There’s an old saying that the best thing about Miami is that it’s so close to the United States. It’s true for the fact that this is a place that often feels very European, South American and Caribbean. It’s also true for the fact that Miami exists as a place different from anywhere else in this country, a Bermuda Triangle of weirdness, where the rules on what to wear and where to go and how to act just might change depending on your dance partner for the evening. How do you live in such a place? Here below is a guide on how to navigate America’s most delightfully foreign city.
1. The dress code is whatever
It doesn’t matter if it’s the fanciest brunch spot in town or the jankiest corner deli. Look around the room and you might see a dude in a tank top and jellies next to a woman wearing a sparkling evening gown. If you want to wear it, you’ll probably be fine.
2. About that dress code, tho
Even though you can wear whatever to pretty much everywhere, you’ll also walk into clubs and bars and restaurants where every single person looks dressed by their own personal shopper.
3. Nudity is a thing
Out on the sand of South Beach, topless is normal, and up at Haulover, it’s all coming off. Just try not to make eye contact.
4. If it requires a trip on I-95...
... the restaurant is almost surely not worth it.
5. It’s raining iguanas
When it gets cold, giant reptiles just might start falling from trees.
6. The roads have no rules
Here, speed limits generally don’t exist, traffic lanes are a suggestion, and the rolling stop is a standard.
7. The roads also don’t always make sense
Like any good city, Miami streets are on a grid system. Except in The Roads neighborhood and Coral Gables and Hialeah and Cutler Bay and probably where you’re trying to go.
8. A road with many names
The main thoroughfare through all of Miami-Dade is U.S. 1, which, depending on where you are, might be also called Brickell Avenue, Biscayne, Federal Highway, State Road 5, South Dixie Highway, or whatever else you’d like to call it.
9. The express lanes don’t quit
It might seem like a fine idea to pay an extra buck or so to jump in I-95’s luxury lanes to avoid traffic. Just know that with no way to exit, it’s a one-way ticket to Broward.
10. Speaking of Broward
While our neighbors to the north will boast of it being a place with pleasant neighborhoods and generally stuff that works, most Miamians never go north, for any reason.
11. That new condo is going to need your road
When a new building comes up, which happens like every few hours, the construction site is just going to take a lane of traffic or two. For like the next 18 years.
12. How much is that cocktail?
From the dive down the street to the bar in the W, it’s not uncommon to find cocktail menu prices that drift solidly into the two digits. Twenty-five bucks for a martini? Yes, that’s a thing.
13. It’s raining—wait, no it’s not
At any given moment, you might see a biblical-level downpour turn instantly into the ideal sunny day. And then back again.
14. Hurricanes: a choose your own adventure
When a hurricane appears ready to wipe out the city, many people will go into full freakout mode. Then others will throw hurricane parties and forget to buy batteries.
15. Buy flowers from under the overpass
There’s a dude under the highway, every highway, and he’s got some tulips to sell you, super cheap. It’s weird, but we all just do it.
16. Mansions next to crack houses
The nicest neighborhood you’ve ever seen is often right next to the part of Miami that you should definitely not go into.
17. Not everyone goes to the beach
The beaches here are among the best in the world, places where people go to party and suntan and all manner of sports. You’ll also meet locals who haven’t been for years and have an unfounded fear of sand in their nether regions.
18. Brunch, always
In most places, brunch lands squarely between breakfast and lunch. Here, it’s sometimes in the afternoon, occasionally in the middle of the night, and almost surely going to involve hours of bottomless mimosas.