December 13 2011 by Jason Fogelson
I found myself in Miami Beach on business, and decided to extend my stay for a few days. I went online to the Harley-Davidson site and booked a 2011 Softail Deluxe from Peterson's Harley-Davidson of Miami. In just a few minutes, I was out of my rental car, and back on two wheels, ready to explore the city.
I hadn't been to Miami Beach in many, many years. One set of grandparents retired to the city, and after they passed, I hadn't had much reason to go back. In the decades since my last visit, Miami Beach has undergone a tremendous renaissance. The Art Deco style that defines the area looks fresh again, and a fresh infusion of Latin culture has added spice to the cuisine, art and lifestyle. There are still plenty of elderly people in the area, and they mix freely and happily with the young and hip.
The BEST WESTERN Atlantic Beach Resort is right in the heart of the Deco District, directly on the ocean within walking distance of the famous South Beach. It provides a convenient, elegant base for exploring all that Miami Beach has to offer.
When I'm not on my bike, I love to walk, and so do Miami Beachers. The Miami Beach Boardwalk stretches 1.8 miles from South Point Park to North Beach above the sand. It's a beautiful place to stroll, look out at the water and people-watch. Many stretches are shaded by vegetation, and there are numerous benches and gazebos along the way. I could loll away a whole day walking up and down the wooden path.
When I was a kid, my grandfather used to take me to a roadside attraction called the Parrot Jungle. It has evolved into a much more sophisticated animal habitat called "Jungle Island", and now features birds, primates, felines and other exotic animals, with a healthy dose of education and performance thrown in. It's still a cool place, and not nearly as funky as it was at the start. Jungle Island is now as renowned for its horticultural achievements as it is for animal husbandry. A free shuttle runs daily to and from Jungle Island from the BEST WESTERN Atlantic Beach Resort and other local hotels.
A still-funky attraction is the Monkey Jungle. A habitat devoted to primates, the Monkey Jungle was spawned by accident when an animal behaviorist released six monkeys into the Florida hammock back in 1933, just to see what would happen. The area has since been enclosed and is advertised as the place "Where Humans Run Free and Monkeys Run Wild!" If you're the kind of person who spends the whole visit at a zoo in the Primate House, this is the attraction for you. I love it.
If monkeys and parrots aren't your style, Miami Beach is home to world class shopping. Lincoln Road Mall is an outdoor pedestrian-only promenade. The city has closed off several blocks of the city center to vehicular traffic, so park your bike and take a stroll. This is where the beautiful people meet to shop and eat, and where I go to watch them do it.
When people think of Miami Beach, they think of South Beach - and for good reason. South Beach is the epicenter of Miami Beach life. Any day with sun (and that's just about every day in Southern Florida) brings out hordes of beachgoers. Tourists from around the world mingle with the locals, and the tropical feel is contagious. A word to the easily offended: Many sunbathers will be scantily clad, and a topless bather or two have been spotted on South Beach. Most bikers will not mind the scenery, but some families might want to steer clear.
I have to admit that motorcycling in Miami Beach is not quite the thrill it might be in say, the Canadian Rockies. But the off-bike experiences are unique, fun and worth the trip. And any day on two wheels is better than a day at the desk.