Getting Out for Spring Break

More than parties for college students on spring break in Miami

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Alright college students, enough is enough.

Time to log off of Facebook, close Reddit — admit it, you have been browsing those sites in class all semester — and get outside.

It’s spring break — explore a little.

While South Florida may be known internationally for its beaches and nightclub scene, there is plenty more to do aside from toasting under the sun and visiting the trendiest mainstream venues.

Dive bars in Little Haiti and Wynwood offer drink specials, including beer as cheap as $2, live music and open-mic nights. Homestead restaurants offer authentic Mexican dishes, such as fajitas and enchiladas, while a new Southern cuisine restaurant in Coral Gables showcases the pig. And for those shopping on a budget or looking for styles that cannot be found at the mall, Palmetto Bay consignment store The Recycled Closet and North Miami Beach vintage shop The Rabbit Hole may be the answer. Finally, a walking tour of downtown Miami will show off the area’s colorful history and relics that remain from as far back as when railroad magnate Henry Flagler commissioned the building of the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami.

From cultural experiences to shopping and dining, activities in South Florida abound, leaving college students with an array of choices on what to do during their week off.

The Night Scene

Happy hour is a must for many spring breakers who are 21 and older.

And why shouldn’t it be?

It is an easy way to catch up with friends from other schools and meet new people without breaking the bank.

Gramps, at 176 NW 24th St. in Wynwood, and Churchill’s Pub, at 5501 NE Second Ave. in Little Haiti, are known for laid-back atmosphere and great prices. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, Gramps offers $2 off all drinks, which translates to beers such as Budweiser and Miller High Life selling for $2.

Missed happy hour the first time? No problem.

Late-night happy hour runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from midnight to 3 a.m.

At Churchill’s, domestic draft beers sell for $2.50 during the day and $3.50 at night, and imported drafts are $3.50 during the day and $6 at night.

But both venues offer a lot more than drink specials. At Churchill’s, there is live music seven days a week. Over the years, the likes of Social Distortion and Iggy Pop have played at the Little Haiti bar.

“It’s a little hole in the wall that not many people know about, but once you do, it’s a gem,” said Justina Nanes, human resources manager, about Churchill’s. “If you come here, you’ll be one of the locals.”

And Thursday is karaoke night at Gramps. During spring break, Gramps will host day parties from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on March 22 and March 23, with live music, food and, of course, booze.

Patron Justin Long, 32, says he enjoys coming to Gramps because of the music and drinks.

“It’s become the artist hangout in Miami,” Long said.

Dining Out

By this point in the semester, the idea of fast food and cafeteria food is getting old.

And believe it or not, while your mother may be the best cook in town, there are plenty of places in South Florida to get comfort food.

If you are looking for Southern comfort food in particular, then check out Swine Southern Table & Bar, 2415 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables’ newest spot.

“It’s celebration of the South,” said John Kunkel, CEO of 50 Eggs, the company behind Swine Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, and Khong River House.

Here, students can expect innovative twists on authentic Southern cuisine.

While Swine’s sister restaurant, Miami Beach’s Yardbird, focuses on chicken, the menu at Swine, as the name suggests, puts the spotlight on the pig.

The 16-ounce pork porterhouse — an all-natural Duroc chop, with pickled cabbage, Yukon gold potato confit and applesauce — goes for $32.

After a drive south on the Turnpike, the aroma of fajitas, tamales and enchiladas wafts from several Mexican restaurants in Homestead that provide visitors an authentic experience, from the food to décor.

La Cruzada Taqueria, at 331 Park Place, offers $1.89 tacos, $3 tostadas and breakfast for $4.99. North from there, on 436 Krome Ave., is Antojitos Mexicanos, where patrons can get an all-you-can-eat buffet for $6.99 on weekdays and $7.25 on weekends. The menu includes traditional favorites such as tacos, enchiladas, tamales and tostadas.

Culture

Miami is a relatively young city. But it has a colorful history, the relics of which continue to attract locals and tourists alike. Spring breakers have an opportunity to get a glimpse of Miami’s history by taking Michael Pearlman’s Secrets of Downtown Miami walking tour.

Highlights include the site where the Coppertone Girl used to hang near Biscayne Boulevard and Fifth Street, the historic Palm Cottage where Henry Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel employees resided, Miami’s first skyscraper and a hidden elevator.

Pearlman, who has held the tour before, said that more locals than tourists attend.

“It’s going to be places that, I think, people don’t realize are in downtown Miami,” said Pearlman, a HistoryMiami tour guide and educator. “There are all these hidden treasures people don’t realize are still there.”

The two-hour walking tour, which is held through HistoryMiami, will begin at 11 a.m. Monday. Patrons are to meet in front of the HistoryMiami museum, 101 West Flagler Street. For more information, visit www.historymiami.org/tours/walking-tours.

Shopping

Spring break means ditching the college T-shirt and sweatpants for something trendier. While The Recycled Closet, at 13843 South Dixie Hwy. in Palmetto Bay, offers deals on brands such as Betsey Johnson and Gucci, The Rabbit Hole, at 17032 West Dixie Hwy. in North Miami Beach, offers clothes not found at chain stores at the mall.

“You’ll find things that nobody else has,” said Tya Tiempetch, who runs The Rabbit Hole with her husband, Wei Lin.

The duo takes several trips every year, visiting auctions, flea markets and estate sales to pick clothing, belts, purses, shoes and jewelry that are retro and yet could be comfortably worn in the modern day.

“We have to pick stuff that is still good quality and with a style that would work with today’s lifestyle,” said Tiempetch. She shuffled through clothes hanging on a tightly packed rack and pulled out a pleated light-green dress sold for $47. “Like this dress is a 1960s dress, but it’s not an old-lady dress. It could be on the runway nowadays.”

Runway styles are also available at The Recycled Closet, which sells second-hand clothes in good condition.

Like many other college students, Patricia Contreras, who attends Miami Dade College, is on a tight budget. So to save money while still donning the latest styles, she has become an avid shopper at the consignment store.

“They have nice and affordable clothes here, and it’s not too over-worn,” said 18-year-old Contreras, of Kendall, as she looked through racks carrying clothing by Betsey Johnson, Forever 21, Gucci, Guess, Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand.

For spring breakers, “we have dresses, skirts, shorts and beachwear,” said owner Jennifer Kaloti. “College students love us because of our prices.”

The store has bins, known as the “dolla holla” bins, offering items starting at $2 — perfect for college students on a budget.

Contreras doesn’t only buy clothes at The Recycled Closet — she consigns, too. That means that when the stubbed bra she dropped off recently sells, she will receive 40 percent of the selling price — money she can either keep or use as store credit.

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