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Discovering Greater Miami, Florida PDF Print E-mail
Written by Debra C. Argen   

Greater Miami, FloridaDriving from Sunny Isles Beach to South Beach, we discovered that there is much to explore in Greater Miami, Florida than the beautiful stretch of beaches; the area is a treasure trove of culture, gastronomy, and boating.

Edward and I stayed in a 2-bedroom oceanfront suite at the stunning Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach located in Sunny Isles Beach, 14 miles from Fort Lauderdale International Airport and 19 miles from Miami International Airport. Acqualina has all of the bells and whistles that a luxury traveler could desire including its location directly on a long stretch of white sandy beach where their signature red chaises and red umbrellas beckon invitingly, opulently furnished guestrooms, three swimming pools, ESPA Acqualina Spa, Fitness Center, Business Center, three restaurants (Costa Grill, Aaria Bar and Lounge, and Il Mulino NY), complimentary car service to nearby shopping, innovative programs that include outdoor movie nights, wine tasting nights, cocktail tasting nights, cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a children's marine program, that it was amazing that we found the time or the desire to actually leave the property grounds, although of course, we did.

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Sunny Isle Beach, Florida
Acqualina Resort & Spa Aerial View

We indulged in pampering Spa treatments at their attractive 20,000 square foot ESPA Acqualina Spa, had a memorable dining experience at their fine dining Italian restaurant, Il Mulino New York, (and convinced Executive Chef Michele Mazza to share a few of his delicious recipes), enjoyed cocktails at Aaria Bar and Lounge and convinced the Bartender Sarah to share the recipe for Lychee Envy, utilized the Fitness Center, swam in the pools, and even strolled the soft sandy beach dotted with pretty seashells.

Acqualina Porte Cochere Entrace
Porte Cohere Entrance

Attentive service at Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach began the moment we arrived and continued until the time we left, when the valet gave us ice cold bottles of Acqualina water for our drive to the airport. When it comes to attention to details, the staff left no stones unturned.

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Florida
Acqualina Resort & Spa Pools

Read other articles on Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Spas, and Chefs' Recipes sections.

ESPA Acqualina   Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, Sunny Isle Beach, Florida

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach
17875 Collins Avenue
Sunny Isles Beach, FL, 33160, United States
Restaurant:     +1-305-466-9191
Hotel:               +1-305-918-8000
Fax:                  +1-305-918-8100
Reservations:  +1-305-918-6777
 
www.IlMulino.com/Miami.html 
www.AcqualinaResort.com

The cultural scene in Miami affords many interesting possibilities for visitors from museums, galleries, and gardens. We visited the Bass Museum of Art housed in what was once the Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center. Built in 1930, the library later became the museum in 1963 when John and Johanna Bass donated their art collection to the City of Miami.

Bass Museum of Art - Sculpture
Bass Museum of Art - Sculpture

A definite highlight of our visit was the large-scale wool and silk tapestry masterpiece, The Salute Before the Tournament, from The Sacred and Sublime: Renaissance and Baroque Collection. The exquisite tapestry from the Flemish School, Brussels, dated 1510-1520, holds the significant distinction that it had been in the collection of Henry VIII at Knole House, England. The tapestry, vibrant in color and rich in storytelling, depicts a tournament scene with the king and his court, as well as two knights on horseback.

Bass Museum of Art - Endless Renaissance ExhibitAlso of interest was The Endless Renaissance Exhibition that runs until August 16, 2009, which combines historic and contemporary works.

The Bass Museum of Art is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday from 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, and is closed on Mondays and Holidays. Admission: Adults - $8.00, Seniors/Students - $6, Members and Children under 6 - Free. The museum is wheelchair accessible.

Bass Museum of Art, Florida
Bass Museum of Art
2121 Park Avenue
Miami Beach, FL, 33139, United States
Telephone:       +1-305-673-7530
www.BassMuseum.org 

Another highlight of our visit to Miami Beach was the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, a tranquil oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city. Covering 2.6 acres, the garden features a palm grove with 40 different species of palm trees, bromeliads, an herb garden, butterfly garden, many varieties of hibiscus in shades of white, orange, red, and yellow; oleander, exotic heliconias dramatically painted by nature with red, green, and yellow, and sculpture arranged throughout. During our visit, the prickly pear cactus was in bloom and was spectacular with its bright yellow blossoms.

Miami Beach Botanical Gardens

Miami Beach Botanical Gardens Miami Beach Botanical Gardens Miami Beach Botanical Gardens
Miami Beach Botanical Garden

We found lovely surprises as we strolled throughout the garden including the Arnold and Matilda "Tig" Levien Japanese Gardens with its traditional red bridge over a pond laden with lily pads and bamboo, and thoughtful resting spots where you can relax at a table and chair in the shade of palm trees.

Miami Beach Botanical  - Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden

The Miami Beach Botanical Garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, closed on Monday. Admission is free.

Miami Beach Botanical - Sculpture Miami Beach Botanical - Sculpture

Miami Beach Botanical - Sculpture
Miami Beach Botanical Garden Sculptures

Miami Beach Botanical
Miami Beach Botanical Garden
2000 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, FL, 33139, United States
Telephone:       +1-305-673-7256
www.MBGarden.org 

South Beach Art Deco
Art Deco Design along South Beach 

South Beach Art DecoThe Art Deco movement took place in the 1930s and is a familiar sight in South Beach. We walked along the famous Ocean Drive from 5th Street to 15th Street, and also along Collins Avenue stopping frequently to admire the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture that distinguishes the area.

The designer Gianni Versace was an icon of South Beach and his former mansion, Casa Casuarina, opened for tours in late 2008. Taking a tour of the mansion, we learned its history beginning with the Architect Alden Freeman who built it in 1930, and named it Casa Casuarina after the trees that grew in the front of the house. When Mr. Freeman died in 1937, the property was purchased by Jacques Amsterdam and was named The Amsterdam Palace and used as an apartment building until 1992, when Gianni Versace purchased the property.

Casa Casuarina
Casa Casuarina

Casa CausarinaGianni Versace transformed The Amsterdam into an opulent retreat with his signature Medusa logo located throughout. A few of the many highlights of the guided tour included the intricate marble floors, swimming pool with tiny mosaic gold tiles and mosaic tile medusa in the courtyard, 16th century tapestry, Moroccan room, dining room with embedded rock walls and a hand-painted ceiling with cherubs. After Gianni Versace's death in 1997, the property remained in the Versace family until 2000, when it was sold to Peter Loftin.

Tours last approximately 45-minutes and include a Mimosa in the price of the tour. Tours are offered daily from 9:00 am - 6:00 pm. Although expensive at $50.00 for the tour, it does provide an intriguing look at this architecturally impressive building and the fascinating life of Gianni Versace.

Casa Casuarina
Casa Casuarina Interior

Casa Casuarina
Casa Casuarina
1116 Ocean Drive
Miami, FL 33139, United States
Telephone:     +1-305-672-6604
Fax:                +1-305-672-5930
www.CasaCasuarina.com 

Debra C. Argen sipping fresh coconut water   Art Deco Lifeguard Station
Sipping Fresh Coconut Water   Colorful Art Deco Lifeguard Station

Since the day was sunny and warm, there were several beach volleyball games going on, and we stopped to watch a game, sitting in the shade while enjoying a refreshing drink of fresh coconut water. We also walked along the beach soaking up the local atmosphere and admiring the funky lifeguard station.

South Beach Volleyball
Beach Volleyball

Debra C. Argen boarding Island Queen CruisesAfter discovering the city side of greater Miami, it was time to explore it from the water. We drove to Bayside Marketplace where we took a 90-minute sightseeing tour with Island Queen Cruises.

A few of the many highlights of the cruise included Biscayne Bay, the view of the dramatic city skyline, the Port of Miami where we watched the ships being loaded with cargo, Fisher Island home to many celebrities, South Beach with its distinct Art Deco and Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture, and Millionaires' Row where among its star-studded properties was the former home of Al Capone, who resided there from 1927 until 1947, that featured a two-story guesthouse with a tunnel that went to the main house to allow visitors to pass from one building to the other without being seen. Other notable homes included that of Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Julio Iglesias.

Island Queen Cruises - Star-Studded Properties
Star-Studded Properties

The sightseeing cruises depart Monday - Sunday on the hour with the first cruise departing at 11:00 am, and the last cruise of the day departing at 7:00 pm. Admission: Adults - $25, Seniors - $22, Children (5-12 years) - $17.00, Children (4 and under) - Free.

Island Queen Cruises - Star-Studded Properties
Star-Studded Properties

Island Queen CruisesIsland Queen Cruises, Inc.
Bayside Marketplace
401 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33132, United States
Telephone:      +1-305-379-5119
Toll-Free:         +1-800- 910-5119
(within the United States)
www.IslandQueenCruises.com 

Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, FlordiaThe Cloisters of the Ancient Spanish Monastery and St. Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church, known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery, is a short 10-minute drive from Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, and has an interesting origin that began in Segovia, Spain where it was built between the years 1133 and 1144. It was seized and sold in the mid-1830s, and in 1925, William Randolph Hearst purchased the monastery and had the building dismantled and the stones numbered and shipped in crates from Spain to the United States. Due to a reversal in fortune, Mr. Hearst was unable to rebuild the monastery and the crates remained in a warehouse for 26 years until 1952, when W. Edgemon and R. Moss purchased them to rebuild the monastery in Miami.

Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, Flordia
Ancient Spanish Monastery

We entered the grounds through a black wrought iron decorative gate and walked down the red brick walkway where the monastery is set amidst a backdrop of towering palm trees, maze hedges, ferns, and brightly hued hibiscus that provide a lovely contrast to the ancient stone.

Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, Flordia  Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, Flordia
Touring the Ancient Spanish Monastery

A few of the many highlights of our self-guided tour included the telescopic stained glass windows in the Chapel, Coats of Arms of the Spanish royal families, baptismal font that is approximately 800 years old, Prayer Well made of Roman granite from the 2nd century, and the sculpture of King Alphonso VII.

Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, Flordia
Chapel

Ancient Spanish Monastery, Sunny Isles Beach, Flordia - King Alphonso VIIThe Ancient Spanish Monastery is open Monday - Saturday from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, and is closed on July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, 3 days for Holy Week, and when there are weddings. Admission: Adults - $5.00, Seniors (over 65 years) - $2.50, Students (with ID) - $2.50, Children under 12 - $2.00.

Ancient Spanish Monastery
16711 W. Dixie Highway
North Miami Beach, FL 33160, United States
Telephone: +1-305-945-1461
Fax:            +1-305-945-6986
Email:  
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  
Email:  
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  
www.SpanishMonastery.com 

After a day of sightseeing, we had an excellent dinner at Il Mulino New York at Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach where Executive Chef Michele Mazza has created a tempting Italian menu. The intimate restaurant features tables with white linens dressed with red roses, attentive waiters who are formally attired in black suits, white shirts, and white bow ties, and excellent cuisine.

Il Mulino New York Restaurant at Acqualina Resort, Florida
Il Mulino New York Restaurant at Acqualina Resort

A few of the many highlights of our dinner included the Antipasti, Baby Eggplant Rollatini stuffed with a plentiful mixture of sweet crabmeat and shrimp, Mushrooms and Escargot, Ossobuco, decadently rich Tiramisu, and some house made flavorful liqueurs.

Il Mulino New York Restaurant at Acqualina Resort, Florida - Ossobuco
Il Mulino New York - Ossobuco

Il Mulino New York Restaurant at Acqualina Resort, Florida - Tino and House Made Fruit Flavored GrappaIl Mulino New York is open for lunch from Monday - Friday from 11:30 am - 2:00 pm, and for dinner Monday - Saturday from 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm, and Sunday from 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm.

Read other articles on Il Mulino New York and Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Spas, and Chefs' Recipes section where Chef Michele Mazza shares a delicious taste of Italy with his recipes for Soft-Shell Crabs and Fried Calamari.

Il Mulino New York  at Acqualina Resort, Florida

Il Mulino New York
Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach
17875 Collins Avenue
Sunny Isles Beach, FL, 33160, United States
Restaurant:       +1-305-466-9191
Hotel:                 +1-305-918-8000
Fax:                   +1-305-918-8100
Reservations:    +1-305-918-6777 
www.IlMulino.com/Miami.html 
www.AcqualinaResort.com

From Sunny Isles to South Beach, the Greater Miami area has something for everyone whether you want to relax on one of the many beaches, or explore all that the area has to offer.

Miami, Florida
Miami, Florida

Read other articles on Sunny Isles Beach and Greater Miami in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Spas, and Chefs' Recipes sections.

For more information on Sunny Isles and upcoming events, please visit the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau website: www.GMCVB.com.

© June 2009. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com. All rights reserved.

 
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