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Art Basel Miami Beach survival guide: Dos and don'ts for navigating Miami Art Week

Art Basel Miami Beach, better known to locals as a weeklong traffic gauntlet, is a challenge to conquer even if you count yourself a Miami Art Week veteran.

There’s a good reason for that. Along with Art Basel, the contemporary-art fair that returns Dec. 6-9 to the just-renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, there are 20 smaller “satellite” fairs scattered around downtown Miami, the Design District and Wynwood. Add to that a riot of rooftop parties, celebrity DJ sets (ahem, Paris Hilton and Questlove) and pop-up art galleries, and Art Basel becomes a tourism spectacle too loud and too colorful to finish in one week.

But it’s South Florida’s spectacle, too, traffic be damned. As you hop onto the I-95 southbound lane in early December, take this Art Basel survival guide with you. Here’s what Miami Art Week visitors should know about parking, what to pack, avoiding the highways and navigating the art-fair madness.

Visiting Art Basel Miami Beach

First off, know that the Miami Beach Convention Center (1901 Convention Center Drive) has changed. Three years and a $620 million renovation later, the convention center re-opened in October, replacing its large parking lot with the satellite fair Design Miami. Seek alternative parking at two nearby garages (16th Street and Washington Avenue, 17th Street and Jefferson Avenue) and five parking lots.

Drawing 77,000-plus tourists and seriously loaded art collectors in 2017, Art Basel Miami Beach this year will boast 267 international contemporary-art galleries. Other than rooftop parties, celebrities such as Lenny Kravitz, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell can be spotted strolling the convention center, typically on the weekends, if that’s your thing.

Where to go and park

Before hitting the highway, download the Miami Parking Authority’s Pay-by-Phone app on iPhone and Android for painless metered parking, or take rideshares such as Uber and Lyft to avoid driving altogether.

Avoid stress by not traveling during peak traffic periods (Monday-Friday rush hour, any time on weekends). Take the less-crowded Venetian Causeway instead of I-395/MacArthur Causeway if crossing into Miami Beach. Don’t exit the I-395 at North Miami Avenue, often clogged with tourists on Miami Art Week, and instead take Federal Highway if you’re trying to reach Wynwood or the Design District.

Because half of known civilization plans to descend on Miami-Dade County next week, consider public transportation instead of adding another car to the roadways. A free Art Week Shuttle will run Wednesday through Sunday, with stops connecting Midtown and Wynwood to Miami Beach and the convention center. Download a map and timetable here. Also consider the MetroMover, the elevated rail that loops around downtown Miami and connects to the Perez Art Museum Miami, the Frost Museum of Science and a half-dozen nearby art fairs.

Wynwood’s main thoroughfare, Northwest Second Avenue, will be closed to vehicular traffic between 20th and 29th streets from Friday, Dec. 7 to Sunday, Dec. 9.

Plan to arrive in style? Consider the water taxi shuttle ($5 each way for locals during mornings and afternoons), which crisscrosses Biscayne Bay and deposits visits at Bayfront Park and Miami Beach Marina.

What to pack

Bring the obvious rations (bottled water, trail mix, bananas and the like), but also survival gear, such as a portable smartphone charger, trash bags for your rations, jackets and coats for cold fronts and rain, sunglasses, swimwear (in case you’re invited to a glitzy pool party) and comfortable footwear for extended periods of art perusing.

Avoiding Art Basel Miami Beach

If the tourist-clogged Miami Beach Convention Center isn’t your scene, here are three other art events coinciding with Art Basel Week.

The 15,000-square-foot art gallery Artechouse (736 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; $17-$24; Artechhouse.com) is like a “Star Trek” holodeck. Visitors can touch, draw on and walk through 10 interactive rooms filled with digital-art projections, such as pushing virtual grains of sand and walking through digital grass.

“The Art of Banksy” (Magic City Studios, 6301 NE Fourth Ave., Miami; $35.99-$49.99; BanksyExhibit.com) is one of Miami Art Week’s more controversial shows: an exhibition of 80 Banksy paintings, sculptures and screen prints created pre-2008. Steve Lazarides, the British street artist’s former agent, organized the unauthorized show without approval from Banksy, who reportedly refuses to charge admission to see his art.

Art Plug Power House (1440 NW 21st St., Allapattah; $15-$20, $200-$1,500 for VIP; TheArtPlugPowerhouse.com), one of Art Basel’s countless temporary art fairs, somehow feels like Miami Art Week in a nutshell, or at least an Onion headline: an “experiential adult playground” inside a former police impound lot. Installations include a mechanical unicorn, a monster truck and motocross show and murals from 27 artists, including Miami’s own Aholsniffsglue.

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