Known for bling and Beyonce sightings, Miami isn't usually celebrated for its affordability. So how do you have a financially-feasible getaway in this city filled with glitz and glamour? Enjoy it like a local.
According to the Miami Downtown Development Authority, it's one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the United States, boasting an 85 percent occupancy rate. Clearly, even with the current economy, frugal strategies exist to experience this star-studded city on the water that many consider out of vacation reach. Here are several you can use to enjoy your Miami getaway without going off budget.
Leisure: The Miami Beach Botanical Garden provides a free tropical oasis in the heart of South Beach totaling more than four acres. More of an art fan? The Miami Art Museum offers free admission on the second Saturday of each month. Exercise enthusiasts on the other hand, will want to visit Bayfront Park, which hosts free outdoor yoga classes on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays at 9 a.m.
Dining: Bayfront Park is also a popular hangout for numerous food trucks selling frugal lunch fare. Visitors looking for affordable midday food can enjoy cart food by the bay, or take a short stroll up Flagler Street to the Paul S. Walker pocket park, one of several small green spaces in the city suitable for a money-saving sightseer's picnic. Tobacco Road, Miami's oldest bar, offers $5 lunch specials on Monday through Wednesday which include hot, hearty sandwiches, hand-cut fries and a soda. The establishment is also known for its live music and one of the best Friday-night happy hours around, featuring 99-cent drinks for 99 minutes starting at 6 p.m.
Transportation: As any local can tell you, parking in Miami isn't usually cheap. That makes the Metromover, downtown Miami's above-ground rail system, a popular choice for visitors and locals alike. The Metromover is free for anyone to ride, and stops at all major downtown destinations. Boarding times are convenient, with cars arriving every ninety seconds during rush hours, and every three minutes during off-peak times.
Accommodations: On Airbnb.com, a website listing guest spaces available with local home owners, I found a number of overnight accommodation options for two in Miami Beach offered at less than $100 each. For Beyonce spotters on more of a backpacking budget, South Beach Hostel provides dorm-style sleeping with complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi for less than $30 per night.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget" and founder of TrekHound.com, a web site for independent travelers.