There’s so much to blow a wad on in the Magic City: prix-fixe dinners at the best Miami restaurants, bottle service at the glam-est Miami clubs, yacht rides, boutique shopping, amazing spas. The list goes on—even if your budget is finite. Luckily, there are equal amounts of fun to be had at no cost at all. Why not learn to dance? Or hit one of the city’s best museums? Or, if you’re feeling flexible, get all bendy at a free outdoor yoga class. If you’re looking to live it up in this city—without spending a damn cent—look no further than our list of the best things to do in Miami for free.
Best free things to do in Miami
Before Wynwood made local art cool, Miamians would scoff at the notion of spending Saturday night trolling galleries. But on the second Saturday of each month, when the neighborhood’s studios, galleries and showrooms open their doors to the public, perusing paintings is infinitely more fun than popping bottles. Stretching into up-and-coming areas (read: not yet safe for pedestrians), Wynwood Second Saturday happenings converge between Miami Avenue and Northwest Second Avenue, where you’ll also find pop-up shops from local artisans and a battery of food trucks swarmed by crowds of all ages. Traffic moves at a snail’s pace but the range of street art is enough to keep you entertained.
Big Night in Little Haiti
Every third Friday of the month, the Rhythm Foundation puts on Big Night in Little Haiti (Fri 6-10pm; $5 donation requested) at the Little Haiti Cultural Center (212 NE 59 Terrace). Bringing together Haitian culture, art, music and food, the space features a marketplace and gallery exhibiting a range of photography and art collections. Musical acts rotate monthly but have included such bands as Klass Band Brotherhood and Zing Experience, popular for blending rock and reggae with traditional Haitian beats.
Between housing a renowned restaurant (Verde), offering some of the most unobstructed views of Watson Island and the MacArthur Bridge, and providing plenty of fun, artsy seating in the form of fiberglass and polypropylene swings, the Pérez Art Museum Miami makes a strong case for its outdoor offerings. If you’re ever inclined to explore its remarkable collection of modern art, however, the time to do it is on the second Saturday of each month (1–4pm). Not only is admission waived for this monthly event, visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy hands-on activities, guided tours and guest performances, among other programming.
From exhibits that underscore responsibility and pet ownership, to hands-on activities that teach about sustainability, to an interactive bank used to educate children on financial literacy, the Miami Children’s Museum (980 MacArthur Causeway, 305-373-5437) is brimming with fun—and educational—experiences. Browse them free every third Friday of the month (3–9pm), when Target picks up the tab for admission. The museum’s art studio is also open during Target Fridays, giving kids the opportunity to explore different media through frequently changing programming in the arts.
There’s plenty of artistic ground to cover in Wynwood, so seeing it on foot may take longer than you’ve got on a weekend afternoon. To make the most of your time (and actually learn something about what it is you’re looking at), opt for an hour-long bike tour led by Ryan the Wheelbarrow of Wynwood Mural Tours. You’ll BYO bike and meet on the sidewalk just outside Panther Coffee (2390 NW 2nd Ave). The tour is free, though Ryan’s extensive knowledge of the neighborhood’s influential pieces as well as hidden gems warrants a nice tip.
Coconut Grove historic bicycle tour
There’s plenty of history to discover in Coconut Grove, Miami’s oldest community, and historian Frank Schena is just the person to tell you all about it. Join him and Royal Palm Tours of Miami on the first and third Saturday of the month (9:30am–noon) for a free bicycle tour of the area, which begins at City Hall (1500 Pan-American Dr) and includes stops at Trapp Avenue, Alice Wainwright Park and other areas of North Coconut Grove. Riders must pre-register to participate (firstname.lastname@example.org, 305-461-5506).
Yoga in parks and on rooftops
Like the Instagram hashtag goes, in Miami, the forecast calls for #yogaeverydamnday—well, most days. The best part? It’s often outdoors and free. On Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm, make your way to the Tina Hills Pavilion in Bayfront Park (301 Biscayne Blvd) for Yoga in the Park, popular among locals for the unique closing prayer you’ll remember long after you’ve left—something calming along the lines of “peace to your right, peace to your left.” Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm, Vinyasa-based classes are held at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove, and led by Dharma Studio instructors (2820 McFarlane Rd). For a two-a-day of Zen, start at the Mayfair Hotel rooftop (3000 Florida Ave, 305-461-5506) for an 8am class and follow it up with a 9am at Tina Hills.
Cyclists in Miami ride in expert mode at all times, dodging jaywalking pedestrians and bobbing and weaving through traffic. But on the last Friday of each month, Critical Mass, organized by the Miami Bike Scene, gives novices and experienced riders the opportunity to explore different parts of town unencumbered, as roads are blocked and volunteers help block major intersections for riders. Routes change monthly but always begin in Downtown Miami (Fri 7:30pm) and range from 10 to 20 miles, taking riders through Coral Gables, Little Havana and Coconut Grove, among other neighborhoods. Participants must bring their own bikes, and helmets and lights are recommended.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Christopher Neetz
Art Deco District walking tour
There’s more to South Beach than clubs and beaches, like its historic Art Deco District, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. There are approximately 800 structures with historical importance all along Collins Avenue and other neighboring streets. You may not immediately understand the significance of pastel facades, neon signage and sleek curves, so you’ll need to visit Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau for info before heading out from Ocean Drive and 5th Street.
From October through May, the façade of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center doubles as a movie screen, while adjacent Soundscape Park, a 2.5-acre public space, serves as its alfresco theater. Popular titles like Back to the Future and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are scheduled to be projected on the 7,000-square-foot wall during the ongoing series’ 2015/16 season (special New World Symphony performances are also projected in the off season). All screenings are free (schedule available here) and begin promptly at 8pm, rain or shine, and patrons are encouraged to bring blankets, chairs and refreshments.
For a different kind of Friday-night happy hour, head to the Woflsonian-FIU (1001 Washington Ave, 305-535-1001), where access to art, music and revelry are free of charge. Each week, the museum waives admission to patrons between the hours of 6pm and 9pm and offers free, guided tours that vary in theme (Halloween is on the docket for October). The Wolfsonian Café sweetens the deal with half-price beer and wine from 4pm to 9pm and live music on the third Friday of each month.
Double your dose of culture on the last Friday of the month, when the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami hosts free outdoor concerts (Fri 8pm). Previous acts have included the lively Batuke Samba Funk, mixing Brazilian rhythms with soul and funk, and the internationally influenced jazz group Carlos Gomez and the Jazz Leaders, blending Cuban Son with traditional jazz. Admission to the museum on jazz night is by donation (7–10pm) but North Miami residents, city employees, veterans and children under the age of 12 are always free.
Even if you’re not nostalgic for locomotives (or count yourself as a Thomas the Tank Engine fan), you’ll agree there’s certain magic surrounding trains. You’ll have the opportunity to judge for yourself on the first Saturday of every month (save for March) when admission is free to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum (12450 SW 152nd St, 305-253-0063), a must-see for train enthusiasts. There are trains to explore, Thomas the Tank Engine tables to play on and model exhibits and rare collection pieces to admire, including “Ferdinand Magellan,” the private railroad car built for President Franklin Roosevelt.
Miami’s oldest museum, located on the University of Miami campus, is home to a vast collection of notable Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities and on the first Tuesday of the month, you’re able to explore them free of charge. Explore the Lowe Art Museum (1301 Stanford Dr, 305-284-3535) at your leisure or stop by at 1pm for a free gallery tour and learn about the various temporary and permanent exhibits that make the art museum a favorite among coeds and Coral Gables locals.
The Bass Museum of Art (227 22 St) hosts biweekly art classes (Thu 1:30pm) for adults looking to cultivate their creativity. Programming varies for these 90-minute sessions—ranging from lectures and guided tours of the museum to drawing classes or art film screenings—aimed at furthering conversations about art in the community. Due to ongoing museum renovations, classes are temporarily held as part of bassX in the Miami Beach Regional Library.
Curious about what happens before and after curtain call? Go behind the scenes of Miami’s most popular stages at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd, 786-468-2326, email@example.com) every Monday and Saturday at noon. The hour-long tour begins in the lobby of the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House and takes patrons through various lobbies, theaters and private meeting rooms, as they learn about the building’s architecture, history and past performers.
Food Truck & Music Fest
It used to be that food trucks were a way to grab a bite on the go, but Food Truck & Music Fest (Wed 5pm), held on the fourth Wednesday of the month at North Beach Bandshell (7275 Collins Ave), proves there’s more to the roving restaurants. The family-friendly event features a restaurant lineup of Miami’s best movable eats—Arepa Box, Gastropod, Ms. Cheezious, among others—and performances by local bands Kazoots and Bluejay. Even if you skip the grub, the sites, the live music and the sound of the ocean just steps away are free to enjoy. Just BYO chair and make a night out of it.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Bob B. Brown
Don’t be the person standing by the wall while the rest of your group is tearing up the dance floor. For a crash course in salsa dancing, head to Ball & Chain on Thursday nights (8:30pm; 1513 SW 8th St) for a free hour-long class led by professional dancers. Once you’ve brushed up on traditional Son and cha-cha moves, stay and show off your newfound talents at the club’s weekly salsa party, featuring live music.
Miami leaves a lot to be desired in the way of public transportation, so an activity as mundane as taking the metro feels special. For the sake of novelty, or to feel like you’re actually in a metropolis, spend an afternoon riding the 4.4 mile-long, electrically powered train better known as the Metromover (Daily 5am–midnight). You’ll hop on at Government Center and ride around Downtown Miami for a bird’s-eye view of Bayfront Park, the Miami-Dade Courthouse and Miami-Dade College.Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Hugh Millward
An Evening at the Arts + Entertainment District
Downtown Miami’s newest cultural hub, the Arts + Entertainment District, hosts a number of free events every month—from Movies Under the Stars in partnership with the Miami International Film Festival to Sounds of Cuba, featuring performances by Miami’s Conjunto Progreso, to Soul Train, a silent disco that takes place on the Metromover. Programming and locations change often but most events take place at CANVAS (90 NE 17th St), located within the District (roughly bounded by 21st St, Interstate 395, Biscayne Bay and North Miami Ave).Photograph: Courtesy Arts + Entertainment District/Jason Koerner