Safe and Dangerous Places in Miami

by Ikam, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 16th 2010 01:49 PM

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Areas to Avoid Miami

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Miami, Florida, has been a long-time tourist mecca because of its tropical atmosphere, art-deco architecture, and recent increase in celebrity sightings. Whether a visitor or a local, knowing which places to frequent and which to avoid could mean the difference between a pleasant getaway and a vacation disaster. Here are a few areas to avoid in Miami.


Safest areas


CocoWalk, located in Coconut Grove, offers a diverse selection of bistros and stores ranging from Caribbean to kitsch. The best time to visit CocoWalk is during the day, as it maximizes your time for shopping at the Mayfair and enjoying the sunshine at the various outdoor cafes. It is also less crowded, and you're less likely to run into the late-night crowd of bar hoppers or the inevitable traffic jams.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is an opulent national palace located between Coconut Grove and Downtown Miami. James Deering's fascination with European Renaissance inspired him to purchase this land and build this Italian villa, complete with gardens, which is now a favorite place to visit among Miami's population. Vizcaya is filled with treasures ranging from the 15th through 19th centuries, including furniture, panels, paintings, and tapestries. The marvelous breathtaking decor inside the palace is juxtaposed by a serene garden, complete with fountains, reflecting pool, and garden maze.

Virginia Key is a remote area past Key Biscayne and a wonderful destination to enjoy a quiet day under the sun, exploring Florida's native marine wildlife. Popular among windsurfers, this beach is a quieter alternative to the more-crowded beaches of Miami. Virginia Key is also home to the Miami Seaquarium, one of the most popular tourist attractions here.

The Charles Deering Estate is located on Biscayne Bay, just south of Coconut Grove. Built by the brother of James Deering, this Mediterranean-style home created from coral rock is now the property of Miami Dade County. The Deering Estate is a great place to visit with family or on a school trip. They offer a tour of the grounds and canoe trips to a nearby mangrove island. They even rent it out for weddings or other events. There is a fossil pit on the grounds for the archaeology buffs.

Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium is a favorite local destination for families with children and young adults. There are lots of things of interest here, including the planetarium shows in the 65-foot dome and weekly telescopic viewings. The planetarium offers laser shows the first Friday of each month. These shows are popular with teens and adults. The Museum of Science is home to an impressive wildlife center focused on rehabilitation and wildlife education.


Areas to avoid


Here are some areas to avoid in Miami, especially at night.

Overtown is one of the oldest cities in Miami, and is located near the downtown area. It is known as a dangerous area and locals avoid it because of its high crime rate. It is one of the poorest areas of Miami Dade County, but efforts to restore this neighborhood have begun because of its close proximity to downtown Miami. Alonzo Mourning opened the Overtown Youth Center here in 2002 hoping to turn around the reputation of this town and revive the culture and history it once had. Although it has been a successful effort, Overtown is still considered unsafe, especially at night.

While some believe that Overtown is quite scary, Liberty City seems to be the more crime-ridden of the two. Overtown has more warehouses and jobsites, and Liberty City has more single-family homes. Overtown is closer to more populated areas like downtown and Jackson Hospital. Liberty City's lack of traffic makes it seem like a really bad place to break down if you are lost while driving at night. Liberty City is also known for the riots that broke out in 1980 after a court decision regarding police brutality. It has also been known for gang activity and drug wars. Shootings here are not uncommon, and residents can be frequently seen loitering on the dark, desolate streets at night.

Opa-Locka is regarded as one of the highest risk areas for youth in Miami Dade County, despite the many community programs that have been put into effect. This area is known for assaults, robberies, and gang violence; shootings are not uncommon. The crime rates here have greatly increased since 2001, and they continue to rise. It has even been considered one of the cities with the highest rate of crime in the United States. Poverty, drugs, and crime are rampant in this area, so it is not advisable to drive around at night if you do not know where you are going.

Biscayne Boulevard can be a scenic drive, but certain areas can be seedy and dangerous if you get lost or are misinformed. The area is known for prostitution and drugs, and gets particularly seedy in places, especially north of downtown Miami. There are several drug treatment centers and halfway houses in the area, and the homeless population is high over here. If you want to visit Biscayne Boulevard, stay in the downtown area, and visit during the daylight hours.

Downtown Miami may be a bustling and congested commerce center during the day, but at night it is pretty deserted and unsafe, especially for the unaccustomed wanderer. A far cry from other cities' downtown areas laden with nightlife, downtown Miami empties once the sun goes down. It has some popular bars, like Tobacco Road, peppered here and there, but walking around is unsafe and not recommended. If you are curious about visiting the area, come during the day. By dusk, the 9-to-5'ers head home and by evening, the only people left are the local derelicts and out-of-towners looking lost.

Whichever area you decide to visit, just remember to pay attention to your surroundings and always use common sense. No place is ever 100 percent safe. Using good judgment is always your best approach to any new environment.

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