Take this tour if you: want to learn about the fascinating history of Miami (the “Magic City”), like to walk in big cities, and/or want to experience the urban flavor of one of the most thriving cities in the US.
Note: you will be walking at a fast pace for about three hours in a warm climate with little shade.
This tour is fun for: history buffs and people who like to be in cities.
What to bring: a camera and sunscreen.
Besides me, there is one other intern at Dragonfly Expeditions. It was her big project to create a walking tour of downtown Miami. She has been developing the tour for about four months. I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany her and our two bosses on one of the final test runs of the tour. Since she isn’t a native English-speaker, it was my job to take notes and then write the official tour description (see below). We have about 50 different tours available to our clients, and for each tour we have a description. These descriptions are used to advertise our tours and give our clients an idea of what their guests will experience while on the tour. I had the opportunity today to read my tour description out loud to my bosses and the other members of the team. After suggestions from everyone and a little tweaking, the description was ready to go. We decided to use the title “Five Centuries in the Making” to highlight the fact that there is actually a unique and fascinating history behind the city of Miami that few locals or tourists realize.
One of Dragonfly Expeditions’ main goals is to support local vendors, historical societies, environmentalist foundations, and the like. A portion of the proceeds from this tour will support the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. During the test run, we had the opportunity to go inside this historic theater. The interior took my breath away. Ornate woodwork, hand-painted ceilings, and intricately-patterned carpet were just a few of the first sights that impressed me when we walked inside. We were allowed to look into virtually every room in the building – and were even able stand on the main stage and take a peek inside the dressing rooms!! Unfortunately, the pit was covered up by a stage extension that they had used for the last show; but man, what I wouldn’t give to perform in that theater! The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is currently running a production of Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville.” This photo shows the auditorium seating:
Another memorable part of this test run was looking into the huge Jesuit Church located in downtown Miami. I certainly didn’t expect to find a church among the various watch shops and restaurants, but there it was in all its magnificence. The church was conducting mass at the time, so we couldn’t enter. But I peeked in through the glass front doors and beheld a wondrously decorated interior and a fittingly dressed man preaching on an alter fit for a king. This photo shows the front of the church (and, yea, it’s pink):
The third part of the test run that I will remember fondly is simply a funny situation that my little group encountered. As we were waiting to cross one of the busier streets, a member of the mounted police trotted up and stopped at the red light (the reason Miami employees a mounted police force is completely beyond me). And what pulled up behind him? A van advertising its product (coconut water) in the form of a large bushel of plastic coconuts on its roof. You could not find a more Miami-specific image than the photograph I took:
I participated in this activity on: August 2nd, 2012.
Just as removing the modern façade from many structures in downtown Miami will reveal the original architecture from earlier decades hidden beneath, our walking tour of downtown Miami uncovers a riveting past that is often masked by the more modern aspects of this flourishing city. Stroll with us along the pedestrian-friendly sidewalks of this bustling, thriving, many-times-restored urban area.
Step back in time and hear the story of the region’s first inhabitants – the Tequesta Indians – as we begin our walk at the famed and mysterious Miami Circle that overlooks the current Port of Miami on the Miami River. See landmark structures such as the Alfred I DuPont Building and the Seybold Building. Hear the true and intriguing stories that accompany these sites, such as how over 60 prisoners escaped from the top floors of the Miami Courthouse and how Maurice Gusman saved the majestic Olympia Theater from being demolished. Follow the personal tales of the many different types of people who have moved to Miami chasing fortune or running from hardship.
Although you will be physically surrounded by a humming commercial center, these stories from the past will enable you to envision how downtown Miami once looked. Occasional Mediterranean-revival and art deco buildings jostling for space with brand-new, high rise luxury condominiums are proof of the ever-changing nature of this city. Our adventure through five centuries of Miami’s past draws to an end as we approach the Freedom Tower, Miami’s own statue of liberty. Although history may not be the first thing that comes to mind when exploring the busy streets of one of the most modern cities in the US, this walking tour leaves guests with a new and surprising perspective of the Magic City.