Review of Bayside Marketplace: Pre-Cruise Shopping & Dining in Miami

by SharonKurheg

When Joe and I are planning to cruise out of Miami, we usually try to arrive in the city the day or evening before. Even though we live in Central Florida, about a 3.5 to 4 hour drive away, you just never know when there’s going to be a huge traffic jam on I-95. Or, if we take the Brightline, when another idiot will try to cross the tracks when a train is on its way, and get squashed in the process, thereby delaying the train. So just to be safe, we always arrive early, as in “the day before” early.

The night before our most recent cruise, we took the Brightline down and stayed at the Intercontinental. Since we didn’t have a car, we were looking for somewhere nearby to grab dinner and drinks. Someone at the hotel recommended Bayside Marketplace, a two-story open-air shopping center on the banks of Biscayne Bay. It had lots of shopping and dining opportunities and was also within walking distance from our hotel.

a group of people walking under a canopyI had heard about Bayside before because I had read about a free shuttle that goes back and forth between it and the cruise ships – so if you arrived super early for your cruise, you could waste some time at Bayside until it was time to board. I had never researched it though, so I didn’t know what to expect.

Travel friends, if you’ve been to International Drive in Orlando, The Island in Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach VA, or Downtown Nashville, or Biloxi, MS, or Cocoa Beach, FL, or “the strip” in Gatlinburg, or Ocean City, MD, or Navy Pier in Chicago, or just about every beach town in the country, you’ve pretty much been to a place similar to Bayside Marketplace. Because yep, Bayside is ALLLL about the tourists and separating them from as much of their money as possible.

It’s got pretty much every large scale chain restaurant known to man. Five Guys. Bubba Gump’s. Margaritaville. Hard Rock Cafe. Landshark Bar & Grill. Auntie Ann’s. Chili’s. Fat Tuesday. Dippin’ Dots.

a collage of a buildingAnd if shopping is more your thing, there’s every store you see in every mall across the country, too. Claire’s. Build A Bear. Express. Guess. Victoria’s Secret.

AND if that’s not enough, you can also peruse T-shirt, flip-flop, seashell, cigar, and hat shops galore.

Oh, and a huge Ferris wheel. Because nothing screams TOURIST AREA like a bug honkin’ Ferris wheel.

a ferris wheel in a cityBayside is VERY crowded during the day. And it has had its share of scary moments at night, as well.

Anyway, on the evening we went to Bayside, we stopped at the Mojito Bar (yes, I know the glasses all say Daiquiri Bar). It was about a half hour before the place closed up shop, so it wasn’t particularly crowded. The mojitos were good. Very good, in fact.

a group of people sitting at a table with drinks

Norm, Samantha and Joe enjoying our 2nd round. PC: Me

But the background music they played at Mojito Bar was so loud that we had to yell to hear each other. We left after 2 rounds.

Apparently, Bayside wasn’t always like this. We have some friends who’ve lived about an hour outside of Miami for years, and they said when Bayside first opened circa 1987, it was pretty nice. It was during the time when Miami was having a real estate boom and when Miami Vice was still on TV (in fact, parts of some episodes were filmed AT Bayside). It attracted some nice places and lots and LOTS of people, including locals. But nowadays it’s a shell of what it was – very much catering to tourists, with the same shopping and dining experiences as any other tourist place.

In a nutshell, if you’re a fan of “Tourist Central USA,” you’ll probably like Bayside Marketplace. And if you’re looking for anything more upscale, quiet, or even safe, you’ll probably think that Bayside Marketplace is pretty awful.

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1 comment

Christian March 27, 2024 - 5:49 pm

Yes, tough to believe but Bayside really was nice once upon a time. Of course the tradeoff was that downtown itself was extremely unsafe.


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