bold bands of colour and window 'eyebrows', characteristic of this flamboyant style. This is the ideal place to start off exploring the Art Deco District, which contains over 800 buildings from the 1930s and '40s. Visit the Art Deco District Welcome Center for self-guided audio tours.
3. Spruce up your home decor in the Design District
If you fancy giving your home a facelift, then the Design District is the place to visit. Once a pineapple grove, the area evolved into Decorators Row during the building boom of the 1920s, when home-design stores occupied this space. Among the high-end showrooms is Holly Hunt (3833 NE 2nd Avenue, at NE 38th Street, 305 571 2012), with deluxe furniture and interior designs by Rose Tarlow, Christian Liaigre and Wendell Castle. And European kitchen-cabinet maker Bulthaup (3841 NE 2nd Avenue, at NE 38th Street, 305 573 7771) sells reproductions of mid-century modern classics here. Making the most of the Design Art trend are a number of galleries. Established names include Daniel Azoulay (3900A NE 1st Avenue, at NE 39th Street, 305 576 1977) and Barbara Gillman (414 NE 2nd Avenue, at NE 41st Street, 305 573 1920), which show internationally acclaimed artists.
4. Light up your Cubans in Little Havana
Visit Little Havana for a taste of Cuba. Miami Cubans are incredibly proud of this neighbourhood, even if they don't live there. Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) and the surrounding area are testimony to the American dream followed by the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who fled to Miami after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Here, you'll find many restaurants and shops that are replicas of their ones back home. The Mediterranean-style houses with rocking chairs on the porch, fragrant air of tobacco wafting from cigar stores and hum of Latin music from record shops collude to maintain the illusion.
5. Have a Sex and the City moment
For those jaded by the preening crowds on Ocean Drive, the hippest place to visit is Lincoln Road Mall. Designed by iconic architectural guru Morris Lapidus in the 1950s, when it was dubbed the 'Fifth Avenue of the South', it's now simply known by locals as the 'Road'. Wall-to-wall sidewalk cafés, clubs and cultural venues stretch along its length (from Washington Avenue to Alton Road), looking glamorous thanks to a $16-million facelift. You could imagine the girls from 'Sex and the City' clicking their heels around its stylish boutiques. Among the best cafés are the Van Dyke and Balans. Highlights include the glam gay nightspot, the Score, the Lincoln Theater, home of the New World Symphony, and the Regal South Beach Stadium 18 movie theatre.
6. Step into a fairytale at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
The sight of the Italian Renaissance-style Vizcaya Museum & Gardens on the Biscayne Bay is straight out a fairytale book. It's bizarre to discover a European-style palace in this beach lovers' paradise, but visiting it is like entering a wonderland. Built for Chicagoan industrialist and Europhile James Deering in the 20th-century, the extravagant architecture conceals an opulent interior. Full of European antiques and decorative works from the 16th to 19th centuries, and complete with original fittings, it will whisk you away to a golden age. It's a popular wedding destination.
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7. Dine in style at a classic Miami restaurant
In a city of glamour, the beautiful people need a grand stage on which to eat, so you can enjoy some fantastic dining experiences. The 19th-century Parisian façade of The Forge conceals a glitzy interior that is a rococo lover's dream. The steakhouse once hosted the likes of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Richard Nixon. It still has an 1822 Château Lafite Rothschild worth $150,000 to prove its star quality. Decadent wines accompany steak and fish dishes, and there's a healthy spa menu for the calorie conscious. The Wednesday night club scene at this venerable place calls to mind the soap opera 'Dynasty'.
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8. Plot your great escape at Key Biscayne
The Key as the locals call Key Biscayne may not be as pretty as Miami Beach or attract as many beautiful bodies, but it compensates for this lack of superficial beauty with its serenity. The northernmost island in the Florida Keys, its life began as an exclusive resort in the early 1900s and it attracted the US president Richard Nixon in the 1970s, when he bought a home here. Despite rising property prices, it has maintained a tranquil air. With little nightlife or shopping, the lure for visitors is nature: there are pristine beaches, two waterfront parks, a cycling path and gorgeous views of Miami. On the east Crandon Park has barbecue and picnic areas for family trips, while at the tip of the island there is good swimming in the 400-acre park of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area.
9. Get real with funky, fresh food
There's more to American food than 24-hour diners and burgers in Miami. Here, you'll find unique restaurants serving fresh American food. In the South Beach area, Barton G serves fabulous cuisine funked up with presentations that include popcorn shrimp and grilled sea bass in a brown paper bag. A superb Caesar salad comes complete with a cheese-grater and for the grand finale, a plume of cotton candy reminiscent of Dame Edna's wig is served. For those who prefer a light meal, the hip hangout Segafredo is a great option. Here, you can eat tasty sandwiches, salads, carpaccios and desserts while lounging on comfy upholstered chairs and listening to a soundtrack of cool lounge music all day long.
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10. Loosen those purse strings at designer shops
In Miami, you'll find great shopping malls, with designer stores and boutiques to cater for every fashion whim. South Florida's newest upscale mall, the Village of Merrick Park has three open-air storeys with 115 shops and boutiques, including the area's only Burberry, plus Diane von Furstenberg, Etro, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Sonia Rykiel. The best all-rounder Aventura Mall has all the big department stores, such as Bloomingdale's and Macy's. To purchase top-end T-shirts with grand embellishments visit Rebel. Long Island hipsters flock here for jeans and other items from Ya-Ya, Juicy Couture, Vince and Sass & Bide.
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11. Go wild at the Carnaval Miami
Miami needs no excuse to party: from the traditional to the tacky, the city is fast on its feet when it comes to celebrations. For ten days each spring (in early March), Latino Miami struts its stuff with a vibrant array of beauty pageants, sports, concerts and international foods at Carnaval Miami (www.carnavalmiami.com). There are culinary competitions, galas and an upscale Latin jazz festival. The grand finale is Calle Ocho, a 23-block street festival in Little Havana, which is the largest block party in the world. Over a million watch live entertainment on 30 stages featuring salsa, merengue and Caribbean music.
12. Shop with the stars
In Miami, you can spot celebrities shopping for designer gear and pick up items in vogue with the stars. When Janet Jackson heard that Beyoncé was shopping at Poltrona Frau in the Design District she made a beeline for some Peter Marino sofas. At Bal Harbour Shops, Jennifer Lopez has been known to walk into Gucci and splash a few thousand dollars on goods. You're most likely to see Britney Spears and Paris Hilton splurging in South Beach stores such as Atrium. Further south, rappers like Diddy, Usher and Kanye West might park their Rolls-Royce Phantoms in front of Intermix to buy some Stella McCartney threads.
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13. Cure your ale-ments
Are you sick of sipping on candy-coloured martinis in glitzy bars and restaurants? Do you fancy spending a low-key evening chatting to locals over a pint of beer? Then, why not go back to basics at the hole-in-the-wall turned microbrewery, Abbey on South Beach. It offers European imports as well as several own-made beers. Despite its upgrade to a brewery, it still has the soul of a class dive-bar. This place has tons of atmosphere, a dartboard and is teeming with locals who you can try and chat up. Watch out for drunken arrowists.
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14. Buff up at the beach
In Miami, why waste time in the gym when you can enjoy the outdoors while getting buff on the beach? With the sun, sea and scenery, sandy sports might not even seem like exercise. For an easy workout, grab a paddleball set or Frisbee at any store on the South Beach, join a game of soccer or round up a volleyball team. For the thrill of wave riding, hire an instructor at Florida Surf Lessons (www.floridasurflessons.com). Kick up the power a few notches at the South Beach Bootcamp, where a personal trainer will take you through a rigorous programme. But if that's too intense, then mellow down at a sunset yoga class.
15. Glam up for clubbing
Miami often gets a reputation for its cookie-cutter nightclubs. But there are a handful of glamorous, individual bar-clubs on South Beach, where you can live it up well into the night. The dusky, chandelier-lit Florida Room mixes old-school décor with the aesthetic of a swanky cruise-ship, attracting everyone from young hipsters and chic sophisticates to Golden Girls clones on a fancy night out. Cameo is a renovated art deco movie theatre that's a premier venue for superstar DJs. It's popular with a mod squad of glamazons and scenesters. Dress to get noticed here.
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16. Listen to the grape vine
A city hasn't arrived until it can boast a selection of swanky wine bars and Miami has certainly embraced its inner wino. Cefalo's is a wine emporium with a difference: it's a chilled Coconut Grove hangout run by a former Dolphins player, which sells 2,000 wines by the bottle and around 40 varieties for sampling. As well as the bar and shop, it hosts tastings and classes, and its eaterie serves Italian cuisine. The first wine bar to open on the beach was Vino Miami, a sleek lounge with a sophisticated wine list and moreish menu of cheeses. For an intimate venue head to W Wine Bar in the chichi Design District or go by the reviews and stick to Wine 69, voted the city's best wine bar by the Miami New Times.
17. Live your reel life dreams
South Florida has the stuff of cinematic fantasy: neon glamour, quasi-tropical vistas and buff bodies. It's no surprise that those in the dream business, film-makers, adore making movies here. Since the days of 'The White Rose' in the 1920s, the motion picture industry has engaged in a heady love affair with the city, and you can spot clues to its movie stardom. The nightlife of Miami Beach has appeared in several films, including the 1964 Bond outing 'Goldfinger', and its gangsta-rapping features in Brian De Palma's remake of 'Scarface'. A hair-raising scene from 'There's Something About Mary' is played out at the Cardozo Hotel, and there's a big starring role for the Carlyle Hotel as a gay club on the flamboyant South Beach in 'The Birdcage'.
18. Release your inner child
For those with children, and fun-loving adults, the Miami Children's Museum is the ideal place to visit. With a futuristic design by the stellar architecture practice Arquitectonica, it's an exciting playground with many interactive displays. You can discover a colourful, mosaic-tiled sandcastle, a teddy-bear exhibit and a television studio. Children under-five can have an adventure in a sea room and enjoy more mundane exhibits: a bank with teller stations and fake cheques, a supermarket with checkout lanes and police motorcycle and fire truck. A visit here will be an endless source of delight for young ones.
19. Get to the art of the matter at Art Basel Miami Beach
Miami Beach is better known for kitsch than fine art, so it seemed odd that organisers of Switzerland's sophisticated Art Basel would choose Miami for its first American sortie. And yet it has been an amazing success: it draws galleries and dealers from around the globe, and showcases the work of more than 1,000 artists and over 200 galleries in the main fair alone. Being in Miami, this is an art fair with a difference: showbiz culture and celebs are part of the equation. Spotting stars buying art and seeing them again at exclusive galas adds to the fun. There are a number of satellite fairs including the NADA fair, Pulse and Design Miami. Galleries hold special shows, South Beach clubs host art parties and restaurants offer specials. This event is all about drinking cocktails on the sand while chatting about alfresco art. For information, visit www.artbaselmiamibeach.com.
20. Discover a rustic paradise
If you've had enough of the sun and surf, the farm fields around Homestead make for a bucolic break. The Fruit & Spice Park is the only garden of its kind in the United States, a 30-acre park exhibiting over 500 varieties of fruits, veggies, spices, herbs, nuts and exotic edibles. An old schoolhouse and coral rock building chart Florida's pioneer life. Another throwback to the fruit farming of old is Robert is Here, which started life in 1959 when the shop's namesake, then six, began selling the family's cucumbers from a small stall. Since then, it has grown into an exotic emporium of fruit and veg. In the lovely setting you can drink fruity milkshakes and buy sweet gifts.