For most travelers, flight delays and layovers are annoying, but the extra time doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself to the airport’s duty-free shops. It may only be three hours, but consider this your vacation bonus to see Miami.
First Hour: Miami International Airport is six miles from downtown Miami and a 35-minute bus ride to Miami Beach. Take the Airport Flyer express bus to Miami Beach, which has buses that run every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Second Hour: Head to South Beach, the heart of Miami Beach, to take in the bronzed beach bums, model types, and tourists who strut along the pastel-colored, Art Deco-style buildings that line the 10 blocks that make up Ocean Drive. Stop by the Miami Design Preservation League for one of its Art Deco tours that allow visitors to explore the iconic 1920s architecture that features stucco bas-relief friezes and towers, chrome, glass blocks, and neon.
If your layover is longer than three hours, take one of the 90-minute guided tours led by historians and architects who explore the interiors and exteriors of Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern buildings. For those short on time, do selected sections of the 90-minute iPod-based self-guided tour, which includes a map.
Third Hour: Grab a meal at Joe’s Stone Crab, which has served its famous stone crabs on Miami Beach to the likes of Al Capone, Amelia Earhart, and everyday Joe’s for nearly a century. The signature dish is a handful of boiled and cracked, piping-hot stone crabs served with savory hash brown potatoes and a scoop of coleslaw. Save room for the legendary Key lime pie. Joe’s Stone Crab is open from mid-October to early August only.
When Joe’s Stone Crab is closed, head to News Café, a magnet for the A-list and favorite of the late Gianni Versace. It is steps from the Ocean Drive mansion where the designer was shot in 1997. What started as a quaint news kiosk and sidewalk café has become a casual, European-style café, bar, and newsstand.
With the time that remains, take a stroll along the outdoor Lincoln Road Mall, which stretches from Alton Road to Collins Avenue. The pedestrian mall features a mix of eclectic eateries, vintage shops, and nightclubs.