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St. John’s Best Beaches

On St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, one beach is more beautiful than then next.  All of the beaches are free and public, making a day of beach-hopping easy and cheap!  Each of St. John’s best beaches has a little something special about it:

Hawksnest Beach

Hawksnest Beach St. John

One of my favorite things about a beach is when it’s completely secluded, and Hawksnest Beach on St. John’s north shore is exactly that.  Just the sound of the ocean and few little onlookers.  Perfection.

Jumbie Bay Beach

Jumbie Bay Beach Palm Tree Sunbathing

Take a short winding path through a tropical forest and you’ll end up on the shores of Jumbie Bay Beach.  There are no beach chairs on Jumbie Bay, but if you find a palm tree it’s all yours.  The water is the perfect temperature!    

Francis Bay Beach

SNorkeling at Francis Bay Beach copy

At Francis Bay, it’s all about the snorkeling.  Make sure you buy your snorkel gear before you get the the beach.  They do not provide rentals!  After only a few minutes in the water, sting rays and fish are easy to spot!  On the day I visited I was one of only three snorkelers.  Private and perfect.

There are dozens of beaches on St. John and all throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Which ones are your favorites?

15 Reasons to Plan a Long Weekend in Miami

Think Miami is just beaches and bikinis?  Think again.  The Roaming Gnome just spent a long weekend in the sunshine-y city during the 2013 Art Basel art show. And while there, he experienced a multitude of sights, sounds and tastes that made for an unforgettable three-day getaway.

Here are his top 15 reasons you should pack your bags and make your own Miami escape:

 

“Aaaaahhhhh…so invigorating.”—RG
“Aaaaahhhhh…so invigorating.”—RG

1. Jogging on South Beach at sunrise

Miami IS more than beaches and bikinis. But you cannot miss out on the spectacular light show that happens in South Beach every morning around 6 a.m. It’s also when the bustling beach is at its quietest.

“The salt spray in my beard is quite lovely.”—RG
“The salt spray in my beard is quite lovely.”—RG

 

2. Feeling the wind in your hair in the marina

Ocean Force Adventures has boat tours every day, so you can see the skyline, and even spy some dolphins, while cruising by at 20 knots. All that exhilaration will make you hungry so head to My Ceviche afterward for Miami’s best ceviche lunch.

 

“It’s like being a kid in a candy store that doesn’t have any candy and only sells cigars.”—RG
“It’s like being a kid in a candy store that doesn’t have any candy and only sells cigars.”—RG

3.  Trying Fidel’s favorite cigars at El Titan De Bronze

Head to this boutique cigar factory in Little Havana and ask to talk to Maria. Now in her 60s, she was handpicked to hand-roll cigars for Castro as a teenager.

 

“I think we do the wave any second now.”—RG
“I think we do the wave any second now.”—RG

4.  Cheering on the viejitos at Maximo Gomez Park

After you stop by the cigar factory, head straight down Calle Ocho to hang out with the fellows playing dominoes. They take their matches seriously, but are happy to chat between turns if you habla español.

“My mind is so expanded I’m afraid my hat won’t fit anymore.”—RG
“My mind is so expanded I’m afraid my hat won’t fit anymore.”—RG

 

5.  Wandering the street art at Wynwood Walls

In 2009, Tony Goldman transformed this defunct warehouse district into an eye-popping street art gallery. Peruse the massive murals then top off your art-stravaganza with a craft brew in Wynwood Brewing’s taproom.

 

“Take the audio tour. And get someone wearing good walking shoes to carry you.” —RG
“Take the audio tour. And get someone wearing good walking shoes to carry you.” —RG

6.  Getting lost in the gardens at Vizcaya

The Italian-style villa at Vizcaya was built by John Deering in 1916. Now you can spend the afternoon touring the estate as well as its magnificent gardens and grottoes.

 

“It’s official. I’m not moving for the rest of the day.”—RG
“It’s official. I’m not moving for the rest of the day.”—RG

7.  Sunning your buns at the Delano Beach Club pool

Warning: Once you get here and claim a spot among the palms, you may decide to throw all your other plans out the window.

 

“My stomach’s soul mate is a chicken. I am OK with this.” —RG
“My stomach’s soul mate is a chicken. I am OK with this.” —RG

8.  Scarfing down fried chicken at Yardbird

This southern kitchen is known for its fried chicken, which you can get with or without waffles. You get a half a bird, so split it, then wash it down with one (or two) of their 90 kinds of bourbon.

“I may have hogged them all. It’s their fault for being too delicious.”—RG
“I may have hogged them all. It’s their fault for being too delicious.”—RG

 

9.  Stuffing your face with stone crabs at Joe’s

In Miami, this is a local institution. They don’t take reservations, so show up early. Or opt for the to-go stone crabs and scarf  ‘em down in South Pointe Park.

 

“Do not accidentally call the lemur a marmoset. It gets awkward.”—RG
“Do not accidentally call the lemur a marmoset. It gets awkward.”—RG

10. Petting a lemur at Jungle Island

Yes. You can actually get up close and personal with lemurs, parrots, kangaroos and pythons at this family-friendly animal park. You literally can’t miss the gibbons either— they “sing” at 80 decibels while swinging from their perches.

 

“Do not try this at home. Only on vacation.”—RG
“Do not try this at home. Only on vacation.”—RG

11. Feeding the gators at the Everglades Alligator Farm

Take in the alligator show and airboat ride then head down the Historic Redland Trail to visit the Robert Is Here fruit stand, Schnebly Winery with coconut beer, and the key lime pie on a stick at the Gator Grill.

 

“Hahahahahahahahahahahaa (I may have had a wee bit too much.)”—RG
“Hahahahahahahahahahahaa (I may have had a wee bit too much.)”—RG

12. Tasting Miami’s best Cuban cafecito at Versailles

Stop by the famous ventana here to mingle with the locals and get your morning pick-me-up. Order the cortadito or café con leche if you’re not ready for the high-test version.

 

“Apparently the Marlins do not require the services of a very small, immobile pinch hitter.”—RG
“Apparently the Marlins do not require the services of a very small, immobile pinch hitter.”—RG

13. Checking out the dugout at Marlins Park

Even if it’s not baseball season, you can get a behind-the-bases tour at the stadium, go inside the locker rooms, and say hi to the fishies in the tanks behind home plate.

 

“Me with Chris Bosh and DJ Irie, aka a regular night in Miami.” —RG
“Me with Chris Bosh and DJ Irie, aka a regular night in Miami.” —RG

 

14. Meeting and greeting with the Miami Heat

Sure you can take in a game (and should), but you also just might bump into one of the “Three Kings” while you’re out and about. Especially if you’re following the whereabouts of DJ Irie, official Miami Heat DJ and man-about-town.

 

“This will make leaving very, very difficult.”—RG
“This will make leaving very, very difficult.”—RG

15. Gazing at the sunset at the Mondrian

If you miss the 6 a.m. sunrise, you can still catch the sunset on the other side of Miami Beach. Just remember to bring your bathing suit to take in the uninterrupted view of the skyline from the infinity pool.

 

Check out Travelocity’s Miami Vacations to start planning your amazing three-day weekend.

Follow The Roaming Gnome as he Heats up Winter in Miami

The best way to recover from the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving vacation, is to take another vacation; preferably somewhere with palm trees and white sand beaches.  And this week the Roaming Gnome is doing just that. He’s flying down to Miami to soak up some sun, check out 2013 Art Basel Miami Beach and get into as much mischief as he can manage in five short days. Miamiandbeaches.com has helped him put together one killer to-do list for his trip. Here’s a taste of what’s on his agenda:

1. Art Basel Miami Beach

Painting by Jonas Gerard at Jonas Gerard Fine Art
Painting by Jonas Gerard at Jonas Gerard Fine Art

Now in it’s 13th year, the Art Basel Miami Beach art show is taking over the city from December 5 through 8. The show hosts more than 250 of the world’s leading galleries, so the Roaming Gnome will have the chance to peruse collections from up-and-coming artists and proven masters. And it wouldn’t be an art show without a few parties, so he’ll be hitting the South Beach scene (and hopefully not making too much of an exhibition of himself in the process).

2. Miami’s Hotel Hot Spots

Hotels are a destination in and of themselves in Miami, and the Roaming Gnome will be checking in to several South Beach hot spots like the Delano, the Shore Club and The Mondrian South Beach to check out their pool bars, pamper himself with their spa treatments and cool down with a few cocktails in their cabanas.

3. Little Havana

He’s only in town for a few days, but the Roaming Gnome is hoping to absorb as much of the sights, tastes, and sounds of Miami’s Cuban culture as possible. He’ll watch how they make cigars in shops on Calle Ocho, learn how to play dominoes in Maximo Gomez Park, and perhaps do a little prep for a night on the town with a few (dozen) cups of Cuban coffee.

4. Miami’s Best Restaurants

Miami Food and Wine

With the help of Miami native and fearless food-blogger Jackie Gutierrez-Jones, the Roaming Gnome will be eating his way through Miami’s best restaurants. Whether it’s chic upscale cuisine in Miami Beach, farm-to-table flavors with an indie flair in the Design District, or just a casual bite in an open-air café in Coconut Grove, no morsel will be spared.

5. Miami’s Great Outdoors

You simply can’t go to Miami without sunning your bum on the beach, and the Roaming Gnome will be doing just that. But he’ll also be exploring more unexpected methods of getting his wintertime dose of Vitamin D, like air boating through the everglades, feeding alligators, or perhaps taking a slightly tamer—yet no less invigorating—stroll through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.

To keep up with the Roaming Gnome’s Miami adventure, or give him advice on where to go while he’s in town, follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare.