They grazed on endless trays of pigs in blankets, nibbled piles of fried mozzarella, and washed it down with all the candy-flavored asti spumante a friend of David Dermer could imbibe. As Karen Maria something-or-other belted out a karaoke version of "La Isla Bonita" at Planet Hollywood on Miami Beach, it dawned on this brazen reporter (who got velvet-roped by a Colombian goddess at the door) that this was the perfect setting to kick off the latest thrill for Midwesterners and Eurotrash who visit our climes: sightseeing atop a blazing-red double-decker bus -- just like the ones in London! Pass the weenies and fasten your seatbelt, Helga; we're going for a wild ride!
The Miami Tourist Bus -- yes, that's really its subtle name -- has begun shuttling those adventurous souls who dare to be spotted in the Magic City riding atop a smoking two-tiered diesel with the words "SIGHTSEEING" and "RENT ME" emblazoned below them. The bus hauls as many as 75 eager sightseers from one Miami tourist trap to another, so grab your wallets: This is the stuff cheesy travel guide dreams are made of. It is also the latest venture meant to spark the city's slumping economy in the wake of the September 11 tragedy. To hear Miami Tourist Bus partner, Stuart Weisberg, tell it, the two-story rolling heap of metal, rubber, and Naugahyde has the potential to resurrect the languishing tourist trade from beneath the robes of those pesky terrorists.
Think of unlimited hop-on/hop-off service on your voyage from Sunset Place to CocoWalk. Imagine the thrill of arriving at Bayside and waving to the envious crowd below as they watch you single-handedly save the economy. But wait, there's more. The open-air Garden Bristol chugs on to the Miami Beach Art Deco District and Lincoln Road before heading north to Bal Harbour and Aventura. Not bad for a $15 day pass -- and just think of the tan you'll get.
If you can't get enough, weeklong passes featuring unlimited rides on the Miami Tourist Bus are available for just $45 (a little more than six dollars a day!). Unfortunately the pigs in blankets were a one-shot deal at the opening-night party. But don't worry, like any tourist worth his frequent flyer discounts, you can always bring your own. Remember, any good deal comes with strings attached. According to the MTB's brochure, the company can cancel and change the routes "as deemed necessary," and boarding and reboarding depends on seat availability. Oh, and don't expect to start a mobile macarena party: Owing to Miami's notoriously low-hanging trees, street signs, and traffic signals, MTB operators ask that you always remain seated while the bus is in motion.
Why not break out those old Bermudas when your favorite tiavisits and take a trip? You can console your hipster heart with the fact that wherever the Miami Tourist Bus stops, there will be an overpriced frozen cocktail with an umbrella garnish waiting for you. (We suggest adding a potent rum floater.) If you're lucky, perhaps you can raise a glass with some fat Canadian guys in Speedos at the local Hooters. Now that's the good life -- Miami style. Bienvenidos!