17 ways to experience Downtown Miami (for free!)

 A crew member's guide

Recently, during our sail away from Miami, I was scheduled to help the overwhelmed internet cafe manager. He is always bombarded on the first day with hoards of questions from people panicked that they may not be able to brag on Facebook, finish their snap chat stories, or Instagram the hull out of their cruise (I’m so sorry, that was a terrible pun). Since I am an entertainment host with a degree in drama, usually I can only help so much, and so after the guests were in an orderly but fuming line, I spent the rest of the time staring out of the window. We were docked facing away from the ocean on this day and sailed closer into Downtown Miami before we turned around to sail out. As I watched, I realised that there are actually a lot of pretty spots close to Downtown that I’ve never explored. 

Most of the time, if I have a chance to leave the ship in Miami, I do what other crew members do; I take the crew shuttle and use what little time I have to buy toiletries, and then get lunch and WI-FI. That day I made a resolution that every time I get off the ship, even if I have limited time, I will go off in search of an area, a statue, a fountain, a park, a view or something I haven’t seen before. 

As a result, I have had quite a few adventures lately, and after having these adventures, I came to the realisation that not only were they inexpensive but none of them cost me anything at all. Take that, cheap crew members! “Saving money” is no excuse to be lame!

So, just how far can your $3 crew shuttle ride take you? This far:

Miami on a budget

1. Bayside
Okay, most crew members already know about this one and I guess it’s not free if you buy stuff there, but it is a pretty place to hang out.

Miami highlights - Bayside

Miami highlights

2. Just outside it is the Torch of Friendship.

Miami Highlights

According to Google, the torch signifies Miami’s friendship to immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean in the 1960s when it was built. (And, according to the current president, the wall behind it signifies how they feel about immigrants now.)

3. Museum park and it’s walkways (a.k.a. The Museum Park Baywalk)

…and its statues

Perez modern art museum

…that you can forced-perspective make out with.

4. That’s just outside the Perez art Museum where, amongst other things, they have this mat that’s made of feminine hygiene products:

(Okay, it’s not the best picture) 

Miami highlights
(The one behind the Asian guy with the stroller) 

The Perez Art Museum of Miami
They have other art there too:

Art not made from feminine hygiene products 

It’s not usually free, but instead of ‘First Thursdays’ (like a lot of other art museums), they do something called ‘Second Saturdays’ and if you’re lucky enough to work on a ship that docks on Saturdays, and lucky enough to have accidentally gone there on the second Saturday of the month, then entrance is free! And then you can save your money for ‘art supplies’ from CVS.

If seeing art isn’t enough fun, you can also become part of it. - Ideally not the one mentioned above but this one (which is outside and therefore free all the time):

5. There’s also other art in Miami that’s free to look at (and become part of), like the street art on the Miami Riverwalk:

Miami highlights

Miami for free

(I’m not sure if that’s a mermaid or a lady and a bunny but either way, 
we like all those things)

…and, not too far from there, some less official street art:

There’s also plenty of interesting statues.

 6. You can also go to this fountain at Bayfront Park and evesdrop on people’s conversations while they eat their lunch:

…this thing is there too. 

7. You can go for a walk. There are plenty of paths and walkways to choose from, like the Bayfront Park Path,

the Brickell Park Path (okay, it’s overrated, never mind),

...and the Riverwalk Trail (on the other side of the Miami River).

There are also lots of pretty waterways with yachts parked in them.

(I like to imagine who owns the yacht and if they’re famous or, if not, what they do for a living, and whether or not that’s legal.)

8. If you want to journey a little further, the metro-mover in Miami takes residents on two different routes around the city centre and is free. It in itself is an experience, even if it's just from a people-watching perspective. 

9. It can take you to fun places like the 'M' that marks the birthplace of Miami (among others).

10. There’s also The Miami Circle 
It doesn’t look like much but is is a historical site where the Tequesta people used to live.

It’s hard to tell from this angle but it’s a circle, okay?

11. And, if you time things just right (or completely by a chance), you can watch the raising of the bridge over the Miami River (on Brickell Ave).

(I didn’t even know Miami had a draw bridge. It does.)

12. The metro-mover is also a great way to see the city’s interesting architecture. 
Some of it shiny:

Some of it colourful:

And some of it with giant holes in it:

(From google earth it looks like they have a circular rooftop swimming pool directly under that hole. So, I guess it functions as a sundial and if the pool has full sun it must be noon? I don’t know if it’s a hotel or an apartment building, but I think I need to go trespassing there.) 

13. You can also take the metro mover to the Brickell City Centre and have a walk around the area. It's pretty! Even if you can't afford to buy anything, you can just stare up at the ceiling at the local mall.

Top things to do in Miami

14. By using a combination of the metro mover and the free Miami Trolley, you can go to Little Havana. Here, you can buy some hand-rolled cigars, play dominos, salsa to live music, sample food from, not just Cuba, but all over Latin America, or just pose with a giant chicken: 

Best things to do in Miami

15. If you decide to take the trolley on the northern route, you can visit the Wynwood Walls, Miami’s street art district. The area that contains the curated official walls has no access fee and then, if you continue to walk around the area, there are plenty of impressive masterpieces lining the backroads. 

Best things to do in Miami for free

For more read this.

16. Just beyond Wynwood on the same trolley route is the Miami Design District. 

Best things to do in Miami #MDD

For more read this.

17. The Miami Design District also features the Institute of Contemporary Art, which is also free. 

If none of the above appeals to you and you have more time, you can always take a bus for $2.25 to South Beach, to swim in the sea, perve over the bodies on the beach, or walk around the Art Deco district to the sounds of reggaeton. 

So there, if you’re reading this from Sedicci, tell Titi I say hi, but why not take that coffee to go, set off on an adventure, and let me know if you find something good out there that I haven’t discovered yet?

In other news:

Bingo! It’s Easter

It has been a while since I have blogged, and the main reason for this is Spring Break. Yes, the ages have dropped, the blood alcohol levels have risen and things have been a little bit crazy. Last week we had 1800 children on board. Just let that number sink in. It started at the beginning of March and hasn’t seemed to stop ever since. 

This cruise we celebrated Easter on board. I started the day participating in an interdenominational Easter Service which actually made it feel like Easter. After that, things continued as normal, I taught my country line dance class, I called bingo, the only difference is I did it in bunny ears. By the time the day was done, I had pretty much forgotten that it was Easter. I was having tea with a friend in the mess when the door opened up and a whole lot of Indian crew members poured in from the lecture room next door. They had just had an Easter service and were coming in to continue the festivities. My friend, who goes by the name “Pony” and is Polish, is friends with pretty much all 1800 crew members onboard and so we got roped into joining the party. 

Anyway, they started off trying to feed us with various cakes, (I appreciate that they started with dessert first), then some sort of egg-filled pastry came out and finally curry. Somewhere between the courses, we played a game of bingo, except it wasn’t called bingo it was called ‘Housie’. Now, I have been working on ships for three years, I have called countless games of bingo in my time, but I have never ever before had the chance to play. Sometime’s they even play crew bingo, but I always get roped into calling it. I have a song that I sing every time I call the O-63 number and to this day, I cannot walk into a galley without someone singing it to me. 

This was the first time I EVER got to play. And yeah, my card was very unlucky. I don’t think I’ve ever won a raffle in my life and the only time I won pass the parcel was at my 30th birthday when it was rigged because I’ve never won pass-the-parcel in my life. (Thanks, Dave and Ange.) I can see why I call bingo instead of playing it. At first, I thought it was a pretty odd Easter tradition but then I realised they cast lots for Jesus’s clothing, so gambling on Easter makes perfect sense. And then we ate some more.

I lost Rodrigo’s Legs

I know what you’re thinking: How is this not a blog all on its own like the time he nearly got compacted in Germany? It’s true. I took him out in St. Thomas this week and the weather wasn’t great so instead of going to the beach, we went downtown instead. I took some photos of him and this was the last time I saw his legs: 


When we got back to the ship they were gone. I have no idea what happened. I’m sure I would have heard them if they fell, or remember if I left them somewhere, but I guess I’m just at that point in my contract when I’m so frikkin tired I don’t even know what’s going on. The last time I lost his legs in the Turks and Caicos, I found them at a bar (because that’s where people go to get legless). Somehow I will have to find a way to replace them like I did the eye he left on that Virgin Atlantic flight.

I finally won the Dance Off!

It's really sad, but that hasn't happened since January of 2014. Normally, people try to get voted out first. I'm the only one who actually wants to win the thing, and yet, somehow I usually do get voted out first. Last year, when I made it into the finals it was a big deal. My supervisor used to schedule me to host karaoke (which started before the dance-off ended) because he knew he could count on me to be eliminated early. Finally, all those years of determination have paid off! Last cruise, I was paired up with a Chinese man who was very serious about ballroom and couldn't speak any English. Somehow the awkwardness we generated between the two of us worked in our favour. I'm still so happy. I have no words.   

23 cruises down, 3 to go
Easter Eggs I consumed this year: 1 tiny one that didn’t taste very good (hint hint, mom)

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For some other Sharonicles of Miami, click here
And you can read other Sharonicles on what it's like being a cruise ship crewmember, here.


    1. Thanks, I have no idea what that has to do with Miami or in what universe that makes sense, but thanks for the effort. Drop by anytime. :)

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      1. Thanks for your interest, unknown. The Sharonicles isn't really that kind of blog but thanks for reaching out (sort of). If you're looking for writing work, anonymous messages are probably not the best way to find it. All the best though.


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