By Verdina Roka
Shopping along Flagler Street in the Miami Downtown District is a Must if you would know the heart of Miami. Explore Flagler Street between Biscayne Boulevard and NW 2nd Avenue for best results, if only for one day (or half a day, depending on browsing speed). Starting by 10:00 a.m. will provide the best opportunities to graze as you go. The enigma of downtown Miami is an experience, an atmosphere, a feeling. It requires immersion.
After walking the length of Flagler Street, and perhaps a few side streets, you will have earned Relief for the Feet — catch the (free) overhead Metromover for a lift back to where you started.
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Upscale, moderate, and thrifty shops crowd the streets. Independent merchants will often barter (Cash is King); some of the best prices on electronics around, not to mention the many levels of jewelery shops in the world-renowned Seybold Building. Sample foods of every nationality from sidewalk windows to fine dining. Mix with executives pulling wheeled briefcases, lawyers, clerks, secretaries, merchants, travelers, students, loafers, and, yes, a few homeless. Hear all languages. Greet cops as they pass on Segways, bicycles, motorcycles, and the occasional horse.
Admire old and new architecture, measure the height of skyscrapers, ponder rooftop gardens, and absorb the artful clash of colors.
When downtown shops close promptly at 5:00 pm, cross Biscayne Boulevard to Bayfront Park and walk along Biscayne Bay. People will be jogging, walking their dogs, practicing yoga, or quietly watching the sunset with their children. There is no westerly view of the setting sun from the park, but the skies show color nonetheless.
Following the waterfront walkway north, you soon come to the open air Bayside Marketplace. Active into the into the night, you will find trendy shops and boutiques with one-of-a-kind items, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating, and various entertainment troupes.
A half-dozen or so tour operators are delighted to give you a tour of the bay, as will the water taxi. Check ahead for departing times and availability (links appearing soon).