The Top Attractions in Miami

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With a vibrant immigrant population, access to some of the country’s best beaches, and a warm climate, Miami has has a real sense of place. Visitors will find much to do here, from exploring the history and culture to shopping to just relaxing on the beaches. The choices are endless, and the journey is exciting. Here’s our favorites:
  • 1. The Top Attractions in Miami With a vibrant immigrant population, access to some of the country’s best beaches, and a warm climate, Miami has has a real sense of place. Visitors will find much to do here, from exploring the history and culture to shopping to just relaxing on the beaches. The choices are endless, and the journey is exciting. Here’s our favorites:
  • 2. 1. South Beach South Beach is a world-famous and a must-see destination for any visitor to Miami. In addition to being one of the most recognized beaches in the world, it’s also the home of the Art Deco Historic District, Lummus Park Beach, and the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. The beach features white sand, inviting water, and liberal sunbathing laws. On land, there’s glamorous shopping, nightclubs, and restaurants. Everywhere, the people are part of the allure and a show unto themselves – read more here (Photo by Laika ac)
  • 3. 2. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is located just south of downtown Miami in the Coconut Grove neighborhood on Biscayne Bay. The Italianate mansion was originally built in the early 1900’s as a winter villa for Chicago Industrialist James Deering, who made his fortune in agricultural machinery before becoming a Miami socialite and art collector. Deering used Vizcaya as a winter residence from 1916 until his death in 1925, and it is now one of only five National Historic Landmarks in the Miami area. In building the villa, Deering used of local materials such as Cuban limestone and coral from the surrounding waters. Inside, the 34 rooms of Vizcaya are full of 15th to the 19th century European antiques. On the 10 acres of grounds surrounding the mansion, native plants are featured in the Italian Renaissance gardens, and fountains, pools, and gazebos are scattering about the property, and the waterfront area features a full-size replica of a Venetian barge. A visit to Vizcaya is a step back into old, moneyed Florida. It’s a great opportunity to forget the modern glitz for a while and take a walk through grounds that are beautiful and resplendent – read more here (Photo by Steve)
  • 4. 3. Lincoln Road Lincoln Road is an 8-block outdoor pedestrian mall in South Beach that runs east-west from Alton Road to Washington Avenue, where it ends near the beach and the Ritz Carlton. The road’s history dates back to the early 20th century when it became the first road built on Miami Beach, and it eventually became the island’s first commercial strip. In 1960, Modernist master Morris Lapidus redesigned the road by closing it to traffic and adding benches, gardens and fountains. Today, Lincoln Road is as popular as ever. Miami’s great weather makes it the perfect place to stroll while perusing the trendy shops, get a bite to eat, and people-watch – read more here (Photo by Phillip)
  • 5. 4. Everglades National Park Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States at 1.5 million acres, and it is located just minutes from Miami. The Shark Valley Visitor Center is actually just west of Miami on SW 8th Street. The Everglades is home to many endangered species, including the American crocodile, the Florida panther, and the West Indian manatee. From Shark Valley, guests can bike, walk, or take the two-hour tram on the 15-mile Shark Valley loop. There is an observation tower half-way around the loop. The winter is a great time to visit the Everglades – it’s not as hot, there’s less bugs, and the wildlife is more active. Be sure to bring bug repellent and sunscreen. Bike rentals available at Shark Valley – read more here (Photo by Joe Parks)
  • 6. 5. Venetian Pool Venetian Pool was created in 1923 from the remains of an abandoned coral rock quarry. The resulting 820,000 gallon public pool is the largest freshwater pool in the United States. The water is perfect for swimming, and there’s sand beaches for sunning. Kids will love playing in the smaller pools and waterfalls. The pool was designed to mimic the look of the Venetian canals and features loggias, porticos, caves, waterfalls, palm trees, a bridge, and two historic lookout towers. It is fed with spring water from an underground aquifer and is filled and drained daily in spring and summer. In fact, the Miami Symphony has taken advantage of the excellent acoustics and played concerts in the pool while it has been drained. The Venetian Pool is fairly cheap, and it’s so large that it never seems crowded – read more here (Photo by Mauricio Lima)
  • 7. 6. Biltmore Hotel Biltmore Hotel is a majestic luxury hotel where old world glamour meets modern luxury. The hotel opened at the height of the Jazz Age in 1926 and cost an astounding $10 million to build. The rich and famous flocked to the warm-weather resort from northern cities to dance, drink champagne, and frolic in the country’s largest hotel pool. The Biltmore is also home to a Donald Ross-designed golf course and a legendary Sunday brunch. It is a National Historic Landmark and has hosted numerous famous people, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bing Crosby, FDR, and Al Capone. To address its history, the hotel gives tours every Sunday. There are rumors that the hotel is haunted – read more here (Photo by Blanca Stella Mejia)
  • 8. 7. Art Deco Historic District Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District encompasses over 900 stucco Art Deco buildings that are packed within one square mile of South Beach. The majority of homes and buildings were constructed between 1923 and 1943, and defining characteristics of the style include white and pastel coloring, curved edges, chrome accents, terrazzo floors, glass blocks, porthole windows, neon lighting, and porches with ship-like railings. The area was designated a U.S. Historic District in 1979. There is a welcome center at 10th Street and Ocean Drive, and the district is great for walking, with lots of photo-ops and people-watching along the way. The district also offers plenty of boutiques, galleries, and dining options – read more here (Photo by Wyn Van Devanter)
  • 9. 8. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is located just south of Coral Gables and features a world-renowned collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants spread across 85 lush garden acres. Trails invite visitors to meander through the beautiful landscaping and around the beautiful ponds. Flowers are everywhere. For those visitors not wanting to walk, the is an informative tram tour that lasts about 45 minutes. Types of plants on display include cycads, flowering trees, tropical fruits, vines, aroids, and endangered species. A new Butterfly Conservatory recently opened, and the Fairchild also hosts art exhibits. There are a couple of cafes on the property for dining, including the new Glass House Café. Admission to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden isn’t cheap for non-members – it costs about $25 for adults. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent in summer – read more here (Photo by Ethan Oringel)
  • 10. 9. Wynwood Walls Wynwood Walls is a public street art-park in a quickly transforming Miami neighborhood. Specifically, the art is comprised of huge murals that have painted on the sides of warehouses by world’s greatest graffiti artists. The murals are legal and commissioned. The Walls are part of the Wynwood Art District, which consists of over 70 studios, galleries, and museums. Wynwood itself was previously a settling place for Puerto Ricans, and, then, an industrial area before artists began occupying the abandoned warehouses. The neighborhood has gradually become more gentrified and now also includes the widely know Wynwood Fashion District. Visiting the Walls makes for an enjoyable, memorable walk through a vibrant neighborhood. On the second Saturday night of every month there is an Art Walk. There are also a few restaurant options available in the neighborhood – read more here (Photo by Dan Lundberg)
  • 11. 10. New World Symphony New World Symphony was established in 1987 and is America’s only full- time orchestral academy that prepares musicians for careers in symphony orchestras and ensembles. Therefore, New World Symphony is comprised of some of the very best young musicians in the country. From October to May, the symphony performs a season of concerts at the New World Center. The beautiful building opened in 2012 and was designed by Frank Gehry, the mastermind behind the acclaimed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Perhaps the most alluring feature of the New World Symphony is outside in the adjacent Miami Beach SoundScape park, where the concerts are “Wallcast” onto a 7,000-square-foot wall. Guests can picnic while watching the Wallcast, and a tubular network of 167 speakers designed by Yasuhisa Toyota bring the sound from inside to outside with no loss of quality. There is also a rooftop garden that offer panoramic views of Miami and the ocean. Check New World Symphony website for schedule of performances and movie in the park nights – read more here (Photo by
  • 12. 11. Zoo Miami Zoo Miami is both the largest and the oldest zoo in Florida, and it is the only tropical zoological facility in the United States. It’s beginnings date back to 1948, when a few animals were purchased from a shut-down roadside attraction. Other early animal additions came from a circus that went out of business. In those days, the small zoo was located on Key Biscayne and was known as the Crandon Park Zoo. In 1981, a new facility opened with 38 exhibits. Since that time Zoo Miami has expanded to over 2,000 animals on 740 acres, including over 40 endangered species. Zoo Miami does a good job of being fun, interactive, and educational. Three miles of walking paths connect the exhibits. Highlights for visitors includes feeding the giraffes. For kids, there are both wet and dry play areas. Consider going in the morning before the temperature gets too hot – many of the animals will be more active in the morning – read more here (Photo by Jeremiah E. Pena)
  • 13. 12. Little Havana Little Havana is as close to being in Cuba as anyone can get without leaving America. The neighborhood rose to fame in the 1960’s as Cuban exiles settled in the area just west of downtown Miami along SW 8th Street. Calle Ocho quickly became the hub of Cuban cultural, social, and political activity. Today, Little Havana is a bit run-down and dirty, but going there can be a fun and worthwhile experience. Go to sample the Cuban coffee shops, restaurants, and cigar shops. Go to absorb the Spanish language and Latin American music everywhere. See the old men wearing guayaberas and playing dominoes. Walking tours of Little Havana are available. There are also many festivals in the neighborhood, including a street festival on the last Friday of every month. There are also many giant roosters – read more here (Photo by Phillip)
  • 14. 13. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park can be found on Hwy. 1 in Key Largo at the beginning of the road to Key West. The park is the nation’s first underwater park, and it is also one of Florida’s most popular parks. Visitors are drawn to the 70 nautical miles of water full of coral reefs, which can be seen by snorkeling or scuba diving, or viewed from a glass-bottomed boat. The most popular attraction is the 8.5 foot tall Christ of the Abyss bronze statue of Jesus that is submerged in 25 foot deep water. Molasses Reef lies 6 miles offshore and is the most accessible living coral reef in the United States. The visitor center at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is well done and features a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a theatre. Camping is available in the park. See web site for info on tours and rentals – read more here (Photo by Matt Kieffer)
  • 15. 14. South Pointe Park South Pointe Park is aptly located at the southern tip of Miami Beach. It’s 17-acres and was opened in 1985. The park offers a bit of something for everyone. There a boardwalk for walking and places to sit and watch the sunset. There’s a pier for fishing, a play area for kids, and a dog park. There’s also an ampitheater, and frequent festivals are held at South Pointe. Two wooden observation towers offer great views of Biscayne Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and downtown Miami. A new 450-foot pier opened in South Pointe in 2014, and it’s a great place for fishing or watching the cruise ships leave Miami harbor. The park is near restaurants, yogurt shops, and coffee shops, including a Smith and Wolensky steak house and the legendary Joe’s Stone Crab is just a couple of blocks away – read more here (Photo by Sali Sasaki)
  • 16. 15. Gusman Center for the Performing Arts Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is housed in the historic former Olympic Theater. The opulent venue opened in 1926 as a as Miami’s premier location for showing silent movies and vaudeville acts. By the 1970’s, the theater had fallen into disrepair and was slated for demolition. Fortunately, local business tycoon and philanthropist Maurice Gusman saved the aging theater and the adjacent Olympia Office Building from demolition and donated them to the city of Miami in 1975. Another major renovation took place in 1990. Walking inside the Gusman feels like being transported to 19th-century Spain. The theatre boasts beautiful Moorish architecture and great acoustics, and the small details are amazingly rendered. The Olympia Theater at Gusman Center mainly shows foreign and independent films, but they also have music, ballet, dance, and other performing arts. The Miami Lyric Opera performs here, and The Gusman is home to the Miami International Film Festival every year. Check the Gusman web site for a calendar of events – read more here (Photo by
  • 17. 16. Robert is Here Robert Is Here is located south of Miami in Homestead. In particular, it sits at the last turn before the long stretch of road that leads into the Florida Keys. Robert started as a 6-year-old boy selling cucumbers on the side of the road in 1959. He didn’t have much luck until his father wrote the words: “Robert Is Here” on two signs and attached them to the side of the table. The next day, all of the produce was sold by noon. Today, Robert is all grown up, and his produce stand is a must stop for handpicked fruits and vegetables. The fruit stand has many rare fruits that the average person has never heard of. In addition to the produce, Robert is Here is known for delicious smoothies, milkshakes, hot sauces, relishes, and key lime cheesecake. For kids, there’s a splash park and a small zoo with emus, burros, goats, parrots, honeybees, chickens, geese and tortoises. On the weekends, there’s live music – read more here (Photo by A. Drauglis)
  • 18. 17. AmericanAirlines Arena AmericanAirlines Arena is located in downtown Miami and is home to the famed Miami Heat basketball team. The Miami Heat were founded in 1988 and have the Heat have won three NBA championships in 2006, 2012, and 2013. The American Airlines Arena was built in 1998 and replaced the Miami Arena. The Miami Media Mesh LED marquee on the outside of the arena is the largest LED board of its kind on any arena or stadium in the country at more than 3,400 square feet. The arena offers a nice layout with good seats. In addition to basketball games, many concerts are also held at the facility. Check their web site for a calendar of events – read more here (Photo by Ed Webster)
  • 19. 18. Holocaust Memorial The Holocaust Memorial is presented by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and in located in Miami Beach. It was conceived by a group of Holocaust survivors, and it was dedicated in 1990 with a keynote speech by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. The Holocaust structure was designed by Kenneth Treister. The structure is dominated by 40-foot-tall outstretched hand of the Sculpture of Love and Anguish. Around the hand structure are smaller statues and a list of concentration camp victims. The Miami Beach Botanical Garden next door to the Memorial, so it is possible to see both attractions in one visit – read more here (Photo by Enesse Bhé)
  • 20. 19. Lummus Park Beach Lummus Park Beach is a beautiful public beach and linear park that runs along Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th Streets in the heart of South Beach, and it’s the epitome of what comes to mind when conjuring up images of South Beach – stunning women in bikinis (some topless), muscular guys (some in thongs), turquoise water, soft white sand, and swaying palm trees. All that to say that Lummus is a must-see for anyone for wants the full South Beach experience. All of the iconic Art Deco hotels are located parallel to Lummus along the Ocean Drive, and there’s plenty of sidewalk cafes, bars, and hotel snack stands available for getting a bite to eat or a refreshing drink. The people watching is superb, and the facilities include bike rentals, volleyball courts, work out equipment, and playgrounds. The wide paved path is perfect for walking or biking. There are restrooms, but they are typical public restrooms and not incredibly clean. The beach itself is very clean and safe, but parking can be scarce – read more here (Photo by Phillip Pessar, Miamism)
  • 21. 20. The Wolfsonian-FIU The Wolfsonian-FIU is an often-overlooked gem of a museum in the heart of Miami Beach’s Art Deco District. The small. eclectic museum is a part of Florida International University, and most of the pieces came from Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., an avid collector and expert on modern design, architecture, and the decorative arts. The 180,000 pieces of art at Wolfsonian-FIU is modern, spanning from the years 1885 to 1945. The collection is focused on design, propaganda, and advertising art during that time period. The art is quirky and educational. Pieces represented range from Nazi posters to ovens from the 50’s to old swim suits. A visit is low-priced and a highly entertaining way to spend a couple of hours – read more here (Photo by Dan Lundberg)
  • 22. 21. Jungle Island Jungle Island is located on Watson Island half-way across Biscayne Bay on MacArthur Causeway. The amusement park and zoo originally opened in 1936 as Parrot Island and moved to its current location on Watson Island in 2003. Shows at Jungle island include live bird shows and a large cat show with a real liger. The Serpentarium has a broad mix of reptiles as well as penguins and lemurs. The petting zoo has the usual goats and llamas along with red kangaroos and giant tortoises. There’s also a playground for kids. New attractions added in 2014 include an aqua park on the beach and a Cirque du Soleil-style show. Jungle Island is well-designed and is a good size for spending about a half day. The park avoids the use artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and purchases carbon credits, making it one of the very few sustainable theme parks or zoos in the US – read more here (Photo by Carl Lender)
  • 23. 22. Haulover Beach Park Haulover Beach Park is a 99 acre park that features a marina, dog park, tennis courts and a 9-hole golf course, but it is mainly known for its wonderful stretch of beach – and the fact that part of it is clothing optional. Haulover has the largest public nudist beach in the United States, and it is also consistently gets named as one of the best. The 1.5 mile beach is located north of Miami Beach between the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean. The far north end of the beach is designated as clothing optional and is clearly marked as such. All types of people can be found there, and everyone is well-behaved. The park’s beach facilities include picnic areas, clean bathrooms, and lifeguard stations. There’s plenty of parking across the street from the beach. There are places to buy food and rent umbrellas. The water is clear and the white sand
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