Explore Barack Obama’s America with a trip to multi-racial Miami
We woke up to a new America on Wednesday, and interest in visiting the country has rocketed.
There were many Europeans who felt uncomfortable spending their Euros in the US, especially those that were less-than-welcome under George W. (Freedom fries, anyone?)
But there is no excuse to shun the charms of the world’s brashest nation with Barack Obama at the helm, and where better to soak up the America he represents than Miami.
No other city in the world has more residents born outside the country – 59%.
31% of the population of 5.4m is Cuban, and the city is 65% Latino.
Nicaraguans, Haitian, Dominican and Colombian populations are all prominent.
Like all the world’s great cities, Miami has been through tough times, been battered by crime and urban decline, but has come through it stronger and more attractive – and distinctly more Latin.
Miami, with its tropical climate, polyglot residents and vibrant neighbourhoods, is the perfect example of where urban America is headed.
Forget the America of founding fathers, geezers in wigs and breeches, picket-fence towns of searing whiteness and corn-fed Iowans with sandy hair and farmboy tans.
Miami is the new, emerging America – a mecca, tropical, colourful, and crammed with cute Hispanic boys.
Gone are the days of Don Johnson in a speedboat chasing criminals through derelict docks. Those wharves are now home to fashionable gays.
South Beach you may already know of. Art Deco delights on every corner, the sands are as exquisite as the men.
And while a boy could happily spend a week or so reclined on a sun lounger in such salubrious surroundings, the city itself has an amazing amount to offer.
Take Bal Harbour Shops for instance. Situated in a sort of mini Beverly Hills, this outdoor mall boasts a welter of designer boutiques, as well as a destination restaurant, not for the food (which is excellent) but for the parade of rich, perfectly dressed and seemingly unemployed hotties stepping out of expensive European sports cars.
Or Vizcaya Museum, an Italian Renaissance-style mansion in ten acres of formal gardens, the collections of original European interiors all mashed together in a way you would only see in America.
The work of a confirmed late 19th century bachelor who made millions in farm machinery, it is so eye-wateringly over the top, most gays will adore it.
Much like London, Miami is an organic city, always growing and changing. It too went through some tough times in the 1980s, dealing with a mass influx of Cuban immigrants and drugs gangs attracted by its proximity to the Caribbean and Central America.
Like London, it has bounced back with a vengeance.
The climate certainly helps, and the city’s residents are not only as friendly as you would expect Americans to be, but genuinely chilled out.
The design district is well worth checking out. A proto-Hoxton, its cool art galleries and Ethiopian restaurants are at the centre of a relatively rundown neighbourhood that in a few year’s time will be the hottest property in the city.
Miami is rightly famous for its Cuban food, but being the most South American-influenced city in the US, there are a huge range of cuisines available, and all at prices that are affordable. Not to mention the portions, which would generally feed a family of four.
Lunch at Ethiopian restaurant Sheba is well worth checking out.
Most things in America are still surprisingly affordable.
Hotels, which range from 1930s Art Deco nostalgia like Circa 39 to 21st century minimalist luxury such as the new, beach-adjacent and fabulous Gansevoort South (below), cost at least a third less than anything comparable in the UK.
There are dozens of charming little neighbourhoods dotted throughout the city, such as Coconut Grove. More beautiful people of both sexes and more Lamborghinis than you would have thought possible.
Head back to Miami Beach for the clubs. There are a range of gay venues, with Score hosting hot, housey sounds – and men – or just sit outside in the heat of the Miami night and watch the throngs go past.
Miami Beach comes alive at night, and even at two or three in the morning there are hundreds of people on the streets.
Twist, which is a few minutes from Score by cab, features among its warren of rooms and bars everything from pool tables and bored semi-naked dancers to Cubans performing dashing same-sex tangos.
The gay scene is, unsurprisingly, very chilled out and the punters were easy to talk to.
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Miami has been home to a sizable gay population for many years, and especially in Miami Beach, where many gay and lesbian residents of all ages settle.
Do not neglect the eccentric offerings of the city – chief among them the World Erotic Art Museum near Ocean Drive, which is in fact housed in an upstairs retail area.
Kooky but impressive, the collection belongs to an elderly woman who spent years putting it together and will show you around her pride and joy with unnerving aplomb.
There is a buzzing theatre scene too, and the annual Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival every April is one of the world’s best.
The flight from the UK is nine hours, but when you get there the tropical climate, stunning ocean views, all contrasting with the intoxicating atmosphere one of America’s fastest-growing cities, makes it all worthwhile.