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Miami Design District and Wynwood neighborhood guide

Get to know the Miami Design District and Wynwood with our neighborhood guide to the area’s best blocks and attractions

Photograph: Shutterstock/mariakraynova

Your Guide to Wynwood

The secret is out: there’s more to Miami than just South Beach. Gone are the days when a vacation rarely ventured past Ocean Drive, and perhaps no neighborhood helped usher in this Miami renaissance more than the trendy arts district known as Wynwood. In a matter of years, this tiny neighborhood went from warehouses and auto shops to the hottest galleries, bars and restaurants in Miami.

Running as far south as the northern fringes of downtown Miami, it’s an area roughly bounded by NE Second Avenue to the east, I-95 to the west, I-395 to the south and NE 36th Street to the north. 

Formerly an industrial hub and working-class community, Wynwood has blown up off the momentum of its galleries, Second Saturday art walks and the famous Wynwood Walls. Aside from Tony Goldman, the man credited with revitalizing the neighborhood, Wynwood’s success is partly the result of pioneering institutions such as the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, which is home to photography, video, sculptures and installations. But for many, the area’s centerpiece is the stunning Wynwood Walls, the city’s only outdoor graffiti park. Street art here comprises some 40 murals from a roster of world-renowned artists, including Ryan McGuinness, Kenny Scharf, How and Nosm, Faile, Retna, the Date Farmers, Liqen and Shepard Fairey, the designer of the iconic Obama “Hope” poster.

Wynwood’s crop of award-winning restaurants, such as Alter and KYU, have also made the neighborhood a culinary destination for locals and tourists. Though some might argue the recent spate of breweries is an even bigger draw—Wynwood Brewing Company, J. Wakefield Brewing and Concrete Beach Brewery are all within several blocks of one another. For drinks of the caffeinated variety, Panther Coffee remains one of Wynwood’s—and Miami’s—most celebrated coffee shops. It’s just up the street from Salty Donut, the city’s hottest doughnut joint. If you see a line outside the door, you know you’ve come to the right spot.

Your guide to the Design District

Wynwood’s northern neighbor, the Design District, has been enjoying its moment as well, attracting the most luxurious retail stores in the world and becoming a shopping destination of epic proportions. 

Filling a grid of a mere five streets (NE 36th to NE 41st Streets) by two (NE 2nd Avenue to N Miami Avenue), the Design District is vastly out of proportion with its influence on the arts and culture scene. 

The area started as a pineapple grove, and evolved into what became known as Decorators’ Row during the building boom of the early 1920s, when home-design stores lined its streets. The neighborhood fell on hard times in the late ’80s, when crime drove many businesses north, but its proximity to booming Wynwood has resurrected this once-unpolished part of Miami. 

Now you’ll find plenty to do other than shopping. For example: eating. Gloria and Emilio’s joint, Estefan Kitchen, serves up Cuban classics with a modern twist. OTL is a laid-back coffee shop and cafe that’s perfect for a quick lunch or lazy weekend breakfast. Michael Schwartz, perhaps the first Miami chef to recognize the area’s culinary potential, still draws crowds to his beloved Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. He also has one of his Harry’s Pizzeria locations in the Design District. 

Of course, where there’s design, there’s usually art galleries. The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Miami is a must-see for cutting edge modern art. Plus, admission is free. The de la Cruz Collection also offers free admission and a bevy of educational lectures, workshops and tours. Thanks to developer and art collector Craig Robins, a South Beach pioneer who also owns about 40 percent of the Design District’s properties, a good deal of public art (most of it created by locals) is also on display. You can see Robins’s 24-foot prototype of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, which the inventor dubbed an “autonomous dwelling machine,” in the heart of Palm Court.

The majestic 1921 Moore Building (4040 NE 2nd Avenue, at NE 40th Street) is the historical heart of the district. Originally a furniture showroom, it's now the retail home to interior designer and potter extraordinaire Jonathan Adler and a rentable space for special events and parties (many of which happen during Art Basel Miami Beach). 

For a private Wynwood Street Art and Gallery Tour, click here

Best restaurants in Wynwood and Design District

Alter

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Chef Brad Kilgore took his previous fine-dining experience and channeled it into the delicious, refined American cuisine he and partners Javier Ramirez and Leo Monterrey are serving up at their Wynwood restaurant Alter. The modern, unassuming spot complements the progressive menu, which includes such standouts as the soft egg with sea scallop espuma, chive, truffle pearls and Gruyere, and the refreshing dill ice cream. Dinner is served as a five- or seven-course tasting menu, with additional wine pairings and a la carte add-ons available. For the ultimate Alter meal, splurge on the chef's full experience ($165), which features a selection of the restaurant's top dishes, plus a few off-menu surprises.  

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KYU

KYU was one of a handful of Wynwood restaurants to nab a nomination from the prestigious James Beard Awards. And you won’t even be through your appetizer before you understand why KYU is in the running for Best New Restaurant. The dining room—an airy, minimalist warehouse—fits nicely with Wynwood’s personality. The menu takes Asian concepts and introduces them to the barbecue, and the result is undeniably mouthwatering dishes like the MVPs of the “snacky snacks,” crispy pork belly and crispy crab buns. Main entrees like the barbecued octopus and duck will make you want to send a thank-you card to head chef Michael Lewis.

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Kush

Owner Matt Kuscher describes his second brew-centric concept (he and his wife Priscilla also own LoKal Burger & Beer in Coconut Grove) as a great bar with equally great food. Judging by the extensive reserve list and in-house cellar used to store and age special varieties—like the Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise—the former is certainly true. Kush excels at down-home comfort food, like its spectacular hobo frito pie (hearty homemade chili served in a bag of Frito chips) and array of burgers—don't miss the classic on a challah bun or the frita (a riff on the Cuban chorizo burger). Securing a table on weekends is nearly impossible, but you’ll welcome the wait since Botanica, the dimly lit adjacent bar, is reserved for customers killing time before being seated. 

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Things to do in Wynwood and Design District

Wynwood graffiti buggy tour

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Cover more ground while exploring Wynwood’s myriad murals on a graffiti buggy tour. Meet outside of Wood Tavern and you’ll hop on the golf cart for a one-hour ride through the colorful arts district, learning about the popular street art and the artists who created it. The fast-paced route brings you past more than 50 of the area’s galleries and murals. Wynwood graffiti buggy tour, Sat $39, wynwoodartwalk.com.

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Take a workshop at Wynwood Letterpress

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Owner Bridget Dadd spent most of her life collecting cards and stationary from everywhere she traveled before deciding to leave her lucrative job in hospitality to pursue her passion professionally. Wynwood Letterpress is the result of all she’s amassed and loved through the years, and she's not stingy with her knowledge. The shop offers workshops to anyone interested in modern calligraphy. Visit wynwoodletterpress.com to see a calendar of the workshops. 

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Best art galleries in Wynwood and Design District

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

Temporarily located inside the historic Moore Building (its permanent home will be a state-of-the-art exhibition space down the street in the Design District), the Institute of Contemporary Art is a place for emerging artists and local painters and sculptors to showcase their work. Plus, admission is free. 

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de la Cruz Collection

The de la Cruz Collections is a refreshing change of pace from its high-end Design District neighbors. The gallery, funded by Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, offers free admission and a bevy of educational lectures, workshops and tours. Its two-story space houses exhibitions from diverse modern artists like Tauba Auerbach and Hernan Bas, among others. 

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Rubell Family Collection

Recommended

One of the country’s top private collections of contemporary art, this is a bold assortment of avant-garde work: conceptual art, photography, sculpture and painting are all represented. Owned by brother and sister Jason and Jennifer Rubell, the collection features important works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. It’s located in a former DEA confiscation center—something that the late Steve Rubell, founder of Manhattan’s infamous Studio 54 and uncle to Jennifer and Jason—would have found hugely amusing.

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Best bars in Wynwood

Gramps

The sign out front says it all: air conditioning, beer and cocktails. What more could you want in perpetually hot Miami? Perhaps weekly karaoke or a variety of local brews on tap? Don't forget the cocktails too (especially the Moscow mule). After a couple of those, walk outside and grab a slice from Gramps own tiny restaurant, Pizza Tropical. This Wynwood bar is popular for a reason and also hosts live comedy (Hannibal Buress and Eric Andre have stopped by for surprise sets) and live music from rising stars like Angel Olsen and Mitski.   

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El Patio Wynwood

El Patio is unlike anything in Wynwood—which, considering the depth of options in the trendy art district, is high praise. The mostly outdoor bar manages to be intriguing enough for visiting tourists, while maintaining a loyal following of locals. The relatively new spot is Latin— Colombian, specifically—and shows its influence everywhere you turn. Certain furniture was actually shipped over from Colombia, the homeland of co-owner Nicolas Hoyos, which gives the bar a funky abuela vibe, and resident DJ, Mr. Pauer, curates a masterful playlist of old school Latin, reggae, electro, and everything in between to guarantee hips never stop shaking. Add to all that one of Wynwood’s best happy hours (featuring $1 beers and $4 cocktails) and you’ve got a place worth showing up early and staying late.

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Boxelder

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Part market and part taproom, Boxelder is the place to mix-and-match the perfect six-pack from an assortment of 150-plus bottles and stock up on your local favorites—among them J. Wakefield and M.I.A. Brewing Co., which even created an exclusive scotch ale on nitro for the bar. It’s also where you’ll discover new brews, both by sampling any of the 20 beers on tap (which rotate daily) and partaking in beer and food pairings and “brewer versus brewer” events. 

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Where to shop in Wynwood and the Design Distict

Style Mafia

Stocked with namesake fashions designed by a Miami girl who knows exactly what her local sisters need, this go-to shop for celebs and out-of-the-box fashionistas is a must for a true influx of winter style. The current collection, brimming with pieces that play up volume, looks more wintry than it actually is. Pants that skim the ankle work to keep you cool in our always-sunny environs, while tops with puffed-up sleeves disconnect on the arm to allow for a little much-needed airflow. 

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MVM Miami

Local stylist and fashion boutique owner Melissa Mosheim moved her popular Wynwood boutique to a bigger space in the heart of the Arts District. The industrial-looking store features larger racks of designer labels such as Derek Lam and Jonathan Simkhai, as well as a section devoted entirely to accessories—think Miami must-haves like sunglasses, hats and swimwear. The new gifting corner is a great place to pick up last-minute gifts such as candles and coffee-table books.

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Palm Court

A pedestrian mall in the Miami Design District, home to numerous high-end retailers, designer boutiques and a café. 

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Best live music in Wynwood and Design District

Wynwood Yard

What started as a communal outdoor space with local food trucks and a humble bar has become a one-stop shop for Wynwood culture. These days, the Wynwood Yard is one of the best places to hear live, local music in the area. There are shows weekly (check out the venue's Facebook page to stay updated) that range from reggae to folk to Latin. Shakira even stopped by for a surprise show one time. 

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Bardot

One of the first to come up in the Wynwood Art District, this low-lit hipster haunt is best known for its fresh and progressive musical programming covering all bases from emerging rappers to next-up superstar DJs, and independent artists of all kinds. With big comfy couches and no proper stage, DJs and bands play on “the carpet”. There’s literally nothing between artist and fan, which makes for uniquely up-close-and-personal shows. Decorated with risqué pictures, posters of ’60s-era sex kittens, old books and a pool table, Bardot aims for Parisian-style and dirty sophistication. It can get quite crowded for sold-out events, and with no outdoor space, it most definitely will get smoky, but most fans are willing to brave it to see these rare or up-and-coming acts.

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The Electric Pickle Company

International DJs are quick to gush about this two-story Wynwood space, saying it's their absolute favorite place to play—especially those favoring underground house and techno. Inside, it’s intimate and dark with a kind of “anything goes” party policy that guests and die-hards find very “European”. Owners are renowned for their music-first approach, and prices are kept moderate. You won’t find any bottle service attitude here.   Marcus Webb Photography: Beverley Milner, The Electric Pickle Company

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