Miami was the home to many native tribes for several millennia at the mouth of the Miami River, and was explored by the Spanish, with a mission being established in 1567. Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821 by the Spanish, however, for much of the 19th century, the area was used for agriculture, until the Great Freeze of 1894/95 that froze many of the orange orchards. The freeze, however, spared the Miami area, and a wealthy landowner, Julia Tuttle, encouraged railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to expand his rail line to the area. When Miami was incorporated in 1896 it had a population of 300; today the city has over 400,000 people and the surrounding metro area has 5.5 million.
Miami experienced a large amount of growth initially during World War II, since the American base defending against the U-boats was located there. A huge wave of Cuban immigration happened after 1959 due to the Cuban Revolution, and there was also a large influx of immigrants from Latin America and Haiti. Today, Miami is the second largest Spanish-speaking majority city in the United States and is somewhat jokingly referred to as “the capital of Latin America.” The Port of Miami is also considered the “Cruise Capital of the World” since it is the world’s busiest cruise ship port.
Of course, there is plenty to do in Miami. Visitors can see the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which is full of beautiful Italian Renaissance-style architecture, and well-manicured gardens. For animal lovers, the Miami Zoo is always a good idea, as is the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, which allows visitors to get more up close and personal with various baby animals. Miami is a sports town as well and depending on the season, a trip to Marlins Park may be in order for Baseball fans. You may even be able to catch a show at American Airlines Arena!
Since Miami is such a melting pot of cultures, there is sure to be a huge variety of foods to enjoy. There is Cuban cuisine galore throughout the city of course, but competing Northern transplant influences, and Southern traditional cuisine also compete. Naturally, the Cuban sandwich is a must, and for the more adventurous, gator may be in order.
There are plenty of ways to get around Miami, and the city has a metro rail and bus system for getting around, which sees plenty of use by residents. The system is still expanding, however, it should be possible to get around easily without renting a car.