While finances will force me to skip this year's Orange Bowl between Virginia Tech and Stanford, I have been fortunate enough to make three trips to Miami to see the Hokies play: 2006 against the Hurricanes and 2008 and 2009 for the Orange Bowl.
So, humor me while I give you my own hastily put together travel guide for Hokie fans who are actually making the trip this year.
- Scenery: Look at that picture above. Go to South Beach, even if it just to walk around. Your best bet is to walk along the beach in front of the Fountainebleu and Sagamore hotels. All the good ones are off Collins Ave.
- Food: Joe's Stone Crab. I hate seafood and I still loved the place.
- Nightlife: Mango's on Ocean Dr. Look, nowaday's there's no way I'd go there. But if you're young and you want to experience a stereotypical Miami nightclub, go there. Mango's also produced the funniest story from my 2009 trip to see the Cincinnati game.
- Shopping: If you're making the trip with your significant other, there's a bunch of boutiques on a pedestrian mall on Lincoln Road between Alton Road and Washington Avenue. There's a parking garage near Alton that's a good place to use as basecamp.
- Food: If seafood isn't your thing, I found a great Italian restaurant on that pedestrian mall near Alton Road. I'm pretty sure it was Quattro.
- Nightlife: If you don't want a dance club, there's a Hofbrauhaus on the same ped mall. Great place to drink great beer.
- Nightlife: If you're like me and you often want to be where people aren't, I did manage to find what is probably the only Irish pub on South Beach, Finnegan's Way. They've got shuffleboard and TVs, so it was right up my alley.
- I did the Key West day trip before the Kansas game. It's worth it to see the place once, but get ready to deal with traffic. Google Maps will tell you it takes three hours to get to KW, and that might be true on the way back, but on the way down there it could take five. US 1 is scenic, but it's also a two-lane highway most of the way and traffic will crawl.
- If you go on this trip and don't get key lime pie while you're down there, you should be ashamed of yourself. Real key lime pie is a brownish color. That fluorescent green stuff you get a Kroger is NOT key lime pie.
- As a parrothead I went to the original Margaritaville in KW and was not disappointed. Then again, I'll buy anything Jimmy tells me to because I'm a sheep when it comes to that stuff. Is it the best food you can get in KW? Heck no, you'll the most touristy tourist on the island, but you'll still have fun.
- There will be a lot of team-related stuff going on at Bayside Marketplace. There's a bunch of chain stores and restaurants around there. It's in downtown Miami, just south of American Airlines Arena. One year I stayed at the Holiday Inn across from the arena and it was great. Decent price, right next to all that stuff and a short cab ride from South Beach.
- Those of you in the boonies in Fort Lauderdale, there's not a whole lot of cool stuff going on. I stayed up there in 2006 and there were some places over near Broward Boulevard that were cool, but nothing very memorable. Still a pretty good time for a country mouse in the city.
- Fort Lauderdale is where the team is staying and all the Tech Talk Lives originating from South Florida will come from the Rivals Waterfront Resort at the Westin Diplomat.
- The Heat host Steph Curry and the Warriors Saturday night.
- The Panthers host the Rangers Sunday night. I know, you're groaning about hockey. But it's still one of the four major professional sports, and there's probably a good chance you'll be able to get into this game for close to free. The Panthers have literally given away tickets in the past and will do anything to get attendance.
- Y'all, there is a Walmart right across the street from Joe Robbie Stadium and on gameday it runs out of beer with a quickness. Get there early. I once saw Florida fans in jorts playing beer pong of the parking lot of this Walmart. It is one of the great regrets of my life that I don't have a photo of it.
- If you find a guy hocking parking passes on the road into the stadium, buy it because it's worth it if you're getting to the stadium late.
- If you get there early and are lucky enough to pay $40 to park in the public lot just South of the stadium, congrats. That lot usually fills up quickly and the alternatives aren't very good.
- There are a couple of ways to get to Joe Robbie Stadium. You can take I-95 and exit Ives Dairy Road or you can take Florida's Turnpike, which dumps you off pretty much right next to the stadium. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, TAKE THE TURNPIKE.
- I've had to deal with Ives Dairy Road a few times on gameday and the pregame traffic almost caused me to miss the start of a national title game. Traffic on that road, particularly on a Monday when you're going to be dealing with rush hour traffic, is hell on earth prior to the game. It's fine if you're getting to the stadium at Noon, but otherwise take the turnpike.
- Oh and traffic leaving the game is worse. Good luck.