When someone mentions the word “Miami” I automatically think of Cuban sandwiches and nightclubs…but aside from the staple food items and party scene this city has so much to offer! As a Floridian, the last few times I visited the city I really missed out on some of the must-see neighborhoods as I mistakenly assumed since I was “from the same state” I’d seen all there is to see…big mistake! My in-laws recently visited Florida for the first time and since Miami is one of those famous cities everyone has heard about in Europe, we decided to spend the majority of our time there. After speaking to friends and family who live in the area I compiled a list of things to do in Miami; we ended up having a blast so I’m sharing some of the activities we did and places we visited in case you’re planning to make the same trip!
1. Wynwood Walls
Several locals told me to visit the Wynwood Walls and I’m so glad I did! The Wynwood Walls are located in the Design District of Maimi, it’s an interesting mix of hipsters, coffee shops, art galleries, run down buildings, sketchy streets, and super high-end shops like Gucci, Prada, Rolex, etc. The Wynwood Walls is an international street art museum and features works from artists around the globe.
The best coffee in Miami?
I would definitely recommend you visit this area, and make sure to stop by Panther Coffee for the best coffee in the city (that’s what the locals told us anyways)!
2. Little Havana
The heart of Little Havana is located on the famous Calle Ocho, otherwise known as SW 8th Street (Tamiami Trail). The main area to see is between SW 12th Ave and SW 16th Ave, which run parallel to Calle Ocho. If you’re planning to visit Little Havana check out this walking guide by National Geographic for the attractions in the area.
One of my favorite places we saw was “Domino Park” (officially named Maximo Gomez Park) with its small pavilions packed with little old men playing dominos and chatting (and gambling no doubt!). I also really liked the Little Havana Visitor Center; it has an impressive memorabilia Coca-Cola tribute shop and adjoining art gallery as well as cool knick-knacks and souvenirs. Although nothing in the area is overly impressive, it’s the combination of the food, culture, and language that make Little Havana worth visiting…you feel like you’ve been transported to a little part of Cuba!
Where to eat in Little Havana – get “real” Cuban food!
While you’re in the area you HAVE TO eat at Versailles. Versailles is a household name in Miami and it has got some of the best and cheapest Cuban cuisine around. I’d recommend ordering the “classico” or the “criollo” platters; each platter provides a variety of small samples of traditional Cuban foods like plantains, rice and frijoles, yucca, pork, etc.
3. Ocean Drive
The Art Deco District of South Beach is one of the most iconic aspects of the city. It’s nice strolling up and down Ocean Drive enjoying the view of the beautiful buildings and antique cars.
There’s also access to the beach all along this street with rentable lounge chairs and umbrellas as well as adorably decorated life-guard stands! If you’re into people watching I’d suggest you eat at one of the restaurants that line Ocean Drive…you’ll see all walks of life in this area!
4. Miami Heat Game
You can’t go to Miami and not watch the Heat play! You can visit the NBA website to check the game schedule and reserve tickets. We loved the high-energy atmosphere and the overall spectacle of watching a professional basketball game. Even if you’re not a huge basketball fan it’s still something to see!
5. The Everglades
Why I overlooked the everglades for so long I’ll never know…once we arrived at Everglades Safari Park we purchased our “Eco-Adventure Tour” for $25 per person which included an airboat tour, wildlife show, and access to the nature trail and exhibits. The airboat tour was fun; we got to “float” through the everglades and see the animals that live there. Afterwards we enjoyed a nature show (basically a guy sticking his hands in gators’ mouths…which was terrifying), explored the trail and animal exhibits, and completed the experience with “gator bites” at the restaurant.
Ok, so technically Islamorada is not in Miami, but it’s less than a two-hour drive from city! If you don’t have enough time to stay in the keys you should at least try to make a day trip to Islamorada for the views! We went to the Everglades in the morning and afterwards we made our way to Islamorada for lunch (they’re both located south of Miami). We ate at the Morada Bay Beach Café which provided the perfect relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the gorgeous view of the water and delicious food. If you have enough time for a day trip I’d recommend visiting the Everglades and Islamorada.
SHOPPING IN MAIMI
If you want to do some good shopping check out Bayside Marketplace; it’s located next to the Miami Heat stadium along the water and is full of shops, restaurants, bars, etc. You can take boat tours, water taxis, and there are concerts and events hosted in the center of the marketplace. You can also visit Lincoln Road Mall for a good variety of shops, bars, and restaurants – however I’d recommend visiting this mall in the morning or evening as it’s all outdoor without shade…the heat can get pretty intense midday in Miami! Mary Brickell Village was also a nice shopping center, I didn’t actually shop there but at night it seemed like a good spot to eat dinner and go out for drinks!
Where to stay in Miami
We stayed in the downtown area near Bayside in an AirBnB rental. The apartment was inside The Grand Hotel (Double Tree) and was conveniently located next to Miami’s Metrorail which is free! We took the Metrorail to the Heat Stadium (just 2 stops) and Bayside shopping center. There’s also several bus stops in the area and the adorable Miami Trolley. This is the part of town I always stay in when I visit Miami (and also where our local friends recommended) so I’d suggest you stay here too! If you’re in Miami for the party check out South Beach for places to stay. 😉
If you’re looking for something off-the-beaten-path check out Florida’s Forgotten Coast!