February 9, 2012
In our Experience This series of posts, we highlight some of the best new adventures and activities in our destinations. Today we’re joining travel writer Lee Cobaj as she takes to the streets of the hip and arty Wynwood district of Miami to explore the city’s extraordinary street art scene…
Beyond Miami’s endless stretch of beachfront bars and shop-lined avenues, a once forgotten corner of the city’s badlands has been re-born as one of the biggest urban art galleries in the world. The vast grey walls of the former warehouse district of Wynwood now blaze with the works of graffiti artists and muralists from all over the globe.
Brimming with the “tags”, “bombs”, “throw-ups” and “pieces” from more than a hundred artists including Shepard Fairey (the artist behind those iconic Obama images from 2008), Parisian street-artist Invader, and British bad boy Banksy, the area is an immense open-air museum unlike anywhere else in Miami. And the best way to take it all in? Hop on a guided Vespa tour with Roam Rides.
You’ll need to have your driving licence with you if you want to take the controls, and although you don’t need to have driven a Vespa before, if you’re inexperienced it’s probably best to have a practice session in the car park beforehand. Once everyone is comfortable and has assumed the “easy rider” position, the three-hour street-art excursion begins. Starting on the corner of 10th and West Avenue over in Miami Beach, the tour commences with a fifteen-minute sun-on-your-face, wind-in-your-hair ride across Venetian Way to Wynwood and the Design District.
There’s so much going on in this happening neighbourhood with its abundance of art galleries, cool thrift shops and hip bars and cafes – never mind the hundreds of murals and installations – that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to squeeze it all into one day. But exploring on the back of a Vespa means that you can hit most of the hot spots within just a few hours.
During the journey you’ll make around half a dozen stops, giving you the chance to make an in-depth exploration of the most interesting local and international artists. The artworks themselves aren’t subtle; they are bold, bright, often in-your-face, sometimes strangely disturbing but always compelling. And despite the fact that hundreds of artists vie for the best spots and have wildly different styles, each section seems to blend and merge to create a pleasing continuity.
There are plenty of opportunities to take photographs and soak up the district’s still gritty atmosphere – unlike the rest of Miami, there’s no generic coffee shops or golden arches around here and if you’re lucky you might even see an MTV video being made or have the chance to chat with an artist. The tour finishes up with a cold drink and a Latin-inspired lunch at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, where the art-filled interiors and gardens are as much of an attraction as the food.
The three-hour tour is priced at $125 including Vespa rental. Additional passengers can be taken for $75. Non-drivers can ride pillion with a guide. All prices include lunch at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. Visit Roam Rides for full details. And don’t forget your driving licence!
Virgin Atlantic operates a daily, direct flight to Miami from London Heathrow.