March 1, 2014 -- The winter doldrums – and an especially severe bout of cold weather this year – has many of us thinking of nothing but sunshine for spring break. At Travelzoo, in fact, we've seen searches on our website to many sun-kissed destinations more than double year over year. And prices have followed suit, with airfare to popular hot spots steadily on the rise.
But values on the ground still exist, even in desirable locales like Miami. From sun and sand to food and nightlife – plus an added dose of celeb spotting – Miami remains a big draw for good reason. But travelers can find a bevy of other unique memory-making options, and here are a few of the best.
Drive the Lamborghini, Skip the Rental CarBe honest: When you zip around the streets of Miami, you want to impress. The folks at Drive EXR can help, by letting you get behind the wheel of a slick Lamborghini Gallardo. This head-turning ride retails for more than a quarter million dollars, features a 550-horsepower V-10 engine, and can roar from zero to 60 mph in under four seconds. You'll learn all about it during your 15-minute orientation, before an instructor takes the passenger seat as you take the Gallardo for a 25-minute on-road driving experience along the waterfront Key Biscayne Route. You'll pay less on weekdays and your rate includes fuel and tolls.
Hit the Island, Skip the BeachYes, you're here to enjoy the sandy beaches of Miami. But you're so close to Grand Bahama Island – the Bahamas' northernmost island, located just over 50 miles out to sea – it would be a shame not to visit for the day. The Balearia Bahamas Express will whisk you away aboard a stately 74-foot catamaran and get you there in about 2.5 hours. And on the island, your options abound, including golf, fishing, nature tours, casinos and a bevy of quality restaurants; check out the chance to swim with dolphins, too. Cruises depart on select days of the week, but take off at 8 a.m. from Port Everglades Terminal One and depart from Grand Bahama Island at 7 p.m. Now, what to do tomorrow?
Steep, Skip the ShotCocktailing is a favorite Miami pastime. But Madi's Tea Garden will have you sipping on something a bit more soothing. This steeping hot spot features more than 20 different loose-leaf varieties and serves up its teas inside vintage china. There's also a varied menu of salads, kids' lunch options and delicious baked goods. We like the Queen's Feast Tea for two, which features an endless pot of tea, a cup of soup or house salad, the quiche of the day, scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, savory tea treats of the day and mini tea desserts.
Visit the Gators, Skip the TV ShowThe ocean waters before you are teeming with wildlife viewing options. But for spotting of a wilder kind, head to the Everglades. You've seen Everglades Holiday Park on TV; this is where Animal Planet's popular "Gator Boys" shoots, on land operated by Boward County Parks and Recreation. You can play reality star, too, by taking an hour-long airboat tour that zips you across the open Everglades and stops at strategic spots for wildlife viewing. That's followed by a 20-minute presentation by nature experts that brings you face to face with alligators. Bring the family; kids' tickets are discounted and children under three are free.
Take the Yacht, Skip the TourBoat tours abound in the waters off Miami. But if you want to make your ocean trek a bit more personal – a bit more exclusive – check out Luxury Yacht Charter. This sophisticated vessel features elegant cherry wood interiors and accommodates 12; that makes it ideal for everything from an intimate proposal party to a gathering of bachelorettes. Either way, cruising down Millionaire's Row or the Intercoastal Waterway is bound to turn heads. Rates include the fuel, the crew and soft drinks, but feel free to bring your favorite food and drink aboard.
Visit Wynwood, Skip DowntownMy colleague, Courtney Brooks, has been a Miami resident for 16 years. If there's a fun place to be, she's there. And her recommendation for the perfect day trip is Wynwood, where she likes to "check out the art galleries and hipster bars." In fact, there are more than 70 art galleries in this attractive neighborhood north of downtown Miami; check out their Second Saturday Art Walk. Wynwood is also commonly referred to as Little San Juan for the large number of Puerto Rican natives who've moved here; and that flavor is alive and well in many of the area's markets, restaurants and shops.
Fly a Kite, Drop the Beach BallWe're not talking about the kite you fly while standing in the sand. This is kiteboarding – you're surfing across the water, as the huge kite above you catches wind and propels you ahead. This thrill sport has found a haven of sorts in South Florida. Full-body workout meets exhilaration. Try it out with a one-hour lesson at Miami Kiteboarding – one-on-one instruction that includes testing your skills on a top-of-the-line Liquid Force board.
Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features hotel, airfare and a bevy of local deals in Miami at http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/Miami/deals.