Best Miami attractions
Chicago magnate James Deering built the waterfront mansion as his winter estate more than 100 years ago. Today, the grande dame of Miami real estate is the idyllic backdrop of (expensive) weddings and quinceañera photoshoots. When it’s not being used for celebrations, the palatial estate and its manicured gardens are a delight to explore.
For decades, children of all ages have learned all about Florida’s array of sea creatures through visits to this Key Biscayne attraction. 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.
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. Not one for greenery? Visit during the annual chocolate festival—a delicious event dedicated to all things cocoa.
A small but charming oasis in bustling Miami Beach, the botanical garden offers 2.6 acres of lush greenery. 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.
Far less flashy than brother James’s Vizcaya, Charles Deering’s waterfront estate is a hit with nature lovers—mangroves, salt marshes and an Indian burial ground make up its 400-plus acres. Mark your calendars for the annual seafood festival (stone crabs!) and regular music programming.
South Florida has one of the highest populations of Holocaust survivors in America, which led to the creation of the haunting Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial in 1984. The jarring sculpture, which depicts a massive bronze hand bursting from the earth, is a powerful and necessary sight to behold.
We know, we know. Can a public pool really be worth it? Normally, we say no—but the historic Venetian Pool, first designed in 1924 by Coral Gables mastermind George Merrick, remains a fanciful Mediterranean postcard with waterfalls, a grotto and plenty of room to swim.
Michael Dezer founded the museum in part because he needed a place to display his rad collection of vehicles: the Batmobile, one of James Bond’s Aston Martins and more. The auto-erotic shrine is compartmentalized into Hollywood and Classics collections, along with military vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles.
Nicer than most gardens you’ve been to, Kampong is home to nearly 600 trees and more than 200,000 varieties of plants and crops. 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). Reservations are required to visit the nine-acre property.
From reptiles and amphibians to primates, the cageless zoo is home to hundreds of species. 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.
Everyone is welcomed at the gilded Buddhist temple in Homestead, which is home to and run entirely by monks. Kick off your shoes and join them 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.
This Romanesque structure is an anomalous oasis in a noisy area. Things to look out for include a life-size statue of the Spanish king Alfonso VII (the monastery was originally constructed to commemorate one of his victories over the Moors) and a couple of attractive stained-glass windows. The monastery is a favorite spot for weddings–so much so that it’s often closed to the public, especially on weekends; call in advance before setting out.
Once you’re through swimming and soaking up the sun off the coast of Key Biscayne, walk over to its southern tip to find South Florida’s oldest lighthouse—which guided sailors to safety throughout the 19th century. Your admission to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park includes a guided tour and access to the top.
On your way to Homestead or the keys? Do yourself a favor and stop by the Coral Castle, 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.
Grab a quick—and cheap!—bite while you sightsee
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