Miami is a diverse cultural hub filled with casual and upscale restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Fast, showy cars zoom by on Ocean Drive while sizzling after hours establishments stay open late.
Art Basel has transformed Miami by putting the city’s art world in the spotlight, while expanding the art scene throughout the year. Due to Miami’s location of the east coast of the USA, influences from Cuba, South America and the Caribbean are discernible in everything from neighbourhoods, to Uber rides, to cuisine.
Although many people think Miami and Miami Beach are one, they are really two different cities linked by a number of causeways. This guide will be a helpful tool for first time visitors to Miami looking to make the most of their time in this captivating, rapidly growing ‘Magic City’.
For around $6 it’s possible to rent a Citi Bike for an hour and drop it off at another location. Visitors should start their ride at Indian Beach Park at 48th Street and continue down to 23rd Street where it becomes a paved surface that runs through the Ocean Drive Promenade to 5th Street. Then from South Pointe Park (tip of island and pier), an ever-expanding Baywalk runs up the west side of the island. Apparently, every ten blocks equals one mile or 1.6 kilometres. Hop on and off for a bite or a drink en route. A stop at Lolo’s Surf Cantina to gorge on tacos, ceviche, and their Mayan dip made with pumpkin seeds is recommended.
The Miami Design Preservation League conducts 90-minute walking tours every morning for US$25. Show up 15 minutes ahead or book in advance and gain a new appreciation for the development and history of the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District with its 1300 art deco buildings. Revel in the pastel boutique hotels, vintage theatres and restaurants, interior paintings and soaring curves, Egyptian motives, and trompe l’oeil while learning about the styles of nautical deco, Mediterranean revival, tropical deco, and Miami Modern (MiMo).
Considered one of America’s hippest neighbourhoods, no visit to Miami is complete without a trip to Wynwood. This art-fuelled area is filled with galleries and huge walls splashed with bold art from some of the most renowned international street artists. Since 2009, the Wynwood Walls program has seen over 50 artists from 16 countries covering over 7400 square metres of wall space, with both well known and emerging artists bringing world-class art to the community.
The open-air space is free to the public and a perfect place to snap Instagram-worthy shots. Wynwood Walls is a central focus of Art Basel, which occurs each December.
This historic art deco theatre — and former home to 1960’s TV shows and Broadway plays — regularly hosts concerts, comedy shows and more. Wear comfortable shoes as most of the auditorium is standing room only. Also, be sure to leave the camera at home (otherwise it will be seized and held by staff). Enjoy post-show cocktails somewhere else since they are trés expensive at the theatre.
For US$5, visitors can enjoy an impassioned 15-minute performance inside one of many shipping containers’ transformed interiors that create Microtheater Miami. Most shows are in Spanish. Come face to face with actors, enjoy US$2 beer and cheap tacos in this fun, creative environment.
Join this donation-based class at 3rd Street and Ocean Drive all year long. Classes are held in the morning and evening on the beach, allowing participants to feel invigorated by the ocean waves while finding their ‘om’ at sunrise or sunset.
Hire a stand up paddle board from Miami Beach Paddle Board and cruise around the Miami Beach Marina, passing by some extraordinary modern homes. Try a sunset neon tour where the paddle board is aglow with LED lights sitting 1.5 metres underwater and 4.5 metres around the board.
This sleek waterfront museum features modern and contemporary international artwork from the last two centuries. Every month the museum boasts incredible programming for people of all ages.
The Explore Little Havana tour allows visitors to taste authentic Cuban cuisine while learning about Little Havana’s culture and heritage. Listen to the stories behind the food, and visit a cigar factory, Domino Park, The Cuba Ocho Art Museum and five restaurant spots in this vibrant neighbourhood. Other tours from Miami Culinary Tours include the South Beach Food Tour, Wynwood Food and Art Tour, and Design District Tapas Tour.
‘Drink Art, Make Beer’ is a fitting slogan when finding oneself just steps away from the Wynwood Walls. A visit to Concrete Beach Brewery should start with the the purchase of a tasting paddle of beers that can be sipped while enjoying the free tour to learn about their extensive brewing process. Expect beers with hints of lemongrass, plantain, caramel and chocolate, such as their Tangerine IPA, Imperial Chocolate Hibiscus and American Wheat Ale brewed with lemon.
Dr. Smood is a one-stop shop for a healthy breakfast, offering ‘Smart Food for a Good Mood’. Visitors identify their mood then are given follow colour-coded options for power sandwiches, energy boosts, cold pressed juices, teas and coffees.
On the opposite end of the scale, The Salty Donut in Wynwood Arcade is filled with rich, artfully made, seasonal donuts such as the chocolate chip cookie, vanilla bean cake with chocolate chips, fig and honey, and cranberry orange. In the same complex, the only rooftop bar and lounge in Wynwood — No. 3 Social — offers craft cocktails and street eats from around the world. Adjacent to No. 3 Social is Three Restaurant by Chef Norman Van Aken, where diners can sit at the counter and watch the culinary magic happen. Three, four, and seven-course set menus are available.
The Wynwood Yard is a great place to sample fare from a variety of food trucks, some with Cuban and Caribbean influences. Try healthy food bowls, jerk chicken, shaved ice cream, poké-style bowls with chicken, curry coconut tofu tacos, lobster macaroni and cheese, and iced matcha tea blended with vanilla chocolate and coconut milk. Live music and a beer bar in the centre provide a festive atmosphere.
For a super romantic experience in a zen Shangri-La, book an evening date at Cafe Roval, located on the upper east side in a stunning historical coral building. Start at the bar with a sake cocktail and sample their Silk Road bar menu before moving to their garden pool sanctuary out back for a memorable Mediterranean meal.
In downtown Miami, Fooq’s Miami provides feel-good, European-meets-Middle-Eastern food. Global travels inspire the eclectic farm-to-table menu with a Persian-French flair. Don’t miss the honey glazed Brussels sprouts, meatballs, braised lamb, bucatini amatriciana, and the kebob salad.
Miami is for travellers who enjoy a vibrant, cultural city positioned right on the ocean. It’s for those who enjoy a flourishing art scene, design and architecture, and a sizzling nightlife, or those who enjoy savouring Latin American influence captured in the culture and cuisine. Miami is also for visitors who want to explore some of the USA’s best snorkelling and scuba diving spots by day before rubbing shoulders with the world’s trendsetters by night.
Expect warm weather all year round, with the best temperatures being between March and May.
This affordable boutique hotel decorated with bold hues and inspirational decor sits in an amazing location, one block from the beach. Cross the street to the sand and recline in your own hotel lounge chair or take a dip in the hotel pool before relaxing in one of the cosy seating areas or rear courtyard. The WunderBar is an adorable lobby bar with a grand selection of rum, including rum flights! Funky rooms with fierce air conditioning keep visitors cool on steamy days and nights. Experience Miami like a local with the hotel’s curated Beyond Circa 39 Mobile Neighborhood Guides with suggestions for each area, including Little Havana and Little Haiti.
The Confidante, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, is a playful oceanfront oasis in Miami’s mid-beach neighbourhood. True to its name, the hotel is welcoming and unpretentious, similar to a friend’s beach house. It offers two heated swimming pools (one for adults only), private colourful cabanas and bungalows, a pretty full-service beach setup, and lush tropical gardens. Enjoy direct beach access, an open-air rooftop spa, and a fully equipped fitness centre. The art deco rooms with pops of colour and 1950’s flair provide views of Miami’s skyline and the Atlantic Ocean. Tip: book an oceanfront room with a balcony.
Named after Miami’s heralded founder, Julia Tuttle, the adults-only, 29-room boutique hotel in South Beach opened in August 2017. It provides guests with a plethora of complimentary amenities such as the French-inspired continental breakfast, beach chairs reserved on the shores of South Beach, custom beach totes for guest use, wifi, and daily wine and cheese happy hour. Right on Collins Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street in a quiet street, the hotel showcases a charming lobby with stylish mismatched decor, outdoor patio seating, and a Starbucks coffee machine.
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