Shopping magic in Miami

 Miami is a well-established centre of retail therapy for weekend visitors from Cayman, but if you really want to go for it, you’re going to need to plan your time carefully.

First things first: the best thing to do is to get down to the car hire centre and sort yourself out with a people carrier – you’re going to need it after visiting this little lot.

Malls upon malls
There are malls upon malls in the area, including Dadeland down in Kendall, with massive branches of May’s, JC Penney, Saks Fifth Avenue and The Limited.

Another huge shopping area is Dolphin Mall, just west of Miami International Airport, which offers over 200 restaurants and stores. With a zoned approach, it’s a lot more user-friendly than most and features Sports Authority, Borders Books and Marshalls as some of its anchor stores. For eats, the usual TGI Fridays and Starbucks are available. but this being Miami, you can also grab a decent empanada and even a branch of Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood. To burn off the calories, you might want to have a bash at the climbing wall, or rack up a few frames at Strike Miami. It’s a mini-city all in itself. If only it had a hotel, there would be no reason to leave.

Life’s a beach
Miami’s South Beach, whichever way you look at it, is one of the coolest, hottest places on earth. Not only is it notable for its gorgeous, art deco architecture, it’s also home to some great independent and boutique stores that are well worth taking the time to see.

Collins and Washington avenues feature a number of designer stores, such as Armani and Nicole Miller, in close proximity. For something a lot more personalised, head over to Richie Swimware on 8th Street. His designs have been featured in Sports Illustrated. Another hot designer is A. Dominguez on 760 Collins Avenue, catering to both sexes.

At the North End of Miami Beach is Bal Harbour, which features an upscale shopping experience in the open air. Here you can find speciality and luxury shops including Dior, Paul & Shark, Jimmy Choo and Addict. If you’re really wanting to splash the cash, there are branches of Bulgri, Cartier, Tiffany and Torneau to choose from.

In Coral Gables, there are hours of window-shopping to be done, with oodles of boutique stores including Acqua. It’s also home to art galleries including MiArte, Coral Gables Gallery and the Actors’ Playhouse.

Lincoln Road is a pedestrian shopping strip that is the place, if nothing else, to people-watch. Grab a coffee in one of its numerous cafes and restaurants and count the labradoodles before pampering yourself at Brownes & Co’s spa shop. Lincoln Road was designed by Carl Fisher, the original developer of the beach, to be Miami’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue. Best time to visit may well be Sundays, when a massive antiques market will have you browsing for hours. Lincoln Road has everything from upscale opticians to well-stocked ice-cream stores, and of an evening it morphs into a classy, cool collection of clubs and late-night coffee houses. More Sunday markets are the order of the day in Espanola Way, which holds a combination farmers’ and craft markets. There are also outdoor markets at Coral Gables and Coconut Grove.

Hipsters and thriftsters
The smart money, literally, is on the thrift shops of the city, known only to a few clued-in hipsters who know that Red White & Blue on 6th Avenue is a haven for homewares and kids’ clothes, or that heading down 27th Avenue leads to Douglas Gardens Thrift Store, which supports the Douglas Gardens Jewish Home and Hospital. This little gem has won awards for vintage clothing over the years – well worth a rummage.

And for the real bargain-hunter, a trip 11 miles out of town to the Flamingo Plaza in Hilaleah will yield hidden treasures – with some patience – amid several ever-more crowded thrift stores, as well as brand new discount clothing.

The weekend of 4 July is a massive celebration up and down the waterways of Miami, featuring free concerts, parades and a kaleidoscope of colour, so if you get any time after all that spending, one of the best places is Biscayne Bay near the seaport. We ought to mention at this point that Bayside Marketplace is nationally-famous for its speciality stores, live entertainment and the small matter of Aventura Mall.

Seems that Miami, not content with having gorgeous buildings and decent beaches, is also making a play for the shopping crown. Mere browsers need not apply; this is serious stuff for anyone with cash burning a hole in their pocket. Just make sure you’ve got enough stamina to sustain a weekend of splurging.