Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Miami International Auto Show: No Better Reason to Visit South Florida in the Fall!

I'm not the kind of guy who needs an excuse to head to South Florida. Just because I no longer wish to live there doesn't mean I don't want to visit and visit often. I do and I do. So, when the Miami International Auto Show (MIAS) reaches out with an invite to its extravaganza thrown the first week of November each year, I'm all over it.

When I actually lived in South Florida – Palm Beach County to be more precise – I always looked forward to this show because it represented my one annual foray into South Beach. Some car company – Chrysler more often than not – would invite me down for dinner the evening before the show's media day and put me up somewhere on Collins Avenue for the night. No respectable PR wonk travels all the way to South Beach from Detroit, or some similar snow-belt city, without partying well into the early morning. I have countless war stories involving these Miami Beach all nighters. In my estimation, Miami Beach has some of the best night life in the world, but, alas, it's expensive. Enjoying it on someone else's nickle is about the only way a working stiff can sample its smorgasbord of restaurants and bars. 

2016 Toyota Tacoma.
MIAS flew me into Fort Lauderdale the day before the show opened, which also happened to be media-day eve. MIAS was my kick-off event for a 14-day stretch of travel away from home. Consequently, I was dragging along a suitcase too large to carry on the plane. When I landed, Toyota had a version of its redesigned 2016 Tacoma waiting for me. Somehow I managed to alley-oop my 48-pound bag into its back seat. I slugged my way through the tsunami of I-95 traffic down to the Sagamore Hotel where the show was sheltering me for the next two nights. 

Although the Sagamore is in the heart of South Beach and right on the sand, its rooms are respectably priced this time of year. Room rates begin around $250 with all the service charges and taxes included. Overnight valet parking on the other hand – as with every nearby beach hotel – will set you back a round or two of drinks at the bar. Fortunately, MIAS largesse included stabling my Tacoma.

I arrived too late to take advantage of the beach. It was nearly 5 p.m. when I finally checked in and found my room. I had a little free time before the Mazda/Ally Auto media-welcome reception at the Raleigh Hotel a couple of blocks up the street, but filled it with unpacking, showering and generally making myself presentable.

As always, the opening-night reception was a rollicking great time. Drinks and appetizers at sunset is a terrific way to end the day and begin the auto-show festivities. 

A shuttle whisked us off for the short jaunt to the nearby Miami Beach Convention Center around 8:15 on Friday morning. I say, “us,” but in truth, I was the only one who rallied for the earliest shuttle. I was surrounded by amateurs. The kickoff press conference was at the “Cars Meet Art” exhibit. This is the second year for this unique display that pairs well-known street artists with 10 new vehicles serving as their canvass. 

The show also features other one-of-a-kind displays, such as “Topless in Miami.” This area shows off cars that were in the Southern Automotive Media Association's Topless in Miami competition. It's the ideal way to become familiar with South Florida's signature car: the droptop. 

Every 30 minutes for the rest of the day, we media types walked from one carmaker's display to another to hear representatives from Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Ford, Ram and others talk about their freshest products.

This was the 45th MIAS and it featured hundreds of new cars in state-of-the-art displays. It was the first auto-show appearance of the redesigned Nissan Altima and 2016 Ram Rebel. MIAS also provides show visitors with the opportunity to drive a number of new cars from such manufacturers as Kia, Honda, Chevy, Toyota, Buick, Ford and GMC. A presentation of the 190-member South Florida Automobile Dealers Association, the show attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors during its 10-day run. 

With the manufacturer press conferences wrapping up about 3 p.m., we had more than two hours to kill before the Toyota-sponsored closing reception. What to do? What to do? Perhaps a cold beer would be the answer. One of the locals suggested my craft-beer-drinking buddy and I would be well served at the Abbey Brewing Company on 16th Street, about six blocks from the convention center. Despite the 95-degree temperature and Florida humidity, we struck out for this highly recommended joint. 

Just one section of the Abbey Brewery's whiskey and bourbon selection.
What a find! If someone hadn't suggested it, I would have never found it, let alone gone in. A hole-in-the-wall of the first order, it is almost invisible from the street. Inside is every bit as unassuming. The beer, however, was topnotch and it offers one of the most comprehensive selections of whiskeys, bourbons and ryes I've stumbled across. I recommend the Brother Dan's Double, as well as the Father Theodore's Stout. 

The view from the Juvia Miami Beach.
Ubering our way back to the Sagamore, we dumped all the flotsam we acquired at the show before walking the half block to the Lure Fishbar at the Loews Hotel for the Toyota reception. By 7:30, we were on our way to the Hyundai-sponsored dinner at Juvia Miami Beach where we ate, danced and drank the night away.

Nope, I don't need an excuse to visit South Florida, but you might. If so, mark your calendar for next year when the show will run a couple of months earlier than usual from September 9th through the 18th. Cool cars and hot sand, it's Miami Beach at its best!

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