For those of you who have never been, Miami is a unique experience. The different cultures that mix in the area accompanied by the free spirit of the city itself (which may or may not have something to do with drug money helping to fund the initial infrastructure. But Vegas did the same thing and everyone loves that place!) makes Miami feel unique to pretty much any other city you can visit.
Ideally I recommend spending more than one weekend in Miami to get the full experience of the city. For a Georgia Tech game you will probably spend more time traveling than you realize once you get here, for reasons I will explain shortly. Try to plan accordingly, and be ready for some long nights out.
Travel How To: Getting to Miami
The problem with traveling for a Miami game is that there are three locations that you could target visiting as a part of your trip. There is Coral Gables, where the University of Miami campus is located. There is The City of Miami itself (which is spread out and split up in its own unique way). Finally there is the Hard Rock Stadium, which is technically closer to Fort Lauderdale than it is to Miami.
My first comment would be to avoid the campus. Usually this blog wants to highlight the unique sights on other school campuses, but Miami is the exception. Coral Gables is a private community, this means parking nearby is hard to find without a permit. Also campus security is generally not big on letting random people who are not students roam around the campus. There are ways around this, such as joining a tour, but it might be more trouble than its worth. With that we’ll focus on the City and the stadium.
Flights from Atlanta to Miami are pretty darn cheap. In the fall (the offseason for Miami) most if not all tickets are under $150, with airlines like Spirit and Frontier even offering flights for less than $100, just keep in mind the flight may be a bit less comfortable for the price decrease. Fort Lauderdale is roughly the same price for flights, so if you want to stay closer to the stadium you should book your flight and stay there.
The drive from Atlanta to Miami is 9 and a half hours without stopping if you take the Florida Turnpike which will cost you some extra dollars. The other option is to go straight down I-95 which is a 10.5 hour drive straight. This will leave you with a car, but if you’re only staying the weekend then it is probably going to be too exhausting to drive the full distance there and back.
In this case I absolutely recommend taking the flight and figuring out transportation when you get to the city. There’s plenty of inexpensive ride shares or you can rent a car with the expenses you save on the flight.
Places to Stay: Fort Lauderdale or Miami
Miami is a big place, so instead of focusing on specific hotels we’re talking about places in the city to look at staying.
South Beach is the big name area in Miami. It’s the beach that gets featured in movies that take place in Miami. Not the most family friendly place, with some topless areas and strip clubs nearby, but it is definitely a tourist attraction for certain segments of the population. The beach is beautiful, many restaurants and bars, plenty of night life. Staying on South Beach is surprisingly cheap in the fall. Hotels range from $60 to $150 a night. Most of these are older establishments that don’t offer much beyond the room you are staying in, but if you want the “Hollywood” styled Miami experience (not to be confused with the actual Hollywood area of Miami) this is the place to stay.
Wynwood is a good option for a more “hipster” vibe in Miami. This is the art district with many unique cafes, restaurants, and breweries. Airbnb’s are more available in this area, but hotels will start at around $100.
If you decide to stay in Fort Lauderdale to be closer to the game, this is more the traditional tourist location. Many chain establishment restaurants with beautiful beach walks nearby. Hotels nearby the airport offer affordable options starting at around $100 per night. Fort Lauderdale has a little bit of everything, but is definitely still focused on an adult audience.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are near the Hard Rock stadium. Staying at the hotel is the same as staying at an all inclusive resort. The Hard Rock has shows, restaurants, clubs, bars, and other attractions all on the campus. It is probably the best stay for the game, but also the most expensive. Staying in the Hardrock Hotel over the weekend can run you up to $700 a night. Maybe if you’re feeling yourself you can win enough at the casino to cover the cost, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Las Olas Beach and Boulevard is more family friendly. This area is farther north in Fort Lauderdale, it features discovery museums, a nature reserve area, and a beach near a inland canal. Honestly I do not have much experience with the area, but I have heard it is one of the better spots to stay if you want to have a nice family experience in Miami.
Things to See: City of Miami
One of the key things to remember in Miami is that it is a city of different cultures because of the ports and its location near the islands in the Gulf of Mexico. With that said, if you or one of your traveling companions can speak Spanish it will help you see a side of Miami you would not normally experience. Also I have been told that knowledge of Cuban slang is also beneficial.
Since I can’t speak Spanish, and my translator Grant is not here to help me, I am totally gonna screw up some of these words up while typing.
If you are looking for good Cuban cuisine try Versailles Restaurant or La Carreta for traditional Cuban. Versailles is one of the more well known locations in the city. Apparently when people funnel to Versailles after a big Heat win so they can grab a coffee and some food afterwards. Carreta is a chain, but it is a well known one which prides itself on its Cuban cuisine.
Speaking of Cuban cuisine there are many cafes in the area which specialize in Cuban pastries and coffee. In particular be on the lookout for Pastelitos, Quesitos, and Cafe con Leche for a more traditional Cuban morning experience.
If that’s not your thing you can always check out Mojo’s Donuts in Miami and Salty Donuts in Fort Lauderdale. These are some of the high quality donut locales similar to Sublime donuts in their quality.
Getting back to the natural beauty, Virginia Key and Crandon park are worth checking out just south of Miami. This offers many out door activities aside from just going to the beach or nature walking. golfing, swimming, kayaking, and fishing are all popular in the area.
If you can get a seat try Joe’s Stone Crab off of South Beach. It is one of the largest restaurants in America (not in terms of being a chain, the restaurant itself is just huge). Despite this Joe’s is always busy and is one of the better seafood places in the area.
As discussed before Wynwood has you covered for breweries, bars, restaurants, and art. Just spending time walking around the Wynwood area might keep you occupied for your entire trip.
You will need a parking pass if you want to tailgate at the stadium itself. the parking opens up as the day goes on so only certain sections will open up as the morning goes on. The stadium has plenty of Bars and Restaurants nearby. Try El Rey des las Fritas if you find them for a good burger with Cuban pulled pork mixed in. Definitely great gameday food.
The stadium has sections 122, 153, and 154 listed as being for visitors. Try picking up tickets in that area, although I have found that just because you sit in that area does not necessarily mean you will not be surrounded by rowdy Miami fans. Regardless, try to enjoy your game experience and your experience in Miami itself. Have a great week, Go Jackets!!!