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Miami Offers Much More Than Beaches And Bars

20130224-011102.jpgBeaches and bars rule the typical Miami vacation, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’re one of the sun-starved travelers preparing to descend on Florida to escape winter or relax on spring break, Miami itself can be a big part of your itinerary.

Tourists who take the time to explore the city are most surprised by the great differences from one neighborhood to another, said Paul George, a history professor at Miami Dade College and a tour guide for HistoryMiami, which was formerly known as the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. The museum offers excursions that range from tours of Art Deco office lobbies to “Cuisine and Culture” walks.

From Coconut Grove to Coral Gables, from Little Haiti to Little Havana, the metropolis shows off its diversity at every turn, George said. He takes visitors on dozens of outings around the city, but his favorite is still the walking tour of downtown Miami.

“You’ve got such an array of architecture downtown, that’s where the city began in 1896. So I would recommend downtown as a great area to see – an architectural delight with a great bay-front park,” George said.

If you’re ready to explore further, here are five destinations you may not know about in and around Miami.

Venetian Pool

There’s no shortage of places to soak and swim in the city, but this public pool – with its loggias, porticos, cavelike grottos and lookout towers – takes the experience to another level.

The pool was created in 1923 from a coral rock quarry as a way of taking a “lemon and making lemonade out of it,” George said.

George Merrick, the developer of Coral Gables, wanted to construct a Mediterranean-style community so Venice was chosen as the theme for the lagoon.

Striped pillars and a Venetian-style bridge complete the look.

“It’s really something, it’s just delightful,” George said.

The 820,000-gallon aquatic facility is the only pool to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Neptune Memorial Reef

Creators of this underwater cemetery just off Key Biscayne bill it as “the largest man-made reef ever conceived.”

Designed to evoke an Atlantis-style Lost City – with columns, statues and ornate structures placed on the ocean floor – the project will span over 16 acres when completed. Some of the features contain cremated remains, complete with plaques.

Read more: NBCNews

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