If you’re lucky enough to be headed to the Miami International Boat Show, which opens this Thursday, you need a plan of attack. No doubt, you’ve either heard or experienced — if you attended last year or the year before — the horror stories about getting to and from Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, the host venue for the past two years since the show got banished from the Miami Convention Center in South Beach.
The show’s first year at its new venue — a breath of fresh air and sunshine for me as I always thought the convention center was a poorly lit dump — revealed all the obvious challenges of getting thousands of people to a tiny island only accessible by boat or vehicle on one often-congested bridge. In the show’s second running at the historic aquatic stadium, the organizers beefed up water taxi and land shuttle service and the experience was much improved, especially for attendees who wisely chose to arrive and depart at non-peak show hours.
Hot tip: Arrive at the show a little later and leave a little earlier than you think you need to. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll get a bit more sleep — always coveted in Miami — and have a bit more free time to hit the beach. Most of you are escaping snow on the ground, right? There’s a reason this country’s largest boat show happens in Miami in February.
If you’re planning to arrive by water taxi — my preferred mode of transportation from downtown Miami to the show — remember that while the boat ride is free, you need a ticket to the show to board the vessel. You can purchase tickets in advance by clicking here.
You can also park and take a shuttle, and here’s a link to your options. An Uber, car or taxi can get you to the show as well, but it will have to drop you at the shuttle lot about a mile beyond the main entrance. From there, you’ll board a shuttle bus that will take you to the show. That process typically takes 10 to 15 minutes.
Last, if you’re completely out of your mind and in love with Miami traffic, you can drive and valet park within a short walk of the show entrance. That will run you $100 a day. (And yes, a tip will be expected.) All other parking options, which run from $25 to $80, involve a shuttle ride of varying distances, some from nearby the show and others from Miami venues such as the American Airlines Center.
Thursday, Feb. 15, is “Premiere Day” and admission is $40. Although that’s $15 more than the standard one-day admission fee (discounts are offered for multiple-day passes) I recommend ponying up the extra dough to be there. If you really want to spend a lot of time checking out the hardware and chatting with the people behind it in a relatively uncrowded setting, Thursday is your day. Don’t get me wrong — everything you see Thursday will be displayed throughout the show. It’s just that crowds doing the “Walking Dead” dock stroll on the docks make seeing it all a bit more challenging.
Without question, you’ll want to make the always dazzling Cigarette Racing Team display your first stop on Thursday because the Opa-Locka, Fla., sportboat and performance center console builder will be unveiling its 11th annual collaboration — in the form of a sportboat — with Mercedes-AMG. You’ll want to be there at 10 a.m. sharp. As soon as you’re done at Cigarette, you’ll want to head to the indoor Mercury Marine display to check out what’s new in power and propulsion from Mercury Racing. (Sorry folks, no reveals here.)
Of course, there’s a lot more coming to the show and this list will give you a good jumping off point for making a plan. You’ll want to read it before you go (and keep checking back as the list will grow before the show opens) and strategize accordingly.
Last but far from least, unless things have changed dramatically, food and drink at the show will be expensive, at times insultingly so. (I’m still bitter about last year’s $12 thrown-together quesadilla, which took 20 minutes to prepare.) To be fair, that’s not uncommon at consumer shows, period. But food and beverage service there also can be painfully slow, so once again avoiding peak times for those services is a wise move.
Timing, as they say, is everything and nowhere is that truer than at the Miami International Boat Show. My offshoreonly.com/speedonthewater.com colleague Jason Johnson and I look forward to seeing you there and, if you’re not, bringing the daily news back to you.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.