Everything you’ve ever heard about Miami is true. It is ¿Qué Pasa, USA?, Scarface, Miami Vice, The Birdcage, Nip/Tuck, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Grand Theft Auto.
There is a lot to see and do in Miami. Here’s a list of popular attractions, my favourites, where to eat, what’s cool, and what’s overrated.
Little Havana and Calle Ocho
Welcome to my ‘hood. This is Miami’s Cuban district. Set aside a couple of hours to stroll three blocks between 13th and 16th avenues on 8th street (Calle Ocho). Visit one of the cigar shops, the Dominos park, and have a delicious ice cream at Azucar. For the quintessential Cuban meal, grab an Uber to Versailles or La Carreta, which are further up on 8th street. On the last Friday of the month, this area holds Cultural Fridays, a little arts and culture festival. For evening drinks and live music, head to Ball & Chain.
Miami Beach is its own city located on an island connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. It’s known for its beaches and Art Deco district. There are many cafes and restaurants and shopping opportunities. It’s worth taking a drive along Ocean Drive and a stroll on Lincoln Road Mall. It has an active nightlife and gets very busy. Parking can be hard to find and expensive so I suggest taking a taxi or Uber.
South Florida has one of the highest populations of Holocaust survivors in the United States. It’s worth visiting the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach.
You’ll find lots of great food in Miami Beach, but for something different, delicious, and authentic, try Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant.
Miami Beach is a great party place, but if you’re after a quieter and more family-friendly beach experience with plenty of parking, head to the island of Key Biscayne.
The northern portion of Key Biscayne is home to Crandon Park, a county park. There are two miles (3.2 kilometres) of beach and facilities a marina, golf course, tennis centre, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center.
The middle section of the island consists of the incorporated Village of Key Biscayne. There are several hotels here and some cafes and restaurants.
The southern part of the island is a national park called Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. This is a great family-friendly beach. There is also a historic lighthouse and lightkeeper’s cottage you can visit.
“The Grove”, as it’s locally known, is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Miami. It’s home to a number of historic properties. The Grove has two open-air malls, CocoWalk and Mayfair in the Grove, as well as many shops and boutiques. There are also many restaurants. The Grove is home to a few festivals and weekend fairs and markets throughout the year.
Wynwood was an industrial district largely populated by Puerto Ricans since the 1950s. In the early 2000s, Wynwood started getting gentrified and it became a trendy art district. Well-known for its street art, Wynwood is a vibrant area full of galleries, cafes and restaurants, shops, and dance clubs. Try to catch the Wynwood Art Walk.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a gorgeous 28-acre estate and Italian Renaissance-style villa built in 1916. The waterfront mansion features 34 rooms arranged around a central courtyard and is filled with European furniture from the 15th to 19th century. The gardens contain French and Italian sculptures, fountains, and pools. By day, Vizcaya is open to tourists. By night, it hosts weddings, galas, as well as public events. It’s a beautiful estate worth visiting. Allow two hours to see it all and take your camera. There’s a cafe if you want to eat there, but there are also plenty of restaurants nearby.
Other notable estates
Miami has several animal attractions including ZooMiami, Jungle Island, Monkey Jungle, and the Miami Seaquarium.
ZooMiami is a respected zoo and said to take good care of its animals. Jungle Island and Monkey Jungle have both seen accusations of animal abuse.
Founded in 1955, the Miami Seaquarium is one of the oldest oceanariums in the US. Flipper was filmed there from 1963 to 1967 and it’s home to Lolita the Killer Whale. If you’ve visited the Melbourne Aquarium, you will be underwhelmed. Anyone would be disappointed and saddened by this shabby park. Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet federal minimum requirements under the Animal Welfare Act. The park’s original orca, Hugo, died after injuring himself along the walls of the tank. It’s a relic and should be closed.
Everglades National Park
The Everglades are not in Miami, but it’s not far. Florida is a flat state and South Florida is highly developed. There aren’t a lot of places to ‘get away from it all’. If you like to explore the outdoors, the Everglades is where you want to go and February-March is a great time to visit.
The Everglades are a network of wetlands and forests fed by a river. There are cypress swamps, mangrove forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, and more. It is a breeding ground for tropical wading birds, contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, is home to 36 threatened or protected species, supports hundreds of species of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles. Despite this, the Everglades has seen a lot of damage and is always under threat by developers. The Everglades National Park protects about 20% of the original Everglades.
At the Everglades National Park, you can go hiking, cycling, camping, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, or go on an airboat ride. You can also visit the Miccosukee Indian Village.
Miami is just one tiny part of Florida and the state has a lot to offer. Head south and visit the Florida Keys, a string of tropical islands known as a destination for fishing, boating, snorkelling, and scuba diving. I highly recommend driving down to Key West, which is about a 3-hour drive from Miami.
Leave Miami behind and head north. You’ll find more beaches, more beautiful, historic places, and more fantastic attractions such as the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and, of course, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
Warning: Florida is a long state. It’s easily a 5-hour drive from Miami to Disney World. Be sure to plan your travel time.