When 75,000 fans pack into Dolphin Stadium for the Super Bowl, when the coin is finally tossed and that ball is fir kicked, this city will become, temporarily at least, the football capital of the world.
But no matter how many tens of millions of homes the game is beamed into, Miami is like a runway model wearing an oversized football jersey that hangs to her knees. This city can't hide its seductive, playful, sleepless nature behind a facade of pigskin and turf.
Those that descend here for the big game on Feb. 4 will be greeted by the sandy coastline and pulsating clubs that have long been synonymous with this tropical playground, but also a lively arts scene, distinct neighborhoods and surprisingly serene escapes.
As game day nears, the opportunities for a visitor are as diverse as this city that is both sleek and gritty, authentic and artificial, boisterous and serene.
Game festivities kick off Jan. 29 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, with Hootie & the Blowfish performing and stars of Super Bowls past, including Jerry Rice, in attendance. Dozens of other events are scattered throughout game week, too, including Super Saturday Blast on Biscayne, a free pep rally at Bicentennial Park in Miami on Feb. 3 that is capped by fireworks.
An interactive football theme park, "The NFL Experience," will be open in the Dolphin Stadium parking lot Saturday and Jan. 28 and Feb. 1 through 4. Among other things, the NFL Experience offers visitors the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills, experience a drive to the end zone while harnessed to a bungee and test their passing accuracy using special targets. Meanwhile, the Miami Children's Museum is offering its own football program, giving kids a chance to learn referees' signals, dress up in football gear and try to kick a field goal.
The city's profile in the art world has grown exponentially since Art Basel, the decades-old Swiss festival, established an American outpost on Miami Beach five years ago. You're too late for the December event, but art lovers will find numerous other options, including the spectacular exhibit of glassblower Dale Chihuly's work at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables. Thousands of pieces of the artist's work hang from trees, rise from the ground and float on water; they're particularly impressive if you visit at night, though the Fairchild only stays open late on Thursdays. Elsewhere, Lorna Simpson's collection of photographic and video works closes at the Miami Art Museum on Super Bowl Sunday and "The Syringa Tree," a tale of growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, closes at the Rose & Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center in Fort Lauderdale a day earlier.
Special events abound on Miami Beach during Super Bowl week. On Feb. 3, 350 top fashion models from around the world face off in Volleypalooza, which is billed as the "sexiest sporting event of the year." Clubs will likely be packed as game day nears, including Penthouse Magazine's "Going Deep" party at Mansion on Feb. 3 with Snoop Dogg performing.
And in yet another "what it feels like to be in the NFL" type event, Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th Streets will shut down to vehicle traffic to create the Motorola Mile.
Visitors can take a walk through exhibits highlighting Super Bowl milestones and step onto an interactive football field that allows a chance to experience scoring the winning touchdown or simply perform an end-zone dance.
All that said, a visitor would be remiss to omit a day at the beach from their visit, as they would to leave without a nod to Cuban culture or Art Deco architecture.
From Fergie to the Florida Grand Opera, musicians are packing in for concerts surrounding the game. Dolphin Stadium will play host to the "Pepsi Smash Super Bowl Bash" on Feb. 1, with Kanye West and John Legend among the performers. The sounds of Caribbean and Latin American music will be featured in "Nations in Rhythm" in Dania Beach on Saturday.
"The Super Bowl Gospel Celebration" is in Miami on Jan. 27; and Willie Nelson takes the stage at the glittering new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami on Jan. 31.
For all the chaos the Super Bowl will unleash on South Florida, visitors will likely still be able to enjoy quiet escapes. A nighttime walk from South Pointe, along the South Beach shoreline is inescapably serene. The Holocaust Memorial is a moving, typically hushed spot that allows a guest to stand beside statues of the tortured, panicked and heartbroken. And Espanola Way on South Beach feels like a lower-key Mediterranean escape for dinner or drinks.
Visitors to the city will notice the massive construction - including dozens of new hotels, AmericanAirlines Arena and the Carnival Center - that have ascended since the last time the Super Bowl stopped here, seven years ago. And one look up, at countless cranes giving way to still more high rises, means the city will transform itself again before the big game returns in 2010. ?
Sun, surf, sand, ... hike!
Miami will blend some middle American into its tropical pastels for the Super Bowl
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.