Nothing against Miami beaches, but there’s so much more to experience in Miami Beach than its shoreline. There’s South Beach with its interesting cast of characters and bustling Ocean Drive, plus neighborhoods like Sunset Harbour and South of Fifth, introducing new names to the Miami nightlife scene and giving us more reasons to check out the growing list of best restaurants. Tired of the same old Miami Beach routine? Discover what’s fun and exciting with our guide to the best things to do in Miami Beach.
Best things to do in Miami Beach
Hit the beach
Ask a local the last time they swam in the ocean and they’ll likely reference a recent vacation rather than a day in Miami Beach. Don’t make the same mistake and plan to spend the day on the sand. You’ll find mostly families hanging out in the South of Fifth area, rowdy crowds and tourists populating the strip between 5th Street and 20th Street (the area known as South Beach) and a mix of the two stretching past through Mid Beach (think the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and surrounding areas).
Learn about Miami Beach art and history
Miami Beach is teeming with cultural opportunities. Spend a couple of hours learning about the local architecture during an Art Deco walking tour down Ocean Drive and then head north to the Bass Museum of Art to browse 18th-century paintings, rococo art and a real Egyptian sarcophagus and mummy. The Wolfsonian–FIU is the place to be on Fridays, when admission is free (6 to 9pm) and the museum café offers drinks specials and live music.
Spot your favorite celebrities
Amateur sleuths with a love for pop culture will not have a problem spotting celebrities in Miami Beach. The city is a playground for the rich and famous, which, like kids at the park, laid claim to their favorite hangout a long time ago. During the day, stake out the pool at Fontainebleau Miami Beach or the beach area adjacent to Soho Beach House. The members-only club is home to Italian restaurant Cecconi’s, also a favorite of the stars. Once dinnertime hits, choose between The Forge in Mid Beach and Prime 112 in South Beach, before some late-night carousing at Story and LIV—where celebs like the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus are known to pop bottles.
If there’s one thing you must eat when you visit Miami Beach, it’s stone crabs. Joe’s Stone Crab, around for more than 100 years, is the place single-handedly responsible for making the local seafood a sensation—even when the wait is upwards of two hours due to the strict no-reservation policy. So if this is your first time eating stone crabs, try them here first as the restaurant is only open seasonally so the claws are guaranteed to be fresh.
Break a sweat outdoors
How do those Miamians stay in such good shape? Part of it is hitting the beach often and for more than just tanning. Start the day with sunrise yoga, a donation-based practice offered at 3rd Street and Ocean Drive daily at 7am. In the afternoon move on to paddelboarding past the Standard Spa Miami Beach, biking down the paved portion of the Miami Beach Baywalk or jogging on the sand all along the shoreline.
Party until the sun comes up
To visit Miami Beach and not go to a nightclub is like going to Vegas and skipping the casinos. For the full Miami Beach experience, a night of partying is a must. While most clubs open their doors at 10 or 11pm, the party here doesn’t pick up until after midnight and won't wind down until the sun comes up. Fans of EDM will want to head to Story or LIV, where DJs like Calvin Harris typically spin, while Rec Room is the place to go for hip-hop and current chart-toppers.
Eat your way around the world
Miami is known for its amazing Cuban restaurants but Miami Beach in particular has much more to offer in the way of international cuisine. For a taste of Europe head to Española Way, a quaint, pedestrian-only street with restaurants like Tapas y Tintos, popular for its traditional Spanish dishes, and the unassuming French café A La Folie. Across the way is former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn’s place Sunny’s at the Hall South Beach, whose beach-inspired menu features dishes from cities across the globe—think Hawaiian poke bowls and Italian fritto misto.
Shop the latest trends
Shopping in Miami Beach means skipping the traditional indoor mall in favor of outdoor pedestrian shopping areas that allow for sightseeing, people watching and scooping up the latest trends. Head to Lincoln Road Mall for name-brand stores like lululemon, Gap and All Saints, plus high-end offerings from local luxury boutique Alchemist. Sunset Harbour Shops follows a similar open-air model except with fewer chain stores and more local retailers, like boho boutique Market.
Unlike Miamians on the mainland, Miami Beach residents do most of their socializing outdoors—dining, shopping, exercising. Going to the movies is no exception, which is why most locals head to Soundscape Park to catch a flick during their weekly cinema series. Movies are projected on the façade of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center (directly adjacent to the park) and are free to the public (schedule available here). Screenings begin at 8pm and patrons are encouraged to bring snacks and blankets.
André Balazs's Belle Isle hotel has that whole "day of rest" thing down pat with its weekly Lazy Sunday barbecue that packs in pretty people and cool DJs for a sunset party so fun you’ll forget it’s a school night. While it won’t give you pool access (you’ll need a day pass for that), the free event is open to the public and promises plenty of grilled bites (a la carte), drink specials and Instragram-worthy views.
Treat yourself to dessert
It’s tough sticking to a diet in Miami Beach, in part because places like Dylan’s Candy Bar and Sugar Factory American Brasserie moved in to the neighborhood. The former is the popular New York City candy shop’s Lincoln Road outpost that sells more than 5,000 kinds of confections. The latter is a spacious restaurant and dessert bar, serving up boozy milkshakes and over-the-top sweets alongside burgers and other American fare. Not to be missed is Argentine ice cream shop Freddo, whose gelato paninis made with all-natural dulce de leche is out of this world.
Pay a visit to the guys singlehandedly responsible for introducing gastropubs to Miami Beach. You’ll have your choice of Asian and Latin-inspired small plates at Pubbelly, inventive Japanese fusion at Pubbelly Sushi and true Spanish tapas at Barceloneta—all located within feet of one another in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. Make the rounds and have your mind blown by Pubbelly’s take on traditional Puerto Rican mofongo, topped with shoyu broth and pork belly, then try a McBelly or bigeye tuna roll and wash it all down with a great Spanish wine.
Before the guys from Bar Lab came along, the drinks de rigueur around these parts were of the vodka-tonic variety. They changed the bar scene and made handcrafted cocktails a staple, beginning with the Broken Shaker. This Mid-Beach staple and nightlife catalyst for the area, which is tucked away in a high-end hostel, is where you’ll find signature libations and punches using only premium spirits and house-made infusions. For a little Miami in a glass try the Broken Shaker Rum 'N' Cola: house-spiced Bacardi Gold rum with homemade cola and Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters.
The lobby of this architectural marvel can sometimes feel like an airport terminal, so we recommend scurrying past it (no matter how irresistible a cocktail at the center bar is) and making a bee-line for the Lapis Spa to begin your day of Zen. After a treatment, the afternoon is yours to spend lounging by one of the best swimming pools in Miami or breaking a sweat at the hotel’s state-of-the-art gym, before making your way to La Côte for prix-fixe al fresco lunch.
Are you that friend who’s always trying to play DJ? Make it happen without annoying your inner circle during Basement Miami’s Basement Bowl & Skate hosted by Silent Revolution, happening the third Tuesday of every month. You’ll rent a pair of wireless headphones (free for the first 50 guests with RSVP) that let you switch between resident DJ Myke Dilla and several special guests, so while your BFF is bowling (or ice skating) to Drake, you can cheer her on while jamming to Justin Beiber—without revealing you’re a secret Belieber.