Cerulean blue water, sparkling white sand, and the allure of long, warm and relaxing days stretching into the starlit night have kept people coming to Miami since the early 1900’s. With its subtropical climate and laid-back vibe, it’s a great place to kick back and take the days as they come. Long stretches of time at the beach or pool is certainly a major draw for visitors to the region, but realistically, do you want to spend every day, all day, lying on the beach? For those who want a break from the sun and sand, Miami has much to offer besides a tan. Here’s a list of our favorite things to do:
Little Havana is both a neighborhood and a slice of the Cuban motherland found right in the heart of Miami. Here you’ll find walk-up cafes selling Cuban coffee, Latin American art galleries, and vibrant, busy streets with people playing dominoes, enjoying festivals and dancing to Conga music. We highly recommend taking the 90-minute Little Havana Cultural Adventure tour. With a local to guide you, you’ll see the historic landmarks and find the most authentic Cuban pastries and juice bars, where you can enjoy coconut juice straight from the coconut! You’ll also visit the Cuban art collector, learn to roll cigars, and salsa dance at one of the oldest speakeasies in Miami!
Wynwood is one of the most vibrant and happening districts in Miami, famous for its many colorful murals. The Wynwood Walls is an outdoor museum showcasing some of the world’s most popular street artists. This is graffiti at its very best! The surrounding streets have converted warehouses which are now home to craft breweries and funky art galleries. Stylish bistros and late-night bars make this a great location during both the day and night. Book a “Crawl” to join a small group pedaling your way around on a pink cab - two great options, depending on your preferences, are Wynwood Wheels Brewery Crawl or Wynwood Wheels Art Crawl.
This upscale, leafy neighborhood offers sidewalk cafes, chic boutiques, gourmet restaurants and beautiful views of sailboats anchored at bay, all in a tropical oasis with a distinct bohemian flair. This laid back village was established in the 1800’s by an assortment of sailors, artists, pioneers, naturalists, millionaires, and intellectuals. Located overlooking Biscayne Bay and Key Biscayne, it offers a gentle pace that is perfect for afternoon walks or shopping. This is a great foodie location, so bring your appetite and enjoy the terrace at Greenstreet Café, a longtime favorite spot, or try Lokal Burgers and Beer for locally grown ingredients and some of the best sweet potato fries. If your taste buds run to the exotic, try Jaguar Ceviche for distinctive Latin American food. It’s also home to our next must do!
Just moments from downtown Miami, located in the Coconut Grove neighborhood, you’ll find the expansive bayfront gardens and majestic main house of Vizcaya. Why would you want to visit Vizcaya? First of all, it’s a gorgeous waterfront property, an architectural gem that will whisk you back in time, wondering whether, in fact, you’d been transported to the Palace of Versailles. Take a tour with a docent or an self-guided audio tour. We recommend doing the docent tour, because there is so much fascinating history here and you’ll want to be able to ask questions. This was the winter residence of businessman James Deering from 1916-1924. Expansive Italian Renaissance gardens are absolutely stunning, filled with water features, trees, flowers, birds, and providing a tranquil escape from city life.
The Art Deco era is alive and well in South Beach, the buildings awash in pastel colors – a photographer’s dream come true! Miami is famous for its large concentration of art deco buildings so it would be a true Miami experience to go see them. Consider taking the Art Deco PediCab Tour. Let a tour guide pedal you around while telling you all about the landmarks and hot spots. The three-wheeled, eco-friendly electric bike is just the right pace for seeing everything along Art Deco Drive, South Pointe Pier Park and Espanola Way. You’ll ride past the Botanical Gardens and Nikki Beach as well during this one-hour tour. Ask your guide to stop if you see the perfect spot for that must-have souvenir photo.
If you want to get away from crowded beaches and downtown shopping, Museum Park is a surprisingly serene place to go, with vast green spaces and trees for shade. Take a tranquil walk near the edge of Biscayne Bay to see the yachts and other boats, appreciate the fine sculpture throughout the park, and join a free yoga class! Take a picnic lunch with you, and enjoy the rolling hills and beautiful views of both the water and the city skyline. This is a 29-acre park so you probably won’t walk through all of it but if you’re looking for a place to jog this is perfect. It’s also a great destination on bike and those are easy to rent for the day with Bike and Roll. If you’re wondering why it’s called Museum Park, it will be apparent when you get there!
Located at the far east side of Museum Park, between Frost Science Museum and Biscayne Bay, Perez Art Museum Miami is home to both modern and contemporary art. If you’re not sure what the difference is, Modern art refers to the period that began in the 1880s and that lasted until the 1960s. Contemporary art can be said to be the art that was developed after the 1960s and is still emerging. At PAMM you’ll find unusual installations of both, such as For Those In Peril On The Sea, comprised of all kinds of scaled-down replicas of ships suspended from the ceiling, and While The Dew Is Still On The Roses by Ebony G. Patterson, whose works look at youth culture in disenfranchised communities. She is known for drawings, tapestries and sculpture layered with flowers, lace, glitter and beads. It’s also VERY colorful! Installations are ever-changing.The hanging gardens and exterior spaces alone make this place a destination. And while you’re there, be sure to visit the lovely café for refreshments and the great little gift shop for art souvenirs.
Did you ever wonder where Miamians go to get away from the tourists yet still enjoy their city? The Rickenbacker Causeway that connects Miami to Key Biscayne has parking lots at each end and gorgeous views due to being one of the highest geographical points around. It’s a toll bridge but you don’t have to drive it -- you can walk, jog or bike across. Locals say that it is worth the toll due to the spectacular views. If you’re an early riser, this is just about the best place to catch the sunrise against the sparkling aqua waters. People go here to fish as well, and take their dogs to the doggie beach. The Miami end of the bridge is close to the Alice Wainwright Park located in northern Coconut Grove. The park provides a stunning vista of Biscayne Bay and is one of those neighborhood parks largely unknown to tourists. If you want to take some time away from hustle and bustle, combine a trip to the park with a walk or ride across the causeway.
If you’re a little on the wild side or seeking something more adventurous than a walk in the park, here’s something quite exhilarating that will take your breath away! Enjoy the famous turquoise waters without the sandy beach with a Thriller Speedboat ride out into the Atlantic. The energy and excitement of the city is captured in this 45-minute Miami-Vice style adventure that takes you through the cruise ship channel, and past Flagler Monument Island and the Venetian Islands before arriving at Millionaire’s Row where the vessel slows down for a short narration about the celebrities living there. You’ll be able to appreciate the art deco buildings in South Beach and the incredible Miami skyline as you head back to Bayside Marketplace, the starting and ending point for this dynamic ride on a 55-foot power catamaran.
A party perfect atmosphere and yummy food always served with a smile ensures a good time for all at Senor Frog’s. This place is famous for being FUN for all ages. While the menu features everything Mexican like tacos, burritos and enchiladas, you can also get pasta or philly cheesesteak. This is a place where you can let your inner party animal loose dancing to fun music, wearing balloon hats, singing karaoke, and playing silly games. During the day it’s a fun place for kids as well, but note that when the sun goes down it turns into a nightclub. Consider buying their special Prix Fixe Dinner or Lunch in advance.
Located on the grounds of the Freehand Miami Hotel, the Broken Shaker is quite the opposite of Senor Frog’s. If you’re more laid back and want your evening to be a bit more sophisticated you’ll love the lush foliage, fountains, and lounge chairs at the Broken Shaker. Depending on the day of the week you may be treated to a live DJ or chill music via garden speakers. Friendly bartenders, peach coladas, fried artichokes, and whiskey sours are just a few of the many reasons to try out the Broken Shaker. Foodnetwork.com notes that this place is renowned for its craft cocktails that are “both innovative and classic.” Relax on the palm-lined pool deck with tacos and cocktails after entering through the hotel. Whether you start here or stay here for your night out, if you’re looking for a place that is both trendy and more upscale but with good prices, this is a great place to spend some of your Miami vacation time.
The New World Center is home to the New World Symphony, a unique post-graduate orchestral academy. This architectural gem is right in the heart of South Beach adjacent to Miami Beach Soundscape Park. A soaring 7,000 foot projection wall on the side of the New World Center broadcasts live classical music performances throughout the season. Every WALLCAST concert is free to the public and you are invited to bring blankets or chairs. You’ll need to check the website for a schedule of concerts but if you can catch one of these while in Miami you’ll be treated to a fantastic outdoor symphony performance. Concertgoers have access to premium public restrooms as well, so everything you need for an evening out is right there. Concerts usually start at 7:30 PM.Whatever your style and tastes, Miami has so much to offer in addition to the sandy white beaches and warm weather. Take your vacation up a notch and enjoy the many varied offerings throughout Miami. As you’re walking around at any one of these great places you’re sure to come across even more things to see and do. So kick the sand off your sandals and go see Miami!