Welcome to beachside glamour: The Best Things To Do In Miami
Follow along as our expert guide tells you everything you need to know about living it up in the Magic City. | By Paul Oswell | October 25, 2021
Miami’s reputation as a place to soak up the sun and party into the night is well earned. And if you’re looking for decadence and ocean-adjacent luxury, then you’ve come to the right city. Miami Beach exudes seaside glamour, backed up by the steel and glass modernity of downtown. You’ll find culture here, too, with dynamic Cuban and Jewish communities and an art scene that has turned the streets into its canvas. Add to this the music, the food and the art deco architecture and you’ll find that Miami has an allure well beyond its beaches.
Soak up these ideas for a memorable Miami vacation:
Sun’s out, fun’s in: Work on your tan and join the beautiful people laying out on South Beach
Havana party: Wander down Calle Ocho and experience wonderful Cuban food, culture and music
Outdoor art: See the most amazing murals and public art in and around Little Havana and the trendy Wynwood neighborhood
South Beach and beyond
Your first stop is likely South Beach (known locally as SoBe). The sands here have welcomed Hollywood stars and jetsetters for decades, and it’s unlike anywhere else in the country. If you’re traveling with other adults, you can easily spend a lot of time here on the beach or in the clubs. However, those traveling with kids can also enjoy this area by heading to South Pointe Park, a family-friendly area of South Beach. In addition to the beach, you and the kiddos can spend the day here at the playground, at the small splash park or eating at the barbecue areas. Those traveling with pets will also love the dog park here.
After spending time on the sand and in the surf, take a walk along Ocean Drive to admire art deco architecture, including at Gale South Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton, a classic art deco hotel that dates back to 1941.
Compared to other large American cities, Miami isn’t particularly blessed with green spaces, but if you’re longing for some respite from the beach, you can find some tranquil spots. South of Coral Gables are the Pinecrest Gardens, and Crandon Park Gardens on Key Biscayne is a quiet, leafy escape. Brickell Park and Morningside Park are also worth visiting.
One of the first things that you’ll notice is that Cuban culture is everywhere in this city. Miami has been a second home to Cuban immigrants since the 1960s and Cuban music, art and food can be found throughout the city, especially in Little Havana. Wander the streets here to tap into the vibrancy easily; stop into bodegas for Cuban sandwiches and other specialties, and sit with locals to drink some potent cafe cubano (Cuban coffee).
If you like the colorful murals you’ll see around Calle Ocho, the main drag in Little Havana, then the public art of Wynwood should also be on your list. This up-and-coming neighborhood has been transformed in recent years into a living museum of public art, some curated, some organic. Other art museums in the city worth seeing include The Bass and Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Miami Beach is also home to a thriving Jewish community, and you can learn more at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, which is housed in two restored buildings that used to be synagogues. There are Jewish Miami Beach tours that stop at the haunting Holocaust Memorial and food-based walking tours where you can sample kosher favorites and Floridian classics, such as the great bagels at El Bagel.
Where to party and eat in Miami
You might not think of Miami as a particularly foodie town, but there are some must-try dishes even aside from the rightfully popular Cuban sandwiches. Key lime pie is probably the most famous, with locals suggesting Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant or Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop as the places to go to. Crack some stone crab claws, slurp some ceviche (or any seafood, essentially) and drink a daiquiri looking out onto the beach from a bar on Ocean Drive.
Of course, Miami is brimming with great music, and if you love to dance, you’re in the right place. You can find a groove in the sunshine at day clubs such as the famous Nikki Beach, or in the evening catch a live band playing Latin music at the historic Ball & Chain venue, or really any other club on Calle Ocho in Little Havana. The city’s celebrated nightlife scene means dressing to impress to get into the clubs. E11EVEN is a 24-hour super club, while LGBTQ-friendly Twist throws an awesome dance party.
Shopping in Miami
Miami has a truly world-class shopping scene, with everything from luxe accessories at Miami Design District, familiar brands at The Shops at Midtown Miami and Bayside Marketplace, to the funky boutiques of Little Havana and Wynwood.
For discounts on all types of goods, especially watches, clothes and luggage, then Flagler Street is a good place to start. There are enough upscale stores for even the most demanding of shoppers, but it’s fun to hunt for bargains at a Lincoln Road market.
Carve out some time to explore the city’s neighborhoods, though, because the local cultures have a lot to offer. Even though Miami sells a high-end lifestyle, if you look in the right places, your senses and memories will be constantly delighted by street art, live bands or a sandwich from a local bodega. Mix the decadent with everyday pleasures to experience Miami at its best.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”