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South Florida

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Travel Guide North America USA Southern United States Florida South Florida

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Introduction

South Florida is home to the populous Miami metropolitan area, the Florida Keys, and other localities. It is the only part of the continental United States with a tropical climate. It is one of Florida's three most common "directional" regions, the others being Central Florida and North Florida. It includes the populous Miami metropolitan area, the Florida Keys, and other localities.

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Geography

As with all vernacular regions, South Florida has no official boundaries or status and is defined differently by different sources. A 2007 study of Florida's regions by Ary Lamme and Raymond K. Oldakowski found that Floridians surveyed identified "South Florida" as comprising the southernmost sections of peninsular Florida. That area includes the Miami metropolitan area (generally defined as Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties), the Florida Keys, and the interior region known as the Glades. Additionally, Southwest Florida, representing the state's southern Gulf Coast, has emerged as a directional vernacular region. Some respondents from as far northwest as the southern Tampa Bay area identified their region as being in South Florida rather than Southwest or Central Florida.

Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, identifies "Southeast Florida" as one of eight economic regions used by the agency and other state and outside entities, including the Florida Department of Transportation. Some entities alternately designate this region "South Florida". Its definition includes much of the same territory as Lamme and Oldakowski's report (except the Gulf Coast and much of the interior Glades region) as well as additional area. It includes Monroe County (the Keys) and the three metropolitan counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, as well as the three "Treasure Coast" counties of Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin to the north.

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Cities

Miami

Miami Beach, Florida - USA

Miami Beach, Florida - USA

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Divided into two parts, Mainland and South Beach, Miami is one of the most visited destinations in the USA. The busiest part of the city is the Art-Deco district, in South Beach, fully loaded with night-clubs and restaurants; the beach opposite this area is also very popular amongst tourists. In the Key Biscayne area, tourists are offered the chance to visit some celebrities' houses. Shopping lovers would find in Miami a wide variety of shopping malls, such as Bayside, Coco Walk, the Dolphin mall, amongst others. In the end, Miami is the place to be!

Other Cities

  • Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood Beach, deep sea diving, Butterfly World, thoroughbred racing.
  • Fort Myers - Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel and the exotic beaches of Captiva Islands.
  • Jupiter
  • Key West - Charter saltwater deep sea fishing, kayak, scuba diving and snorkeling.
  • Naples - Beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, world-class shopping, golf courses and the nearby Everglades.
  • Palm Beach - The Island of Palm Beach offers pristine beaches with glistening views of the Atlantic Ocean.
  • West Palm Beach

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Sights and Activities

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is a U.S. National Park located in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 70,00ha and includes Elliott Key, the park's largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is a national park about 110 kilometres west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The park preserves Fort Jefferson and the seven Dry Tortugas islands, the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The archipelago's coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs. Fort Jefferson and birdwatching are the highlights here, although there is good snorkelling as well. Visiting the park by private boat is difficult because of its distance, so most visitors come by boat or seaplane from Key West, Florida. Official ferry and transportation services to the Dry Tortugas includes the Yankee Freedom III catamaran and seaplane services. They offer daytrips for US$165 ($120 children), including breakfast, lunch, a tour of Fort Jefferson, snorkelling gear and a great boat trip (usually good weather). Key West Seaplan Charters offers half day and daytrips at (much) higher prices. You can camp at the island for $3 a night but you have to reserve space beforehand, also making sure you book the boatride back.

Everglades Gatorade

Everglades Gatorade

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Everglades National Park

The Everglades encompasses an area of marshland taking up most of the south of Florida. It is a popular tourist destination and the park plays a unique part in local folklore, with legends of moon shiners, smugglers and alligators. The Everglades National Park takes up much of the region. It protects the southern 20% of the original Everglades. In the United States, it is the largest subtropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River, and is visited on average by one million people each year. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists. There are many things to do, including a tram tour at Shark Valley, boat trips from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center (10,000 islands reserve) and Flamingo and beautiful hikes, including the Anhinga Trail.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are the most southern point of North America, bordering almost with Cuba. Not only they are quite famous for the beaches and wildlife parks, but also for the nature reserves and architecture. The night life is also another good reason to go to the 'keys'. Key West is the most popular island and therefore the most visited one of the string. From Miami, it takes a good five hours by car to get there, crossing by dozens of bridges.

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge

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The Seven Mile Bridge is a famous bridge in Monroe County, Florida Keys, United States. It connects Knight's Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Among the longest bridges in existence when it was built, it is one of the many bridges on US 1 in the Keys, where the road is called the Overseas Highway. There are two bridges in this location. The older bridge, originally known as the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge, was constructed from 1909-1912 under the direction of Henry Flagler as part of the Overseas Railroad. The original bridge was a railroad bridge, so when the railroad was abandoned, the highway bridge was built on top of the railroad bridge. Since the original railroad bridge was narrow, the highway bridge was cantilevered out and the old rails were used as railings. The bridge was so narrow that trucks had to fold in their mirrors to avoid hitting them on traffic coming the other direction. The vast majority of the original bridge still exists, used as fishing piers and access to Pigeon Key, but the swing span over the Moser Channel of the Intracoastal Waterway has been removed.

The current road bridge was constructed from 1978 to 1982. The total length of the new bridge is actually 6.79 miles, and is shorter than the original. Each April the bridge is closed for approximately 2.5 hours on a Saturday and a "fun run," known as the Seven Mile Bridge Run. After the new bridge was opened, the old bridges was still used to get to Pigeon Key by biker riders, walkers and Henry the train. But the old bridge became increasingly unsafe so it was closed even for foot traffic while it was being restored. For now Pigeon Key can only be accessed by ferry.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
  • Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The Daytona 500 is the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup and the most prestigious one of them all. It is held on a Sunday during the second half of February and attracts over 150,000 visitors every year. Tickets vary from just about US$50 to hundreds of dollars for VIP tickets, usually sold in combination with tickets for other events or as a package for the whole weekend.

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Weather

South Florida is the warmest part of the USA, apart from Hawaii. Its tropical conditions mean warm to hot and humid weather year-round and temperatures are mostly around the 30 °C during the day and 20 °C at night, though sometimes colder winds from the north may reach even the Keys from December to early April. June to November, with a peak in August and September, are the wettest months and a fairly high chance of a hurricane.

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Getting There

By Plane

  • Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) is the city's main airport and is one of the United States' largest airports. It is located around 13 kilometres from downtown Miami. There are non-stop routes from and to well over 100 destinations worldwide, including cities throughout North and South America, Europe and the Middle East. Miami International Airport is also the largest international gateway for American Airlines, which has nearly 100 destinations served alone!

Some of the main destinations are Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Havana, Düsseldorf, Toronto, Madrid, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Aruba, La Paz, Lima, London, Rio de Janeiro, St. Thomas, Panama City, Manaus, Santiago, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo and Washington, D.C..

By Train

Amtrak offers trains from New York all the way south to Miami. Two trains provide daily service, starting in Miami, making stops in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach, and West Palm Beach, continuing north to Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and eventually Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, with both trains terminating at New York City's Penn Station. All of South Florida's Amtrak stations (except Miami) share platforms with the regional commuter rail service, Tri-Rail. The Miami Amtrak Station is located in the industrial suburb of Hialeah on NW 32nd Ave, just north of NW 72nd St.

By Car

Interstate 75 runs south from Northern Florida through Tampa's eastern suburbs, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, until crossing the "Alligator Alley" as a toll road to Fort Lauderdale before turning south to end in Miami Lakes.

Interstate 95 continues south from the Atlantic Coast of the eastern USA through Treasure Coast cities into West Palm Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale before terminating in Downtown Miami.

Florida's Turnpike is a highway running all the way from Miami Gardens to the Gainesville area. It is the main toll toad of the state as well as the region.

By Bus

Check Greyhound buses for options. It has stations at all the major cities in South Florida. At the West Palm Beach and Miami North (Golden Glades) stations, direct connections are available to South Florida's commuter rail service, Tri-Rail. The Miami Greyhound station is located on Le Juene Road (NW 42nd Ave), directly across from Miami International Airport. Service continues further south from Miami, all the way to Key West at the end of US Route 1.

By Boat

Coastal cities have excellent year-round marina facilities, often serving some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world. Miami is home to the Port of Miami, the largest cruise ship port in the world. Fort Lauderdale also has a cruise port.

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Getting Around

Local public transportation includes Metrobus, Metromover, and Metrorail - an elevated rapid transit system - each operated by Miami-Dade Transit. There is also an commuter rail system named Tri-Rail, that runs north to south, from MIA all the way to West Palm Beach, making a stop at all three of the Gold Coast's international airports.

Hire a car to explore the unique countryside areas.

You will find most of the big cities with rental offices by one or more of these companies so picking up a rental car in Florida is easy. Prices will vary depending on the time of the year you are booking. Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include SixtHertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

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Eat

Miami's population growth in recent years has been caused by internal migration from other parts of the country as well as by immigration. Greater Miami is known as a cultural melting pot, while still maintaining some of their cultural traits. The overall culture of Miami and Miami-Dade are heavily influenced by its large population of ethnic Latin Americans and cultures from Caribbeans from islands such as Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cuba and who mainly Spanish or Haitian Creole.

Enjoy such meals such as a Cuban dish of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer.

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Drink

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Sleep

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This is version 12. Last edited at 8:52 on Jul 31, 17 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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