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Spring 2015 Life@50+ Miami Event Banner - AARP



The Scoop on Miami

Miami owes its existence to its sunny nature

Miami Metromover in Miami, Florida.

Ride downtown Miami’s Metromover system between major sites for free. — Alamy


In February 1895, local businesswoman Julia Tuttle is said to have sent oil mogul Henry Flagler some Miami orange blossoms after a freeze ruined crops in central Florida. He agreed to run his railroad tracks farther south, and the settlement officially became a city in 1896. Look for Tuttle’s statue in Bayfront Park downtown. Flagler’s statue stands in front of the downtown county courthouse on Flagler Street.

Other useful and fun facts, courtesy of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Paul George, a professor at Miami Dade College and historian for the HistoryMiami museum:

  • The city’s name is derived from the Mayaimi Native American tribe. That tribe’s moniker was inspired by Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, meaning “big water” in tribal parlance. The Seminole Indians also inhabited the Miami area in earlier years.
  • Miami’s nickname is “The Magic City,” because of its rapid growth.
  • A real-estate boom in the ’20s led to a population explosion and development. After World War II, Key Biscayne was developed.
  • An influx of Cuban refugees began in the 1950s and accelerated with the Castro takeover in 1959. Then, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and others immigrated. More recently, Venezualans, Colombians and Brazilians arrived.
  • The area is known as a shipwreck-diving capital, because of the number of boats that ran aground; many wrecks remain underwater.
  • The Miami-Dade County population is more than 2.5 million; about 64 percent of residents have Latino roots.
  • Miami is the cruise capital of the world, with more than 4 million passengers boarding and disembarking in 2013. More than 48,000 passengers traveled between Miami and the Bahamas on single-day cruises last year.
  • Tourism is Miami’s biggest industry: 14 million overnight stays were recorded in 2013.
  • Downtown’s Metromover system makes a 4.4-mile loop. Ride between major sites for free.
  • Miami Beach is a barrier island that was cut so that watercraft could come in and out of the port of Miami.
  • The Miami area boasts more than 15 miles of beaches. Haulover Beach is a top U.S. nudist swim spot.
  • Miami is the only major U.S. city to be bordered by two national parks. Biscayne National Park lies to the southeast and Everglades National Park to the north and west.
  • The TV series Flipper, Surfside 6, Golden Girls and Miami Vice, among others, put the area in the spotlight. Jerry Lewis filmed The Bellboy at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, which also was seen in Goldfinger and The Sopranos. Jackie Gleason taped his popular show at the Miami Beach Auditorium (now the Jackie Gleason Theatre for the Performing Arts).
  • The renovated Fontainebleau resort retains some original décor, including the “Staircase to Nowhere.” Back in the ’50s, female guests took an elevator to check their furs, and then paraded down the stairs in jewels and gowns while those in the lobby gawked.
  • The former home of designer Gianni Versace on Ocean Drive morphed into a small luxury hotel. Elton John, Madonna and members of the Kardashian family have stayed there.
  • The Miami Beach Art Deco District contains more than 800 buildings of that retro style — more than any other city in the world.
  • Miami has adopted the time 3:05 p.m. (Miami’s area code) as official “Cuban cafecito time”. Many businesses take a break then to allow employees a caffeine boost.

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