As summer starts setting on most cities, there’s one place that you can expect to bring the heat all year round. From the sunny shores of South Beach, to spicy salsa nights in Little Havana, Miami is just as fun as you’ve heard, with a flavor to please every palate.
Nicknamed “The Magic City” for its rapid growth in the early 1900s and “The Capital of Latin America” for its rich, Hispanic history, Miami is a cultural metropolis unlike any other in the US. And, lucky for Miami, this melting pot of international influence has made the city a destination for world-class hospitality.
So, if you’re already thinking about a winter escape plan that doesn’t require a passport, Miami just might be the perfect tropical getaway to bring back those summer vibes. Whether your staying for a weekend or a week, here are some essential “Miami Musts” to help guide you through this magical city.
THINGS TO SEE
By far the most popular destination in Miami, South Beach has an energy and character that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Historic art deco buildings mark the palm tree-lined streets of South Beach, making this an architectural paradise. Cuban beats set the soundtrack as you stroll down Ocean Drive and take in the vibrant sights and sounds that are the hallmark of this postcard-worthy place.
Local Tip: Snag a beach spot south of 5th avenue. Tourists don’t often venture this far, making it the perfect place to escape the crowds and soak in a more relaxing sun. When you’ve taken in enough rays, DO NOT miss the sunset at South Pointe Park where you get the best viewpoint of Miami’s impressive downtown skyline exploding into orange, pink and purple at dusk.
Once a run-down industrial district, Wynwood has transformed itself into a world-renowned art, culture and entertainment mecca - complete with colorful murals, microbreweries, tech hubs and bohemian shops that just might rival our hipster friend, Williamsburg. Grab some grub at one of the many neighborhood gastro pubs, before starting your Instagram-worthy photo journey at the Wynwood Walls. From there, explore the energetic streets and shops that make this hood so hip.
Local Tip: If you find yourself in Wynwood on the second Saturday of the month, don’t miss Art Walk, where you can enjoy open art galleries, pulsating music and local food truck fare with your new, cool Miami friends.
When you think of visiting Miami, museums are probably not on the top of your to-do list. But, you’d be missing out. From contemporary art, to grand estates, to erotic collections - Miami has museums to please all your senses. Top picks include:
Vizcaya Museum & Garden - Once the sprawling estate of businessman John Deering, a visit to Vizcaya will transport you back to 1920s grandeur and opulence.
Perez Art Museum - As Miami’s premier contemporary art museum, PAMM is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting international art of the 20th and 21st centuries.
World Erotic Art Museum - For those museum-goers with more, uh, salacious tastes, check out WEAM, which boasts a vast, private collection of erotic art from around the world.
PLACES TO EAT
It would be a cardinal sin to leave Miami without diving into the city’s most famous cuisine. A stroll down Calle Ocho in Little Havana, the heart of Miami’s Cuban community, will have you wafting the sweet smells of carne asada, freshly-poured Cuban coffee, and straight-from-the-sea ceviche. Feed your soul with these Latin favorites:
Versaille - Self-proclaimed as the “World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant”, Versaille has been serving up the best Cuban fare to Miami locals and visitors for over four decades. Load up on arroz y frijoles and picadillo (ground beef hash) and wash it all down with a cafe con leche. Expect a wait, but it’ll be worth it.
Taquerias el Mexicano - Everyone loves tacos. And, Taquerias el Mexico is as good as they come. The brightly-colored building beckons the loyal locals and curious tourists to feast on authentic Mexican cuisine that has been a staple in Miami’s restaurant scene for years. Can’t decide which tacos to enjoy? Order the “El Monton de Tacos” to sample 7 tacos of your choice.
Ball & Chain - Iconic music venue from the 1930s, Ball & Chain used to host the likes of Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong within its legendary walls. Now delivering Cuban bites and stellar live bands performing in the insta-famous pineapple stage, Ball & Chain is the heart of Little Havana that one must experience to understand. Oh, and don’t leave without sipping down one of their famous mojitos.
Nestled between a Cuban bakery and a Subway, Drunken Dragon serves up some swanky Korean bbq in a nondescript shopping plaza, which only adds to its allure. Saddle up to the bar for “dragon hour” and start with some edamame and crispy bok choy, paired with one of the bar’s signature tiki cocktails. Then, roll up your sleeves for some do-it-yourself grilling and enjoy the delicious, family-style Asian tapas that make this gem so special.
You don’t often associate hostels with award-winning bars and locally-grown cuisine, but one trip to the Freehand Hostel in Miami Beach, and you’ll quickly change your tune. 27 Restaurant, located in a historic house adjacent to the hostel’s courtyard, serves up creative dishes with the freshest local ingredients. Reserve a table early to enjoy this warm, communal dining experience for yourself.
If you want to dine with the best view in town, it doesn’t get much better than The Lido Bayside Grill. Perched perfectly on Biscayne Bay, The Standard Hotel’s Lido Grill features down-tempo DJ sets, coastal cuisine and a jet-set crowd that makes you feel painfully cool. But the main event is the spectacular sunsets over the bay. You have to see it to believe it, photos do no justice.
PLACES TO STAY
If you’re looking to stay at a quintessential art deco hotel on South Beach...The Delano is queen. Designed by Phillip Stark, The Delano is eclectic yet elegant, playful yet sophisticated. The pool is what South Beach dreams are made of. Splash out on this luxury boutique hotel, and I promise you won’t regret it.
You may have heard of the name Cipriani, but you might not know that the brothers behind the famous Italian restaurants are now lending their name to some impressive luxury hotels. Hidden away in the lush and low-key neighborhood of Coconut Grove, Mr C offers an elegant oasis of European, first-class service. And, the view of the bay is worth the visit.
If a luxury Miami hotel is not exactly in your budget, but you still want to be a part of the cool kids club, the Freehand Miami is your scene. With prices starting at $24 for a shared room, Freehand attracts in-the-know international travelers who are privy to the hotel’s amazing bar, Broken Shaker, and 27 Restaurant (so good, it made it on the list twice!). Old school tunes and perfectly curated lighting set the mood around an enticing pool and impressive greenery. If you want to stay cool, stay at the Freehand.
PLACES TO SHOP
As the home of our current pop-up, your first Miami shopping pit-stop has to be the Aventura mall. Not just Florida’s largest mall, but the second largest in all of America; you find us within Center Court – and trust us, you can’t miss us! We’re there until September 20th, so come say hi.
Costing a cool billion bucks to build, Brickell City Center is the newest mix-use project in Miami. From high-end shopping, to a luxury cinema, to one of the most beautiful food halls you’ll ever see, BCC is worth visiting - even to just have a coffee, a stroll, and a gander at all the fancy things.
No shopping trip in Miami is complete without a ramble down the pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road Mall. With some of the best people-watching in the world, cafes and restaurants a plenty, and familiar brands that fit every budget, this is THE classic Miami outing to shop, eat, drink, repeat.
If you prefer off-beat, off-brand shopping, head to Wynwood and check out Nomad Tribe. This socially-conscious store carries local designers and focuses on selling sustainable products, making Miami (and the world!) a better place to do business.