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Miami Design District
Photograph: Luis GomezMiami Design District

The best things to do in Miami

From top restaurants and essential experiences to this month's popular events, these are the best things to do in Miami

Virginia Gil
Falyn Wood
Written by
Virginia Gil
Contributor
Falyn Wood
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December 2021: As the seasons change in Miami (albeit subtly), so too do its offerings of best things to do. Art Basel may be over, but its creative afterglow leaves the city with notable museum openings, immersive exhibits, and art-making classes months after the tents go down. The start of the holiday season brings festive pop-ups along with a packed performing arts schedule, and friendlier weather makes visiting Miami’s famed historic gardens and waterfront parks all the more enjoyable.

Locals and tourists can agree that the best things to do in Miami extend beyond lounging on the sand—though it goes without saying that spending some time on the best Miami beaches is fundamental to life in the 305. In the wintertime particularly, Miami is better known for its thriving cultural scene led by events like Art Basel and neighborhoods such as Wynwood, which every year turns over a brand new facade with the spate of fresh murals that debut during Miami Art Week. And lest we miss out on one of the most important aspects of life in the Magic City—eating!—it’s worth mentioning the booming culinary scene and the host of award-winning Miami restaurants that abound, many of whom we’ve invited to join us at Time Out Market Miami. In between sunbathing, swimming and sipping cocktails, check off these essential Miami experiences. By the way, this list is curated, as always, but isn’t ranked—we just couldn’t choose favorites.

Time Out Market Miami
  • Restaurants
  • South Beach
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? This food-and-culture destination in South Beach boasts some of the best dining in the city, all hand-picked by our editors.

Why go? Time Out Miami takes all these amazing chefs, restaurants and dishes that we rave about online and gets them all together in one place for the perfect culinary sample of a city. 

Don’t miss: This summer, Time Out Market Miami doubled down on happy hour with a late-night option on Friday and Saturday from 9pm to 11pm, featuring $8 cocktails, $7 wine and $5 beers. Welome to your new pre-game destination. 

Best things to do in Miami

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Miami Beach
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? The bar that started it all. Without the Broken Shaker, we’d still be ordering vodka-sodas and flavoring our drinks with cranberry juice.

Why go? For the tropi-cool vibes you can only get hanging poolside at Miami’s OG cocktail bar. If you’re hanging in a group, try one of the epic punches—they’re seasonal and a boozy bang-for-your-buck. The rotating list of daily specials is great too if you’re not into sharing.

Don’t miss: The upstairs lounge above the adjacent 27 Restaurant is now its own nightlife enterprise called the Eagle Room. It’s hot, sweaty and will keep you dancing till late.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Allapattah

What is it? A massive 50,000-square-foot art space dedicated to the production of experiential mediums.

Why go? With so many so-called Instagrammable installations floating about, it’s hard to get excited about anything that bills itself as experiential or immersive—but that’s not Superblue Miami. Featuring brand new works by some of the art world’s most notable artists, the groundbreaking venture challenges perceptions, heightens the senses and generally wows with its thoughtfully curated exhibition. On view this season: works by Es Devlin, James Turrell and teamLab.

Don’t miss: TeamLab’s Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life is an add-on to the regular price of admission, but there’s no question you’ll want to experience it. The is space filled from floor to ceiling with giant floating clouds made out of foam and you’ll have a ball walking through it, playing in it and taking all the pictures. It’s Instagram gold.

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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Coconut Grove

What is it? Miami’s number one attraction is a surreal Italian Renaissance-style villa in the middle of lush, laid-back Coconut Grove. Its meticulously landscaped gardens, sprawling bayfront terrace and, well, the house itself, make up a total of 43 acres.

Why go? Vizcaya makes for the most fetching photo backdrop in the city (just ask the quinceañeras and brides roaming about) and its inimitable collection of European antiques and decorative works from the 16th to 19th centuries is truly breathtaking. Need to up your social game? Vizcaya is home to some of Miami’s most Instagrammable floors and staircases.

Don’t miss: Vizcaya’s event calendar is packed with free activities that are accessible year-round.

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Wynwood

What is it? The city’s first and only outdoor museum dedicated to street art.

Why go? The decade-old cultural institution is the famed epicenter of the Wynwood Arts District, legitimizing graffiti art with a roster of more than 50 murals painted by renowned artists around the world—from Shepard Fairey and Kenny Scharf to Kelsey Montague. Vibrant in color, deep in meaning and large in scope, the groundbreaking Walls are the undisputed selfie capital of Miami and chances are you’ll recognize some of the murals from the profile pics in your Insta feed.

Don’t miss: The Walls welcomes folks to do more than browse street art. This winter, stop in for guided tours on the history of graffiti, mural-painting classes and more artistic programming you won’t find anywhere else.

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

What is it? Miracle Bar, the Christmas-themed, boozy wonderland that first popped up at Gramps in Wynwood in 2018 and then again in 2019, resurfaces with a second location at The Doral Yard. Both outposts will open on the Friday after Thanksgiving and run through December 26. 

Why go? Who needs snow when you have festive cocktails to signal the start of the holiday season? Expect themed nights, tacky sweater contests, barbershop quartets and Mariah Carey’s holiday classic on loop: All we really want for Christmas is you, Miracle.

Don’t miss: The Snowball Old-Fashioned made with rye whiskey and gingerbread. Lest you think about swiping the cute drinking vessels and landing yourself on the naughty list this year, Miracle will also be selling all of its glassware. 

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Downtown

What is it? Spanning across a massive 250,000 square feet, the new Frost Science (an upgrade from its previous Coconut Grove location) occupies four buildings—the Aquarium, the Frost Planetarium and the North and West Wings—features year-round exhibits and is a delight for curious minds of all ages.

Why go? Frost Science is as state-of-the-art as it gets, featuring interactive opportunities, a 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream aquarium that houses all sorts of sea creatures and a planetarium dome that hosts biweekly laser light shows.

Don’t miss: Its newest interactive exhibit, Mammoths: Ice Age Giants, the centerpiece of which is a freestanding, life-size woolly mammoth skeleton whose head grazes the gallery’s ceiling.

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  • Nightlife
  • Clubs
  • Miami Beach
  • price 4 of 4

What is it? Miami Beach’s biggest—and most famous—nightclub is back in business at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

Why go? Who needs Vegas when you’ve got LIV? Since reopening, the crown jewel of nightlife has pulled in more top-tier talent than ever before—not to mention the throngs of celebrities partying it up till dawn. It’s a tough door but well worth the effort.

Don’t miss: The latest name on LIV’s proverbial marquee. Whomever it is, it’s sure to be major.

  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • Omni

What is it? After many delays, a budget overrun and a few name changes, this spectacular $500 million César Pelli creation opened in Downtown Miami in 2006.

Why go? The striking postmodern architecture alone makes it worth a visit. But the fact that it’s home to the Florida Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet, and occasionally hosts the New World Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, doesn’t hurt either.

Don't miss: Touring Broadway shows this season include Hairspray, Dear Evan Hansen, Jesus Christ Superstar and more. Icelandic avant-pop goddess Björk will also make her live Miami debut this winter with an acoustic performance backed by a 32-piece orchestra.

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  • Shopping
  • Shopping centers
  • Mid-Beach

What is it? Designed by iconic architectural guru Morris Lapidus in the 1950s, Lincoln Road Mall was once dubbed the “Fifth Avenue of the South,” though it’s now commonly referred to as “Lincoln.” Endless sidewalk cafés, lounges and cultural venues—such as the Colony Theatre—stretch along its length from Washington Avenue to Alton Road.

Why go? The Herzog & de Meuron–designed 1111 Lincoln Road is quite possibly the world’s most glamorous parking garage and houses upscale retail on the ground level. But there are more than several blocks of stores and boutiques to browse and shop for hours.

Don’t miss: Lincoln Road continues to expand its offerings with a growing list of pop-ups that stick around longer than expected—which is a good thing! Catch plant store Plant Daddy and Sol + Sorbet among other not-so-temporary shops while you can.

  • Restaurants
  • CafĂ©s
  • East Little Havana
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Authentic cuisine, cocktails and culture—this charming Cuban restaurant in Little Havana packs the neighborhood’s hallmarks into one inviting spot.

Why go? It’s rare to find a place that ticks off all the boxes of a proper touristic experience and also captures the attention of locals. James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein is behind the stellar menu, featuring favorites like the irresistible jamón serrano croquettes, hand-cut steak empanadas and risotto-style arroz con pollo. While decorated cantinero Julio Cabrera mixes up all kinds of cocktails

Don’t miss: The house band playing Trova-style music nightly. Let the sounds of Cuban son sweep you away!

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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Wynwood

What is it? Everything you like about a hotel—think fun lobby, hip coffee counter, cool bar dotted with beautiful people—minus the rooms.

Why go? Play all day and go home to your very own bed at night. It’s the sweetest deal if you ask us. Freehold Miami has areas to get work done and take meetings, booths to meet friends for a cocktail when business turns to pleasure and a large outdoor area serving a full menu of drinks and bites from day to night. If hotel hangs at places like the Ace and the Standard are your nightlife vibe, you’ll have found a home at Freehold Miami.

Don’t miss: Everything is half-off at the bar during happy hour. Stop in on weekdays for $7 ’tinis and spring for a half-off pizza to nosh on while you sip.

  • Things to do
  • Omni

What is it? Beyond Monet: The Immersive Experience is a multisensory art experience at Ice Palace Studios that is brought to life with cutting-edge projection technology, music and sound effects.

Why go? To take advantage of the fact that Miami is the only U.S. city currently scheduled to host the globe-trotting exhibit. The beloved impressionist artist’s most famous artworks, like Water Lilies, break free from their frames to surround and encapsulate the viewer.

Don’t miss: Be sure to snap a surreal selfie in The Infinity Room, one of the defining elements of the Beyond Monet exhibit.

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  • Things to do
  • Miami

What is it? One of South Florida’s natural jewels, this 83-acre garden, named after renowned botanist and Miami resident David Fairchild, is filled with tropical splendor: a lush rainforest with a stream, sunken garden, dramatic vistas, an enormous vine pergola and a museum of plant exploration.

Why go? It’s about the easiest, most scenic place to socially distance right now. And there are plenty of shady corners that provide respite from the summer heat.

Don’t miss: The botanical beauty ups programming through the winter, hosting holiday-themed festivities, dog-friendly events, painting classes, farmers’ markets and other outdoor activities. Check their website for the latest.  

  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions

What is it? Acclaimed British artist Bruce Munro, whose works have been shown at the V&A Museum, London and the Guggenheim, New York, was tapped by Pinecrest Gardens to create one of his trademark, immersive light installations, inspired by the area’s unique landscape and vegetation.

Why go? On view through March 6, this one-of-a-kind piece features more than 6,000 fiber-optic illuminated glass spheres that cascade across several acres, shimmering and morphing in gently blooming color. To sum it up simply, it's stunning.

Don’t miss: Munro's site-specific installation for Pinecrest Gardens showcases his most acclaimed artwork, Field of Light, in two iterations, so be sure to check out both. Find the orbs spread across the garden's tropical forest and on the banks of its lake.

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  • Shopping
  • Lifestyle
  • South Beach

What is it? Find a slice of old-world Europe right in the middle of South Beach. Española Way is a charming, pedestrian strip lined with shops, restaurants and cozy, bilevel hotels that transport you to far-flung places.

Why go? Much larger Lincoln Road may have overshadowed it at one point, but the bustling tourist corridor is attracting more locals than ever before with its sidewalk eateries and free outdoor programming. Experience Paris’ café culture at enduring favorite A La Folie Café, serving up hard-to-find French classics. Drink your way down the tree-lined street’s mix of open-air bars and restaurants, stopping to take in the live music and unique people-watching, and get away from Miami without the need to go very far.

Don’t miss: One of lockdown’s best home chefs, Ben Murray, just opened his Vietnamese sandwich shop, Benh Mi, and there's a fried chicken banh mi you'll want to try ASAP. 

  • Things to do
  • Key Biscayne

What is it? At the tip of serene, secluded Key Biscayne is this 400-acre state park with beach access, picnic tables, bike trails, and watersport rentals.

Why go? A great place for families with accessible parking close to the sand, Bill Baggs is home to South Florida’s only lighthouse. Take the kids and let them climb the 109 steps to the top of the lookout.

Don’t miss: Boater’s Grill is one of Miami’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away at a far corner of the park, the waterfront spot provides free docking for small vessels and serves moderately priced breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Allapattah

What is it? Don and Mera Rubell’s eponymous museum houses nearly 7,200 works by more than 1,000 contemporary artists. From Basquiat and Warhol to Koons, the whos-who of 20th-century artists is well represented.

Why go? It’s a former warehouse the couple turned into a sprawling exhibition space after outgrowing their Wynwood gallery of more than 26 years. With 53,000 square feet to play with, the Rubells have room to exhibit as well as engage the community via school partnerships and curatorial training programs.

Don’t miss: Dig into elevated tapas at Leku, the onsite Basque restaurant that’s every bit as enchanting as the contemporary art collection you just witnessed.

  • Things to do
  • Palmetto Bay

What is it? Built by James Deering’s similarly well-off brother Charles as his own sophisticated winter estate, the vast property encompasses several buildings, a mangrove boardwalk and a significant archeological discovery. 

Why go? Outdoorsy types will appreciate the guided nature walks and birding opportunities. Plus, the estate boasts a fossil pit of 50,000-year-old animal bones and 10,000-year-old human remains; the latter are Paleo-Indians.

Don’t miss: As the weather cools, Deering ups its programming, including this month's Historic Holidays Evening Stroll, which takes visitors on a tour of the estate's glamorous decor by some of South Florida’s top interior designers, led by Designer in Residence Alfredo Brito.

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • South Beach

What is it? What began in 1964 as a small, private collection of contemporary art is now an internationally recognized institution with hundreds of pieces within its multiple halls. The 1930s Art Deco building also has meeting areas and classrooms for family-friendly programming, though some of that is on hold for now.

Why go? The Bass’s permanent collections, as well as its traveling exhibitions, comprise art people actually want to see—and Instagram (the real reason we go to museums these days, right?). Think large-scale works made up of found objects that probe us and a site-specific work of LED signs that make you feel at home.

Don’t miss: Spend some time on the lawn exploring the museum’s public art, including Jim Drain’s chess table, Ugo Rondinone’s unmissable Miami Mountain and Najja Moon’s monument to motherhood, Your momma’s voice in the back of your head, which debuted this past spring.

  • Shopping
  • Redlands

What is it? A throwback to Florida’s fruit stands of old, Robert is Here started in 1959 when the shop’s namesake, then six, began selling his family’s cucumbers from a roadside table. It has since grown into an emporium of exotic fruit and vegetables—and a huge tourist attraction.

Why go? A lovely farm setting, a bevy of exotic fruit—which you can ask to be whipped into a fresh milk shake—and an adorable petting zoo make this worthy of the trek down (way) south.

Don’t miss: Beyond sourcing nearly every type of fruit available, Robert is Here stocks “Grandma’s Kitchen,” its small general store, with local honey, artisanal bread and other yummy, Miami-made treats. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Brickell
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? A stunning rooftop bar that sits atop East, Miami, rewarding those who venture up with 360-views of the city and Asian-themed cocktails. It’s a bougie crowd, so dress accordingly.

Why go? While a rooftop bar on the mainland might not instantly seem like an essential thing to do in the city, Sugar is deserving of its spot on the list. At 40 floors, it’s the tallest bar in Miami and its secluded, storybook garden setting is like none other.

Don’t miss: Come before the crowds to catch an absolutely stunning sunset over the Miami skyline. Stick around for the lively after-dinner crowd, or bop around Downtown after wetting your beak to find less pricy drinking options.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours

What is it? This massive national park spans 1.5 million acres of wetlands. See alligators, cranes, turtles, manatees and even panthers roam their native habitat freely.

Why go? There’s no place in the world like it, and it’s within driving distance of downtown Miami. With three separate entrances, visitors can explore on foot, on a bicycle and via boat.

Don’t miss: Have you ever zipped to marshes on an airboat? It’s the most exhilarating way to see the Everglades, and now’s your chance.

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  • Restaurants
  • Cuban
  • West Little Havana
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? This self-proclaimed “most famous Cuban restaurant in the world” is arguably more popular than its palatial namesake in France. The Little Havana institution is the unofficial meeting place for the city’s Cuban community, who crowd the cafecito window 24/7 sipping on Cuban coffee.

Why go? Toasted Cuban sandwiches, piping-hot Cuban coffee served in thimble-sized cups, authentic Cuban pastelitos made the exact same way for 40-plus years, yummy arroz con pollo...shall we go on?

Don’t miss: Versaille’s adjacent bakery (it all connects inside) doubles as a charming dessert shop selling mini flans and key lime pies as well as Cuban-inspired ice cream. Get your meal to-go or take advantage of the large tents in the parking lot, offering loads of socially distant outdoor dining.

  • Shopping
  • Designer
  • Design District
  • price 4 of 4

What is it? The former Decorators’ Row has expanded into a hub for vanguard architecture, fashion and art. There are several multilevel, open-air shopping complexes like Palm Court and Paradise Plaza where to shop for luxury fashion labels including Emilio Pucci and Giorgio Armani. 

Why go? If your pockets aren’t deep enough for the shops, there’s always the neighborhood’s growing number of galleries, a slew of public art and free museums, such as the ICA.

Don’t miss: The food! From Michelin-starred Cote and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon to hometown darling Itamae, some of the best meals in Miami are within walking distance.

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  • Things to do
  • Miami
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? The city’s premier wildlife center is home to thousands of animals, from reptiles to mammals to birds. The sprawling facility spans across 750 acres and is the largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida.

Why go? Due to the zoo’s sub-tropical temps, species native to Australia, Africa and other warm climates comfortably reside here. Forget a safari—Zoo Miami is where you’ll safely spot zebras, giraffes and lions. 

Don’t miss: Hop on a Safari Cycle (with room for up to six riders) and see it all without tiring yourself out.

  • Nightlife
  • Clubs
  • Park West
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? Miami’s 24/7 ultraclub is a playground for celebrities and hard-partying locals alike.

Why go? If you’re in the mood for going all out, E11even has you covered with a full nightlife experience—think dancers, bottle service and tons of big-name musical performances. 

Don’t miss: The people-watching. Sit back and take it all in.

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What is it: To the unenlightened, this might seem like a patch of grass with some limestone benches but the Miami Circle is actually a national historic landmark smack in the middle of Brickell.

Why go: The archeological dig preserves the history of Miami’s earliest inhabitants, the Tequesta Indians. A local developer discovered the site, which is believed to be somewhere between 1,700 and 2,000 years old.

Don’t miss: Today, it’s a dog-friendly, waterfront park where locals picnic, watch the boats go by and find a peaceful respite from the Brickell commotion.

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