Super Bowl XLI is a long way off, but what if the Seattle Seahawks go all the way again?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have your trip for the Feb. 4 game booked and paid for as you scramble to get tickets to the game later?
Even if the Seahawks don’t make it, think about it: It’s Florida in February.
No matter what happens, it’s an ideal trip for a rain-weary Northwest resident with a deep-seated need for dry days, average daily highs of 76 and, hello, sun.
You’ll trade the grays of our interminable winters for the ever-vibrant neon and pastel hues of Miami, an eclectic, diverse mecca of urban and outdoor pleasures.
Photograph a flamingo. Wrestle an alligator. Swim with dolphins. You decide. It sure beats the heck out of Detroit.
The Miami area is no stranger to Super Bowls, having hosted eight since the 1970s. But it has changed greatly since its last big game in 1999.
Thanks to an explosion in luxury hotels, Miami’s sprawling metropolitan area now boasts 50,000 guest rooms, including three new locations of the Ritz-Carlton as well as new hotels by Trump International, Loews, Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Conrad and Le Meridien.
You’d better move fast, however. Miami’s sunny, hurricane-free winter is prime time for Florida vacationers any year, but especially during a Super Bowl year.
No, we’re not talking about the hot fad diet born here, we’re talking about the tony southern district of Miami Beach, a lively city, just east of Miami proper across Biscayne Bay. Here you’ll find evidence of the hotel-building boom right next to one of the largest art deco architecture districts in the world.
Browse the designer shops and take art deco walking tours by day. By night, indulge in fine dining, and if you’re into that sort of thing, some of the hottest clubs in the country.
Miami’s bustling, must-see neighborhoods include Little Havana, where Cuban culture is alive and well; Coral Gables, where Mediterranean revival architectural dominates, especially at the magnificently restored Biltmore Hotel; and Coconut Grove, a dining and nightlife hotspot also home to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, yet another architectural wonder.
Take a cruise
Miami, often called the official Cruise Capital of the World, is home to eight major cruise lines, three more than Seattle’s five, including Carnival, Celebrity, Costa, Crystal, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Oceania and Windjammer Barefoot.
More than 3 million passengers take to the seas from Miami every year, including 3.6 million in 2005.
Cruise lines offer a variety of vessels, destinations, sailing dates and side excursions at popular ports in the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico, in addition to destinations in Latin America, Asia and Europe. Set off on a three-day voyage to the Bahamas for about $300 or escape for two weeks on a Panama Canal adventure that sails from Miami and ends in Los Angeles for $3,000.
You know you’ve fantasized about it: You’re sipping a Corona Light or an umbrella-endowed drink while reclining on a beach in the Florida Keys – just like in the commercials. Florida’s famous archipelago, which starts at the tip of the state, begins about 30 miles south of Miami. Take a scenic drive along the 110-mile-long Overseas Highway, an engineering marvel also known as U.S. 1. Go all the way to Key West to reach the southernmost point in the continental United States, about four hours’ drive from Miami and a mere 90 miles by sea from Cuba.
Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, features rare and endangered species, such as American crocodiles, Florida panthers and West Indian manatees. And, lucky you, Miami traveler, the Ernest Coe Visitor Center is about 35 miles out side of Miami.
December through April, the park’s official dry season, is an ideal time to visit if you want to escape troublesome bugs and humidity. Because water levels are lower, birds and animals are easier for you to see, along with the rest of the folks who had the same idea.
Florida’s sporting life isn’t limited to football. If you can’t get Super Bowl tickets – and let’s face it, your odds aren’t great even if you’re a Seahawks season ticket holder – why not take in a game featuring the 2006 NBA Champions, the Miami Heat?
Miami is a getaway for golfers, divers and fishing enthusiasts, too, and, if you’re willing to drive four hours north to Daytona, you’ll find weekly events at the Daytona International Speedway.
February is a big month in Daytona thanks to winter Speedweeks, a “three-week festival of speed.” If you can’t hit the events just right, stop at Daytona USA, an interactive racing museum, complete with high-tech racing simulators.
The Miami area also is a hot spot for jai-alai, a baseball-esque ball game played against a wall using wicker baskets. Though the game originated in the Basque region of Spain, it has become hugely popular in Florida as a spectator sport and an alternative to horse race gambling.
Don’t worry; Florida isn’t all bikinis, nightclubs, acclaimed architecture and NASCAR.
Families can see an astonishing array of marine life at the Miami Seaquarium, where you can swim with dolphins for a fee, or dwell among the monkeys at the Monkey Jungle reserve, “where humans are caged and monkeys run wild.” You also might try out Parrot Jungle Island, an animal theme park home to more than 1,000 tropical birds and 2,000 varieties of plants and flowers and “the best trained bird show in the world.” It also boasts a 20-foot, 2,000-pound “crocosaurus.” At the Miami Metrozoo, kids with reservations can be a zookeeper for a day.
If that’s not enough, it’s only a 3.5-hour drive to Orlando if the kids insist on seeing Mickey Mouse at Walt Disney World, built on 28,000 acres. Orlando also is home to SeaWorld and Universal Orlando.
Reporter Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037 or email@example.com.
This report was compiled with the help from “Florida 2006” from Fodor’s and “Miami &The Keys” from Lonely Planet.
Plan your trip
Miami: See www.miamiandbeaches.com, www.visitflorida.com, www.miami.world-guides.com, www.miamibeachchamber.com or www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/living/travel/visitors_guide for ideas and trip-planning help or call 800-933-8448.
Cruise Capital of the World: You’ll find links to all the major Miami cruise lines at www.miamidade.gov/portofmiami or call 305-371-7678.
Florida Keys: See www.fla-keys.com or call -800-352-5397.
Everglades National Park: See www.nps.gov/ever or call 305-242-7700 for the Ernest Coe Visitor Center.
Fun for kids: See www.miamiseaquarium.com, www.monkeyjungle.com, www.parrotjungle.com, www.miamimetrozoo.com, disneyworld.disney.go.com and www.orlandoinfo.com.
Sporting life: See www.nba.com/heat, www.jaialai.net, www.fla-gaming.com, www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or www.daytonausa.com.
Super Bowl: See www.superbowl.com for the skinny on tickets and events leading up to the Feb. 4 game.
Books: Travel books will help you get a handle on a city or a trip like nothing else. Check out “Florida 2006” from Fodor’s or Frommer’s; “Miami &The Keys” from Lonely Planet or “Moon Metro Miami” from Moon Handbooks.
Miami in the media
If you’re having trouble picturing Miami, here’s a sampling of movies and TV shows, and one video game, filmed, set or based on the Miami scene that inspired both the 1980s TV show and this year’s Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell film, “Miami Vice.”
“Something About Mary”
“2 Fast 2 Furious”
“Bad Boys 2”
“Out of Sight.”
“Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”