Voted by locals as the peak experiences in their hometown;
Tango down the colorful streets of Little Havana, sunbathe at the best-loved beaches, swim with dolphins, meet the manatees, discover the best museums or wander through lush gardens.
Key Biscayne Beaches
The northernmost island in the Florida Keys is tranquil and serene with pristine beaches. With little nightlife or shopping, everyone goes for the sandy beaches, two waterfront parks and more. www.keybiscaynechamber.org
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens — A National Historic Landmark
A perfect place to spend an hour or a leisurely afternoon in the extraordinary European-inspired estate which includes a house filled with art and furnishings, and 10 acres of gardens on glistening Biscayne Bay. Built in 1916 as the winter home of agricultural industrialist James Deering, you can enjoy the splendor of a past era. www.vizcayamuseum.org
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
This premier conservation and education-based garden is dedicated to exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants. It houses the world’s greatest living collection of palms and cycads. www.fairchildgarden.org
A true taste of Cuba! Here, you’ll find art galleries, colorful wall murals, giant art deco roosters, and many restaurants and shops that are replicas of the originals back in Cuba. Watch men rolling cigars, playing dominos in the park or take in the deep aroma of strong Cuban coffee. Pulsating music, lively entertainment and spicy dishes attract locals and visitors to Little Havana. www.miamiandbeaches.com/visitors/little_havana
Home of Lolita, the Killer Whale, who flies through the air; TV superstar, Flipper and other dolphins who walk on water; Salty, the Sea Lion; Pacific white-sided dolphins; rescued Florida manatees; endangered sea turtles, and Nile crocodiles. In addition to the dolphin or whale shows, you can feed seals and sea lions, swim with the dolphins or have a photo moment playing with them. www.miamiseaquarium.com
Escape on a jungle safari into a lush, tropical 30-acre reserve and mingle with birds, monkeys and the world’s rarest creatures. The jungle is home to animal wonders like Java monkey or Vulcan, a 900-pound liger, and twin orangutans, Peanut and Pumpkin. Watch some of the continuous shows throughout the day. www.jungleisland.com
Coral Castle Museum
Giant pieces of coral rock were carved by Edward Leedskalnin in the 1920s, as a tribute to unrequited love. The construction techniques behind this mystery garden of fantastic coral sculptures continue to baffle experts and visitors. Visitors tour the Coral Castle with knowledgeable tour guides who try to explain the unusual sculptures. www.coralcastle.com
Miami Science Museum
This interactive and hands-on museum boasts a Wildlife Center with rare birds of prey and reptiles, planetarium shows and a brand new Energy Tracker exhibit featuring an interconnected trail of hands-on exhibits that explore everything from basic energy principles to the future of renewable energy. The Planetarium has a laser light show the first Friday night of the month and daily multimedia shows. www.miamisci.org.
Biscayne Bay National Park
A 53-foot glass-bottomed boat and a 45-foot diving and snorkeling catamaran take adventurers across Biscayne Bay, through wilderness, mangrove creeks, islands, and out to tropical coral reefs. www.nps.gov/bisc/
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 12.5-acre site includes a historical botanical garden, arts and cultural events such as theater, cinema, a petting zoo, Splash ‘N’ Play water playground, and venues for indoor and outdoor picnics or parties. www.pinecrest-fl.gov
South Beach is the trendy, art-deco, shopping, people-watching and nightlife destination that many Miamians prefer to visit in the off-season from May-August.
Two days at the Coconut Grove Food and Wine Festival gave me ample time to chat with lots of local foodies and quiz them about their best dining recommendations. So where do the locals recommend?
Jaguar in Coconut Grove for the best Peruvian Cuisine and Ceviche outside of South America. This is my #1 recommendation. Try the sampler of six different tastes of ceviche from the Spoon Bar, then a Moqueca de Camarao, large shrimp cooked with coconut mild, malaguesta peppers, dende oil and coconut flakes. And don’t miss the warm bread-pudding with cinnamon-vanilla and tres leche. www.jaguarspot.com
Michael’s Genuine for the best pork belly, short ribs, leg of lamb and other meats and fish. http://www.michaelsgenuine.com/
Seniorita Martinez for modern and innovative cuisines in Miami’s Design district. www.sramartinez.com
I am the “Official Sightseer” for the 2012 Sightseeing City Tour (www.seemoresights.com), a national consumer education effort created by Transitions Optical to demonstrate that vision is the gateway to the world around us, allowing us to “see the sights” in our everyday life and enjoy every moment to the fullest.
My message is: Taking care of your eyes is just as important as taking care of your skin. When you put on sunscreen do you also think of how you protect your eyesight? I damaged my eyesight when I traveled around the world (at age 29), and didn’t have proper glasses or visit an eye doctor regularly, so this issue is close to my heart.
The Top 10 Sights to See in each city are being voted for online by local residents in each city and travel enthusiasts across the country. Join in the fun and vote for your favorite Sights and be entered to win one of several vacation packages.
Come along with me throughout the year to five cities across the country – Miami, Dallas, Seattle, Chicago and New Orleans – where you will have the chance to visit the Transitions® adaptive lenses booth at local festivals for free vision screenings and have your photo taken at a cool kiosk with the scenic background of your choice.
Best of all, you will have the opportunity to win cool prizes like eyewear fitted with Transitions lenses or the grand prize – the Ultimate Sightseeing Dream Vacation, a 10-day National Geographic excursion for two to the Galapagos Islands. Enter for your chance to win the grand prize by submitting a photo online of one of your favorite “Sights” in life to the Sight of the Day Photo Contest.