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Nikki Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Nikki Beach

The best things to do in South Beach, from art museums to drag brunch

Skip to the good part with our guide to the best things to do in South Beach.

Written by
Falyn Wood
&
Krista Diamond
Contributor
Time Out Miami editors
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South Beach is a lot of things you’d expect: bold, colorful, sexy, hot. But it can also be subtle, serene and—just when you thought you had it pegged—totally surprising. While South Beach’s pristine beaches and wild party scene are undoubtedly its biggest draws, this famous oceanfront neighborhood is full of world-class shopping, historic architecture and hidden gems, including clandestine speakeasy bars and some of the best restaurants in Miami. Whether you’re seeking culture in the form of art or a divine croqueta, or just hoping to discover something new, our guide to the best things to do in South Beach has you covered.ay.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to South Beach, Miami

The best of the city under one roof

  • Restaurants
  • South Beach
  • price 2 of 4

This sprawling food hall—curated by yours truly—is home to some of the city's best restaurants and chefs, including the man behind a recent Michelin-starred spot. From sandwiches on artisanal bread and burgers dreamed up by a James Beard Award winner to modern Caribbean food and excellent pho, find a range of satisfying eats all under one roof at Time Out Market Miami. There's also a daily happy hour (4–7pm) as well as a late-night weekend happy hour (Fri, Sat 9–11pm) at the central bar, making this the most affordable drinking spot in South Beach. 

Best things to do in South Beach, Miami

  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • South Beach

Don’t discount the bitty museum for its size—The Bass is a renowned contemporary art institution that packs incredible collections and traveling exhibitions into its diminutive edifice. Patrons should also keep an eye out for the colorful public art that constantly moves through the museum lawn. Time it right and you can hit up Sweet Liberty’s happy hour (4–8pm, daily) after having yourself a cultured afternoon. Who’s in for .95 cent oysters?

  • Things to do
  • South Beach

The 50-year-old, 2.6-acre urban garden had a facelift in 2011 and is back to being a popular spot to spend time away from the bustle of the city for visitors and locals alike. It hosts a variety of yoga and meditation classes, orchid exchanges, horticultural seminars and live music events on the weekends. Native Florida plants include bromeliads, palms and cycads, but there's also a Japanese garden and wetland with mangrove and pond apple trees.

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Music mogul Pharrell Williams and nightlife entrepreneur David Grutman (of LIV fame) joined forces to birth the Goodtime Hotel, a pastel-hued, real-life riff on a quirky Wes Anderson film where every nook is an iconic Instagram moment and the potential for lowkey celeb sightings abound. Inside to poolside, Strawberry Moon is the place to be. The spunky Mediterranean restaurant and club hosts summer pool parties and daily happy hours (4–7pm at the bar) where locals and visitors bring their fashion A-game.

  • Bars
  • South Beach
  • price 1 of 4

A favorite of the late celebrity chef and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain, this smoke-filled spot is charmingly out of character for South Beach, and "eclectic" doesn’t begin to describe the mix of denizens who gather here nightly. The Deuce attracts the motliest, coolest, scariest crowd of any bar in Miami. And for good reason: Its pool table, jukebox and vintage neon wall art are the ideal complements to a legendary daily two-for-one happy hour that goes from 8am to 5pm.

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Sunset Harbour
Photograph: Courtesy Stiltsville Fish Bar/Grove Bay Hospitality

5. Sunset Harbour

This quieter pocket of South Beach overlooking the sailboat-dotted Intracoastal Waterway is populated by locals who live in its highrise condos plus in-the-know visitors who come to enjoy the charming scenery and a smattering of excellent restaurants, bars plus outdoorsy activities like paddleboarding, kayaking and scooter rentals. For a breezy, seafood-centric brunch, Stiltsville Fish Bar is a great option. Local coffee institution Panther has a home here, along with the popular Pubbelly Sushi and Osteria Morini.

  • Shopping
  • Shopping centers
  • Mid-Beach

One of the country’s first pedestrian malls, Lincoln Road is continuously overrun with tourists in search of the quintessential South Beach shopping experience. To wit, it makes for fantastic people-watching if you’re a local. Expect a ton of sidewalk cafes, bustling food halls like Time Out Market and Lincoln Eatery, experiential mall Showfields, big brand stores and a Sunday farmers’ market stocked with fresh produce, vintage furnishings and more.

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • South of Fifth

South Beach’s southernmost tip includes a spectacular waterfront park with plenty of green space for picnics or lounging as you watch the cruise ships sail by. It boasts ample metered parking, plus the park features access to both the beach and a walkable pier. It’s walking distance from Joe’s Take Away, Joe’s market-style counterpart, where you’ll get Miami’s freshest crabs to go for the ultimate beach picnic.

  • Things to do
  • Performances
  • South Beach

New World is home to America’s only full-time orchestral academy, so fellows from around the world regularly put on concerts here. Looking to keep it casual? The adjacent SoundScape park hosts free outdoor Wallcast concerts and movies throughout the season, perfect for packing a picnic and enjoying a screening under the stars. New World’s concerts are often fun collaborations with local DJs, famous composers and more, so things don’t feel as stuffy as normal orchestras.

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • South Beach

Whether it’s browsing modern-age artifacts or perusing midcentury propaganda, visitors exploring Wolfsonian-FIU’s permanent and traveling exhibitions learn about the myriad ways art and design have helped shape the contemporary world. The Art-Deco–era building also houses youth programs and admission is currently free (through October) and they complete an ongoing renovation. Across the street, the Wolfsonian also hosts member-discounted movie nights at O Cinema, an indie theater housed in the historic city hall.

  • Things to do
  • Cultural centers
  • South Beach

The 20-year-old museum explores millennia of sex through classical art, ancient artifacts and a trove of naughty toys. In addition to housing numerous exhibits of erotic art from around the world, WEAM features a sizeable collection of antique penises and Instagram-worthy phalluses in all sizes and states of arousal. The new George Daniell Museum is also located in the same building. Known for his portraits of Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and others, the gay American photographer and artist worked for Time and Life magazines.

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  • Things to do
  • South of Fifth

The Jewish Museum of Florida tells the story of Miami’s large Hebrew community. You can breeze through this small cultural center spanning two interconnected historic synagogues in less than 30 minutes. The museum’s core exhibit, “MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida,” features more than 600 photographs and artifacts that capture the group’s settlement across the peninsula.

  • Things to do
  • South Beach

There’s a lot of history to soak up in South Beach, specifically in the city’s Art Deco district. Start your day in the colorful neighborhood with a stop here and make the most of your visit. The center will send you off armed with maps and suggestions for DIY walking tours. Scared to do it on your own? Book a guided excursion and let one of the Miami Design Preservation League’s certified historians guide you through two hours of storied hotels, restaurants and other structures, including a number of interiors.

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Bear with us here: Ocean Drive is fun. The touristy strip gets a bad wrap for its overpriced drinks (hello, $65 margarita) and we wouldn’t really advocate eating or drinking at one of the sidewalk cafes (unless it’s an epic drag brunch at Palace Bar, of course). But Ocean Drive is the absolute best place for weird Miami people watching. While you’re there, check out the Versace Mansion, which is now officially called the Villa Casa Casuarina. It’s a luxury hotel with a public restaurant where you can still gawk at the frozen-in-time decadence of the late designer’s home.

  • Hotels
  • Spa hotels
  • Belle Isle
  • price 3 of 4

A trendy boutique hotel chain—yes—but the Standard is also a hangout for South Beach scenesters. Monthly memberships hover in the hundreds of dollars and a day pass will set you back $75 to $125 but neither one keeps the locals from filling its loungers or sipping rosé poolside. The Standard often hosts fun pop-up events and a chill, open-to-the-public dockside barbecue on Sundays. You can also eat at the Standard’s waterfront restaurant, Lido, to soak in the vibes without paying for a pass. It’s an ideal spot for happy hour (Mon–Thu, 4-6pm) as the sun melts into the bay.

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  • Shopping
  • Lifestyle
  • South Beach

This charming pedestrian boulevard is home to one of our favorite South Beach cafes, A La Folie. A bohemian hideaway for nearly 20 years, it serves homey, locally hard-to-find French classics like tartiflette, a gooey potato-and-onion gratin dotted with cubes of fatty bacon and layered with pungent Reblochon cheese. Newer spots have revived the promenade, including Andalusian hotspot Tropezón and the buzzy Roof at the Esme Hotel. Longstanding dive Kill Your Idol is a solid late-night proposition, especially for karaoke on Thursdays.

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