As spring begins, so ends Miami's high season. Gone are the trendy Europeans and South Americans dancing the night away in area clubs and eating breakfast at 3:30pm. Gone are the crowds who make parking unbearable and getting a table at a restaurant just shy of impossible. Gone are the expensive hotel rooms taking advantage of exaggerated high-season prices. But the sun still shines. The warm ocean still sparkles. The food is just as tasty. The stores just as open. And the travel deals just got a whole lot better.
Airtran (tel. 800/247-8726; www.airtran.com) just announced summer sales that include some great fares to South Florida. You have to book travel by 11:59pm on May 12, 2005 with travel good through October 5, 2005. Fares are not valid on Fridays or Sundays or during summer holiday dates such as Memorial Day and July 4, 2005. A 14-day advanced purchase is required. Round-trip fares start from $168 out of Atlanta, $198 from Boston, $218 from the New York area, $178 from Richmond, $198 from Indianapolis and $198 from Dayton. See the site for more prices for a city near you. Not to be outdone on its home hub, American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com) matched those fares with its summer online sale. See their site for detailed prices as well including the $218 to Houston or Minneapolis and back.
Once in Miami, hotel options are as plenty as bikinis, spandex, sweat and Cuban food. A search on www.hotels.com revealed a plethora of good deals starting from under $100 a night. For a three-night stay in early June from a Thursday to a Sunday, the Haddon Hall Hotel South Beach, a small family-owned property, costs just around $70 per night. While the rooms are small and sparse, the hotel has a sun-drenched Olympic-sized pool and a small but comfortable lobby. The location can't be beat situated on Collins Avenue and Fifteenth Street, just minutes from the beach, the main shopping thoroughfare and Lincoln Road, a popular Miami outdoor pedestrian walkway with restaurants, shops and art galleries. Check out the hotel's website at www.crs-haddonhall.com for even better mid-week Internet-only rates that start around $65 per night.
If you want to get away from busy South Beach, the Omni Colonnade Hotel (tel. 305/441-2600; www.omnihotels.com/hotels/default.asp?h_id=8) in Coral Gables has some low rates for the summer season. Just four miles from the airport, this elegant property features king-sized rooms, a great pool, conference facilities, and poolside dining. Known for its high-end shops and beautiful residential neighborhoods with oak trees and 1950s-era architecture, Coral Gables draws an attractive but mellow crowd. Special rates that include full breakfast for two start from $119 for a web special or a weekend rate.
You can combine airfare and hotel with a nifty package from E-Leisurelink Vacations (tel. 888/801-8808; www.eleisurelink.com). The discounter's four-day/three-night South Beach special starts from $299 and includes three nights' stay at the the Howard Johnson Caribbean, the Howard Johnson Dezerland, Greenview South Beach or the Ocean Surf and roundtrip airfare from Atlantic City, Chicago, Providence RI, New York City and Washington, D.C. Other gateways are available at additional costs with travel valid through November 11, 2005.
An area new to Miami and worth a visit is the Downtown Design District (www.designmiami.com). A hotbed for international design, Miami recognized its place in the design world and devoted a special area to design shops and interiors. The five block area is filled with furniture stores, accessory shops and art galleries specializing in South America, Caribbean, European, American and African art. The shops range from big to small, including Casa Armani. A must see is Orion Vintage, a small vintage furniture store owned by Christopher Harty that specializes in 20th Century furnishings and design. His pink leather club chair could make a statement in any home. One nice thing about the Miami Design District -- it's peaceful and quiet and never overcrowded except at night when the area hosts special events. During the day, you can window shop in peace.