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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Photograph: Courtesy Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The best Miami attractions for any type of tourist or local

Explore the best of the Magic City at these Miami attractions, featuring historic sites, cultural centers and more

By Virginia Gil and Ryan Pfeffer

December 2019: Miami’s list of top attractions is pretty standard, but we’ve shuffled around our ranking to better reflect what’s relevant. Winter in Miami means heading outdoors to enjoy places like Zoo Miami without the stifling humidity. It’s also when Fairchild Botanic Garden hosts it’s delicious Chocolate Garden festival, featuring a weekend’s worth of cocoacentric events. Plus, the weather’s ripe for exploring the rest of Miami's splendid parks, which you'll find listed here. 

Not all Miami vacations are built around sun, sand and nightclubs. Those interested in taking a break from the South Beach scene and nightlife ruckus will find all sorts of fun things to do at the best Miami attractions—and we’re not talking about the best Miami beaches. Venture off the city’s busy strip and you’ll discover grand estates worth exploring, impactful memorials and cultural centers and fascinating Miami museums the whole family will appreciate, among numerous other things to do in Miami. Ready to sightsee? The best Miami attractions have something for every type of curious traveler.  

Best of the city under one roof

Time Out Market Miami
Photograph: Arévalo Photography

Time Out Market Miami

Restaurants South Beach

What is it?  The best chefs, restaurants and bars in Miami comingle at this South Beach food hall, curated by our very own editors. From the music you’ll hear and the art you’ll see to the delicious dishes you’ll taste, everything was handpicked for your enjoyment. 

Why go? It’s a culinary sampling of the city’s best eats—and you’ll only have to make one trip to try it all. In the mood for a burger? You’ll find the city’s best at Kush. Eating clean more your thing? Love Life Cafe’s vegan menu is packed with superfoods and all the flavor.

Best Miami attractions

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

Things to do Event spaces Coconut Grove

What is it? Built by Chicago magnate James Deering as his winter estate, this sprawling waterfront mansion is the idyllic backdrop of numerous (expensive) weddings and quinceañera photoshoots.

Why go? When it’s not being used for celebrations, the palatial estate and its manicured gardens are ripe for exploring. Check it out on weekends when Vizcaya hosts full moon parties, outdoor yoga classes and other community events.

Time Out tip: Use your Miami-Dade Library card to check out free passes for up to four people. 

Venetian Pool
Photograph: Shutterstock/Marco Borghini

2. Venetian Pool

Things to do Coral Gables

What is it? The only public pool in the city worth its weight in chlorine, Venetian Pool, first designed in 1923 by Coral Gables mastermind George Merrick, remains a fanciful Mediterranean postcard with waterfalls, a grotto and plenty of room to swim.

Why go? Go for a dip in the city’s only quarry. Even during Miami’s scorching-hot summers, the 820,000-gallon pool remains cool thanks to the underground aquifer used to fill it with fresh water. 

Time Out tip: Coral Gables residents score discounted admission to the pool. Make friends in the neighborhood and enjoy the facilities for more than half-off. Alternatively, frequent visitors should consider an annual pass for unlimited entry. 

Miami Seaquarium
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Miami Seaquarium

Things to do Cultural centers

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 jolly sea lions flapping about and the park’s most famous resident, Lolita, the killer whale. Bonus points: Flipper was filmed at the Seaquarium.

Time Out tip: The park offers animal encounters where the whole family can go for a dip with a group of adorable dolphins. 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Photograph: Courtesy Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

4. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Things to do Miami

What is it? Pretty gardens are hard to come by in scorching-hot Miami, so we’re extra grateful for places like Fairchild, whose diligent groundskeepers and volunteers keep it looking fresh and verdant year-round. Plus, with 83-acres of rare plants and flowers, you’ll never get tired of exploring.

Why go? Take a morning or afternoon stroll through these stunning surroundings and escape the South Beach bustle. Not one for greenery? Visit during the annual chocolate festival in January—a delicious event dedicated to all things cocoa.

Time Out tip: Spring for a membership and take advantage of after-hours programming (like current fave NightGarden) for free. Deals change seasonally but often include a perk to one of the garden’s exciting festivals. 

Jungle Island
Photograph: Courtesy Jungle Island

5. Jungle Island

Things to do Event spaces Miami

What is it? Located on Watson Island between South Beach and mainland Miami, Jungle Island is a sanctuary for birds, exotic animals and local wildlife. The lush, verdant facilities make for a unique zoo experience.

Why go? Jungle Island has grown to include more than wildlife. Families can visit and experience the SuperFlight, a sky diving simulation that takes place inside a wind tunnel while groups can outsmart their way through an escape room. For animal lovers, the park offers new hands-on encounters and feeding experiences.

Time Out tip: Jungle Island is open 365 days a year, making it the perfect family outing on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day when visiting a Chinese restaurant might be your only option. 

Miami Beach Botanical Garden, big foot
© Danxoneil on Flickr

6. Miami Beach Botanical Garden

Things to do South Beach

What is it? A small but charming oasis in bustling Miami Beach, the botanical garden offers 2.6 acres of lush greenery.

Why go? Kill some time in between stops or snap a quick Instagram with a pineapple in the edible garden. Guided tours are available Saturdays at 11am.

Deering Estate
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Ricardo Porven

7. Deering Estate

Things to do Palmetto Bay

What is it? Up the road from Vizcaya, is brother Charles Deering’s waterfront estate. It’s far less flashy but a hit with nature lovers—mangroves, salt marshes and an Indian burial ground make up its 400-plus acres.

Why go? Mark your calendars for the annual seafood festival (stone crabs!) and regular music programming.

Time Out tip: Deering offers monthly night hikes, featuring guided walks through the premises’ 444 acres and a group campfire with s’mores. It’s the perfect wintertime activity for budding naturalists. 

Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Patrick Emerson

8. Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach

Things to do Cultural centers South Beach

What is it? A free, outdoor memorial erected in 1984 to honor those lost during the holocaust.

Why go? See the striking sculpture of Love and Anguish by Kenneth Treister in real life. the 40-foot-tall hand outstretched toward the sky is a powerful and necessary sight to behold up close. 

Time Out tip: Spend some time exploring the grounds at sunset. The light reflecting against the pond and thousands of named etched into the memorial wall is a remarkable sight. 

The Kampong, Sights and attractions, Things to do, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy The Kampong/Daderot

9. The Kampong

Things to do Coconut Grove

What is it? Kampong is home to nearly 600 trees and more than 200,000 varieties of plants and crops.

Why go? A portion of the grounds sustained considerable damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017 but valiant recovery efforts have all but completely restored the tropical oasis (including erecting its famous 50-ton baobab tree from Tanzania, which founder David Fairchild planted himself in 1928). 

Time Out tip: Reservations are required to visit the nine-acre property so we recommend planning your day here in advance. Self-guided tours are available but we suggest the guided option to really get a sense for the bountiful space.

Zoo Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Zoo Miami/Ron Magill

10. Zoo Miami

Things to do Miami

What is it? From reptiles and amphibians to primates, the cageless zoo is home to hundreds of species.

Why go? Kids will love the carousel rides and splash zones (especially during the hot summer months) while parents look forward to pedaling around the park in Safari Cycle bikes, which fit up to five family members.

Time Out tip: Book a behind-the-scenes tour and take your kiddo beyond the enclosures. These guided experiences go in-depth with the animal care team and are safe and fun for little ones.

Wat Buddharangsi
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Naty K.

11. Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple

Things to do Cultural centers Redlands

What is it? Home to and run entirely by monks, this gilded Buddhist temple in Homestead welcomes people from all walks of life.

Why go? Bet you didn’t think you’d find a spot this serene in Miami? Kick off your shoes and join the monks in daily prayer or walk the tranquil grounds for a moment of personal meditation. A cultural landmark for Miami’s Thai community, the wat works closely with the Thai-American organization to host holiday festivals throughout the year.

Time Out tip: The wat welcomes all. Don’t be afraid to join in on prayer during your visit. 

Cape Florida Lighthouse
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Bill Dickinson

12. Cape Florida Lighthouse

Things to do Key Biscayne

Why go? Key Biscayne’s Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is home to South Florida’s oldest lighthouse—which guided sailors to safety throughout the 19th century. 

What is it? Once you’re through swimming and soaking up the sun off the coast of Key Biscayne, climb the 112 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Free guided tours are available Thursday through Monday.

Time Out tip: Catch the sunset from Lighthouse Café, the waterfront restaurant tucked away inside the park. 

Coral Castle Museum, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Coral Castle Museum

13. Coral Castle Museum

Things to do Leisure City

What is it? A bizarre but captivating outdoor sculpture garden that was apparently the work of just one man, Ed Leedskalnin, who channeled a broken heart into hulking works of coral.

Why go? If you can’t make it to the Taj Mahal, Coral Castle is a worthy runner-up as far as grand gestures go. Visit on the first weekend of the month for psychic Saturday, featuring palm readers and fortune tellers.

Time Out tip: Every year during Valentine’s Day, the museum hosts a massive vow renewal ceremony should you want to reaffirm your love surrounded by thousands of your closest friends. 

Grab a quick—and cheap!—bite while you sightsee


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