Vibrant and charged with the energy of Caribbean rhythms, Miami means big-city sophistication and seductive beaches to those who plug into its unique brand of electric charge. A railroad into the old Indian trading post started Miami down its path as Florida’s most dynamic city and a few works of modern engineering made Miami Beach a sudden hotspot of the 1920s. With a colorful arts scene, world-class shopping, watersports splendor, professional sports and a load of family attractions, Miami makes one of the nation’s most well-rounded metropolitan destinations.
The greatest influence upon the city’s modern-day personality came with the influx of Cuban refugees that began in the 1960s. They settled in an area dubbed Little Havana, where salsa music blares, men play dominoes in the park and breezes carry strong whiffs of café con leche. Miami’s overall cuisine and arts scene sway Cuban, blended with other local Caribbean influence. Floribbean cooking, a Miami invention, fuses Florida and island technique and products into one of the most popular styles to have hit in many decades.
Wynwood, a living neighborhood packed with art, culture, and innovation.
In just a few short years, the former warehouse district of Wynwood has become the arts hub of South Florida. It started with murals, street art, and graffiti – encouraged, unconventionally, by the neighborhood’s early developers, spawning vibrant spaces teeming with outdoor art. Today, there are more than 70 galleries and museums, dozens of new restaurants and bars, and hundreds of companies, creators, and innovators working in a place that just feels alive.
Wynwood is an outdoor art exhibit at city scale, unrivaled in its blend of well-known names and up-and-coming artists. Though its street life first grew through Second Saturday Art Walks, the neighborhood is lively every day of the week.
Coral Gables, one of the nation’s first planned developments, was built almost entirely out of the coral limestone quarried there. The quarry itself was turned into Venetian Pool, an exotic swimming hole with romantic stone bridges and waterfalls. Gracious Spanish colonial-style homes line twisty streets vegetated lushly and sequestered aesthetically from the big-city world.
Key Biscayne holds popular tourist attractions, busy recreational marinas and fantastic beaches. Windsurfing and sailing are foremost along its windy causeway, known as Hobie Beach. Miami Seaquarium ranks as one of Florida’s first marine attractions, but keeps up-to-date with dolphin interaction programs and environmentally inclined exhibits. Nearby marinas offer everything from boat rentals to diving excursions. There are more ways to play at Crandon Park, a huge beach park with amusement rides, tennis and bike paths. At the island’s southern tip, a state park protects a historic lighthouse and the beach that fronts it.
Another of Miami’s old neighborhoods, Coconut Grove keeps up with the times as a lively shopping and nightlife scene. Visit a Gilded Age Italian-style palace at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and one of the state’s oldest science museums, which is next door but slated to move downtown in coming years.
A grand, new performing arts hall also will soon open downtown. Along the downtown waterfront, American Airlines Arena hosts NBA’s Miami Heat and Bayside Marketplace provides a festive atmosphere for shopping, dining or catching a tourboat, many of which specialize in spying on celebrity homes.
The majority of celebrities live on islands along MacArthur Causeway, which leads to South Beach, a.k.a. SoBe, Miami’s acclaimed district for naughty and nice. Two family attractions – Parrot Jungle Island and Miami Children’s Museum – have also moved along the bridge’s causeway in the vicinity of Miami’s busy cruise ship port. Ocean Drive, SoBe’s much-photographed street, faces a wide, bustling beach and is lined with its historic Art Deco gems. Intimate, chic hotels have taken up in the jauntily painted masterpieces, their lively cafés spilling onto the sidewalk with hip clientele, wannabe fashion model servers, and Latin tunes. A block off Ocean, all-night clubs and drag bars pick up the tempo. Edgy art galleries and museums, chi-chi restaurants, and the most design-forward of restored hotels contribute to SoBe’s reputation as it follows Collins Avenue along Miami Beach’s Golden Mile and to the newly fashionable neighborhoods of North Miami Beach, Sunny Isles and, on the mainland, Aventura. Haulover Park offers scores of recreation and chic hotels, spas and golf resorts accommodate in style.
Trend-setting Bal Harbour Village, a barrier island at the northern tip of Miami Beach, is home to two oceanfront resorts, the Bal Harbour Shops (with 100 flagship stores such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci) and a number of see-and-be-seen eateries.
At its southern extremes, the Miami area turns agricultural and natural in Homestead, tropical fruit capital and home to a grand new auto-racing speedway. Homestead is also gateway to two extraordinary national parks. Biscayne National Park introduces a world accessible by boat, a world best seen through a snorkel mask. A 40-mile road takes you through Everglades National Park and its subtle beauty, to Flamingo, where a modest lodge and scores of water and land adventure await. East of town, along Tamiami Trail, lies another Everglades access. Nearby, the Miccosukee Indian tribe attracts visitors with a modern casino and a cultural attraction that includes airboat rides to old-style clan camps.
Miami’s vibrant arts and culture scene continues to evolve at a rapid pace.
What started as a handful of artistic spaces only a decade ago has exploded into more than 30 thriving arts and culture organizations and more than 60 artist studios in Downtown Miami alone. And the community momentum shows no signs of slowing down.
Art is everywhere in Miami—from the walls that line the Miami Riverwalk to impressive historical sculptures standing in Bayfront Park. Downtown Miami is home to a wide range of art in unexpected places, including pedestrian walkways, inside hotels and even showcased in several Metrorail and Metromover Stations.
Situated directly on Biscayne Bay and housed in a state-of-the-art campus designed by world-renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) features 200,000 sprawling square feet of artistic wonder. It’s a playground for adults and kids alike. Think experiential art, up-close-and-personal exhibits, forays into film and education, and a shaded outdoor veranda with hanging gardens and panoramic water views. PAMM is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is open late on Thursdays, until 9 p.m.
Located nearby, the Miami Children’s Museum is situated on Watson Island, just off of the MacArthur Causeway, leading out to Miami Beach. A perfect way to spend the day and entertain the kids, the facility includes 14 galleries, classrooms, an auditorium and permanent exhibits like a cruise ship, giant sandcastle, 900-gallon marine tank, music studio and more. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Situated in the heart of Downtown, History Miami is located on historic Flagler Street and preserves exhibitions showcasing Miami’s rich history. For a unique and educational take on Miami’s past, book one of the many city tour options (walk, bike, boat or coach) and learn from a distinguished historical scholar. Additionally, History Miami is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 12 noon to 5 p.m. closed on Mondays.
Nestled inside the historic Freedom Tower in Downtown, the MDC Museum of Art + Design showcases visual art and design. Attend one of the many year round events, including lectures, symposiums and art exhibitions. Group tours are available during gallery hours (Wednesday through Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.).
Private & Non-Profit Art Collections
For a look at stunning art collections maintained by private and non-profit organizations, visit:
- The Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFA) at 1018 N. Miami Avenue
- Aluna Art Foundation at 172 W. Flagler Street
- The Artisan Lounge at 500 N.E. 1st Avenue
- Miami Center for Architecture & Design (MCAD) at 100 N.E. 1st Avenue
- National YoungArts Foundation at 2100 Biscayne Boulevard
- BasFisher Invitational at DWNTWN Art House at 100 N.E. 11th Street
- Artopia Art Center at 1723 N.E. 2nd Avenue
- Avant Gallery at 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way
- CU-1 Gallery at 117 N.E. 1st Avenue
- Lou La Vie Gallery at 1444 Biscayne Boulevard
- Nina Torres Fine Art at 1800 N. Bayshore Drive
- Primary Projects at 151 N.E. 7th Street
Dress up for an afternoon at the theater, ballet, and opera or take in a live music show. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is a state-of-the-art performing arts center located in the heart of Downtown. The center is comprised of the 2,400-seat Ziff Ballet Opera House, an intimate Carnival Studio Theater, 2,200-seat Knight Concert Hall and spacious Thompson Plaza designed for outdoor performances. The Adrienne Arsht Center hosts greats like the Cleveland Orchestra, Miami City Ballet, the Florida Grand Opera and New World Symphony.
Nearby, the Olympia Theater at Gusman Center offers a majestic escape into a historic venue featuring ornate decor and gold balconies. It’s the crown jewel of the South Florida art and entertainment facilities. Dating back to 1926, the theater has hosted such greats as the Vaudeville stars, Elvis Presley and Etta James.
The modern day Mecca for major entertainment events is American Airlines Arena, located on the edge of Biscayne Bay. Not only is the arena home to the Miami HEAT NBA basketball team, it also hosts some of the biggest musical headliners in the world—from Gloria Estefan to Juan Gabriel and Miley Cyrus to Madonna.