25 Cool Things to do in Miami
TIME FOR A MEAL
- A small touch of the Cuban Culture
Cafe Versailles is where you go to get your fill of Cuban food. They have two options- a restaurant area for a sit down meal, or a little window where you can get a pastelito de guayaba y queso crema (cream cheese and guava pastry) to go along with your cuban coffee. Don’t be fooled by the coffee’s teeny tiny size! It’s like a shot of sugar and espresso, and you’ll feel it’s effects immediately! The restaurant is full of Spanish speaking customers and employees and it’s a great place for classic dishes like ropa vieja with some yuca and mojo on the side. Its located on Calle Ocho, a historic street where nowadays old Hispanic men sit around playing dominoes.
- Brunch in Historic Coconut Grove
Green Street Café might not have a bottomless brunch, but its known for its delicious dishes. They’ve got something for everyone- savory (try one of their omelets!), sweet (the banana nutella french toast is one of locals favorite) and even healthy (whole wheat PROTEIN pancakes, anyone?)! Have a seat outside, on the sidewalk, where you can enjoy your mimosas with a nice view of the park nearby. Coconut Grove is a historic area close to the bay with an old theater, outdoor shops, a farmers market on the weekends, and a lively night life. Your brunch could easily turn into a day long event, if you decide to stay in the area.
- Healthy and Low Key
This place might not seem like much from the outside- its on a corner, right next to a gas station- but once you’re parked and inside, you’ll feel much cozier. It’s got a home style- cafeteria- feel, with a long counter and booth tables. If you’re planning to stay a while, try one of their sandwiches or salads, and if you’re thinking to just stop by, make sure to try one of their delicious (and well known) juices. Did I mention it’s perfect for vegans or vegetarians? It’s also in Coconut Grove, so enjoy the walk!
- Great bread in a trendy neighborhood
Zak the Baker is a new(ish) establishment on the border of the trendy Wynwood neighborhood. It might look small from the outside, but its bustling and usually full on the inside. Despite being a busy place, your meal or snack will be quickly served and you can either eat at one of the cute wooden tables, or take it to go. That’s if you’re quick to know what you want to order! The lunch menu (on the chalkboard on the right) changes on the daily, and they’re known for their various freshly baked breads- choosing from all of those sweets at the counter is a whole other story! But, really, any of them go great with the coffee they serve (also a local brand- Panther Coffee, they have a café nearby, too!). The sweets also change, but last time I had these mini donuts that were delish!
- Authentic Spanish food on colorful 8th street (Calle Ocho)
Spanish food is known for being good. And Las Tapas de Rosa does not disappoint. Rosa, the owner, is a Spaniard who has lived in Miami for a while, and decided to open up a restaurant to share her Spanish flavors. She’s usually around the restaurant, either cooking or talking with the customers. There’s a small counter where you can buy some Spanish cheese or olive oil to take home with you, but I highly recommend you sit and have some food. They have a menu which changes daily, and her most well known dish is the paella, on Tuesdays. Alternately, there’s another menu with traditional Spanish foods that are available every day (think croquetas de jamon and pulpo). Located on the colorful and historical Calle Ocho, the parking might be a mess, but it’s another good place to take a walk before or after your meal.
GET SOMETHING TO DRINK
- One of a kind cocktails in Brickell
Blackbird Ordinary is located in Brickell, walking distance from the Brickell Station metro stop. This area is great for walking around and peeking into the boutique stores. Blackbird has a wide selection of one of a kind cocktails, with their signature Blackbird one being the most popular. The venue is dimly lit, and has some tables where you can play some board games with friends, before the DJ starts busting out dance music. And its open until 5 AM, so you might be dancing longer than you think! The big backyard has another counter where you can order your favorite cocktails and picnic tables to sit at or around, but most people are standing around talking or drinking or dancing. There’s also a stage which houses some events, and the best part of the place is the huge vertical garden, where there’s a bunch of different herbs growing. If you’re not big on cocktails, fear not! Their beer list has something for everyone. PS. Ladies drink free on Tuesdays :]
- Happy hour for beer and cocktail lovers (on the beach)!
Yardhouse is a chain, okay. But! The happy hours are the best! And it happens twice in one day! They’ve got the normal happy hour from 3 to 6, and a late night one from 10 to close. They’ve got so many beers on tap, including local brews, and during happy hour they can be up to $4 off. Their cocktails are also good, but I’ve mainly stuck to the beer! This location is right in the heart of South Beach, near Lincoln Road Mall. They’ve got plenty of nice seating outside, and a bunch of tables inside, even tall ones for if you don’t plan to stay too long. This means that after a day at the beach, you can just pop by for some cold brewskies, people watch outside, and go on enjoying the rest of your evening! The food selection is also great, and the happy hour selections won’t cost more than $8. The meat in most of the dishes can be changed for veggie-friendly meat substitute.
- Pub Feels
Irish Times is a great place to start your night. It’s an Irish bar, with a pub feel, where you can order your pint and just chat with the bartenders. It’s open pretty much all day, so you can get your fill of Irish food, or Irish coffee at any time of the day. You can find groups of friends coming to start their nights, or stumnling in at the end of their nights, as its just a really comfortable place to be! The food is great, with Irish specialties like Irish stew, shepherds pie and fish and chips. They’ve also got a prettyyyy nice happy hour, with a buy one get one free discount on drinks, and appetizers for $5. Parking might be a bit tricky, but its in South Miami, where once you’re parked you can easily walk around to nearby shops or around the outdoor mall, Sunset Place, which has a bowling alley catered for adults and a cinema.
- Dancin’ amongst drinks
Bouganvillea’s, locally known as Bougies, is a classic drinking and dancing spot in South Miami. Located a few blocks away from Irish Times, it’s part of the circuit. It’s a cozy place with a big bar in the middle, tall tables where you can put your drinks while you are dancing, and a big backyard for dancing. Young professionals are the regular crowd, and you really feel like you’re in the tropics with the surrounding vegetation! Check out the monthly calendar to see what specials are happening, like $4 beers or discounted liquors. They’ve got karaoke’s on Tuesdays for people who like to belt their hearts out, and free drinks for ladies on Wednesdays. The music varies- they have reggae, jazz or Latin funk nights via DJs or live bands!
- DJ sets and band shows
The Electric Pickle is a great spot for alternative DJ sets. It looks like a regular warehouse from the outside, but inside its spacious and well equipped for shows and drinks. Its not really that well known outside of the local scene, even though its located near the ever budding Wynwood neighborhood, but bands and electro DJs are usually the ones playing. There are two floors of DJs and dancing, and the if there’s a show, it happens up top. There’s sometimes a cover charge, so check it out before deciding to go, so you don’t get surprised (and so you can see who’s spinning that night). Its got a great atmosphere as people are usually really into the music and busy enjoying themselves amongst each other. Crowds get big, which just makes the dancing better, really!
- Views of the bay from a beautiful historical mansion
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a historic mansion and conservation site in Miami, near Coconut Grove. It has a mansion as well as beautiful gardens, which one can tour. The architecture style is European, and extravagant. The mansion is huge and inside you can glimpse into the past world of a wealthy Miami family. The views both towards and away from the mansion are beautiful, so be sure to take lots of pictures (in true Miami fashion). From the gardens, you can see an old gorge coming out of the water, that looks like a ship, and in the background, you’ll see the far away horizon. From a different angle, you’ll be able to see the skyline of Miami; complete with the bridge that connects it to Miami Beach. Locals use this spot for events like weddings or parties, and once you’re there you’ll understand why.
- Enjoy some Epic views
The Epic Hotel is located right on the Miami River and the bay. It’s a luxury hotel and spa but also has a restaurant and bar. Make your way through the lobby to the elevators, and head all the way to the top floor. Once there, you’ll be able to enjoy some drinks with a breathtaking view of Miami and the bay. It’s especially impressive at night, when you see all the city lights. Its near downtown and Brickell, so the buildings you’ll see are both historic and modern. Brickell is the financial district of the city, and downtown is one of the few places where the metro actually gets you anywhere. There’s also two swimming pools on the roof of the Epic, which you won’t be able to miss, and although they’re for spa and hotel goers, they’re still relaxing to be around. Grab a tall table on the edge of the balcony and let it all soak in!
- Quiet Beach in State Park
Bill Baggs Beach is internationally renowned for its pristine waters and serene feeling. Its tucked away on Key Biscayne, and can be found on most lists of “best beaches in the world.” The water is usually shallow and clear, allowing you to see the white sand below your feet. It’s a state natural park, so expect a lot of native vegetation, like mangroves and palm trees, and native little animals, like iguanas and raccoons! It’s really easy to take a long walk either under the shade of the trees, more inland, or right on the water. There is also a light house, which you can visit!
- Natural Wildlife
The Everglades is the world’s slowest moving river. Its known to house alligators, native birds, snakes and iguanas. It’s a must see for people who like this sort of thing!! It might not be as beautiful as a mountain landscape, but it houses just as many, if not more, secrets underneath the tall blades of grass. Shark Valley is where people go when they want to take a walk or bike through the Florida nature. A bit out of Miami, you’ll have to pass some alligator farms, where locals sometimes wrestle with alligators as a show. Once you’re there, you’ll have the option of walking, biking or taking a tram on the route. There’s also air boat rides, for people who want to experience the Everglades from the inside (I highly recommend it! The drivers are experienced, and they usually show you just how high alligators can jump). The route itself is long, so some prepared with sunscreen and water bottles. Most notably, you’ll see alligators roaming free, and sometimes they’ll block your path, or walk alongside you. (Scared yet?!) It’s a great place for bird watching, too!!
- Ocean views in green downtown
Located in the heart of downtown, this park is great for an afternoon break, picnicking or just taking a breather. It’s like a small oasis past bustling downtown. This is the place where renowned music festivals like Ultra and the Marley Fest happen. Its equipped with an amphitheater, which is only in use during events, and surrounded by trees, water and green grass. Its proximity to the bay makes it a great location for some nice views, too. Sit by the bay to enjoy the sea breeze on your face! They do yoga for free on some mornings. Its sometimes difficult to find parking, so it could be a good idea to park at a metro stop and then take the metro and metro mover (free!) to the Bayfront Park stop, from which you’ll be able to easily walk to the park.
- Beautiful spot for picnics on the bay
While in Coconut Grove, its impossible to not hit up Peacock Park. Across from the Coconut Grove library, and right in front of the bay (with a tiny boardwalk and everything!), it’s a little green patch where youngsters and families alike hang out. On Halloween it becomes full of people in costumes, and over the summer the city plans outdoor events, like movies in the park. If there’s nothing going on, its an easy place to lay a blanket under the shade of the trees and have a picnic with some friends, or with a good book. Its super close to all of the shops and commotion of Coconut Grove, so make sure to take a breather there!
MUSEUMS / ART
- New Establishment: Latin American art in Miami
The Perez Art Museum Miami – locally known as PAMM- opened in 2013. Despite its short time around, its already become a Miami classic. The building itself is a work of art, with its beautiful design, and walls covered in vertical gardens. When you’re outside, under the shade of the second floor, make sure to take in the beautiful view of the bay and the bridge. Its breathtaking! Once inside the museum, the collection focuses on artists from Latin America and the Caribbean- appropriate, considering Miami’s Latin roots. The art it houses is modern and contemporary. The restaurant that’s part of the museum has a fantastic menu, and is locally acclaimed for its great food. This museum is one of the few easy places to get to with public transportation (the metro, stop Museum Park), but there is also a parking lot, if you arrive by car.
- Miami Explained
Standing with the cultural center and main Miami Library, is the History Miami Museum. It houses various exhibits, one of which walks you through South Florida from prehistory, through the arrival of the Native Americans, to the Spanish conquistadores all the way until present day. Complementary to this exhibit, are the archival items where visitors can see objects that have played a part in Miami’s history. Its all interactive, high tech and very informative. This museum is also easily accessible via metro, at the Government Center stop. A great place to check out when the heat gets to be too much or it begins raining without any warning!
TIME TO EXERCISE
- Trails and outdoor sports in tropical bay
Matheson Hammocks is a great place for exploring, swimming, paddle boarding and hiking! The entrance is a bit hidden from the road, so watch out. On your way in our out, make sure to check out the ruins of a house (or something!) on the right side of the lake. This is where you can find families celebrating birthdays, friends having picnics, people climbing trees and alligators hangin’ by the lake. Right in front of the parking lot, there is a “hiking” trail, which leads you into the state park. It gets all the way to the beach area, but if you decide to take it, make sure you’re covered in anti-mosquito spray! This is their natural habitat, and they are working at full force in there! If you decide to drive into the park, you’ll have to pay a state park entrance fee, but you’ll be much more comfortable. Once you’re in the park, the beach area is straight ahead, past the Red Fish Grill, where you can eat local fish. The beach area is more of a bay, and it’s great for kids or people who don’t like waves. To the left of the beach is the area for equipment rentals- here you can rent a kayak or a paddle board by the hour, and explore the nearby canals where local Miamians live. The Miami skyline from here is beautiful.
- Swimming at the beach
South Pointe is easily one of the best beach spots in Miami. Its right at the end of the beach, so there’s rocks to climb on, a lighthouse to see, and lots of water to swim in! Walking north on the coast, with your feet in the water, you’ll run into a bunch of different water sports. There’s wind surfing, paddle boarding, jet skiing and even parasailing! These amenities are usually rented by the hour, and it might not seem so official (just a guy standing there with the equipment)- it is! For people who like to just watch others doing sports, this is also a good place, where you can lay on the beach, soak up the sun and watch other people running around getting sweaty.
- Second Hand products for a good cause
Out of the Closet is a second hand store with affordable prices. There are two locations, one on the mainland, in Downtown, and one on the beach, near Alton Road (main street on the beach). They both have great choices, and are decently sized. You’ll find fun and one of a kind shoes, dresses, jewelry- anything! Even household items and books. The great thing about this store, apart from its unique selections, is that any money you spend will go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation! Make sure to grab some free condoms on your way out, as well as some information pamphlets regarding AIDS.
- Local and fresh goods
Coconut Grove has many things to offer (clearly). One of them is the organic and locally grown produce- think fruits like star fruit, strawberries and mangoes; and veggies like tomatoes and peppers. All from nearby farms, you can easily talk to the farmers themselves or other employees of the farm to see what farm life in Miami is like. They’ve also got a big (and changing) selection of ready-to-eat food, like empanadas or salads, and a lot of vegan and/or raw options. You can also take some homemade jellies or soaps with you as a souvenir! It happens on Saturday mornings, and parking is difficult to maneuver, but once you’re there, you’ll see that it was worth it!
- Road trip to the most Southern point of the US
Key West- one of Hemingway’s favorite hang out spots; where a branch of the Audubon Foundation was created; where Spring Breakers come to party; home to the world renowned Fantasy Fest; and where every day is part of the weekend. Getting to Key West from Miami requires 4 hours of driving- but fear not! There’s plenty to see on the way down! Leave early, but take it easy! Make stops at John Pennekamp on Key Largo, a great spot for snorkeling; the Dolphin Research Center on Long Point Key; Robbie’s a restaurant past Islamorada, where you can feed the huge tarpon (and maybe some pelicans!!); and once you’ve crossed the famous 7 mile bridge, stop at the first beach on your left- Bahia Honda. Known for its pristine beaches, it’s a great spot for a quick swim and sandwich before continuing your journey south. This drive is full of beautiful views, and you’ll be able to see people using the old bridges for exercise, biking or fishing. Once you make it to Key West, you’ll have enough time for a walk around the island, where you can see the cute and colorful houses surrounded by the tropical vegetation of the area, before having drinks or dinner. The boardwalk all the way at the end of the island is a great place to see the sunset and street performers.
- Performing Arts- Dance, theater, music
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts was finished and opened to the public in 2006. Since then, it has housed dance troupes and performers from all over the world- from symphonies to comedy shows to ballet shows. The building itself is beautiful, and you can see it when driving on the causeway from the main land to Miami Beach. It is impressive both during the day and at night, with its sharp angles, glass windows and lit up tiers. Although it stands kind of solo on this side of Biscayne Bay, it is easily accessible by the metro (stop Museum Park), or the Metro Mover (Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover station). A good site to check out, after having a look through the PAMM.
- Walking around in art deco beach area
South Beach is known for its rowdy crowds at night, and extravagant luxuries during the day. Its not uncommon to see Lamborghinis or limos driving around or parked on Ocean Avenue. But, behind the bars and past the cars are the beautiful buildings that make this area so scenic. The buildings on Ocean Drive still showcase the Art Deco style that flourished in Miami during the 1930s. The pastel colors, repetitive lines and circular windows make you think of a boat, as you feel the ocean breeze on your walk. Famous designer Versace lived in a mansion here (outside of which he was murdered), and you’ll know it when you see it, from the people outside taking pictures with it (its between 11th and 12th). On 10th street, you’ll find a Welcome Center, which can provide you with a lot of useful and free information! Be aware that many restaurants in this area are overpriced, but if you JUST MUST sit and have a drink, I recommend News Café, between 8th and 9th street. A quaint little place that has been there since….well, forever.