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Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

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solingen, germany
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Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

I`ve been vacationing in Miami Beach since the late 70`s when the only restored art deco hotels on Ocean Drive were the Leslie and the Crescent. The News Cafe was a few plastic tables and chairs at a small news kiosk, and the rest of the hotels were used as old folks homes. Miami Beach then was just a curiousity and a remnant of its former 1920`s glory.

Returning to visit every few years, it was quite a thrill when the tv show Miami Vice prompted more renovation of the art deco district and more people started visiting. I brought my new wife to Miami Beach in 1991 and we noticed the proliferation of modeling agencies and photo shootings near the beach. You could still park near the beach all day for a few bucks. We returned with our 5 year old daughter in 1997 to see the boardwalk going up and walked past the building site of the new Lowes Hotel to have breakfast at the renovated Shelbourne with its Las Vegas style ballroom.

Since then, I have been back alone in 2001 and 2004, when I spent a lot of time at Starbucks and walking though the thick crowds in the evening along the Lincoln Road stops, or through the restaurant row on Ocean Drive with the agressive hosts and hostesses shoving menus in your face as you walk by.

In February of 2009, my wife and 17 year old daughter decided on a 3 day stop in Miami Beach on our way to Key Largo. I was very unhappy and sad to see what Miami Beach has become: a group of overpriced restaurants and shops, unbearable traffic congestion, filled parking garages and lots even with the $20 per day price tag, and hotels that are either $400 per night (Lowes) or $180 per night and disgusting (Clay Hotel).

Restaurants that are so bold as to add automatically add a 15-18% tip onto the restaurant charge and then dare you to subtract it if you do not agree (please note the area that suggests the 'additional tip' for people who did not notice that the tip was already added to the bill.

A extremely small bottle of beer and diet coke at the Love Hate Lounge was $7. When I told the barkeeper to keep $8 she smirked and acted insulted not to be offered the entire change from the 10 dollar bill.

At a small store on a side street the man in front of us put a small Hershey bar on the counter and handed the cashier a 5 dollar bill. He got 3 dollars in change. `That candy bar costs 2 dollars?`he asked. He then left the store without buying it.

I had the distinct feeling that the service people, shopkeepers and hotel owners are just grabbing for money, and agressively at that. A bakery on Washington street where prices changed from customer to customer as we sat drinking our coffee in awe.

Please understand, I love Miami Beach. But I was so disappointed and shocked by the behaviour of the people, the lack of parking, the rudeness, filthy side streets, the homeless, the expensive restaurants for only average food and service. Miami Beach, you have lost your charm. Those who visit now are victims of your once glorious past and not so recent past. Now its over. We had a better time in Key West, Key Largo, and Ft. Lauderdale.

My advice, see Miami Beach on a day trip. But stay outside of the city, in Lauderdale or Hollywood. Its the same beach and the same sun, without the hassles and the rip-offs!

See my review for the Clay Hotel.


Destination Expert
for Miami, Miami Beach
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1. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

Hi Mike -

I understand how these bad experiences leave you feeling so cynical about Miami Beach. I am sure many people agree with you about the pushy hostesses on Ocean Drive and the high prices in the tourist areas you frequent. In my travels, the strips that are most densely targeted to visitors are rarely charming, reasonably priced or even all that interesting. Such is the nature of the tourist districts worldwide - it's all about getting a buck from the day-trippers. I am lucky enough to live here and to see much more of the City of Miami Beach, so I view it in a different light.

I believe the beauty of the TripAdvisor forum is the insights provided by the locals and the visitors who share the good places to stay and the fun places they enjoy in every city. If you read some of their posts, you can better avoid the lackluster areas that are the pitfalls of any visit.

I do hope when you come back to Florida, you have a better vacation.

Thanks so much for your post. Have a great weekend.


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2. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

I did start with my first trip to Miami Beach in 1995. I have been back every March for about a week and in recent years for business many times more frequent. I certainly noticed it has become more congested and pricey and indeed a few years ago noted in March (I would go up to Fort Lauderdale for a day in March) that the college crowds seemed to be migrating to FLL because of the cost criteria. Maybe the recession will cool down the Miami Beach overheating.

Miami, FL
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3. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

A pleasant tourist destination ruined by overpopularity & over-exploitation of its visitors is not exactly unprecedented. Fortunately, the problem is self - correcting, as visitors vote with their feet.

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4. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

Mike, there is a bit of truth and you are entitled

to your opinion. However, your review of the Clay

hotel explains your dissatisfaction, but it is like

staying in a lousy hotel in any city and then saying the city has lost its charm. We were there over labor

day weekend and a bit annoyed with what you described

on Ocean and Lincoln until we decided two things.

Think of it as local color and walk across the street by the ocean. Try going to the dozens of other

places that were great like Nemo where there was

a bit of outdoor dining enchantment. If you know where

to stay and go, then your point of view becomes

less valid. Also, there are some excellent hotels

for less money than what you paid(i.e. Century

or Cadet) as well as excellent deals on Travelzoo,

Quikbook, or Perfect escapes.com that can provide

great places to stay. Travel during holiday

weekends limit the good deals.

Also, IMO a new transformation is in the making

and midbeach will become a busy and attractive

place to stay with a trend toward a less clubing

type of crowd.

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894 posts
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5. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

We love the area too, but have been staying in Fort Lauderdale and going to SoBe on daytrips just for the fact that Miami Beach does try to bleed you for your last buck. Sorry I can't remember the name of the sidewalk cafe we ate at in January but the beer was $9.00 a bottle. SoBe is nice, but then again, so is Fort Lauderdale.

New York
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286 posts
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6. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

I have to say that my recent visit to South Beach left me with a totally different impression. I enjoyed my hotel (the Park Central) which I chose after doing a great deal of due diligence. I also enjoyed many of the restaurants, which I again chose after doing due diligence. I was aware in advance of the likelihood that the tip would be added to my bill - but in most cases it was only 15%, and I added a little more because the service deserved more. I'm not used to having the tip added - they don't do it here in NY unless you have a group of 6 or more - but there was no subterfuge. Yes, the traffic seemed congested, but only on Ocean. It would be easy enough to avoid it. Unfortunately, many tourist destinations have parking issues. I consider it part of the cost of the trip. You would not expect to go to Manhattan or Boston or Montreal without paying for a garage - this is no different.

I walked on Collins, Washington, Ocean, and a number of the numbered streets. I did not find them dirty. As for the homeless - they are everywhere, unfortunately. When I'm in Montreal, I joke that Giulianni sent all of New York's homeless up there when he was mayor.

Yes, some of the shops are expensive - so I just window shopped at those. But I also found a gorgeous $150 cocktail dress on clearance at ArdenB for $10! There will always be shopkeepers trying to make a buck on the unwary - the guy you saw walk away from the $2 candy bar did the right thing.

It's too bad that you had such a negative experience. But it seems to me that your expectations were unrealistic.

Calgary, Canada
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159 posts
6 reviews
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7. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

Mike, I'm about to visit South Beach for the first time with my wife in less than a week. I wish I had some thing in SoBe to guage it against but I only have what I've seen on tv, news, etc and of course TA which I lean on heavly when travelling to a new destination. I certainly don't have the background knowlegde and history of the area you have.

It is too bad that establishments take gratuities as a given. I can see it for larger groups as the servers get short changed far too often. Tips are for good service, not just because you are out and about patrionizing eaterys, bars tec. Yes it the usual and expected but I don't especially like it myself when it's automitacally put on my bill. If I don't get good product, service, ambience, etc, why should I have to barter to have this taken off my bill if service and product is not up to or below par. I agree.

Recent times will bring this to light in the very near future for many in different tourist areas that have been taking things for grantide for a few years now. Some of us have seen this cycle before. We are in Vegas in May and they are very negotiable on a number of items. Tourist areas must compete for these limited dollars over the next few years. As was previously noted on this post, foot traffic will determine a lot. We have never been to SoBe but if we feel we are getting a better bang for our winter buck in Mexico, DR, or else where, you know our dollar will be spent there. Word travels fast, especially in the TA world.

Yes parking is expensive in all tourist areas over the last number of years. We've paid $75 / day at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhatten to $38 in SF. It's the price you pay to drive or you read what TA people say and don't use a car where not warrented.

On a brighter note, we are coming to SoBe to spend our coin and have a good time and expect to have nothing but the best of times while there. And that goes for our cruise and Key West also, not to mention any where else we will travel over the next number of years.(Not to mention this year too)

We have done a lot of home work (not as muh as usual) but we are prepare due largely to everyone's posts, questions and answers and a special thanks to TA Girl,MattFL SoBeAddict to mention a few for all your help. We are going armed with a lot of knowledge of Miami we dind't have a short while ago. We have been given maps, references and recommendations. We've got the smiles and the attitute for the rest:)

I might be giving my age away but, 25 years ago we planned our first 2 week holiday to Hawaii, based on a 1 square inch picture in a brochure of a high rise hotel! As we Canadians say " Not a lot to go on eh!"

Thank goodness for TA. It makes our trips so much more enjoyable. We've met people from all over the world to people on our plane. There are always cronic complainers, some are surely justifable but if you read between the lines this site has a lot to offer.

March 20th, we're there. SoBe here we come. Touring around, I'm wearing a flaming C (Calgary Flames) red shirt (some days). Stop me and say Hi if you see me. You know I'll have a smile:)

Thanks again for everyones help and sorry I kinda of stole this post.


For those that have helped my planning, I also log under SQCalgary.

Washington DC...
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8. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

I lived in Florida in the 60s-70s and am always stunned by the changes. We enjoyed our trip to Miami Beach but for me, some of it was like "New York City with palm trees." There is excitement and cosmopolitan flair, but a LOT of crowding. It's a happening place, but a bit much for me. I confess I am not that fond of NYC crowds, either. My happiest times were just in the water at the beach or walking in the Everglades.

For a very quiet--sort of "dead" by comparison--beach experience, try St. Pete Beach over on the other coast. Gorgeous white sand. Warm water between April and September. But NO really good hotels and restaurants. Those are in Miami/Miami Beach. Because of the Gulf Stream, Miami area has warmer water in fall/winter/spring. Wait till the Gulf water warms up if you want to beach it on the Gulf side! My home town is over there and I am not dissing it--just stating facts. NOTHING on St. Pete Beach or any of the barrier beach there to compare with even a small sample of the dining and night life choices in the Miami Beach area.

Calgary, Canada
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9. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

Honu_Ohana, I agree with your comment on St Pete. Beach was very nice, water warm (Sept), but as far as hotels and tourist facilities, there is a lot of work to do. This might have been a good area in the 60's when my parents were there but it doesn't live up to what I'm looking for in a holiday in this era.

Last time in the area we looked at several hotels before deceiding on the best of the worst. Not my idea of a holiday resort destination, Great potential though.

Washington DC...
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10. Re: Sorry, Miami Beach has Lost It. Try Ft. Lauderdale.

That is the tragedy--you have to settle for "best of the worst." I want to go back this year but dread the lodging choice and reality. The Don CeSar (I stayed there already) is awful for its price point compared to "rest of the country." But cannot beat that sand and water.