riding the Big Bus in Miami

Neither Christine or I had previously spent time touring the sights of Miami, so what better way to get acquainted with the city than by taking a sightseeing tour? We were fortunate to have passes to get us on the Big Bus, a company offering a variety of Hop-On/Hop-Off  routes to familiarize visitors with highlights of the city. The Big Bus tour of Miami is something I’d recommend to anyone who is new to the city.

You can hop on and off the Big Bus as often as you like.

Riding the Big Bus in Miami is fun, as you can hop on and off as often as you like.

our Big Bus tour of Miami

We began with the Blue Route, which pointed out the architectural highlights of the Art Deco District on Ocean Drive. Our guide Jake was extremely knowledgeable, and told us about John Collins, one of the leading developers of Miami in the late 19th century, and for whom Collins Avenue (on which we were staying) was named.

This powerful image draw you to Miami Holocaust Museum.

This powerful image draw you to Miami Holocaust Museum.

We didn’t have time to tour the Holocaust Museum, but if this powerful sculpture at the entrance to the museum is indicative of the contents of the exhibits, I have no doubt I will visit at a future time.

We learned that Miami is home to a large Jewish population, and that Temple Emanuel is the largest synagogue in the US.

On the Red Loop tour, we learned that the best Farmers’ Market in Miami is held each Saturday in Coconut Grove from 9 am until 9 pm, with a terrific selection of produce, art, and music. Our brief time in Miami didn’t allow us to visit the Farmer’s Market, but we did take a tour through Coconut Grove and were impressed by the beautiful homes and public architecture of Coral Gables that included the historic Biltmore Hotel.

The Biltmore Hotel was built in 1926 and is a landmark of Coral Gables that we passed on our Big Bus tour of Miami.

The Biltmore Hotel was built in 1926 and is a landmark of Coral Gables.

The Green Line Tour is the shorter, one-hour route offered by the Big Bus Tour Company which takes you up Biscayne Blvd. to the Bayside Complex of shops and restaurants. We had a terrific lunch with a great view of the marina at the Tradewinds Waterfront Bar & Grill.

The Red Loop on the Big Bus will take you to Little Havana, where you can buy Cuban cigars.

The Red Loop on the Big Bus will take you to Little Havana, where you can buy Cuban cigars.

Given we didn’t have a huge amount of time, being able to ride all three routes in the Big Bus gave us a chance to see a lot, despite the fact that we’d hit a patch of cloudy wet weather for the first part of our stay. Riding the bus was much more comfortable than walking in the rain.

It was sad seeing the old Miami Herald building being demolished, but exciting to learn that a new resort will be built on that site. There is so much new growth in the works for Miami, I can’t wait to return and see more of it!

Have you been to Miami? What were some of your favourite sights? Have you taken a Big Bus Tour of Miami? Let’s talk about sightseeing in this great city.


Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

32 Responses

  1. I love those hop on /hop off tours and can imagine they would be especially handy in Miami where public transit is not that great. I’ve stayed at the Biltmore many times and just love its swimming pool and the nearby Venetian pools.
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi Michele: Could it be possible that you haven’t been to Miami in a number of years? We found the public transportation to be quite good. There is the highspeed metro, transit buses, and the free people movers within the downtown. We rode them all, in addition to the Big Bus Hop On/Off tours.

      And lucky you for having stayed at the Biltmore! I would love to, on a future trip to Miami. Thx for stopping by.
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  2. cheryl says:

    I have not been top Miami. However, when I visited Susan Cooper we took a bus tour in SF and I loved it. You learn so much that way.
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  3. Doreen — I’ve been to Miami several times. The first was when I was 21 (too many years ago) and I went with two girlfriends. My first plane ride! We rented a convertible and drove up and down Collins Avenue. We were riding so high and having the time of our livee. It was my first real vacation and I still remember it well.
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  4. Tracie Howe says:

    Bus tours are such a great way to see a place in a short amount of time. I especially enjoy riding on the top of those double deckers when the weather is nice. Sounds like a great series of tours!
    Tracie Howe recently posted…Pi Mai – celebrating with the world’s best water fight in LaosMy Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Tracie: Yes, I like sitting on the top outside, too, but we had some rainy weather for the 1st leg of the tour, so were happy to be tucked safely inside the bus. The next day, when the weather was nicer, we enjoyed the sunshine and were able to get some better pics. Thx for stopping by.
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  5. Susan cooper says:

    Hi Doreen, I have been to Miami. But unfortunately my trips have been mostly work related and have seen convention centers, business offices etc. Haven’t gotten to enjoy the beautiful scenery and sights as much as you.

  6. Those Hop On/Hop Off tours can be so useful in some cities! I use them for a first day introduction to cities sometimes and rarely regret it. I’ve never been to Miami, but hope to visit sometime.
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  7. Donna Janke says:

    I haven’t visited Miami, but have experienced hop-on hop-off tourist buses in other locations. They can be a great way to get around, learn a bit about the city and determine what you will look at in more depth, depending on the amount of time you have.
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    • Doreen says:

      Hi Donna. Isn’t that always the case? It’s hard to find enough time it do all the things we want to see and do in any given destination. I’m glad that there are quick tours like the hop on/off bus tours to get you around a city quickly if you have limited time and resources by which to see the sites.
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  8. Lauren says:

    Never been to Miami, though I know that these hop on/hop off buses can be a really convenient and cost-effective way to get around a place! Plus you get to learn about places that you may not have otherwise known about.
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  9. Marta Grilo says:

    I’ve always wanted to visit Miami. Bus tours always seem to me the best way to get to know a city!

  10. Pat says:

    We loved the art deco district!! Had lunch at the one their fine restaurants and got to people watch. The bus tours are a great way to see things when you don’t have enough time to do on your own. Did that in New York and really enjoyed the day.

  11. Those bus tours are awesome. I was in NYC for a conference and had one day free and I did it in London, England. I was able to see a lot of the sites, at least from the bus, and get lots of good information about the history from the tour guides. You just hop off at a site you want to see up close, then catch the next bus and continue the route. I highly recommend these tours to either get you acquainted with the destination or allow you to see many of the sites quickly when you don’t have a lot of time, like you and Christine did. Thanks for the info about the Holocaust Museum. I would highly recommend the one in Washington, DC if you get a chance to go there.

    • Doreen says:

      Thx for your comment, Suzanne. Yes, I’ve heard of the Holocaust Museum in DC, but hadn’t realized that Miami has one until we saw the awesome sculpture and heard about it on the tour. You always lear so much great stuff on those tours — especially if you have a good guide. 🙂
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  12. You’re getting all of the good stories and photos out there, Doreen. It was indeed a great way to see a lot of Miami on the three bus tours we took.
    I’d only seen part of Miami on a quick drive through to the Everglades area in 1994, so I had no idea what to expect.
    Seeing the cultural diversity of the city, and the diverse architecture was definitely a highlight.
    Of course, the biggest highlight was being able to share all of these wonderful experiences with you.

  13. Sadly, Doreen, I have not been to Miami. I think I’ve been almost everywhere else in Florida, though. LOL. You have put the spotlight on some unusual facts, at least for me. I didn’t know about the large Jewish population, nor the Holocaust museum there. Wow. Ok, so it is now on my list. Cool.
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  14. sherryl says:

    Hi Doreen,

    I love taking sight seeing tours when I’m in new cities. It’s the best way to get around and take in the sights as a tourist. I’m not sure if this is the same tour company that my husband and I used when we went to Miami. I remember we had fun. Lots of times, it depends on the tour guide but it certainly leaves your hands free to take pics (which you always do a great job of).
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    • Doreen says:

      Thanks so much for your warm comment, Sherryl. I do love taking pics, and am excited, as this week I’m getting an iPhone 5s, which I’m hoping will help me take even better pics when I’m on the fly. There are several tour companies in Miami that do bus tours, but I believe the Big Bus has the best ratings on Trip Advisor. In fact … I think I’ll make my way over there and add a review of my own!
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  15. Linda Strange says:

    I’ve pretty much only been “through” Miami, though we did have one Florida holiday a gazillion years ago. The enhanced colours on shows like C.S.I. Miami don’t prepare you for the art works that are the massive clouds on the horizon at sunset. I do love ArtDeco and the Biltmore was fantastic.
    The Miami/Dade police cruisers everywhere feel like you’re part of a shoot. I kept looking for David Caruso . You loved him – I thought he was icky!
    If I have the chance, I’ll follow in your wheel tracks and do some of the bus tours. We did them in Sydney Aus, and it was amazing and informative, as your tours obviously were.

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Linda: Yes, the bus tours really are a way to be safely introduced to a destination. We had 3 different guides on the 3 different routes and I found that made a difference, as one (Jake) was superb, one was one too good, and the other was moderate. But all worthwhile.

      Did you happen to stay at the Biltmore? I’d love to stay there or at the Fontaine Bleu on a future visit to experience some of that grand nostalgia!
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  16. Rachel says:

    I’ve been to Miami Beach and I loved all that deco architecture. We stayed in one of them. There’s great people watching on the beach too!
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  17. Doreen says:

    I’ve never heard of ‘Burn Notice’, Chris, but I used to love watching Miami Vice! Miami really is a scenic city full of culture and vibrancy. Stay tuned for more!
    Doreen recently posted…cultural highlights of WinnipegMy Profile

  18. Chris says:

    I’ve never visited Miami, but I think Sarah & I would be busy hunting down locations from the TV show ‘Burn Notice’ (It’s set there)! 🙂
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