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Experience This: Miami Street Art Tour by Vespa

by Moderator February 2012 - last edited February 2013

In our Experience This series of posts, we highlight some of the best new adventures and activities in our destinations. Today we're joining travel writer Lee Cobaj as she takes to the streets of the hip and arty Wynwood district of Miami to explore the city's extraordinary street art scene...

 

Tour the walls of Wynwood by Vespa

Beyond Miami’s endless stretch of beachfront bars and shop-lined avenues, a once forgotten corner of the city’s badlands has been re-born as one of the biggest urban art galleries in the world. The vast grey walls of the former warehouse district of Wynwood now blaze with the works of graffiti artists and muralists from all over the globe.

 

 

The guys and gals from the Roam Rides Vespa tours. The art work behind was created by El Mac and Retna, a highly-respected graffiti artist team from Los Angeles © Roam Rides

The guys and gals from Roam Rides Vespa tours. The art work behind was created by El Mac and Retna, a highly-respected graffiti artist team from Los Angeles © Roam Rides

 

Brimming with the “tags”, “bombs”, “throw-ups” and “pieces” from more than a hundred artists including Shepard Fairey (the artist behind those iconic Obama images from 2008), Parisian street-artist Invader, and British bad boy Banksy, the area is an immense open-air museum unlike anywhere else in Miami. And the best way to take it all in? Hop on a guided Vespa tour with Roam Rides.

 

Brooklyn based artist Tati Suarez has a distinctive style that uses childlike doe-eyed figures to pull the viewer into a surreal, almost creepy world © Lee Cobaj

Brooklyn based artist Tati Suarez has a distinctive style that uses childlike doe-eyed figures to pull the viewer into a surreal, almost creepy world © Lee Cobaj

 

You’ll need to have your driving licence with you if you want to take the controls, and although you don’t need to have driven a Vespa before, if you're inexperienced it’s probably best to have a practice session in the car park beforehand. Once everyone is comfortable and has assumed the “easy rider” position, the three-hour street-art excursion begins. Starting on the corner of 10th and West Avenue over in Miami Beach, the tour commences with a fifteen-minute sun-on-your-face, wind-in-your-hair ride across Venetian Way to Wynwood and the Design District.

 

British artist Boxi studied at St. Martin’s College and now lives in Germany. His technique involves using hand-cut multi-layered life size stencils and his works are exhibits in galleries and on street walls © Lee Cobaj

British artist Boxi studied at St. Martin’s College and now lives in Germany. His technique involves using hand-cut multi-layered life size stencils and his works are exhibits in galleries and on street walls © Lee Cobaj

 

There’s so much going on in this happening neighbourhood with its abundance of art galleries, cool thrift shops and hip bars and cafes - never mind the hundreds of murals and installations - that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to squeeze it all into one day. But exploring on the back of a Vespa means that you can hit most of the hot spots within just a few hours.

 

The Manatee by Belgian artist, Roa. The manatee is cut in the centre and bleeding, perhaps reflecting the fact that many of Miami’s manatee population are regularly injured by boat propellers © Lee Cobaj

The Manatee by Belgian artist, Roa. The manatee is cut in the centre and bleeding, perhaps reflecting how Miami’s manatee population are regularly injured by boat propellers © Lee Cobaj

 

During the journey you’ll make around half a dozen stops, giving you the chance to make an in-depth exploration of the most interesting local and international artists. The artworks themselves aren’t subtle; they are bold, bright, often in-your-face, sometimes strangely disturbing but always compelling. And despite the fact that hundreds of artists vie for the best spots and have wildly different styles, each section seems to blend and merge to create a pleasing continuity.

 

Sand One is an LA graffiti artist famous for her bolshy design, and strong female characters with crazy long eyelashes © Lee Cobaj

Sand One is an LA graffiti artist famous for her bolshy design, and strong female characters with crazy long eyelashes © Lee Cobaj

 

There are plenty of opportunities to take photographs and soak up the district’s still gritty atmosphere – unlike the rest of Miami, there’s no generic coffee shops or golden arches around here and if you’re lucky you might even see an MTV video being made or have the chance to chat with an artist. The tour finishes up with a cold drink and a Latin-inspired lunch at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, where the art-filled interiors and gardens are as much of an attraction as the food.

 

Philanthropist Tony Goldman commissioned this work by the Ukrainian twins Interesti Kaski. High in narrative, human tree people are represented as growing from the branches © Lee Cobaj

Philanthropist Tony Goldman commissioned this work by the Ukrainian twins Interesti Kaski. High in narrative, human tree people are represented as growing from the branches © Lee Cobaj

 

 

Essentials

The three-hour tour is priced at $125 including Vespa rental. Additional passengers can be taken for $75. Non-drivers can ride pillion with a guide. All prices include lunch at the Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. Visit Roam Rides for full details. And don’t forget your driving licence!

 

Virgin Atlantic operates a daily, direct flight to Miami from London Heathrow.


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TomBanks February 2012 - last edited February 2013 Moderator

I had heard about this collection of art from my cousin who is in the business, so I was pleased to stumble on this superbly penned article by Lee Cobaj (is Lee male or female?). What a fabulous way to tour the works - by Vespa. A great idea - well played whoever came up with it. My friends run a company that specialise in selling and repairing Italian scooters http://www.italscooters.co.uk - I will 100% be pointing them in the direction of the article. Well played to all concerned.

I'll make it to Miami one day;)

Tom Banks - South West of England.

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About the author: Maxine

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.