“So, you left sunny Long Beach, California to go on vacation in sunny Miami Beach, Florida?”
The question came from a Canadian, also on vacation in Miami Beach but, apparently, with a proper reason for making the trip. With Jet Blue’s recent addition of a Long Beach/Fort Lauderdale flight, I too had a very appropriate, especially critical reason to venture away for a couple of days to the opposite coast.
I do, however, see the Canadian’s point. There are many a Long Beach/Miami Beach similarity. The proud rainbow crosswalks. The palm trees and gorgeous weather. Plenty of festivals and good food. Long Beach even often doubles as Miami on television. Hang out at the Pike on a sunny day and there’s a good chance you’ll see CSI Miami production crews.
Still, Miami Beach is still distinctly Miami Beach. My girlfriend of a couple of decades, Jeannine, and I made plans during the frigid (55 degrees so so) Southern California winter figuring we’d be in want by the spring for a bit of a getaway. By luck, it landed right before Mother’s Day (so we needn’t feel guilty for splurging) and right after my May half marathon (so I could barely walk Collins Avenue our first day in), which ended up being prime time for relaxation and rest. Turns out that a four-day jet-away in May (poet, didn’t know it) from the LGB to Miami via FLL is a sweet nugget of a plan for anyone aching to switch out one beach city for another. Here’s why.
FLL is just a quick Lyft away: I stressed a bit about how we’d get from the Fort Lauderdale airport to Miami Beach. Travel sites I’d visited (after purchasing the ticket) warned would-be Miami visitors NOT to fly in to FLL because of the challenges of getting to and fro. But landing from our red-eye flight at 5:00 am, we were able to pick up a Lyft and get to our hotel in less than half an hour. Perhaps it’s because I know the horrors of getting to LAX when I can’t fly out of Long Beach that a 30-minute right is something that’s easy-peasy, but the distance, the length of the ride didn’t bother me at all. Even heading back to the airport in a bit of traffic only took abut 45 minutes (and just $35), so keep it going, Jet Blue!
Warm, clear water: As much as I love my city, the beach is a voyeuristic thing. I never get in the beach. It’s tepid and somewhat murky when you get close up in it. I’m rarely compelled to get into the water. Miami’s water spoke to me, though. It’s wading water – clear, modestly undulating, and enticing. The waters of Miami Beach beckon you into them. The only thing keeping me from anchoring myself in the sandbar under the shallow water about 40 yards out was my fear that some wayward beachgoer might happen across my phone, my meager bit of cash hidden near my lounge chair and gank me. Next time, I’ll invest in a waterproof pouch for my phone and charge cocktails to my room.
Wonderful service: Perhaps it had more to do more with my magnetic smile or my charismatic charm, but the friendly service we received everywhere (with the exception of the snooty girl at a hipster-posh clothing story we went to – but I guess you need someone snooty to make a place hipster-posh) made me want to breakdance – the worm on cardboard and everything. The reception staff, for example, at our hotel, The Redbury, were nothing but courteous and accommodating. Arriving at 6:00 a.m., we anticipated checking our luggage and then staggering around the city zombie-like until our room was ready. But the front desk offered up a ready room without us asking, and also extended a late check out to us on our last day without a bit of fuss. Also super pleasant were the managers at The Social Club and Pubbelly Sushi, pluses to our dining experiences.
Darling boutique hotels: I’ve mentioned the hospitality at The Redury, but that was only icing. A cherry. What I loved most about The Redbury was The Redbury. It was quaint and quirky and cute turned up half a notch (not too much). Yes, the place gravitated a little hipster chic, but it spoke to my sensibilities. My favorite space of all was the bookish sitting area where I both sat for a little writing one morning and took my pre-dinner pictures each evening. Delightful too was Redbury’s sister property, The Raleigh, whose beach space we camped in and pool we were able to invade as desired (though we stuck to Redbury’s rooftop for non-beach wading). A couple doors down, we breakfasted at The Social Club and loved the ambience of the hotel in which it sat, The Surfcomber Hotel. And there were dozens of these up and down and near Collins Blvd. Still, when I return, I will head back to The Redbury (and play some of the records I neglected to on my room’s record player).
Tipping is easy: That service I referenced comes at fixed cost. Not so when you’re a little more inland, but the food and drinks enjoyed closest to the coast come with an 18% or so gratuity. Sucky if you are unfortunate to get bad service, but at least it saves you from doing math after all those mojitos.
Also appreciated: Weekdays rule (duh – as in most great places to travel; stay in between the weekend crowds). May is great (not too hot, too cold, too humid, or too rainy). All bodies are welcome (in other words, after seeing women with all body types bikini away without shame, I dropped the up and let my stretch marked gut be free). Politely aggressive drivers (they drive fast and cut each other off but are friendly to pedestrians). International vibe (MB’s not just for Californians and Canadians – folks from all places take up temporary residence there; you’ll here all sorts of languages, and it’s a great place to practice your Spanish if you don’t use it regularly). There’s food for every palate (and I’d never return if that wasn’t the case…but food talk is for another post).
I’ve gone on enough. Miami Beach clearly made its impact on me, although I discovered it late. But no worries – there’s just a quick plane ride and an even quicker drive keeping me away from now on.
Check out LGB to FLL flights on Jet Blue
Departures: 9:30 pm (arriving 5:36 am + 1 day)
Returns: 6:38 pm (arriving 8:52 pm)