One sunny day in late July, I guided my rental car, which I’d gotten for a song, across the MacArthur Causeway in Miami and quickly made my way to Ocean Drive on Miami Beach. Cruising up the famous street, I found — in virtually no time at all — a parking space at the entrance to 10th Street Beach. The sun’s rays were searing — typical Miami Beach subtropical hot — but a fine breeze off the ocean had a cooling effect.
I walked to the ocean on the wide, sparkling white beach with my youngest daughter and a friend, finding a lovely, uncrowded spot near the shore to park a blanket and towels. (Had I wanted to buy a beach chair — they run from $10 to $20 — there were plenty available.) We went into the ocean, which turned out to be delicious, crystal clear and warm enough but refreshing enough, too, for people (like me) who don’t like swimming in cold water. For lunch we headed to one of the many restaurants on Ocean Drive and were seated instantly. No lines. No waiting.
There were no mosquitoes on the beach. And it was nearly 10 sweltering degrees hotter back home in Washington and in other parts of the Northeast during this unusually warm season.
In the late afternoon, we watched a storm come in from the west. Miami is flat, so its magnificent clouds are its moving mountains. Huge nimbus clouds slowly inched their way toward the beach but did not consume the skyline, so when the rain did come down, it was still sunny.
If I had entertained the notion that I could do any of this with such ease in, say, January, or February or April, in high season, it would be fair to call me certifiable. In those months, when people flee the cold to come to sunny Miami, it’s far more crowded and expensive (as in many-hundreds-of-dollars-more-a-night-for-a-hotel-room-or-a-last-minute-plane-ticket expensive). Tourist attractions are packed. The traffic can be impossible, especially on the beach, and most especially on Ocean Drive, where you can be lucky to move a few inches every five minutes.
But though things are quieter in the summer, that doesn’t mean that they’re quiet. Miami and Miami Beach are still hopping (and tourists still come, especially from Europe and South American countries, where it’s winter).
A happening place
There’s art, movies, classical and modern music concerts, and book events. I went to hear Washington-based author Daniel Silva, as a guest of Miami’s independent bookstore Books & Books, talk to hundreds of people about his new novel, “The Fallen Angel,” which just appeared on the New York Times bestseller list at No. 1.
There’s big-time sports. When I was visiting in June, the Miami Heat won the National Basketball Association championship. The Marlins were playing baseball when I went back in July, and the Miami Dolphins began the preseason this month. There are sports for everyone to participate in, too: skateboarding, skating, tennis, volleyball, just to name a few.