Miami BeachAn empty coastal barrier island for most of recorded history, the first structure built was a shipwreck rescue station commissioned by President Grant in the 1870s. At that time, some coconut plantations were started but soon failed. One of the investors, John S. Collins, bought out the rest of the people and planted primarily avocados and did quite well.
After Miami became a city in 1896, the Collins family saw that this area had good potential for a resort and got involved with the Pancoast family, the Lummus brothers (local bankers), and Carl G. Fisher from Indianapolis to start developing properties.
A 2 1/2 mile bridge was constructed, and the jungle on the island was cleared. Through dredging and filling operations almost doubled the width of the island giving more space to build. The developers all created mansions for themselves, opened 3 hotels, 2 bath houses, and a golf course and then promoted the "endless summer" heavily to the northeast.
Wooden structures dominated until the catastrophic 1926 Miami hurricane leveled almost everything. This hurt Miami, but the beach hardly missed a step and cement/stucco hotels started being built, in the classic Art Deco style it is known for today.
Miami was the playground of the rich through the late 60s, things waned in the 70s and mostly retires were living there, and crime began to become rampant. In the 80s, the LGBTQ-friendly attitude and the general Miami acceptance made the beach a mecca for the gay community. The 90s started to see a resurgence of interest in the area, not in small part to the TV show Miami Vice, and investment in this year-round playground restarted. It hasn't slowed down since, and is still a fabulous world destination for everyone.
The ArrivalI took the currently free of charge route 120 bus to Washington and 5th Ave, where the Art Deco area begins and walked over to Ocean Drive. The street was closed to car traffic in favor of a pedestrian-only area, but it was also raining and it felt like a ghost town.
A lot was closed, all stores required masks (good in my opinion). The beach was closed at that time but did open later in the day. People that were seen were primarily maskless and my favorite spots were closed down - I mean locked doors, furniture covered in cloth type closed.
Ocean DriveBy far the most scenic and easy to consume as it's a park on one side and nothing but glorious 1930s iconic properties on the other. A feast for the eyes of artists and historians alike. They are almost all kept in like-new condition. Many have restaurants where the maitre d's are quite aggressive at times. Having eaten at them, make SURE the menu has prices, and DO NOT ORDER the drinks without prices. You will regret the sticker shock. Yes, they are the big massive-bowl multi-straw drinks, but wow... $50 and higher? Ouch!
Off the main dragOff of Collins and Ocean drives, the old Miami Beach is still there. Not glitzed up, but still very functional with original hotels that are genuine and quite comfortable (plus reasonable!)
The BeachThe beaches have been a highlight for South Beach residents and visitors alike for a hundred years. The new rules of not being able to sunbathe or hang out but just go into the water and then leave, put a huge damper on the beach activity.
SummaryA lot is closed and the behavior of the tourist throngs that come in every week is quite bad when it comes to wearing masks. It's a risky place and little concern is given to transmission by those not from Miami Beach.
Food and drink is still abundantly available. There is a Total Wine on 5th Ave. I highly recommend getting your pregame items there. If you feel you need to drink for visual and social engagement, you'll save $$$.
Bars and clubs are closed. You can still get drinks at hotels and restaurants right now. The best time to see the Art Deco district is at night so you can enjoy the glowing neon of the signs, but they changed the rules the day I got there to close at 8pm... 34 minutes before sunset. The rules change a lot, be flexible and prepare yourself to either be able to do anything you wish or almost nothing during these interesting times.
Lots of private parties happening in hotel rooms, I would completely avoid the shit out of those, the risk is so high, you might as well lick a bat. Sanitize often, even if you haven't touched anything.
It will be a crapshoot if your trip is great, mediocre or really sucks, depending on the state of infections in Florida and your ability to be flexible with plans.