Ever since a certain 1980s detective show, Miami, Florida has become a favorite destination of TV and movie writers (and makers of certain video games involving homicide and car theft).
It makes sense. If aliens, terrorists, or Mother Nature decide to smite a city, they'll go for one of those other two first. It has all the warmth and tropical glamor of the West Coast, but with an East Coast hipness. You might mistake it for Hawaiʻi at first glance.
If you believe TV and the movies, Miami is the only city in Florida. The state's other major metropolitan areas — some of which have populations in the multiple millions — are either treated as merely being suburbs of Miami or else are ignored entirely. You would also think that everyone lives in Art Deco mansions, speaks Cuban-accented Spanish (or Cuban Spanish-accented English), has access to a speedboat, wears the latest designer sunglasses and takes off said sunglasses at the slightest provocation. Not quite Truth in Television. Nobody actually takes off their sunglasses — it's too bright for that. The abundance of palm trees however is true, as are the boats (though there are usually more yachts than speedboats), thanks to Miami's proximity to both Biscayne Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Miami/South Florida metro area is the biggest urban area in the state, and ninth largest in the United States (it isn't the largest city proper in the state; that would be Jacksonville, which is also the largest city by square mile in the continental United States). Miami has the opposite issue from Jacksonville: whereas Jacksonville has a low population spread out over a truly huge city, Miami/Dade has a ton of tightly packed, separate municipalities which are really just fancied-up neighborhoods of a single city.
Miami has the largest immigrant population of any city in North America, just ahead of Toronto, thanks to its large Caribbean and Latin American communities and it is one of the few major American cities where a majority of the populace primarily speak a language other than English.
People in other parts of Florida (e.g., the Tampa Bay area) have noticed that this trope is in action, and they really, really aren't happy about it.
Completely (well, mostly) unrelated to Only in Florida.
- Miami itself has exploited this trope: In 1972, shortly after Walt Disney World opened near Orlando, the Miami Board of Tourism placed vacation ads in eighteen different newspapers in the northern US and Europe which encouraged visitors to visit Miami because it was "just down the road from Disney World". This statement is technically true... if by "the road" you mean Interstate 95, and by "just down" you mean 235 miles (378 km) south...
- In Origin Story, after falling in love with the beaches in Florida, Alex Harris and Louise Fulford decide to settle in South Florida. While Miami becomes “her city” (and she becomes fiercely protective of it), Alex decides that its better for Secret Identity purposes that they live on Big Pine Key, an island some 70 miles south of the city. The idea that their "hometown superheroine" doesn't actually live in their hometown never occurs to anyone in Miami, because hey, its Miami. Why would anyone live anywhere else?
- The second The Fast and the Furious movie, 2 Fast 2 Furious, heads to Miami, with protagonist Brian O'Conner having moved there after leaving the LAPD. The plot involves him reluctantly infiltrating a local drug lord's organization.
- Both Bad Boys (1995) and Bad Boys II center on a couple of Cowboy Cops who work for the Miami PD. These movies also had a bit of of an odd case of California Doubling, not with Cali but with quiet, gentrified Delray Beach, Florida, 50 miles to the north for some scenes. Many areas are instantly recognizable to native Miamians, though.
- A few years before Miami Vice, there was Scarface (1983), which also contributed heavily to the image of Miami as a noir/cop setting by depicting the city as being a hotbed of criminal activity and gang violence. Because of the depiction of the city and its mostly Latino characters, the film's credits contain a disclaimer that Cuban-Americans as a whole are not anything like the gangsters in the movie.
- One of the odder examples is Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which involves the Miami Dolphins and a story based on their real-life archrivals, the Buffalo Bills, losing Super Bowl 25 on a missed field goal.
- Any Given Sunday takes place here, following the "Miami Sharks."
- Averted in Dolphin Tale. The movie takes place in Clearwater, Florida — not an obscure little town, but not one of the major four Florida cities, either (though it is just west of one: Tampa). It is based on a real story, and they kept the actual specific West Central Florida location instead of moving it to the better-known Miami.
- Pain & Gain: Where sticky holders of the Villain Ball can pull off a kidnapping and get rich from the victim.
- Averted in Tomorrow Land. Casey and her family live in Cape Canaveral, since that is where NASA is located, and her father works as an engineer for them.
- The climax of True Lies takes place in the Florida Keys and Miami. Subverted at the end, as the main characters head to Switzerland for a ballroom meeting at the exact same mansion featured in the beginning of the film.
- Almost all Elmore Leonard crime novels, largely because Leonard is a Miami-based author. Dave Barry has also set his fiction in Miami for the same reason. In 1996, Barry, Leonard and 11 other Florida writers, some of whom also set most of their works or one or more series in Miami, collaborated on a Miami-set comedy mystery novel entitled Naked Came The Manatee.
- Averted with American Girl Maryellen Larkin. She lives in Daytona Beach with her family.
- Miami Vice is a Buddy Cop Show set in Miami.
- CSI: Miami is a forensic detective drama based in Miami-Dade county.
- Any Spanish-speaking Soap Opera co-produced by Telemundo, who can showcase truly "international casts".
- Burn Notice has an international superspy artificially confined to Miami, leading to the oddest combination of Stale Beer and Martini-flavored Spy Fiction ever concocted. It's also filmed in the area, and spares no opportunity to show it.
- Dexter takes place in Miami (like the series of novels it is based on), and is filmed mostly there (but also in California). Has something of a dark twist; Dexter likes Miami not for the sun or the glamour (things which he actually personally dislikes) but for the high unsolved-murder rate, which makes it an ideal place to "hone his craft". (20%, if Dexter is to be believed, which is...impressively atrocious.)
- Reno 911! Miami
- The Golden Girls is based here, though none of the four protagonists are natives. They're also all over 50, leading to plenty of "old people in Florida" jokes, even though three of the girls are still working full-time.
- Austin & Ally also takes place in Miami. One vice squad cop is a huge fan of Miami Vice, which inspired him to become a cop.
- Psych: Homicide detective Juliet O'Hara originally worked in Miami before transferring to Santa Barbara.
- Jersey Shore had at least one season in Miami.
- Jane the Virgin takes place in Miami.
- The English-language versions of teen telenovelas made by Cinemat for Nickelodeon (Every Witch Way and Talia in the Kitchen'') are set as well as made there.
- In an example that overlaps with Real Life, the Food Network is infamous among Floridian chefs for pretending that nothing outside of the city of Miami exists. Every year, Florida hosts over 300 different food festivals and shows, but the only ones that ever get covered by the Food Network are the ones that are in Miami. They don't even offer coverage of the food festivals held at Disney World.
- To elaborate on how badly the Food Network ignores the rest of Florida in favor of only covering Miami, during a single 2016 episode of episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri visited several restaurants in the Tampa/Saint Petersberg area. This was the only time the Food Network mentioned any Florida location between 2009 and 2019.
- The sample city for Changeling: The Lost is Miami, the reasoning being that Miami sees such a regular influx of immigrants and travelers that it's only logical it would serve as a net for those who fell out of the Hedge. Though the crazy probably has something to do with it as well.
- YouTube-er Diane Jennings, whose channel is built around the concept of "an Irish girl discovers America and American culture," found out the hard way that this trope is still in full effect when she booked herself into a hotel in the Miami/Dade County area that said — as in the Advertising example above — that it was "just down the road" from Walt Disney World. When she found out she was nearly 500 kilometers (~300 miles) from Disney, she felt a bit cheated. Luckily, she was able to transfer her reservation, and made a video about the road trip to Orlando instead.