Travel USA: Sunshine State

Endless sunshine, and superlative hotels and culture set the scene for the holiday of a lifetime in Miami.

Miami is surely one of the most iconic cities in the world: the name alone conjures up images of kitsch poolside cabanas, art deco architecture and cool beach vibes.

We start our trip in the best way possible, flying Aer Lingus Business Class. From Heathrow we take a quick flight to Dublin, where we are able to do our US pre-clearance paperwork, rather than queuing for hours when we arrive. The process is swift, and before we know it we’re brunching and sipping on cocktails in the Aer Lingus Business Lounge. There’s something undeniably special about being called first to board, not to mention hearing those lovely words: “turn left”. The huge seats can be fully reclined and even boast a massage setting. Fabulously friendly service starts with a glass of Champagne, and once we’re up in the air we snuggle under quilts to check out the excellent in-flight entertainment. I manage to watch two films before the allure of the reclining bed, and the effects of the wine I had with lunch, result in my best ever plane sleep. The fact we don’t need our passports when we land, and can go through to collect our baggage as domestic travellers is an absolute game-changer; I’ll definitely try to do it on all future US flights.

Aer Lingus Miami

A short drive through buzzy high-rise streets takes us to our first hotel, citizenM, in downtown Miami. Cool and quirky, it’s in Brickell, a neighbourhood that has undergone huge regeneration. There’s a smart shopping centre packed full of designer brands and it is home to Miami’s version of New York’s High Line, the Underline, a park, community space and public art destination under the city’s Metrorail. The hotel itself is packed full of cool artwork and the rooms, though capsule-sized, come with enormous beds and very powerful showers that are just what we need to blast away the jet-lag. Everything is super high-tech, run from an iPad – the blinds, room temperature and lighting are all adjusted with the tap of a finger. And a 24/7 kitchen in the lobby feeds peckish guests whatever time zone their body clock happens to be on.

Citizen M Miami

On our first night we head out to Red Rooster Overtown, a Michelin guide Bib Gourmand restaurant where we tuck into huge portions of ribs and fried chicken. The atmosphere is fabulously laidback, with brilliant service and great music. There’s a cool, speakeasy-style bar and roof terrace, too, though we are too tired to do more than take a quick peek, resolving to head back for drinks later in our trip.

Fully rested the next morning, we head to Treetop Trekking Miami. It’s the first and only aerial zipline adventure park in South Florida, with ziplines, suspension bridges and balance obstacles, set high up in the lush, tropical jungle. I wimp out of actually participating, instead taking on the role of photographer, capturing my brave friends zipping past overhead. I also take the opportunity to explore the park’s wildlife, including a huge orange iguana the size of a spaniel, and hundreds of chatty parrots and vibrant pink flamingos.

Treetop adventures Miami

Lunch – delicious Cuban food and the ‘world’s best pina coladas’ – comes courtesy of La Cañita, in Bayside. Though their cocktail assessment is probably accurate, it’s possibly not the best choice prior to taking a ride with Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures… Nonetheless, it is a thrilling ride, and gives us a chance to look at the incredible houses on Fisher Island, spotting the homes of Will Smith and Gloria Estefan and various other celebrities.

Miami is one of America’s most art-friendly cities and there are plenty of tours available to help visitors explore the history and culture of the various neighbourhoods. First stop for us is the Design District, a haven for art and shopping lovers alike. The outdoor installations and murals are stunning, and the mix of independent boutiques and designer stores give our credit cards a bit of a hit, but what a way to do it!

Giving our wallets a rest, it’s our waistlines that are in danger in Little Havana. Mirka, our passionate and knowledgeable guide from Miami Culinary Tours, takes us on a walking tour, explaining how Cuban immigration has shaped the neighbourhood over the years. The area was recently listed as an official ‘national treasure’ by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and it’s easy to see why. The incredible street art means we are constantly stopping to take photos.

Miami Art Deco

Miami is not short of museums, and we fit in visits to the Frost Science Museum, with its incredible aquarium, and to Superblue. The latter sees us walking through labyrinths in an immersive, light-based, multi-sensory experience – the chance to walk into ‘clouds’ is not to be missed.

For the second half of our holiday, we head to Miami’s South Beach, where we stay at the Moxy South Beach. Everything about the hotel feels classically Miami; it is slick and contemporary with beautiful interiors, and there are even statues of the ubiquitous pink flamingos pool-side. A fabulous roof-top bar offers panoramic views, and is the perfect spot for sundowners, while Serena, a lushly planted open-air restaurant offers hand-crafted cocktails and shareable dishes. The rooms are compact and comfortable with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow light to flood in. Just a stone’s throw from Ocean Drive, it’s conveniently located, and you can even borrow bikes to explore the area on two wheels. We use our feet, however, taking in the stunning art deco architecture on a 90-minute walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League. It’s a fascinating introduction to the art deco, Mediterranean revival, and Miami modern (MiMo) styles found within the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. We are shown the ‘Versace Mansion’ and hear the gruesome story of how the legendary designer was murdered on its steps in 1997.

Moxy Hotel Miami

Afterwards, tummies rumbling, we head to the Time Out Market Miami, home to the city’s top chefs, most-talked-about restaurants, and the buzziest bars. Here, we sip on frozen cocktails, tuck into delicious dishes, and enjoy the ambience, along with the air-conditioning!

We’re not done with Miami, but it would seem remiss not to explore more of Florida, so we dedicate a jam-packed day to doing just that, starting with the Everglades Alligator Farm. Here, we go on a thrilling airboat tour (top tip: take a set of dry clothes!), watch the alligators being fed, and even get to hold a baby alligator.

On the way back we stop off at Robert is Here, a family run fruit stand in Homestead. Specialising in rare and exotic fruit and veg, it has grown into a complete tourist destination with farm and play area. The smoothies are excellent, and it’s a great place to spend your dollars on homemade preserves to take home as gifts. Schnebly Redland’s Winery is our next treat, where we sample wacky sounding wines made from avocado and guava – it’s comforting to know if the world runs out of grapes, we’ll be okay.

With its beach-side buzz, Michelin star restaurants, glitzy late night bars, incredible art scene and designer shopping, you could holiday in Miami for a year and not get bored. And it’s called the Sunshine State for good reason. You won’t regret putting it on your 2023 travel wish list.

Aer Lingus operate 3 direct flights weekly from Dublin to Miami, with Economy fares from £229 each way and Business Class from £979 return, including taxes and charges ( citizenM Miami Brickell: Mary Brickell Village, 11 SE 10th Street, FL 33130 US ( The Moxy South Beach: 915 Washington Avenue, FL 33139 US (