Florida Gold Coast
Earth : North America : United States of America : Florida : South Florida : Florida Gold Coast
Florida Gold Coast is a region on the Atlantic coast of southern Florida in the United States of America. It consists of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. Miami Beach has been one of America's pre-eminent beach resorts for almost a century. Miami has the five tallest skyscrapers in Florida.
The Gold Coast region of Florida, sometimes known as, but not to be confused with, South Florida, is one of Florida's most popular travel destinations, along with the theme parks of Central Florida. Every year, millions of tourists from around the United States and the world flock to the region's beaches and tourist attractions. These travelers range from "snowbirds", elderly part-time residents who come here between November and April to escape the northern winters; the rich and famous, who flock to posh Palm Beach County; spring-breakers headed to the hotels and cruise ships of Fort Lauderdale; and foreigners, business travelers, and families visiting cosmopolitan Miami.
The Gold Coast is distinguished from other regions of Florida by its population, demographics, and culture. It is the most densely populated region in the state, dominated by Miami, the largest city in Florida, and smaller cities like Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, and West Palm Beach, all of which are centers of business and culture in the region. In addition, this region has been heavily influenced by residents who relocated from other parts of the U.S. and from the large and diverse immigrant population. As a result, the region is much less culturally "Southern", more urban, wealthier, and more liberal than Central and Northern Florida. While there are conservative outposts such as Boca Raton and certain parts of Miami, the three counties are a Democratic stronghold in national and state-wide elections.
The Gold Coast is famous in popular culture for being a major haven for retirees, specifically, middle- to upper-class singles and couples in their late 50s and 60s, many of whom are Jewish, from populous northern areas such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. The abundance of retirees has led to a dominant "active adult" sub-culture, especially in Palm Beach and Broward counties. These "active adults" are part of the Baby Boomer generation, live in 55-plus condo developments such as Century Village and King's Point, and, despite their advanced age, enjoy active lifestyles of going to the beach, playing golf and tennis, socializing, and traveling.
The Miami area is somewhat culturally separated from Broward and Palm Beach counties by its urban environment, diversity, and youthful population. It is associated in popular culture with a young party lifestyle. It is also known for its large Cuban population.
Climate-wise, the Gold Coast can be described as having just two seasons: the "rainy season", which lasts from June through September, and the "dry season", which lasts from October through May. During the rainy season, it is extremely hot, with afternoon highs sometimes climbing above 90º F. While winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean and the frequent rain keep the heat from becoming unbearable, the intense humidity still makes it feel warmer than it actually is. Rain and thunderstorms can occur almost daily in the summer. This is also hurricane season, and while major hurricanes are rare, they do occur. If you are in the area and there is a hurricane, it is important to stock up on non-perishable food and water, buy a generator if possible, shutter all windows, and stay inside until the storm has completely passed. In the winter, on the other hand, the weather is generally more mild, making this a popular time for tourists. Typically, there will be a cold front every week or two, with a thunderstorm followed by several days of cold, sunny weather. Floridians will consider it "winter" if the weather drops below 80º F, but on a few nights in December and January, you may experience near-freezing temperatures. It is wise to pack at least one heavy jacket and a few pairs of jeans if you plan to visit this time of year, in case the weather is unexpectedly cold, but there are days even at Christmastime when most people will be comfortable in shorts.
English is the de facto national language of the United States, and it would be difficult to navigate the Florida Gold Coast without at least some grasp of the language. However, Spanish, and to a lesser extent Haitian Creole, is also commonly spoken, particularly in the Miami area. In fact, there are some parts of the region where English speakers may well encounter more communication problems than Spanish speakers.
Miami International Airport , or MIA, is the primary airport serving the South Florida area. Located approximately eight miles northwest of downtown Miami, it has domestic passenger flights as well as flights to Europe and Latin America. It is connected to destinations throughout the Gold Coast region by the Miami Metrorail, the Tri-Rail, and Greyhound bus lines.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport , or FLL, is Broward County's largest airport. It is three miles southwest of downtown Fort Lauderdale and 21 miles north of Miami. Like MIA, it can handle domestic or international flights.
Palm Beach International Airport , or PBIA, is located in the city of West Palm Beach. It is a much smaller airport than MIA or FLL, but it, too, can handle both domestic and international flights.
Amtrak  operates several stations in the Gold Coast region. The service runs two train routes in South Florida, the Silver Meteor and Silver Star. The Silver Meteor runs from New York to Miami via the Northeast Corridor, connecting the region with destinations such as Washington, DC, Richmond, Charleston, Savannah, and Orlando. The Silver Star runs much of the same route, but runs further west in the Carolinas and Florida, serving destinations such as Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina and Tampa.
Greyhound operates several stations in the Gold Coast region, including West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.
Interstate 95 is a major interstate that runs north-south through the Florida Gold Coast, beginning in downtown Miami. It then goes north along the U.S. East Coast as far as Maine. It is usually the most efficient way to travel between cities on the Gold Coast; however, during rush hour, traffic can be a nightmare. Interstate 75 begins in southwest Broward County and connects the region to the Florida Gulf Coast, West-Central Florida, and cities like Louisville, Dayton, and Detroit. Interstate 595 connects the two major interstates around the Fort Lauderdale airport area.
The Florida Turnpike, a toll road, runs mostly parallel to I-95 throughout the Gulf Coast; it later turns west and connects the region with the Orlando area, before merging with I-75 just south of Ocala. Keep in mind that the Sunpass prepaid tolls system is being implemented, and some exits near Miami no longer accept cash tolls. However, this should not be an issue for most visitors.
Tri-Rail  is the Gold Coast's regional commuter rail line. It runs on one line, which in most parts of the region is just west of Interstate 95. Stops include major destinations such as all three major airports and most of the region's larger cities. It connects to Amtrak and the Miami Metrorail. Free shuttles connect the Tri-Rail to local bus routes, universities, and other destinations. During rush hour, trains may run as often as every 20 minutes; in the middle of the day and on the weekends, they may run only once every hour. One-way fares range between about $2 and $6, depending on the day of travel and the distance.
A new rail service is being developed to serve the entire Florida coast along the old Florida East Coast Railroad tracks, which are currently used solely for cargo trains. That rail line runs much closer to the center of most cities, and would be more convenient than the Tri-Rail. Another proposal would use the tracks for a high-speed train connecting the tourist centers of South and Central Florida.
By Metrorail and Metromover
The Miami Metrorail is the only mass transit system of its type in the Gold Coast region. It is an elevated train with 23 stations on only two lines - the Green Line begins in Dadeland, south of Miami, and runs through South Miami, Coral Gables, and the city's downtown before turning west, where it connects to the Tri-Rail and serves the suburb of Hialeah. The Orange Line follows the same route as the Orange Line along its southern half, but branches off at the Earlington Heights station to serve the airport.
In addition to the Metrorail, the Miami Metromover is another elevated mass transit system that is free to ride, connects to the Metrorail, and serves the downtown area in three overlapping loops, the Inner Loop, Bricknell Loop, and Omni Loop. Information and maps for the Metrorail and Metromover can be found .
Bus systems in the Gold Coast region are run at the county level, with Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties each having their own. Miami's bus system, Metrobus , is by far the largest, serving the entire county with some 200 routes. Broward County runs Broward County Transit , and Palm Beach County runs Palm Tran . While all three services are low-cost, buses run infrequently (typically every 20-40 minutes, but only once every hour for some routes) and driving is almost always a more efficient way to get around, if possible. In addition, all three counties have special transit services for the disabled. These services are low-cost and door-to-door and are a good option for those who are unable to drive. More information is available on each county's transit website.
Most of the major sites are concentrated in the three biggest cities, although there are some great things to see off the beaten path. In Miami, the top sites include Vizcaya, Zoo Miami and the Miami Seaquarium. Fort Lauderdale has the Stranahan House and the Museum of Discovery and Science. West Palm Beach, to the north, has the Flagler Museum and the Norton Museum of Art. Other attractions include Butterfly World in Pompano Beach, Old School Square in Delray Beach, and the Seminole reservation in Hollywood.
The beaches are one of the region's biggest draws, attracting tourists from around the world who seek sun, sand, and surf. Most of the region's beaches are simple: think large expanses of yellow sand that give way into the sea, which is usually not too choppy and rarely ideal for surfing. On holidays and during tourist season, the biggest beaches will be packed with people; you would do better to get off the beaten path. Some of the region's best beaches include Lummus Park, in the heart of South Beach, which is great for people-watching, as are "the Strip" in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood's Boardwalk. Farther north, Lake Worth beach has a new shopping and dining area, with a great restaurant, ice cream, and space for weddings and other events, but Delray beach is number one for great shopping, dining, and nightlife options, along with watersports and cabana rentals. If you're looking for something quieter, with access to nature, John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach, John D. MacArthur State Park in North Palm Beach, and Blowing Rocks Preserve in Hobe Sound are some of the most pristine and beautiful areas in South Florida.
Sports and outdoor activities
If you love the outdoors (and can handle the weather), the Florida Gold Coast has plenty to do. Golf is a popular pastime, with hundreds of courses in the region (Palm Beach County has more golf courses than any other county in the United States). Also check out watersports, especially scuba and snorkeling (although everything from surfing to wakeboarding to deep-sea fishing is available. The larger parks and preserves (including beach parks like MacArthur State Park and wetlands like Loxahatchee Preserve offer hiking, biking, and kayaking.
The Gold Coast has world-class performing arts. In Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center' is home to the Florida Grand Opera, the Miami City Ballet, and the New World Symphony. Fort Lauderdale has the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and West Palm Beach, the Kravis Center. All three venues host major theatre, dance, and musical performances. There are also a number of large concert venues, including American Airlines Arena in Miami and the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Finally, there are several music festivals every year, the best-known of which Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana, SunFest along the waterfront in West Palm Beach, and, of course, Miami's infamous Ultra.
The Gold Coast's sports fans are as passionate as any other areas, with the most love being directed at the Miami Heat, which is easily the best team in the NBA. The Miami Dolphins play football and the Miami Marlins baseball. The only noteworthy college team is the University of Miami's Hurricanes; while Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University have football teams, they are both fairly new, with poor records.
If you love Cuban food, you're in the right place. Miami's huge Cuban population has made this the number one place for Cuban food outside of Havana--and it's arguably better than in the cuisine's native land, due to the better quality and quantities of good, fresh ingredients available in the U.S. In fact, most Caribbean and Latin American cuisines are well-served here. Outside of Miami, though, the food is pretty standard. You can find just about every major chain here, and, as everywhere, the local places range from overpriced to pretty good. This is no Paris, but you can certainly eat well if you want to.
Miami's nightlife is pretty legendary, and if you're interested in any partying more intense than a retirement party, this is where you'll inevitably end up, because the rest of the region is pretty dull. If you want to have a good time in Broward or Palm Beach County, you have only a few decent options: Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, or CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Or, just ask the nearest young person, and they'll probably point you to an Irish pub or a good happy hour.
Pretty much every city in this region is going to have some crime and a bad neighborhood or two, but over all, you should be fine as long as you practice some common sense - particularly in Miami and the downtown areas of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
What you really need to worry about is not crime, but natural disasters. Hurricane season starts in June and runs through October, with most of the storms occurring in August and September. With the heat and rain, you would be crazy to visit Florida during those times anyway; if you absolutely must, make sure you closely follow the news. All hurricanes start out as tropical storms; while not as dangerous as full-fledged hurricanes, they can still knock out power for a couple of days and even damage some property. There are five categories of hurricanes - a Category 5 hurricane causes the kind of destruction that makes national news, but they are pretty rare.
More likely, you will get a brief scare as the news announces that a storm may be heading your way. They might announce a hurricane or storm watch, which simply means that there's a chance a storm will hit, and that you should begin to prepare. If there's a storm warning, it means a hurricane or tropical storm is imminent. If you're staying near the beach, you will probably be asked to evacuate; that would be a good time to cut the vacation short and go home. If you can't do that, you will be directed to the nearest designated shelter. If you're staying inland, your hotel will (hopefully) take care of the preparations.If you're renting a house, there are plenty of websites that will tell you what to do in a hurricane. The newest homes have hurricane-resistant windows; otherwise, you'll need to buy plywood or metal shutters and nail them over every window and door. Do not put tape on your windows; this will only ensure that the window breaks into big pieces instead of small ones. Stock up on bottled water - the guideline is at least one gallon per person or pet, per day, for at least three days - and non-perishable food. Assemble a kit with flashlights, a first aid kit, and everything else at this website .