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America's Riviera: South Beach

The Art Deco District Is the World's Most In-Vogue Neighborhood

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America's Riviera: South Beach
Compliments of FlaUSA.com
In the last decade, the southern end of the barrier island that is Miami Beach, South Beach, has become known throughout the world as "America's Riviera." Awash in activity both day and night, South Beach's Art Deco District serves as the backdrop for one of the world's most eccentric and in-vogue neighborhoods.

To stroll the streets of South Beach is to be transported to the 1930s and 40s. More than 800 Art Deco structures were built on the southern tip of Miami Beach then, and today with its confetti-like colors, electrifying neon lights, and sleek aerodynamic lines, the Art Deco District is the centerpiece of South Beach.

It is here that first-class hotels share palm-lined streets with hip youth hostels – where back-packers share budget travel tips, cafe-society gathers to discuss literature, politics and the arts, long-legged models and muscular men pose for fashion magazines in the middle of Ocean Drive. It is here that some of the finest chefs in America today dish out Miami New World, Latin, and Caribbean cuisines at trendy eateries that are a must for visitors.

Multi-culturalism is alive and well in South Beach. It attracts a growing number of visitors each year – New York escapees, European hoteliers, South American investors, master-of-the-universe yuppies, gays and lesbians, Hasidic Jews, and Cuban immigrants all mingle as one. Because it is a mosaic of cultures, the Greater Miami area and South Beach have become a mecca for talent scouts, recording artists and producers, movie producers and celebrities – all drawn to the area's eccentric rhythms.

Besides local superstars Gloria Estefan, Albita, and John Secada, one might see Elton John taking in a sunset, Oprah Winfrey shopping at a gourmet bakery, Sophia Loren hiding behind big sunglasses, Whitney Houston walking on the beach, or Cameron Diaz at her restaurant, Bambu, on Lincoln Road.

It is not unusual to see models primping and posing for covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, or Glamour. Often huge, air-conditioned motor homes line the streets to serve as changing rooms and resting spots in between photo sessions.

Some recent movies filmed in the area include: Holy Man, Something About Mary, Wild Things, The Birdcage, Donnie Brasco, Miami Rhapsody, Strip Tease, and True Lies. These movies brought such stars as Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Sandra Bullock, Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Antonio Banderas, Demi Moore, and Burt Reynolds to the Miami area.

Out-of-the-ordinary South Beach events include VolleyPalooza, a two-day charity event held each February with swimsuit-clad models – both men and women – from about two dozen international agencies compete in a fun-for-all volleyball tournament that generates plenty of ooohs and ahhhs from the spectators. Drawing throngs of visitors, the Miami Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is held each year in late April and early May. A critically acclaimed event, it features films by, about and of interest to the gay and lesbian community.

If you plan to visit South Beach, park your car – everything is within walking distance, so cars are unnecessary. Along the 10-mile beach, the cafe society and in-line skaters can look on from the sidewalk as you sunbathe, jog, fly kites or play volleyball. The beach is wide enough for all these activities without having to jockey for space.

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