This is a side of Miami you’ve never seen before.
We’d like to make a PSA: There’s way more to Miami than South Beach. Sure, it may be the most famous spot in town, but it’s only a fraction of the city’s identity. In fact, there’s a Miami for just about every type of traveler. Whether you want to kick it on the beach, go clubbing, or relax in luxury, here’s your ultimate guide to seeing the many sides of the Magic City.
Top Picks for You
To feel like the star of a modern day tropical Great Gatsby, head to Mid-Beach’s Faena Hotel Miami Beach. The hotel was designed in part by the movie’s film director, Baz Luhrmann, so it’s no wonder the place is overflowing with 1920s Hollywood glamour and contemporary cool vibes. A dim-lit speakeasy, intricate murals in the sea-facing lobby, a theater room, and a giant gilded mammoth by Damien Hirst make it all feel way, way cooler than you.
The place to be seen? Brickell. There’s exponential growth happening here, not only with the opening of Brickell City Centre (a humongous 107,000-square foot shopping center) but also a handful of rooftop bars among the high rises. This is the Miami of Kardashian lookalikes and finance professionals, an in-crowd done up to the nines. You’ll see them line up in heels at Sugar, a tree-covered rooftop bar on the 40th floor of the East hotel with expensive drinks and small Asian bites or at Komodo, a sushi restaurant with a nightclub lounge.
We could write an entire guide on the art scene here. The museums are world-class–start with Pérez Art Museum and The Bass for contemporary art before checking out Vizcaya, an opulent home that’s been turned into a museum. Miami’s signature art festival, Art Basel, brings a wave of international art to the city for a week each year (in 2018, it’s open to the public from December 6 to 9). But the top of your sightseeing list should include The Wynwood Walls, a series of colorful murals painted by top graffiti and street artists from around the globe. Get a local—and passionate—guide from Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide to give you a tour, then go off-the-beaten-path to see insanely intricate graffiti in the area, including the abandoned, expansive RC Cola Plant that’s hosted many a homemade music video.
With its laid-back going-out scene, Wynwood has also become a Millennial mecca. Come as you are to Gramps, a must-visit bar that hosts nerd nights in which community members give informative talks while everyone drinks (think Drunk History) and finish the night nearby with Coyo Taco, open until 3 am. Other top choices for the bearded man-bun type: Union Beer Store in Little Havana, Lost Weekend on Española Way and Sweet Liberty in Collins Park, ranked in the top 50 U.S. bars, with the best piña colada in town.
Miami can sometimes feel like a different country, with Cuban culture at its core. In Little Havana, you can salsa dance at Hoy Como Ayer on Calle Ocho or grab a scoop of ice cream at Azucar Ice Cream Company. The no-frills Puerto Sagua on Collins Ave. serves up some killer ropa vieja, while Miami Mojito Company in Wynwood has amazing $6 happy hour grapefruit mojitos made with freshly squeezed guarapo (sugar cane juice). You can also get a slice of the Eastern hemisphere if you head to Chotto Matte, a new Japanese Peruvian fusion restaurant on Lincoln Road that’s both cosmopolitan and edgy, with graffiti walls, an open roof, and an adventurous drinks list and tasting menu. And Little Haiti, though less of a tourist destination, is where up-and-coming artists and musicians are flocking.
What is Miami without a party? Its velvet-rope lined clubs are notoriously wild–if you have any doubts, look to Mokai, a club that was stripped of its license for bringing in a live horse into the club (it recently reopened). If bright lights and big crowds appeal, check out the Fontainebleau’s famous LIV nightclub. There are also plenty of clubs on South Beach – along with a high concentration of bachelorette parties and expensive drinks—but like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, it’s fun almost because it’s touristy.
White sand, clear water, and beautiful people everywhere–it’s hard to deny the allure of Miami Beach. Where you access the beach (north, mid, or south) will determine your experience. North Beach is secluded and Mid-Beach is somewhat less so, both with their share of luxury accommodations. We like Mid-Beach’s Eden Roc, with the only all-inclusive package in the area and one of the only with restaurants, Malibu Farm, that’s directly on the beach.
To feel pampered and far removed from the rowdiness of South Beach, head north to Bal Harbour (technically its own municipality), home to 5-star hotels like the St. Regis and some of the most high-end shopping around. Nearby Sunny Isles Beach also has its share of luxurious properties, including Acqualina Resort & Spa, which feels like a private Mediterranean oasis. Lounge under red umbrellas at one of three pools (including one that’s adults-only), indulge in a spa treatment, or walk straight onto the beach. Further south, the Design District is a good spot for expensive designer clothes and high-end shops.
Coconut Grove is a different kind of Miami, a beachy community sans the beach. The laid-back neighborhood is lush and green, as its name suggests, and is a wonderful place to slow down for the day among new American restaurants, old shops, and boutiques. Check out the organic vegetarian farmer’s market here on Saturday, and take a stroll in Peacock Park (you may even spot one).
Pastel-colored buildings with neon signs line the streets of the Art Deco Historic District on South Beach, an iconic reminder of the building boom here in the 20s and 30s. Schedule a walking tour at the Art Deco Welcome Center on 10th Street and Ocean Drive ($25), or plot your own (the area spans 5th Street and 23rd Street on Ocean Drive) to see the architectural highlights, including the Colony Hotel and the Beacon Hotel.
Experience Miami’s loud and proud scene with an iconic Drag Show Brunch at the Palace on Ocean Drive or drop by the bar at Hotel Gaythering, an adults-only gay hotel that also has a good happy hour and trivia night. For a night out, head to Score on Washington Avenue or to Twist, a nightclub with a fabulous maze of rooms to dance in—whatever you choose, all are welcome.
This is the place to see and be seen for yacht and sports car enthusiasts. Keep your eyes peeled for Lamborghinis and Ferraris vying for attention, as well as impressive boats on Biscayne Bay. If organized sports are more your scene, cheer for the Miami Heat basketball team at the American Airlines Arena, or the Miami Dolphins or Miami Hurricanes football teams at Hard Rock Stadium.
Down Home Miami
If you have time for a day trip, make the hour and a half drive to Homestead, an agricultural area in Miami-Dade County for farmer’s market and winery paradise. At Redland Market Village, browse and bargain through 27 acres of flea and farmer’s markets, food trucks, and entertainment. Another, Knaus Berry Farm, is a great spot to pick your own strawberries. And for a truly South Florida experience, go to Schnebly Redland’s Winery, where the wine isn’t made from grapes but tropical fruits like mango, lychee, guava, and passion fruit.