As one of the most popular destinations on the planet, Miami definitely has something for everyone. Between the sun and surf, the glamour and grit, the Art Deco architecture and world-class graffiti, the Golden Girls and Dexter, the Magic City is sure to find plenty of ways to cast its spell on you.
What to See
Although technically not a part of Miami proper, the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach is a top priority stop for everyone from celebrities and models to international and middle-American tourists. It’s home to the Miami Beach Art Deco Historic District—which, at almost a square mile and 960 historic buildings, is one of the largest areas in the US on the National Register of Historic Places. The Miami Design Preservation League provides the official Art Deco District Walking Tour, where you can learn all about the architectural style, the individual buildings, and the history of South Beach.
The Miami Beach Public Library and Art Center, designed by architect Russell Pancoast in 1930 and often considered the island’s first Art Deco building, has been home to the Bass Museum of Art since 1963. With a dynamic year-round schedule of contemporary exhibitions complimented by artists’ projects, lectures, concerts and free family days, and a permanent collection spanning over five centuries and four continents, the museum fulfills its mission to “inspire and educate by exploring the connections between our historical collections and contemporary art.” In addition, the museum’s Lindemann Family Creativity Center is home to the IDEA@thebass program of art classes and workshops, and select works from the permanent collection are showcased in the Art History Lab as part of the education department. In 2015, the museum will undergo an internal expansion designed by architects Arata Isozaki and David Gauld, providing 47% more programmable space without changing the building’s footprint.
If you prefer your art outside of the museum, head over to the Wynwood Arts District — the heart of Miami’s ever-changing art scene and home to over 70 galleries and one of the world’s largest street art collections. The Wynwood Walls, conceived in 2009 as a way to transform and revitalize the warehouse district of Wynwood, showcases work by some of the most famous street artists in the world covering the neighborhood in color. Go on the second Saturday of the month for the Art Walk, where all of Miami comes to check out the newest offerings from the galleries and restaurants and party in the streets.
Without a doubt, some of the best people watching in the Miami area can be done at Lincoln Road Mall, an outdoor pedestrian area at the epicenter of South Beach. With more than 150 stores, about 70 restaurants and sidewalk cafes, art galleries, lounges, bookstores, and a movie theater, Lincoln Road is your one-stop-shop for a leisurely afternoon. Shop everywhere from H&M to Armani and let the kids play at Euclid Circle, an astro-turf play area in the center of the mall. Every other Sunday from October to May, browse booths filled with small treasures and vintage collectables including art, jewelry, furniture, clothing, and Miami memorabilia at the Antique & Collectible Market.
Insider tip: for the best panorama of South Beach, take the elevators up to penthouse-level Juvia — pick from the wide variety of cocktails and relax to some groovy lounge tunes while you soak in the views.
What to Do
Miami has more than a few beaches to choose from, but if salt water isn’t your thing, you should probably check out the Venetian Pool in Coral Gabels, one of the first fully-planned communities in the US. The Venetian Pool is the only pool listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the largest freshwater pool in the US. Fresh spring water comes in through an underground aquifer, and the 820,000 gallons are drained and filled daily during the spring and summer–don’t worry — the water is recycled!
Fun fact: In the early days, the pool would be drained completely in order to allow the Miami Symphony to perform on the pool bottom. This happened again in 2001 for the city’s 75th birthday celebration.
Little Havana, west of downtown, is a political, social, and cultural hotspot in Miami, home to tens of thousands of Cuban immigrants and people from other Central and South American countries. The yearly Calle Ocho Festival is one of the largest street festivals in the world, and the monthly Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays showcases the diverse cultures, flavors, and talents of the Latino community.
There’s a lot to see and do when there’s no festival going on too — sample some of the local food along Calle Ocho, Little Havana’s main drag. Try the Guayaba y Queso Pastelitos de Hojaldre (puff pastry with guava and cheese!) at the Versailles Bakery, drink Cuban coffee from street vendors, and play a round of dominos or chess in Maximo Gomez Park.
Cigar aficionados can take advantage of Miami’s growing Cuban Cigar niche industry, which is, unsurprisingly, stationed in Little Havana. Elite Cuban cigar rollers can be found working all over the neighborhood. Swing in to the quaint, family-owned El Titan de Bronze for award winning, hand-rolled cigars and a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.
Despite the endless inland diversions, a person could still easily spend weeks in Miami just at the beach — swimming in the ocean, catching up on some beach reads, or just watching the world go by from your fluffy towel. Take it up a notch with a boat ride, see the sights from 600 feet above the ocean with a thrilling and tranquil parasail trip, or strap on a jetpack and try out flyboarding.
Where to Eat
If you liked the colorful surroundings of the Wynwood Walls, stick around for a meal at the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Their approach to Latin-influenced cuisine reflects the Wynwood approach to art—innovative, surprising, colorful, and satisfying. Put together a combo of small plates to get a sampling of the variety of flavors at work. If you like spicy, finish off your meal with a Peppery Pepino, a Mezcal cocktail with cayenne pepper.
Ask the internet or any person who’s been where to eat in Miami, and Michael’s Genuine is bound to pop up on the list. It’s on our list too, because it just really is that good. It’s a laid-back neighborhood bistro in the Design District with an emphasis on locally sourced, fresh, honest food. Go for brunch and try the warm pecan & sweet potato caramel bun, or later in the day for some homemade gnocchi. Bonus: they brew their own beer too.
Where to Sleep
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View Waldorf Towers on trivago!
Looking for a classic Miami Art Deco hotels with beachfront access? Try a stay at Waldorf Towers: history melds with sleek, modern rooms and top-notch concierge service can get you on the guest list of some of Miami’s hottest nightclubs.
Hotel Breakwater South Beach
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View the Breakwater Hotel on trivago!
The historic Art Deco boutique Breakwater South Beach hotel brings luxury to Ocean Drive. Housed in a 1930 Art Deco Ecterior are modern rooms, many with ocean views and private balconies. Lounge on their roof-top terrace or dive into their aquarium style plunge pool for an evening cool down.
For techies, the Marlin is a dream Miami hotel. It boasts an professional in-house recording studio and personalized iPads in all rooms that control all in-room features like mood lighting and pre-loaded movie libraries. You’re also steps away from the beach.
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