Miami Vice-Less

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 11, 2005

Q. I'm taking my children, 16 and 13, on a cruise out of Miami. We will have two days to sightsee, shop and dine. Any suggestions on things to do? We will be using cabs for transportation.

Charleen Tinsley-Ali, Burke

A. With only 48 hours in Miami, most people head for model-studded South Beach. However, be warned: The beach can be more G-string than G-rated. "South Beach can be very awkward for children who have never seen the decadent South Beach life," says Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik, assistant calendar editor at the Miami New Times, an alternative newsweekly. "There is nudity and scandalous behavior. People are exposed." However, you can find more modestly attired sunbathers on the beach north of 21st Street and around First Street.

For a more field-trip-friendly excursion, Yursik recommends Coconut Grove, the demure sister of South Beach. Just 10 minutes south of downtown Miami on Biscayne Bay, the village has stores (DC-10 Jeans for the teens, Ana Kato's Brazilian fashions for mom), cafes, waterfront parks (watch for manatees) and the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium. At CocoWalk, a pedestrian area, Yursik says you can safely let your kids wander on their own without worry. Info: Coconut Grove Chamber of Commerce, .

Bayside Marketplace ( ), accessible by bus from Miami Beach, has more of an al fresco mall feel to it, but you can catch free concerts ranging from Brazilian music to island jazz there. Tour boats -- including a pirate ship and a tall ship -- depart from the market's dock.

To explore an up-and-coming neighborhood, head to the Design District ( ), a nexus of art galleries and innovative design and housewares stores. The area's eateries are equally cutting edge; at Grass, for example, diners eat to the beat of guest deejays.

For evening entertainment, the best clubs are mostly for the 21-plus set. As an alternative, Yursik suggests dinner at Big Pink (157 Collins Ave., 305-532-4700), where the portions are supersized. "They should have milkshakes and dessert," she said, "and then call it a night."

For more info: Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-933-8448, .

I'm taking a tour to China in April and can have only one piece of luggage. What kind of clothes should I pack?

LeRoy Faigin, Delray Beach, Fla.

With China's wildly diverse geography, you can experience all four seasons in one month. In spring, for example, the southern Guangdong province has subtropical weather with monsoons and typhoons, while in the northern Heilongjiang province, residents are still bundled in arctic wear. Despite the disparities, April is one of the best times to visit China because temperatures in the main tourist areas are ideal for sightseeing: an average high/low of 70/44 degrees in Beijing, 74/51 in Xian and 68/50 in Shanghai. But don't forget a light raincoat; Xian, for example, averages nine rainy days during the month of April.

Since you're restricted to one bag, pack clothes that are easy to layer. A tip sheet from luxury tour group Abercrombie and Kent recommends "comfortable, casual clothing in natural, 'breathable' fabrics. Choose versatile styles that can be layered if the weather (or level of air-conditioning) requires." For daytime threads, you can dress down, but when touring temples and religious sites, visitors of both sexes should keep their arms and legs covered with long pants or skirts and tops. For dressier occasions, Pamela Lassers, Abercrombie's director of communications, says "a sport coat will be fine, even for the nicest places. I can't think of any place where you'd need a tie, unless you go to a private club or the races in Hong Kong."

On the Yangtze river cruise, the same dress code applies. A simple sweater and overcoat will suffice, and you can skip the galoshes for comfortable soft-soled walking shoes. If, however, you find yourself lacking certain apparel, remember that you are in shop-happy China.

My wife and I would like to go to Mount Rushmore. When is the best time to go?

Chuck Leshinsky, Bowie

Are you a hot person or a cold person? If you prefer heat (80s and 90s) and crowds (30,000 per day), visit Mount Rushmore in July and August, the monument's high season. Winter, meanwhile, can range from the 30s to below zero, and the chiseled presidents often wear caps of snow. Spring can be soggy, but fall is sunny and crisp, with temps in the 60s and 70s. "My favorite time of the year is September and October," says public information officer Judy Olson, "when the fall colors are out and it's not as busy." Indeed, you'll only have to share the park with 18,000 of your closest travelers, nearly half the number from the month before. Info: Mount Rushmore National Park, 605-574-3171, .

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@, fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company