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The best museums in Miami to get cultured

Picasso? Basquiat? An Instagrammable installation? You’ll find it all plus more artwork at the best museums in Miami.

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The Secret World Inside You at Frost Science
Photograph: Courtesy Frost Science/Denis Finnin "The Secret World Inside You"

March 2019: Save for the tornado of creativity that sweeps through during Art Basel Miami Beach, the local art scene remains pretty consistent throughout the year. With that in mind, all of our favorite museums made the cut for this most recent update except for one, the Rubell Family Collection—which, let’s be honest, is more of a gallery than a museum. We’ve also added details on cool exhibitions to check out over the next six months. Now go get cultured.

The best museums in Miami prove this city’s status as a cultural capital of the country. Did you think people only cared about the best bars in Miami or the best clubs in South Beach? They do, but Miami is so much more than that these days. Yes, we have Art Basel to thank for a lot of that but some of these museums have been here long before any of us knew how to pronounce “Basel” and they continue to bring cutting-edge art to Miami 365 days a year. Besides being among the best things to do in Miami, these museums are great for a day out with the kids or a solo outing for the curious. At least one is very NSFW. And they all deserve your attention. 

Best museums in Miami

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PAMM
Photograph: Robin Hill
Things to do

Pérez Art Museum Miami

Downtown

What is it? PAMM is a cultural hotspot in more ways than one. Obviously, you’ll find plenty of stunning contemporary art scattered inside the modern museum. But PAMM’s waterfront steps also serve as a meeting point for Miami creatives, hosting events which range from drag shows to Q&As with legendary artists.

Why go? Because even before you walk through the door, PAMM’s interactive outdoor installations will make the trip worth it.

What’s on view: Thousands of seemingly unrelated objects and figurines in myriad shapes comprise Liliana Porter’s El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves. The installation, on view through June 2019, is a visual meditation on the concept of time—and one you don’t want to miss it.

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The Secret World Inside You at Frost Science
Photograph: Courtesy Frost Science/Denis Finnin
Things to do, Exhibitions

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Downtown

What is it? A family-friendly science museum with state-of-the-art technology and a mind-blowing planetarium. The kids are going to love bouncing from floor to floor, walking through the interactive exhibits and looking at the wildlife. And the adults are going to feel like kids again.

Why go? For Frost Planetarium’s psychedelic laser shows, set to the tune of bands like Pink Floyd and Daft Punk. They go down on the first and third Friday of the month.

What’s on view: Beginning in May 2019, Frost Science invites visitors to explore the human microbiome in a way they only could: large-scale model, interactive technologies, videos and art installations tell all about the inner workings of our bodies.

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Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities
Photogrph: Courtesy Tim Chapman Collection/HistoryMiami Museum
Things to do

HistoryMiami

Downtown

What is it? A microcosm of the city’s past and present. Anytime a famous person makes history in Miami, it’s documented here—including the time the Beatles performed sold-out shows in Miami Beach. All exhibits here are fun and interactive so kids of all ages will enjoy learning about a time they may or may not remember.

Why go? To be part of the museum’s walking tours, which tackle fascinating neighborhoods like Little Havana or Downtown and are led by the great Dr. Paul S. George.

What’s on view: “Queer Miami: A History of LGBTQ Communities” highlights South Florida’s indelible gay community through artifacts, photographs and archival footage—including memorabilia from the city’s oldest gay bars and old shots of rallies. A cool interactive component encourages visitors to share their own stories as well.

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The Bass, Miami Beach
Photograph: Courtesy the Bass
Things to do, Cultural centers

The Bass

South Beach

What is it? The centerpiece of the Collins Park’s, where you’ll find a recently renovated space that includes more exhibition space, four new galleries, a gift shop, café by Thierry Isambert and a new educational facility called the Creativity Center. Outside, you’ll find Ugo Rondinone’s colorful sculpture Miami Mountain, one of the coolest pieces of public art in the city.

Why go? For the Art After Hours happy hour, which mixes wine with educational workshops. It goes down on select Wednesday. Check the museums’ events calendar to find the next one.

What’s on view: Now through April 21, catch Texas-born Aaron Curry’s vibrant exhibit, “Tune Yer Head,” highlighting the interplay between painting, sculpture and collage. Sheila Hicks swoops in on April 13, presenting her signature two- and three-dimensional woven textiles titled “Campo Abierto (Open Field).”

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Frost Art Museum at FIU, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Frost Art Museum at FIU
Things to do

Frost Art Museum at FIU

University Park

What is it? The Frosts sure like their museums. This one (the only Smithsonian-affiliated art museum in Miami) is on the FIU campus. Permanent collections include African artifacts, pre-Columbian art and a substantial collection of American prints from the 1960s

Why go? Because admission is always free and open to the public.

What’s on view: While not as popular as its sister institution Downtown, Frost Science, Frost Art holds its own in the world of contemporary culture. In summer 2019, the museum puts on two historically significant exhibitions: “Cut: Abstraction in the United States from the 1970s to the Present,” examining the seminal works of a multigenerational group of abstract artists, and “Art after Stonewall,” a survey of 200-plus works created in response to the Stonewall Riots of 1969.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Bruno Frontino
Things to do, Event spaces

Museum of Contemporary Art

North Miami

What is it? A museum a bit off the beaten path and more low key than the museums clustered in downtown Miami. You’ll still find big Art Basel debuts and avant-garde exhibitions from international artists here, though.

Why go? For the free, outdoor Jazz at the MOCA, an absolutely charming affair that takes place on the last Friday of the month and is 100 percent free.

What’s on view: Opening April 2019, “PÒTOPRENS: The Urban Artists of Port-au-Prince” presents works by 20 artists working in the Haitian capital. The vibrant exhibit features sculptures, photographs and films that depict street life, religious mythology and diverging cultures on the island.

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Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
Photograph: Iwan Baan
Things to do, Cultural centers

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

Design District

What is it? Hip, trendy, sleek and—best of all—free! ICA Miami presents contemporary works and site-specific installations across six galleries and a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden. You won’t spend hours and hours here but it’s a perfect dose of wonderfully curated works.

Why go? Because not only is the museum great, but the parking garage across the street is perhaps the funkiest building in all of Miami. You’ve really got to see this thing.

What’s on view: “William N. Copley: The Coffin They Carry You Off In” piques our most morbid curiosities with humor. A collection of cartoonish motifs created by the artist from 1956 to 1958 explore topics of nationalism, eroticism and art history in American and European culture.

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Wolfsonian-FIU, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Wolfsonian-FIU
Things to do, Cultural centers

Wolfsonian-FIU

South Beach

What is it? A cultural island flanked by nightclubs and late-night eateries. Its permanent collections offer a fascinating perspective into various historical events told through elements of design: paintings, graphic designs and advertising. It is the perfect place to put away your phone and appreciate the older forms of human rhetoric.

Why go? Because it’s free every Friday from 6 to 9pm—and in Miami Beach, the word “free” is rare.

What’s on view: Fancy fabrics are having a moment at the Wolfsonian–FIU. “Made in Italy: MITA Textile Design 1926–1976” pulls together carpets tapestries, scarves and other printed materials designed by the likes of Gio Ponti, Fortunato Depero and Enrico Paulucci, among several European masters—which showcases Italy’s singular approach to industry and design.

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Lowe Art Museum, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Lowe Art Museum
Things to do

Lowe Art Museum

Coral Gables

What is it? A museum courtesy of the University of Miami. This place was actually the first art museum in Miami (opened in 1950) and paved the way for a number of newcomers and introduced the city to international artists thanks to a number of traveling exhibitions it welcomes annually.

Why go? To stroll Lowe’s lovely sculpture garden on UM’s campus while reminiscing about your own college years.

What’s on view: Contemporary artist James Prosek’s exploration of humanity as it relates to the environment is as amusing as it is instructive. On view through June 2019, “Contra Naturam/Against Nature” takes a critical look at South Florida’s rapidly evolving ecosystem.

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 Miami Children's Museum
Photograph: Courtesy Miami Children's Museum
Things to do

Miami Children’s Museum

Miami

What is it? A museum for the little dudes. No fancy champagne or strict rules here. Most of the museum operates as an interactive playground, giving children the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences and activities designed to coincide with the Miami-Dade Public Schools curriculum.

Why go? Remember that big piano Tom Hanks plays with his feet in Big? They have one.

What’s on view: The adorable “Pirate Island” returns to the museum, giving little ones the opportunity to roam a real ship through May 2019. kids can blast cannons, walk the plank, handle ropes and even dress up as part of the adventure.

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Coral Gables Museum, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Coral Gables Museum
Things to do

Coral Gables Museum

Coral Gables

What is it? A place where you can learn all about Coral Gables history. The historic building is the former site of the city’s old fire and police stations and will give you some perspective into one of Miami’s most lavish areas. The museum also offers waterway canoe tours on the last Sunday of the month.

Why go? Coral Gables Museum is smack in the middle of the neighborhood’s most vibrant area, which means you can make an afternoon out of the trip.

What’s on view: Not much of a medical neighborhood these days, Coral Gables was once the center of children’s healthcare. “Physicians to Children,” on view through May, explores the history of the neighborhood’s pediatric clinic through documents, photographs and fascinating medical equipment.

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World Erotic Art Museum, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Alys Tomlinson
Things to do, Cultural centers

World Erotic Art Museum

South Beach

What is it? Home of the six-foot-tall penis, an impressively diverse collection of sex toys and even a Picasso. The 12,000-square-foot World Erotic Art Museum pays homage to erotic expression in the erotic land of South Beach.

Why go? The penis collection. Enough said.

What’s on view: WEAM offers all sorts of programming, from talks and roundtable discussions to nude sketching. Whether it’s through conversations, art or general immersion, there’s really no safer space to express your sexuality than at WEAM.

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Gold Coast Railroad Museum, Museums and attractions, Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Gold Coast Railroad Museum
Things to do

Gold Coast Railroad Museum

Miami

What is it? You'll find the Gold Coast Railroad Museum only a hop, skip and a jump away from Zoo Miami. Here you can wander through trains and carriages of yore. Since it's a relaxed affair, it's perfect for family day trips, and kids can enjoy a ride on the Edwin Link Children’s Railroad for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Why go? You can see the train car that carried presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and, for one day during the 1984 election campaign, Ronald Reagan.

What’s on view: The railroad museum seldom rotates its trains but this spring is prime time for a visit. Though after a brief closure to spruce up the place, it reopens to the public this weekend (March 16). Bonus: admission is waived every first Saturday of the month.

Looking for more cultural adventures around the city?

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