Ordinarily, the idea of flying south for the winter feels more welcome than it might right now for those of us in either the Midwest and Northeast who are sweating out an unseasonably (and disappointingly) warm winter thus far. But in Miami, it's still 78 degrees and sunny, so if it's going to be warm, you might as well enjoy it when and where you're supposed to.
For an overview of attractions and activities in Miami, start at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (tel. 800/955-3646; www.miamiandbeaches.com) to get a sense of the beaches, the hotel, dining and nightlife landscape, and a glimpse at the area's calendar for the coming months. For starters, from February 22-25, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival (tel. 305/627-1741; www.sobewineandfoodfest.com) combines top chefs -- including many from the Food Network -- with cooking demonstrations, book signings, information sessions, tastings and more. Anyone who's read Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, loves the flower, or saw the movie it inspired (Adaptation) might enjoy the hugely popular 62nd Annual Miami International Orchid Show (tel. 305/255-3656; www.southfloridaorchidsociety.org), which takes place March 2-4. The show will be held at the Sheraton Miami Mart hotel and Convention Center, just south of the Miami airport, with $15 daily admission and special show rates for $149 per night.
Expedia (tel. 800/EXPEDIA; www.expedia.com) has a fare sale in conjunction with Air Tran on flights to various destinations in its system, including sunny ones, starting from $34 one way, but you must book by January 18 for departures at least ten days in advance. Sample fares to Miami include Charlotte to Miami from $64 and Detroit-Miami from $94. Travel must be completed by March 7 to destinations in Florida for this deal.
Expedia is also offering a "Warm up in Florida" sale with up to 20 per cent off on hotels if you stay four nights or more. There are packages listed with just hotel prices or airfare plus four nights. Various Miami hotels are included in this special, such as the budget Art Deco style hotel Haddon Hall South Beach from $139 per night or $499 for air and four nights based on travel from New York, or the South Seas Hotel, located near the beach, from $228 per night or $793 for air and four nights, also based on travel from New York. You must book by February 19 for travel through March 31. This is just a small sampling -- you can find deals at other hotels including the Sheraton Bal Harbour Village, at the north end of Miami Beach, or Avalon Hotel, located near nightclubs and restaurants and across the street from the beach.
Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; www.travelocity.com) often updates its low fare alert so it is worth keeping an eye on this page. As of publication, fares were available from New York to Miami from $143 round-trip, a 50 per cent savings. The search feature is great because once you tell it how many travelers are going, it gives you a list of fares to choose from available carriers, rules about advance purchase, in addition to the earliest and latest times you can travel at that fare. Keep checking back on the page for updates -- and by all means change the departure city, too, for the most accurate results for your travel needs.
The Trump International Sonesta on Sunny Isles Beach about 12 miles north of Miami has a special offer through Orbitz from $269 per night, with an upgrade to ocean view room through January 31. The rate quoted reflects a one-night stay on January 31. You can also see the cost for a two, three, or four night stay with round-trip airfare, priced $570, $737 and $1,677 respectively per person, departing from Atlanta for travel on off-peak days at the end of January.
Through Orbitz, specials on other properties are available, including the Newport Beachside Resort from $98 per night, a budget option good for families with a large pool, pier for fishing, and a location that's both right on the beach and somewhat removed from the South Beach scene. Packages here are substantially cheaper, starting at $301 per person for the two night stay, also based on Atlanta departures.
Departures from other cities, such as Boston, New York, or Philadelphia, are also possible. Choose from the aforementioned Trump Resort for three nights and round-trip airfare from Philadelphia $606 per person or $346 per person for the same length of stay and airfare, from the recently renovated Carlton Hotel in South Beach.
Book It (tel. 888/782-9722; www.bookit.com) has an offer of $119 per night for Marco Polo Beach Resort for a limited time only -- travel through February 28, with February 1-4 blackout dates. The property is right on the ocean and is a Ramada hotel with 24-hour business center, high-speed Internet and Olympic size swimming pool. You can also upgrade, for a mere $20 more, to an oceanfront room.
For something more indulgent, Luxury Link (tel. 800/297-3299; www.luxurylink.com) has a "buy now" offer for a three-night package at the Hotel of South Beach, a boutique hotel designed by Todd Oldham in, as the name suggests, South Beach. There are only five of these specials available, priced at $709, and the last day available for purchase is February 5 for travel through May 31, although some blackout dates apply. The package, which is based on double occupancy, includes three nights in what's described as an "elegant designer guest room" with free wireless Internet access, fitness center and rooftop pool use, taxes, and two beach chairs and one umbrella at your disposal.
Speaking of this hotel, both the historic Park Central Hotel (tel. 800/727-5236; www.theparkcentral.com) on Ocean Drive and aforementioned The Hotel (tel. 800/727-5236; www.thehotelofsouthbeach.com) are offering something called "Taste of the Good Life" through November 2007. The package, priced at $1,110 for Park Central and $1,350 at The Hotel, is based on a minimum two-night stay, double occupancy. It includes all kinds of incentives, including complimentary cocktails to welcome you, daily beach chairs, a $100 per person spa credit, two-day pass to Equinox Gym, half hour jet-ski rental for two, VIP admission to any of South Beach's clubs, and complimentary overnight parking in a covered garage nearby.
Hotels.com (tel. 800/246-8357; www.hotels.com) has a special offer on select nights at the Whitelaw Hotel, a AAA three-diamond property in the Art Deco district, a block from Lummus Park and the beach, through January 31. From January 15-16 and 22-24 it is available from $112 per night. The rooms are all white -- sounds like the 1980's Miami Vice? -- with Belgian linens, CD players, marble bathrooms. Normal rates for this hotel are usually much higher.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has a handful of specials posted on its website, including one for the Best Western Oceanfront Resort (tel. 305/864-2232; www.bwoceanfront.com), an all-suite property in Miami Beach. The special is priced at $139 for a suite with one to four people for travel through April 30, and includes a full kitchen, free continental breakfast, free parking along with two pools. It's worth noting that the special is available year round and prices fluctuate accordingly.
If you're looking for a stay that's boutique and unique, several properties owned by the South Beach Hotel Group (tel. 877/762-3477; www.southbeachgroup.com) are offering the hotel equivalent of buy one get one free. At the Hotel Chelsea (www.thehotelchelsea.com) or the Hotel Shelley (www.hotelshelley.com), you can opt for the following specials -- 3 for 2, 4 for 3, or 5 for 4 -- where you pay for the second number of nights and get an additional night for free, provided you arrive on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday through January 31. These packages can only be booked online.
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