Tourism & Cruises

Tourists will overrun Miami on Presidents’ Day weekend. Here’s a look at the main events.

Dozens of yachts bob in the water surrounded by a network of interlinking, floating docks that extends around 100 yards into the water between the Venetian and MacArthur causeways.

The boats are a sign of what’s to come: Presidents’ Day weekend.

The Miami Yacht Show, Miami International Boat Show, Coconut Grove Art Festival, Art Wynwood fair, and the Design District’s luxury watch and car shows will make the long weekend one of Miami’s busiest tourism weekends of the year.

For the past five years, average hotel occupancy during Friday-Monday of Presidents’ Day weekend has hovered around 89 percent, far above the 77 percent yearly average for those years, according to data from STR. Last year Miami’s hotel occupancy during the busy weekend was 90 percent, outdone by only two other 2018 weekends: March 23-26 (Ultra Music Festival weekend with 91.4 percent occupancy) and December 28-31 (Orange Bowl college football playoff game weekend with 90.6 percent occupancy).

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This year is expected to be no different because of the weekend’s events, said Rolando Aedo, chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“We’re defined more and more by our art and culture,” Aedo said. “On the one hand art, and on the other celebrating the water. We have a weekend that is showcasing the hallmarks that have made us so successful.”

Miami’s Presidents’ Day weekend events compete even with the upcoming Super Bowl on Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, said Mike Kovensky, director of sales and marketing at the InterContinental Hotel downtown. Kovensky said the Super Bowl will likely outdo Presidents’ Day weekend city-wide (the hotel will serve as the NFL Headquarters hotel next year). But he expects the InterContinental to sell out for this Presidents’ Day weekend this year and years to come.

“What contributes to high demand is the boat show, the Coconut Grove Arts Festival — it’s one of our top weekends of the year,” he said. “Up north it’s really the beginning of winter break, so we have families coming into Miami.”

Newer hotels are seeing high rates too. Life House Little Havana, a new boutique hotel, is already 80 percent booked, and expects to fill up as the weekend gets closer.

Here’s what’s new at the main Presidents’ Day weekend events this year:

Boating

The Miami International Boat Show crowd will be able to shop for power boats and sailboats at one event on Virginia Key this year. That’s because Strictly Sail Miami, which in the past has been its own separate sailboat event, is joining forces with the power boat show. The 78th annual boat show will feature nearly 1,400 boats on display from 170 manufacturers on Feb. 14-18.

For enthusiasts looking for hands-on experience, the show offers maritime skills courses in the classroom and on the water. New this year is a three-hour women-only power boat class. The $149 course comes with show admission. On its own, boat show admission is $25 per day.

Also new this year is a collaboration between the boat show and the Miami Yacht Show. In its 31st year, the yacht show will feature nearly 500 yachts at its new downtown Miami location at One Herald Plaza. A combo ticket price of $53 per day gets attendees into both events, shuttle service between the two included. On its own, yacht show admission is $28 per day.

Watches and Cars

Yacht show goers can take a free shuttle to the Design District (and vice versa), which will be filled with luxury cars and watches over the holiday weekend for the second year in a row.

Watch show Watches & Wonders will display 30 brands of watches in the district’s boutiques and in tented event space, including 13 brands that are new to the show this year. Conferences, panel discussions and watch-making workshops are free and first come, first served. New this year is programming developed specifically for women, including a women watch-collectors panel.

Collectible cars will be on display throughout the area as part of the Miami Concours event. Another car event, Grand Basel, the Art Basel of cars, was set to debut at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Feb. 22, before Basel’s parent company, MCH Group, canceled late last year.

Art

Adjacent to the yacht show’s waterfront site will be the eighth annual Art Wynwood fair, exhibiting artwork from more than 65 galleries hailing from more than a dozen countries. Indianapolis-based Long-Sharp Gallery will exhibit prints by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol for the first time since their creation; Texas-based Steidel Fine Art gallery will exhibit Kevin Champeny’s Gummy Obsession and Tina Psoinos’ feminist icon series, among other works.

One day tickets to Art Wynwood cost $30. A $200 VIP ticket includes perks like access to the VIP lounge, other local museums, and one-day admission to the yacht show.

To the south, the 56th annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival will feature 380 artists, 119 of them brand new to the festival. Artists will come from six different countries and 32 different U.S. states to display their art on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Festival guests will hear performances from singer Morgxn on Sunday, solo singers Amara La Negra and Cris Cab on Sunday and Florida classic rock group Mr. Nice Guy on Monday, among others. Chefs from South Florida restaurants will do cooking demonstrations with tastings, including Derek Kaplan of Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop on Saturday, Dayanny De La Cruz, the executive chef of Miami Open Tennis on Sunday, and Benjamin Goldman, chef de cuisine at Planta South Beach on Monday, all new to the festival this year.

Also new to the fair will be an expanded kid-friendly family zone, where guests can pedal a bicycle that sprays paint on a canvas. For the second year in a row guests will be able to valet their dogs and their bikes on site.

A one-day pass to the festival costs $12, $5 for Coconut Grove residents.

Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.
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