Brightline higher-speed train service to miami set to begin next weekend fort lauderdale gas bubble disease

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As soon as you exit the station, your panorama will be a lot different than the brand new station (right now, it’s just a construction site). To keep it real, this area of downtown is a “wallet-in-your-front-pocket” sort of place, so keep moving.

Walk east on 3rd Street and turn south (right) on North Miami Avenue. It starts to get crowded here. You’re now part of the herd, but I’d still keep the wallet secure. Everyone walks fast here. After all, this is the city’s downtown, and they have somewhere to go. But you don’t. You’re day trippin’, stay-caying and all that, so take your time and don’t get caught up in the hustle. Instead, take photos of the graffiti at the corner of 3rd Street and North Miami Ave. #streetart

“Because we’re so close to the Miami School of Arts, most of our customers are young students that need something quick between classes. We also get a lot of lawyers from the court house that are in a rush,” said owner Ian Hernandez, a 25-year-old from Spain who decided to start a business after visiting Miami a few times and falling in love with the weather.

You can get a healthy breakfast with lots of flavor without much wait. There are 18 sandwich options to choose from, and you can also customize your order. If you skip the carbs, opt for a fruit smoothie for $5. You can also get baked pastries like ham croqueta, pastel de queso or beef or chicken empanada. They also serve teas and coffee.

“This was a name given by the Cubans in Miami that had just arrived and didn’t speak English,” said Pola Ginzburg. “The original name of the store was ‘Olkers,’ but because they couldn’t pronounce that word, and because the staff was majority older women, they started referring to it as is ‘La casa de las viejas.’” The name stuck, and a new sign went up shortly after.

Another perk of ditching the car and using your feet: You run into really cool, secret stuff. As I walked eastbound on Northeast 1st Street, I noticed a group of people following a woman inside the Miami Center for Architecture and Design building.

Rojas is a general contractor for Stanbul, a local construction company that also happens to be the developers of the Langford Hotel in Miami. She told me the building is transforming itself to something “very cool,” but that she couldn’t share much.

Walking through downtown can get sticky and hot very quickly, but on every corner, there’s some sweet spot to save you from this tropical, concrete jungle. Smoothies, sodas, water, natural juices and other beverages are sold at small window shops at most intersections. But for some reason, most people are downing tiny shots of hot coffee. Why? Maybe because if your organs are hot, the weather will feel cooler? Not sure. A lot of things in Miami don’t make sense. They just are.

When in downtown Miami, looking side-to-side, behind you, in front of you, diagonally and upside down isn’t just necessary, it’s absolutely beautiful. Everything from cars, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists will run you over if you don’t move (I caught several mopeds going the opposite direction on “one-way only” streets.) So, be careful. But after you’ve secured safety on a sidewalk, look up!

There’s nothing quite like a leisurely walk interrupted by the smell of fresh bread and oregano. I think I fell in love a bit with downtown Miami at this moment because it took me back to Guaparo, a neighborhood in Valencia, Venezuela where my father grew up. In this town, many Italians have restaurants since migrating to my father’s town after World War II. That exact same smell stopped me in my tracks and pulled me under “The Village Restaurants & Shops” sign, right through Vero Italian restaurant.

I ate at Vero. After all, that’s what got me here.. The lunch menu was super affordable, especially for Miami. For $10 you can get pastas like alla Carbonara or Bolegnese, or specialty paninis with mozzarella or prama. I got spaghetti alla Carbonara, a soda and two shots of Espresso for under $20.

There are so many restaurants in downtown Miami. There was no way I could have visited them all in one day. I’ve been to El Sitio for authentic Venezuelan food, Ceviche 305 for Peruvian-inspired cuisine and Mar y Tierra, a Peruvian hole in the wall. All three are amazing. A quick Google map search will display hundreds of options for you.

Hop on your bike or start walking east toward the water. Keep your eyes open for a little daycay spending. There are a ton of retail stores selling everything: from sports wear and household goods to cheap knock offs and expensive items like gold, diamonds and silver.

This is a quick stop before the big blue. The Southeast Financial District is a 2-acre plaza with an impressive roof, attaching to the two buildings. The Southeast Financial Center building is the third-tallest building in Florida at 764-feet tall.

“I like sitting here, relaxing, seeing people and [catching] fresh air,” said Leclerc Estimable, who has been living in Miami for 17 years after moving from Haiti. “When you come here, you feel relaxed and secured. I work in Bayside so I always come here.”

There’s also a beautiful banyan tree named “The Bayside Banyan Tree.” It measures more than 75 feet tall and is about 110 years old. These trees can grow up to 100 feet in height and live more than 1,000 years. It’s so big that it wouldn’t fit in my photo, so go check it out for yourself.

Completed in 1925, the Freedom Tower has had several purposes. First, it served as the headquarters and printing facility for the The Miami News newspaper. Later, it became a federal center to process documents and provide services for Cubans fleeing the Fidel Castro regime during the 60s. The Freedom Tower is still an iconic structure representing Cuban culture.

“It was very powerful to learn about the story of many Cubans and how so many children were separated from their families,” said tourist Millie Dsouza of Jacksonville, Florida. “These structures and buildings are here to remind us, current and future generations, that freedom is not free.”

Today, the Tower is a museum, a cultural center and education center after it was donated to Miami Dade College. The second floor is being renovated where the MDC Museum of Art + Design displays a range of exhibits. Check out current exhibitions and details here.

Visiting downtown Miami is a great time, and a lot more relaxing than you would think. The fact that you’re there without a destination in mind, and without worrying about driving and parking, you’re a lot more aware of its surroundings. Take your time. Look around, try different cuisines, drink a Cuban coffee on a hot day, talk to the business owners. Most attractions here are based around shopping and dining, but head over to Bayside for a boat ride if you want more action. Just. Don’t. Rush. Happy Day Trippin’!