The 2012 South Beach Wine and Food Festival is under way, with festivities getting into high gear tomorrow. Since we're planning to call in sick (hey -- it's once a year), we figure you did your best Ferris Bueller imitation and are now on your way in your vintage sports car (or Honda CRV) to South Beach for a weekend of eating, drinking, and celebrity-spotting.
Clean Plate Charlie has compiled a survival list of the ten things you absolutely have to know to survive the weekend.
10. Driving to South Beach
Most of the SoBeWFF activities and events are on South Beach, a man-made island reached only by causeway from the mainland. Most people will arrive via I-395 (the MacArthur Causeway) to the south or I-195 (the Julia Tuttle Causeway) to the north, which means that both causeways will likely become traffic jams. Our advice? Take the lesser-known Venetian Causeway, which lies sandwiched between the other two causeways. Catch the causeway in Miami on NE 15th Street. There's a toll of $1.50, but it's worth it.
Many SoBe Fest events are in hotels and restaurants where valet parking can cost $30 and upward. Skip the valet and take advantage of Miami Beach's plentiful municipal parking lots. Cost? One dollar an hour. Find a parking lot here.
8. Wear Comfortable Shoes
We can't stress this enough. Sure, you want to look cute or sophisticated. We hear you. But you're going to be walking on sand if you're in the tents on the beach, as well as covering a lot of ground on sidewalks. Men -- wear a comfortable shoe with a rubber sole. Women -- a stylish ballet flat is the way to go.
If you're going to the Grand Tasting Village, you're going to be outside more than you realize. Spending an entire day without sunscreen will probably end up in a nasty surprise -- sunburn! Slather on the SPF 30 and enjoy the day.
6. Plan the Day
There's nothing more frustrating than when you've been waiting all year to see Bobby Flay in the flesh but you didn't realize that his demo was on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Check the online schedule for when your favorite celebrity is appearing, and get there early to snag a primo spot.
There's so much good wine to drink, you want to try as many as you can. Plus it's so darned hot out. This can be a recipe for disaster. Drink plenty of water between tastings. Bottled water is free and plentiful at the festival, so drink like you're storing for a trip to the Sahara. Your kidneys will thank you.
4. Bring a Camera and a Sharpie
Miami is swimming with celebs. While they're out to have a good time, to most (especially the ones appearing at the festival), it's also a working vacation. Arm yourself with a camera and Sharpie. If you see a celeb you love, ask politely if you can get a pic or an autograph. Most will happily oblige. If they respectfully turn you down, be gracious. Usually it means they're late for some event.
3. Pace Yourself Foodwise
Lots of food, lots of drink. It all sounds good, but the last thing you want the next morning is to regret you ever went to the festival. Pace your eating. Just because there are 25 burgers at Burger Bash does not mean you have to eat all of them. Peruse the room and choose about a half dozen items you must try. If you still feel like you've got room in the gullet, pick a few more.
2. Be Aware
The SoBeWFF attracts tens of thousands of people from all over the world here to enjoy themselves. Most are educated, affluent people who love the finer things in life. So what better place for a pickpocket or a con artist to hang out? Keep an eye on your camera and wallet at all times, and be wary of scalpers selling tickets on the streets.
1. Take a Cab Home
We can tell you all day to drink responsibly, but the truth is that sometimes we all get carried away. If that happens and you feel like you can't drive home -- DON'T! If you're feeling tipsy, the festival will help you arrange a ride home. Be safe and smart -- because we want you back in 2013.
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.