May 2019: Miami’s list of top attractions is pretty standard, but we’ve shuffled around our ranking to better reflect what’s relevant (the summer heat has arrived, which means we’re gearing up for a trip to Venetian Pool) and what’s new (foodies, rejoice: Time Out Market Miami is finally open!).
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 Miami attractions
What is it? The place to go and experience the best of the city under one roof. Curated by our editors, Time Out Market Miami brings together 18 of the top restaurants, chefs and bars to South Beach for your dining pleasure.
Why go? It’s a culinary sampling of the city, featuring new concepts from the best toques in Miami. 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.
What is it? Built by Chicago magnate James Deering as his winter estate, this sprawling waterfront mansion is the idyllic backdrop of (expensive) weddings and quinceañera photoshoots.
Why go? When it’s not being used for celebrations, the palatial estate and its manicured gardens is ripe for exploring. Check it out on weekends when Vizcaya hosts full moon parties, outdoor yoga classes and other community events.
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.
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.
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—a delicious event dedicated to all things cocoa.
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.
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.
What is it? 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.
Why go? The jarring sculpture, which depicts a massive bronze hand bursting from the earth, is a powerful and necessary sight to behold.
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.
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). Reservations are required to visit the nine-acre property so we recommend planning your day here in advance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What is it? This Romanesque structure is an anomalous oasis in a noisy area. Its monastery is a popular site for weddings; we suggest calling ahead before a weekend visit.
Why go? 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.