November 2019: While the rest of the country prepares to hibernate, we’re ready to head outdoors to experience Miami’s most exciting seasons. Fall and winter are when our fair city truly shines, hosting a string of annual festivals and events, plus the weather is finally cool enough to enjoy beloved attractions like Jungle Island and Zoo Miami. Every December Art Basel sweeps in with its whirlwind of exhibitions and fairs. When the dust settles, we’re left with tons of public installations to enjoy through the holidays and sometimes even longer.
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.
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You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.
Best things to do in Miami
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 like waterfront yoga (we hear neighbor Christian Slater is a fan), jazz-age parties and arts and crafts for the kiddos.
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: Get lost in “A Mirror Maze: Numbers in Nature,” taking the natural world’s mathematical patterns as its theme. Imported from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, each of the interactive sculptures uses numbers to help visitors see with fresh eyes the beauty of the world that surrounds them, such as the nested spirals of a sunflower seed and the majestic ridges of a mountain range.
What is it? A world-renowned bar—and for good reason. Not only has it been rejuvenated since it was first established back in the 1930’s, but this historical venue has also had some musical legends pass through its doors, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker.
Why go? For starters, there’s free salsa dancing lessons on Tuesday night, live jazz on weekday evenings and heaps of more gratis programming that takes place on the whimsical pineapple stage out back. And let’s not forget the mojitos—they’re pretty spectacular and should take center stage.
Don’t miss: Listen up, ladies. Every Wednesday, women drink free from 8 to 10pm—and there’s gratis karaoke to make sure that liquid courage doesn’t go to waste.
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.
What is it? Miami’s first craft brewery set off a citywide boom, prompting many more brew houses to open nearby in Wynwood and beyond. But a visit to this unassuming warehouse with a humble taproom and lone food truck in the outskirts of the colorful neighborhood is still a must.
Why go? Wynwood Brewing’s flavor-packed blonde ale, La Rubia (which is Spanish for, you guessed it, the blonde), is crisp and refreshing. It’s available at most retailers but there’s nothing like sampling it right from the source.
Don’t miss: Save a few bucks on your brews to-go during Wynwood’s daily growler hour from noon to 1pm, when filling up one of the brewery’s growlers or crowlers is half price. Wednesdays brings an extra hour of savings, from 5 to 6pm.
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: If city pollution is getting in the way of your stargazing, head to Deering for its monthly moonrise viewing. The Southern Cross Astronomical Society supplies the telescopes, making sure everyone gets a good look at the twinkling night sky.
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: Just behind the picturesque deck is the Tea Room, a secret cocktail bar with a tough door and sporadic opening hours. For a guaranteed in, head there Thursday through Sunday nights for the late-night brunch, which is as fun and ridiculous as it sounds.
What is it? Launched during Art Basel, what began as a few commissioned murals to beautify the area has morphed into the city’s only outdoor street art park, featuring more than 40 murals from a roster of world-renowned artists.
Why go? The walls change every year during Basel, welcoming artists from around the world to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Wynwood Walls is open to the public all year round and admission is free.
Don’t miss: For $25, an official guide of the Wynwood Walls will lead you through the outdoor gallery on an hour-long tour. It’s worth the cost and effort to learn about the artists and meaning behind the unique murals.
What is it? This 13,500-square-foot nightclub in Downtown is part strip joint, part rooftop bar and part sports club. Did we mention it stays open 24/7?
Why go? It’s really something to behold, a concept that borrows themes from every corner of nightlife, from high-flying theatrics and big-room EDM to topless dancers. It lands somewhere between a classy strip club and a debaucherous disco.
Don’t miss: Because E11EVEN stays open round the clock, the club serves a full menu, which you can order right from the bar downstairs. Whatever your heart desires, this place can make it a reality.
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 coffee shops, lounges and cultural venues—such as the Colony Theatre—and 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’s more than several blocks of stores and boutiques to browse and shop for hours.
Don’t miss: Time Out Market Miami opened its doors just behind the pedestrian mall in 2019, where you’ll find 18 of the best restaurants and chefs in the city. Hungry or not, it’s worth a visit.
What is it? A lush, tropical oasis boasting waterfront views and hundreds of species of wildlife, plus playgrounds, zip lines and other attractions for kids.
Why go? It may have started out as a place to see a few exotic fowl, but the former Parrot Jungle is now home so much more with 300-plus species of birds, orangutans and other animals. It’s also evolved into a sort of eco-theme park with attractions such as a flight simulator, an escape room and a seasonal light display (Luminosa is on view through January 8, 2020).
Don’t miss: Splurge on an animal encounter for the chance to cradle lemurs, feed and pet sloths and get hands-on caretaking experience.
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. Within the 1930s-era Art Deco building, there are meeting areas and classrooms used for all kinds of programming.
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 museum these days, right?). Think whimsical beasts from the Haas Brothers and colorful polar bears by Paola Pivi presented in playful exhibits. This fall brings a site-specific wallpaper creation and a new exhibit by South Korea’s award-winning artist Haegue Yang.
Don’t miss: Spend some time on the lawn exploring the museum’s public art, including the provocative “Happy Ending,” an exploration of late-night texts via colorful code signal flags, Jim Drain’s chess table and Ugo Rondinone’s unmissable Miami Mountain.
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.
What is it? As seen on TV and heard in rap lyrics by everyone from Kanye West to Drake, LIV sets the standard for megaclubs worldwide. Nestled inside the lobby of the historic Fontainebleau hotel—itself a backdrop for major motion pictures including Goldfinger—LIV is at once opulent and turnt beyond belief.
Why go? Afrojack, Martin Garrix and Laidback Luke hold down monthly residencies at the EDM powerhouse alongside a regular program of huge DJs and rap stars. And the stars show up to worship.
Don’t miss: If there’s ever a night to pop in (we say that loosely, the door is a tough one to get through without bottle service) it’s Sunday for its weekly hip-hop party. You’ll likely run into a celeb or two, anyone from Floyd Mayweather and Lil Wayne or to a Kardashian.
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. Hop on a Safari Cycle (with room for up to six riders) and see it all without tiring yourself out.
Don’t miss: It’s no secret that Miami is scorching, leaving a day at the zoo low on the list of priorities for people who don’t like the heat. Fortunately, Zoo Miami has a mini water park with fountains and an elaborate sprinkler system where kids (and even adults) can cool off during their visit.
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? A must-see is the exquisite rare plant conservatory, a stunning showcase of palms, bromeliads, orchids and ferns. Narrated tram rides (given on the hour from 10am to 3pm) give visitors a close-up look at the resident flora.
Don’t miss: The annual chocolate (January) and mango (July) festivals give you the best bang for your buck. Admission to the gardens includes entrance to the delicious events, plus tastings, lectures and more.
What is it? This place isn’t just for kids—with a futuristic design by Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica, parents will appreciate it too. Among the interactive, educational exhibits are the colorful, mosaic-tiled Castle of Dreams, with its winding slide and a cruise ship that lets you take turns steering the make-believe vessel.
Why go? Kids can pretend to be grown-ups at a mock Bank of America, which teaches little ones about financial literacy and even lets them design their own currency, or a mini supermarket with shopping carts and checkout lanes, among other activities.
Don’t miss: The museum designates certain days and times for younger kids and children with special needs, featuring quieter play areas and multi-sensory experiences.
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 and free museums, such as the ICA. For a quick bite, St. Roch Market offers up an array of global eats.
Don’t miss: MDD’s free concert series runs every Friday in the fall. Arrive by 5pm for happy hour bites from Estefan Kitchen and a good view of the action, or reserve a table at Abaco Premium Wines on the second floor. You’ll get a prime spot and a chilled bottle of vino to sip while you watch.
What is it? Miami’s premier contemporary art museum features a collection of works from such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Ana Mendieta—which is not to be outdone by its paradisal setting along Biscayne Bay.
Why go? Family-friendly interactive programs bring art home: during free Second Saturday (of the month) programs, museum teachers lead families in hands-on activities inspired by the works on display, while Third Thursdays play host to evenings of music and entertainment.
Don’t miss: New American restaurant Verde, located on PAMM’s waterfront terrace, is a lovely place to grab a bite and enjoy the view. If you’re there for brunch, both the frittata and chicken under a brick make excellent choices.
What is it? Possibly the most beautiful swimming pool in the world, even if it is jammed on hot days. It combines a sublime setting with freshwater, replenished nightly in summer months from a subterranean aquifer.
Why go? The only pool on the National Register of Historic Places, Venetian Pool boasts tropical foliage, waterfalls, Italian architectural touches, a cave and stone bridges.
Don’t miss: Take a moment to check out the vintage photos of the pool near the entrance. The collection of black-and-white portraits, featuring former beauty queens and buff lifeguards, spans nearly a century.
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.
What is it? For a taste of the old Homestead, with its abundant fruit orchards and crop fields, visit the family-run Knaus Berry Farm and its quaint bakery.
Why go? From November through April, Knaus Berry Farm is the place to score homemade (and hugely addictive) cinnamon rolls, pineapple upside-down cake and fruit milk shakes. Mouth=watering.
Don’t miss: Most people know to order the delicious strawberry milk shakes, few realize you can still pick your own strawberries. It’s recommended to call ahead for availability. Something that’s always in abundance, however, are the people waiting in line to purchase cinnamon rolls. The shortest lines are generally Tuesday morning. Plan ahead.
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.
More great things to do across the globe
Going out and doing things satisfies our need to explore, to learn and to grow (and then to brag about it on social media). Our hope is that the DO List becomes not just your bucket list, but your inspiration to experience and appreciate the corners of magic in the world.