From Clematis Street to Miami
Although this site focuses on Clematis Street, it's not realistic or desirable to spend all your time on one street. Even though downtown West Palm Beach is one of the best places to be in the world, its residents may at times feel the need to break outside the confines of Clematis Street and City Place and visit the greater world at large.
In this regard, one of the nicest things about Clematis Street is that it has very easy access to other places. Despite my preference for walking, running, biking, and trains, you need a car to really move around in South Florida, outside of West Palm Beach. Just get in your car and turn left on Tamarind Avenue at the western end of Clematis Street, make the first right at Okeechobee Blvd., and you'll soon see the signs to I-95 North and South. If you take I-95 South and just keep driving, you'll be in downtown Miami in about one hour. I-95 is only one minute from Clematis Street, so it's really easy to get in and out of downtown West Palm Beach and connect to the major highway in South Florida. This is very much unlike most other communities in South Florida, where you might take 20 minutes just to get from your area on to the major highway. From downtown West Palm, you'll find yourself zooming on I-95 toward your ultimate destination within one minute.
The drive south on I-95 has just recently become very nice in Palm Beach County. A major highway-widening project has now been completed, so you generally have five wide lanes all the way from West Palm Beach to Boca and soon thereafter the county line. After the widening, traffic is not generally bad at all in this area, even during rush hour. Things get progressively more crowded as you get farther south. Broward County is a large county with somewhat more development than Palm Beach County, so the highway starts to get more congested in that area, especially around the Cypress Creek area and then downtown Ft. Lauderdale.
Then, you get into Miami-Dade County, and all hell breaks loose. Palm Beach County drivers may complain about traffic and other drivers, but it's nothing compared to Miami-Dade County. I-95 in Miami-Dade County heading south into Miami is really not very safe and has many crazed speeding drivers, beginning at the massive Golden Glades interchange. If you don't like being in fear for your life on the road because someone is trying to drive at 80 mph within inches of the back of your car in the slow lane, you might consider getting off at Ives Dairy Road (just into Miami-Dade County) and heading east to Aventura and Sunny Isles, and taking the more scenic and serene ocean route (AIA) down to Miami Beach and Miami. It will then take you considerably longer to get to Miami Beach and Miami, but you'll feel a lot better along the way.
Once you get there, you'll generally find that it was worth the trip. It's actually quite amazing that within one hour, you can get from West Palm Beach to a large international city like Miami with a completely different feel. In the scheme of things, West Palm and surrounding areas still constitute a relatively small town, where country music is still popular and there is still at least some feeling of the "old Florida". In contrast, the Miami/Miami Beach area is a thriving cosmopolitan area which is jam-packed with residents and tourists from all over the world. But the predominant population there comes from south of the border, with more than half of the residents being of Cuban origin. You will not be comfortable in many neighborhoods of Miami unless you can speak at least some Spanish. Recent years have brought a wave of immigrants from other Spanish-speaking countries throughout Latin America. And in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, the Spanish-speaking residents and tourists mix with Europeans, New Yorkers, and people from the rest of the world in a true international cauldron of languages and people.
Hotels in South Beach are generally more expensive during the popular winter season from December through March, when tourists and "snowbirds" flock there from the U.S. Northeast, Canada, and Europe to escape the harsh northern winters. The average temperature is around 70 degrees at that time of year and it's usually very sunny as well, perfect beach weather. During the summer (starting in May) the weather gets nicer in those other places as well, so there are way less tourists around. As a result, the hotels all reduce their rates very substantially. As a result, these summer months are a perfect time for local residents from West Palm Beach to go down to Miami and check out South Beach for a few days.
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