Best things to do in Miami
What is it? Miami’s number one attraction is a surreal Italian Renaissance-style villa in the middle of lush, laid-back Coconut Grove. Its meticulously landscaped gardens, sprawling bayfront terrace and, well, the house itself, make up a total of 43 acres.
Why go? Vizcaya makes for the most fetching photo backdrop in the city (just ask the quinceañeras and brides roaming about) and its inimitable collection of European antiques and decorative works from the 16th to 19th centuries is truly breathtaking.
What is it? Spanning across a massive 250,000 square feet, the new Frost Science (an upgrade from its previous Coconut Grove location) occupies four buildings—the Aquarium, the Frost Planetarium and the North and West Wings—features year-round exhibits and is a delight for curious minds of all ages.
Why go? Frost Science is as state-of-the-art as it gets, featuring interactive opportunities, a 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream aquarium that houses all sorts of sea creatures and a planetarium dome that hosts biweekly laser light shows.
What is it? Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars such as Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage.
Why go? For starters, there’s free salsa dancing lessons on Tuesday night, live jazz on weekday evenings and heaps of more gratis programming that takes place on the whimsical pineapple stage out back. And let’s not forget the mojitos—they’re pretty spectacular.
What is it? This self-proclaimed “most famous Cuban restaurant in the world” is arguably more popular than its palatial namesake in France. The Little Havana institution is the unofficial meeting place for the city’s Cuban community, who crowd the cafecito window 24/7 sipping on Cuban coffee.
Why go? Toasted Cuban sandwiches, piping-hot Cuban coffee served in thimble-sized cups, authentic Cuban pastelitos made the exact same way for 40-plus years, yummy arroz con pollo...shall we go on?
What is it? Owner Suzy Batlle’s idyllic Little Havana ice cream shop, churning out delicious “Cuban” flavors inspired by her favorite childhood combinations—guava and cream cheese, café con leche and more. To find it, just look for the giant ice cream cone on Calle Ocho.
Why go? Azucar’s inspired many a copycat but its flavors, all original and made in-house, are inimitable, especially the famous Abuela María with vanilla ice cream, Maria crackers, guava and cream cheese. Don’t miss the cheeky tees by the register emblazoned with catchy Cuban idioms.
What is it? Miami’s first craft brewery set off a citywide boom, prompting many more brew houses to open nearby in Wynwood and beyond. But a visit to this unassuming warehouse with a humble taproom and lone food truck in the outskirts of the colorful neighborhood is still a must.
Why go? Wynwood Brewing’s flavor-packed blonde ale, La Rubia (which is Spanish for, you guessed it, the blonde), is crisp and refreshing. It’s available at most retailers but there’s nothing like sampling it right from the source.
What is it? Built by James Deering’s similarly well-off brother Charles as his own sophisticated winter estate, the vast property encompasses several buildings, a mangrove boardwalk and a significant archeological discovery. It’s not as grand as his brother’s digs, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
Why go? Outdoorsy types will appreciate the guided nature walks and birding opportunities. Plus, the estate boasts a fossil pit of 50,000-year-old animal bones and 10,000-year-old human remains; the latter are Paleo-Indians.
What is it? Launched during Art Basel, what began as a few commissioned murals to beautify the area has morphed into the city’s only outdoor street art park, featuring more than 40 murals from a roster of world-renowned artists.
Why go? The walls change every year during Basel, welcoming artists from around the world to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Wynwood Walls is open to the public all year round and admission is free.
What is it? Designed by iconic architectural guru Morris Lapidus in the 1950s, Lincoln Road Mall was once dubbed the “Fifth Avenue of the South,” though it’s now commonly referred to as “Lincoln.” Endless sidewalk coffee shops, lounges and cultural venues—such as the Colony Theatre—and stretch along its length from Washington Avenue to Alton Road.
Why go? The Herzog & de Meuron–designed 1111 Lincoln Road is quite possibly the world’s most glamorous parking garage and houses upscale retail on the ground level. But there’s more than several blocks of stores and boutiques to browse and shop for hours.
What is it? At the tip of serene, secluded Key Biscayne is this 400-acre state park with beach access, picnic tables, bike trails, watersport rentals and a hidden waterfront café.
Why go? A great place for families with accessible parking close to the sand, Bill Baggs is home to South Florida’s only lighthouse. Take the kids and let them climb the 109 steps to the top of the lookout.
What is it? As seen on TV and heard in rap lyrics by everyone from Kanye West to Drake, LIV sets the standard for megaclubs worldwide. Nestled inside the lobby of the historic Fontainebleau hotel—itself a backdrop for major motion pictures including Goldfinger—LIV is at once opulent and turnt beyond belief.
Why go? Afrojack, Martin Garrix and Laidback Luke hold down monthly residencies at the EDM powerhouse alongside a regular program of huge DJs and rap stars. And the stars show up to worship. On any given Sunday, you might run into Floyd Mayweather, Lil Wayne or a Kardashian.
What is it? One of South Florida’s natural jewels, this 83-acre garden, named after renowned botanist and Miami resident David Fairchild, is filled with tropical splendor: a lush rainforest with a stream, sunken garden, dramatic vistas, an enormous vine pergola and a museum of plant exploration.
Why go? A must-see is the exquisite rare plant conservatory, a stunning showcase of palms, bromeliads, orchids and ferns. Narrated tram rides (given on the hour from 10am to 3pm) give visitors a close-up look at the resident flora.
What is it? For decades, children of all ages have learned all about Florida’s array of sea creatures through visits to this Key Biscayne attraction.
Why go? It’s where you’ll catch the dolphin show (Flipper was even filmed at the Seaquarium!), jolly sea lions flapping about and the park’s most famous resident, Lolita, the killer whale.
What is it? This glorious seven-acre botanical garden was once the home of botanist Dr. David Fairchild, who went on to found the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. As chief of the Seed Section of the US Department of Agriculture in the early 20th century, Fairchild traveled the world collecting plant specimens and bringing them back here.
Why go? One of only five tropical plant research sites in the country, it’s a stunning place, with an Indonesian-inspired house set by a lagoon.
What is it? This place isn’t just for kids—with a futuristic design by Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, parents will appreciate it too. Among the interactive, educational exhibits are the colorful, mosaic-tiled Castle of Dreams, with its winding slide and a cruise ship that lets you take turns steering the make-believe vessel.
Why go? Kids can pretend to be grown-ups at a mock Bank of America, which teaches little ones about financial literacy and even lets them design their own currency, or a mini supermarket with shopping carts and checkout lanes, among other activities.
What is it? The former Decorators’ Row has expanded into a hub for vanguard architecture, fashion and art. There are several multilevel, open-air shopping complexes like Palm Court and Paradise Plaza where to shop for luxury fashion labels including Emilio Pucci and Giorgio Armani.
Why go? If your pockets aren’t deep enough for the shops, there’s always the neighborhood’s growing number of galleries and free museums, such as the ICA.
What is it? Miami’s premier contemporary art museum features a collection of works from such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Ana Mendieta—which is not to be outdone by its paradisal setting along Biscayne Bay.
Why go? Family-friendly interactive programs bring art home: during free Second Saturday (of the month) programs, museum teachers lead families in hands-on activities inspired by the works on display, while Third Thursdays play host to evenings of music and entertainment.
What is it? Possibly the most beautiful swimming pool in the world, even if it is jammed on hot days. It combines a sublime setting with freshwater, replenished nightly in summer months from a subterranean aquifer.
Why go? The only pool on the National Register of Historic Places, Venetian Pool boasts tropical foliage, waterfalls, Italian architectural touches, a cave and stone bridges.
What is it? A throwback to Florida’s fruit stands of old, Robert is Here started in 1959 when the shop’s namesake, then six, began selling his family’s cucumbers from a roadside table. It has since grown into an emporium of exotic fruit and vegetables—and a huge tourist attraction.
Why go? A lovely farm setting, a bevy of exotic fruit—which you can ask to be whipped into a fresh milk shake—and an adorable petting zoo make this worthy of the trek down (way) south.
What is it? For a taste of the old Homestead, with its abundant fruit orchards and crop fields, visit the family-run Knaus Berry Farm. You can still pick your own strawberries and tomatoes here, but most people come for the quaint bakery.
Why go? From November through April, Knaus Berry Farm is the place to score homemade (and hugely addictive) cinnamon rolls, pineapple upside-down cake and fruit milk shakes.