Six years after Time magazine claimed Miami was a paradise lost to drugs, crime, and corruption, Bayside Marketplace opened its doors in the hopes of revitalizing downtown Miami. The two-story, open-air mall turns 30 this year and remains the city’s waterfront darling. An obligatory pit stop for tourists, the easy-breezy destination offers plenty of retail shops, alfresco dining, pleasant strolls, and free live music.
It’s also been the setting for some classic Miami weirdness in this historically rich part of the city. These are the weirdest, wildest, and most wonderful moments in Bayside Marketplace's 30-year history. 1. Miami Vice Bayside Marketplace was one of many shooting locations for the hit TV series Miami Vice, which aired on NBC from 1984 to 1989. The St. Vitus Dance was docked at Miamarina, home to fictional undercover detective James "Sonny" Crockett and his guard alligator Elvis. Sailboat living was convenient for Crockett — it helped him stay under the radar while wrangling Miami’s crooked cops and drug dealers. In his quintessential pastel linen suits, he also entertained ladies on the boat.
2. The return of the Spaniards
Replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria dropped anchor behind the mall in 1992, commemorating Christopher Columbus and his 15th-century voyages of discovery. The stop was the first on a 21-city tour of North America and drew thousands of spectators to downtown Miami to catch a glimpse of the famous wooden caravels. We imagine the Ponce de Leon statue at Bayside greeted the ships with a hearty "Welcome to Miami, bro!" 3. Nirvana versus the Hard Rock
Nirvana made its only Miami appearance the Saturday after Thanksgiving 1993. It was just months after Miami’s Gloria Estefan released her hit album, Mi Tierra. According to one account, frontman Kurt Cobain poked fun at Estefan and encouraged the crowd to throw rocks at the Hard Rock Cafe's giant guitar. Little did the grunge legend know that Hurricane Wilma would batter the guitar with damaging winds in 2005, forcing management to remove it from the roof.
4. A booze cruise gone wrong
Never take your safety for granted in Miami, not even on a pleasant day at sea. In 1996, Miamarina was berth for the Miami Queen, a paddlewheel boat that offered popular party cruises. On Halloween night, the revelry turned violent after a fight broke out between two groups of young women just as the craft was returning from the Intracoastal Waterway. The brawling continued on the dock, where a man pulled out a gun and began shooting. Alejo Vazquez, a mechanic on the vessel, grabbed the man’s sister after she had apparently smashed one of the boat’s windows. Vazquez’ wife, Yamilet Moreno, was caught in the crossfire and died.
5. Tequila with a side of typhoid In 2010, diners at Chili’s Restaurant in Bayside were at risk of contracting typhoid fever when a cook was diagnosed with the illness caused by the Salmonella typhi bacteria. The life-threatening disease spreads easily when an infected carrier handles food and beverages. The cook returned to his native Haiti, and luckily no one else reported symptoms, which include include high fever, weakness, stomach pains, and loss of appetite. That same month, the restaurant was cited for making a hand wash sink inaccessible to employees, among other violations. The Tex-Mex restaurant eventually corrected the lapse.
6. Walk of Fame and/or Shame Bayside Marketplace is home to one of two walks of fame in Miami. (The other is in Little Havana.) In 2014, the mall unveiled its version, designed by pop artist Romero Britto. Bright-blue stars line the pavement and honor those who have contributed to Miami’s “charisma,” including comedic actor and North Miami resident Kevin James of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. James was promoting the release of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, which was opening the following weekend, and showed up at his 2015 induction ceremony in full mall-cop attire. The movies are set in New Jersey and Las Vegas, respectively, but with signature Miami fanfare, he led a conga line of officers riding Segways to honor mall cops everywhere. 7. A memorial for lovers lost
Before he carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Omar Mateen said he was enraged at witnessing a kiss between two men at Bayside Marketplace. But in the days following the tragedy, Miami locals gathered in support of the LGBTQ community. Three days after the horrifying incident, Miamians lined up in solidarity with the victims to donate blood at Bayfront Park, which is adjacent to the mall. The drive was organized by OneBlood and the bands Panic! at the Disco and Weezer, which later performed at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre. 8. Fireworks and a firefight In 2016, real mall cops (sorry, Kevin James) had to deal with trigger-happy revelers. Independence Day celebrations at Bayside ended with the wrong kind of bang when gunshots rang out around 10 p.m., one hour after fireworks had lit up the sky. Thunderclaps from an impending storm further confused the frightened hordes of revelers, some of whom even jumped into the bay, according to an eyewitness. Amid the chaos was Denver Broncos’ linebacker Brandon Marshall, who later stated in a Denver Post op-ed that he had been wrongfully arrested by Miami cops for resisting orders during the incident and was let go before even making it to the police station.
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Miami native Maria de Los Angeles currently journeys in northern latitudes but is a correspondent for the Magic City. A community advocate, she pens stories about art, culture, good folks doing good things, women's issues, and only-in-Miami moments.