The arrival of the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1896 saw the development of Miami take off. Originally the city was just focused in one square mile on the banks of the Miami River and was seen merely as a resort. The arrival of Cuban exiles from 1959 onwards shaped Miami's future which can clearly be seen on the streets of Downtown Miami with a distinct Hispanic feel to the chatter, shop signs and food. More recently, this area and down to the Omni Mall (north of I-395) has been transformed by the construction boom with shimmering towers of glass and steel. At night it basks in the glow of floodlights and nightlife.
This is a Metro / walking tour of the main areas of downtown Miami, using the Metromover elevated rail system which runs on two loops. Pick up a map locally or download one before you visit. This tour uses outer loop to get around and means that you are no more than 2 blocks from a station. Leave your car at any outlying Metrorail station and take the train to downtown to pickup the Metromover. Please note Metrorail and Metromover are two different forms of transport - do not confuse them.
Your first stop is Government Central Station. Walk south to Flagler Street, turning right or west - here you can see Dade County Courthouse. Built in 1928, it is the building with a pyramid to its peak. In the winter you stand a chance of seeing turkey vultures roosting on the roof. Across from here is HistoryMiami - starting back 12,000 years ago in Prehistoric times, the museum covers Spanish colonization, Seminole culture, roaring 20s, Cuban immigration to recent times.
Back on to the Metromover now and ride until the next stop which is Riverwalk Metromover station, next to Fort Dallas Park. From here you can walk to the Miami Avenue Bridge, which is one of 11 bridges on the river which opens to let ships access the busy 5 mile waterway. Walk back north a few blocks on the side walk to Third Street Station and continue on this tour to Knight Centre Station, or this is the point where you can take a detour down to the financial district and Brickell (rhymes with pickle!). Returning to the original tour, Knight Centre Station is actually inside The Miami Tower or 47-story, wedge shape landmark office skyscraper. Also inside the tower is the James L Knight International Centre - convention and concert hall. This is the first opportunity on this tour to connect to the inner loop and return to your first destination if you desire.
From Knight Centre the next stop is Bayfront Park Station and the park. This extends eastwards from the busy palm lined Biscayne Boulevard to the edge of Biscayne Bay. The park was redesigned in 1989 and includes a memorial to the Challenger astronauts, an amphitheatre and fountain. Make your way to the next Metromover stop, First Street Station and here you will find the Gusman Centre for the Performing Arts, which is one block south on Flagler and NE 2nd Street.
Back on the Metromover and the next stop serves Miami Dade College and surrounding galleries. A convenient stop for the Bayside Marketplace for shopping and dining. Also a chance to stroll around the Miamarina - 145 slip marina. Take a ride on the 36ft long Venetian gondola or walk out to Pier 5, a fisherman's wharf. Biscayne Bay boat tours also depart from here. Across the Bay on the right you can see the port and cruise ships moored alongside.
Return to the Metromover and as it rounds the curve, look out for the Freedom Tower - built in 1925 in a mediterranean style. It was used as the reception centre to process over 500,000 Cubans fleeing Castro and is now a Cuban museum. The Metromover then passes the US Courthouse built, in 1931, from coquina coral stone. This completes the tour. If would want to venture further north then at College/Bayside stations you need to connect with the Omni Loop which travels up to NE15st Street or School Board.
Other attractions -
Miami Trolley is FREE !! visit http://www.miamigov.com/trolley/information.html
Take a ride in a Water taxi
Rent a kayak and paddle over to Flager Memorial Museum, from Biscayne Bay.