Seeing Miami Like a Native

We always love visiting Miami—It is like visiting a foreign country without having a passport! We started going to Miami in the late 1980’s  to visit its’ gardens and museums including a several year stint volunteering at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden that began with Hurricane Andrew cleanup. As a part of these many adventures we got to learn more about Miami when we joined the History Miami Museum.
History Miami Museum got its start in the 1930’s as the Historical Museum of South Florida.  They are located in two buildings on Flagler Street in downtown Miami across the plaza from the Miami-Dade Public Library, They have  a collection of artifacts from over two thousand years of habitation of land at the intersection of Biscayne Bay and the Miami River. They are also known for their fabulous public tours, many of them lead by retired professor and resident  historian Dr. Paul George. Over the years we have taken many of Dr. George’s walking, bus, and boat tours visiting the former fishing village/ party collection of buildings known as “Stiltsville”, the history of Pan American airways, Miami’s hotels and their lobbies and one of our favorites—the Miami River Cruise.
After a two year hiatus the Museum decided to resume their boat tours and when the river cruise popped up, we were lucky enough to get tickets. We left Naples early on a Saturday morning and reached Bayside Marketplace, a large outdoor mall in downtown Miami about 9 AM. We checked in early at the Island Queen Tour boat docks and killed some time by getting a Cuban style coffee at a restaurant called La Industria Bakery and Cafe. The place was mobbed and it took several minutes to order and get our two little espresso cups of coffee. I couldn’t help but look at the bakery cases in front of me
We returned to the boat and boarded just before ten. We sat on the upper deck of the Miami Lady at the stern so we could see everything and enjoy the breezes blowing off the bay. Dr. George and Rachel Silverstein, the executive director of the Miami Waterkeeper gave a dialogue about the river and the attempts to preserve it. I have yet to figure out how Dr. George can speak so much about his subject for two hours nonstop as we sailed upstream past former fish houses, docked boats, freighters, homes, restaurants, and boatyards that were rapidly being replaced by new condos and shops. So much had changed in the way of architecture in the last ten years! What used to be all commercial was now rapidly becoming residential. I took numerous film clips of the many bridges we passed under going up and down. Here is a ten minute video I made of our cruise
We traveled about five miles upstream before turning around and returning. Here are some of my favorite views:


When we returned to the dock it was lunchtime. The waterfront was mobbed with crowds of people everywhere! We decided to leave our parked car and hike over past the Miami Boat show

to the Perez Art Museum and have lunch at their Verde Restaurant-one of my favorite outdoor waterside dining places. As we had no reservations we had a 45 minute wait,and decided to check out the art exhibits installed for Black History Month. One of my new faves is Bisa Butler, a mixed media artist who creates her art using primarily African wax resist fabrics that she quilts and embroiders into different portraits of people:

As we had a long, slow wait while having our lunch prepared, we were very interested in part of the outside courtyard of the museum being set up for a wedding. It looked like it was going to be a very elaborate and expensive affair. I managed to squeeze out the information of who was getting married when we were leaving-the daughter of the museum’s executive director. We walked past one of the interesting sculptures in the park beside the museum

before returning to a now crowded and totally packed parking garage. Once we were able to get out of the always present traffic jams of Miami, driving home was a breeze.


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