Miami Beach, Florida, on Ocean Drive at sunset. Photo via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Miami

BY Matt Meltzer | February 14, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Miami? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Miami?”

LeBron James didn’t do our collective geographic knowledge any favors in 2010 when he famously announced he was “taking [his] talents to South Beach.” Because, you see, South Beach and Miami are actually completely different places, and while much of the world imagines the neon and nightlife of Miami Beach when they think of this city, Miami is filled with so much more. Miami has transformed into a global metropolis, with the arts district in Wynwood and the Cuban culture of Little Havana becoming as big of draws as the sand. Combine that with the swampy embrace of the Everglades and you’ve got plenty to explore, both at the beach and beyond.

You’re here for the beaches

A little over 100 years ago, Miami Beach and South Beach were nothing but swampy barrier islands off the coast of a tiny fishing village. Now they’re among the most famous beaches in America, where the vibe can change literally by the block.

South Beach, Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#1
South Beach, Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

South Beach

Fifth-22nd Sts., Miami Beach, FL, USA

The sands that most likely lured you to Miami are the ones in South Beach, a two-ish-mile stretch of Miami Beach full of Instagram models, bodybuilders and people from all over the world. You’ll likely find the biggest party around Eighth St., where people wander over from Wet Willie’s with frozen drinks. For the LQBTQ crowd, you’ll find rainbow flags and plenty of buffed bodies around 12th St.

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South of Fifth (SoFI) in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#2
South of Fifth (SoFI) in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

South of Fifth (SoFI)

First-Fifth Sts. Miami Beach, FL, USA

To enjoy the turquoise waters and white sands of South Beach with considerably fewer crowds, head south of Fifth St., where Europeans and residents enjoy the sun. Then head over to South Pointe Park for some of the best views—and sunsets—in Miami.

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Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#3
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

1200 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, FL, USA

To get a sense of the palmetto-and-mangrove paradise that was Miami of yesteryear, hit the beaches at Bill Baggs State Park. Here, you can hike through preserved forests and lay out next to an historic lighthouse, with views that feel like a remote Caribbean island.

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Crandon Park in Key Biscayne in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.
#4
Crandon Park in Key Biscayne in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.

Crandon Park

6747 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL, USA

For swaying palm trees and powdery white sand, no beach in Miami tops Crandon Park. You’ll find the calmest waters of any beach in the area, with barbecues and paddleboards aplenty.

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Haulover Park Beach in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#5
Haulover Park Beach in Miami. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Haulover Park Beach

10800 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, Fla, USA

If you’re feeling a little…adventurous, take the trip up to Miami’s nude beach. While the crowd’s not quite as statuesque as you’ll find further south, it’s the one place you can lay out and guarantee yourself no tan lines.

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You’re also here for Cuban Food

Sure, the Cuban sandwich is probably the most famous thing on any Cuban menu. But if you’re in Miami, you’ve gotta delve a little further into the stuff that comes straight from the island.

Versailles in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.
#6
Versailles in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.

Versailles

3555 SW 8th St, Miami, Fla, USA

At no place in Miami will you find a more classical Cuban experience than Versailles, the mirror-and-glass palace of Cuban food that’s an unofficial hub for the local exile community. Here, old men sip cafecitos and talk politics while white-coated waiters serve you heaping plates of ropa vieja and arroz con pollo.

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Sala’o Cuban Restaurant and Bar in Miami.
#7
Sala’o Cuban Restaurant and Bar in Miami.

Sala’o Cuban Restaurant and Bar

1642 SW 8th St, Miami, Fla, USA

With Hemingway on the wall and fresh-caught seafood on the table, Sala’o is the perfect spot to enjoy Cuban food and people-watching at the same time. Its tables are set up along the sidewalk at Calle Ocho, and with a live musician playing out front it often becomes an impromptu dance party…with a gin and tonic cart that comes to your table.

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La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market in Miami.
#8
La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market in Miami.

La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market

1952 W Flagler St, Miami, Fla, USA

This Cuban landmark was started by the Garcia brothers back in Cuba, who would fry up their daily catch of snapper, throw it on a Cuban roll and sell it on the street. They brought their pan con minuta sandwich to this cash-only spot in Little Havana, as well as loads of fresh seafood options the family still catches themselves.

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Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Miami.
#9
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Miami.

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop

186 NE 29th St, Miami, Fla, USA

If a Cuban sandwich is your goal, stop into this little sandwich shop in Midtown. The menu’s small, but it’s generally regarded as having the best Cubano in the city.

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But if you’re not into Cuban food, here’s where to eat

Cuban food not your jam? That’s cool, not everyone is in love with lard, and Miami’s got some of the best restaurants in the world.

Hometown Bar-B-Que in Miami.
#10
Hometown Bar-B-Que in Miami.

Hometown Bar-B-Que

1200 NW 22nd St, Miami, FL 33142, USA

An offshoot of the acclaimed Brooklyn barbecue spot, Hometown is some of the best barbecue in Miami and beyond. The much-talked-about giant beef ribs are a standout on the menu, but you won’t go wrong with any of it. Bonus: If the pandemic isn’t keeping everyone home, they have live music on the weekends from 4-6.

—Chris M. Walsh

Also see:

Inside Hometown Bar-B-Que Miami with owner Billy Durney

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Society BBQ in Miami.
#11
Society BBQ in Miami.

Society BBQ

8300 NE Second Ave.; 3451 Buena Vista Ave., Miami Fla.

The best brisket you’ll find outside the state of Texas is at Society BBQ at the Citadel Food Hall in Little Haiti. You also won’t miss with a pulled chicken or pulled pork sandwich, and some of the most reasonable prices in the city.

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Ghee in Miami.
#12
Ghee in Miami.

Ghee

8965 Southwest 72nd Place, Miami, Fla, USA

Many of the ingredients at this modern Indian spot come from the chef’s nearby farm. That’s why the menu changes almost every time you go, depending on the harvest, and the tasting menu gives you a chance to taste it all.

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La Mar in Miami.
#13
La Mar in Miami.

La Mar

500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami, Fla, USA

Looking for a place to enjoy fresh ceviche, right on the water, with backdrop views of the Miami skyline? This Peruvian classic has you covered, where you’ll find not only the city’s best ceviche but also a massive Peruvian menu and an epic Sunday brunch.

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Neighborhoods to know

For years, the only reason anyone came to Miami was to stay in Miami Beach. But over the past 15-20 years, the city’s developed one of the country’s best arts districts, turned Little Havana into a full-on cultural immersion and made big strides in other parts of the city.

Wynwood Walls in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.
#14
Wynwood Walls in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.

Stroll through the walls of Wynwood

Wynwood, Miami, Fla, USA

The once-industrial wasteland of Wynwood has transformed into a venerable outdoor museum, with murals covering warehouse walls for blocks on end. The Wynwood Walls park has the highest concentration, though they now charge admission. But you can stroll around and pose in front of the rest for free.

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Little Havana in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.
#15
Little Havana in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.

Get immersed in the culture of Little Havana

SW 8th St, Miami, Fla, USA

The sounds of salsa music and the musky smoke of hand-rolled cigars fill the air along Calle Ocho, the main drag through Little Havana. You can grab a cafecito at any number of coffee windows, or a mojito at Ball & Chain. Then spend an afternoon enjoying the music and the people that transport you to the islands.

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Art deco architecture on Ocean Drive in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.
#16
Art deco architecture on Ocean Drive in Miami. Photo via Shutterstock.

Surround yourself in the art deco of South Beach

Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Fla, USA

Even if you’re not into day drinking and fruity cocktails the side of your torso, South Beach is a truly only-in-Miami experience. The largest concentration of art deco buildings in the world fill the streets of Miami Beach, and with sidewalk cafes along the newly closed-to-traffic Ocean Drive, it’s an ideal place to spend a day enjoying the sunshine.

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Spend a day in the Everglades

Everglades National Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#17
Everglades National Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Everglades National Park

40001 State Highway 9336, Homestead, FL, USA

The magical landscape of the Everglades is best experienced hiking through Everglades National Park. What it lacks in elevation it makes up for in alligators and majestic swampland, and you can find some fairly simple walks at Shark Valley and the Anhinga Trail.

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Big Cypress National Preserve. Photo credit: Shutterstock.
#18
Big Cypress National Preserve. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Big Cypress National Preserve

33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Fla, USA

Slightly closer to the city, the Big Cypress Preserve sits along US-41, where you’ll spot herons soaring through the canopy of cypress trees covering the road. The drive also brings you through the Miccosukee Indian Village, where you can take an airboat ride through mangrove caves.

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Explore Miami’s nightlife beyond the clubs

If you’ve watched even one TV show in visiting Miami, you know megaclubs like LIV, Story and E11even are where the beautiful people go to make ugly decisions. But if you’re more into crafted drinks and unusual settings, Miami’s got plenty of that too.

Jaguar Sun in Miami.
#19
Jaguar Sun in Miami.

Jaguar Sun

7357 Northwest Miami Court, Miami, Fla, USA

Hidden in a bleak industrial stretch of Little Haiti you’ll find Jaguar Sun at Lot 6, an outdoor home of downtown’s most celebrated cocktail bar. Here you’ll enjoy carefully created drinks under a giant banyan tree in a tropical courtyard, where those in the know bask in boozy backlot.

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Sugar in Miami.
#20
Sugar in Miami.

Sugar

788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, Fla, USA

For drinks with a view, nowhere in Miami beats this Asian garden on the 40th floor of the East Hotel. You can enjoy Asian-inspired bites and cocktails with views that stretch from the Everglades to South Beach, all the way south to Coconut Grove and north almost to Ft. Lauderdale.

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Café la Trova in Miami.
#21
Café la Trova in Miami.

Café la Trova

971 SW 8th St, Miami, Fla, USA

Miami’s most celebrated mixologist, Julio Cabrera, set up this Cuban revival bar on Calle Ocho, where he and his team of bow-tied bartenders shake the most creative drinks in the city. You’ll often find a live Cuban band playing in front of a Havana streetscape façade or in the ’80s-themed bar in the back.

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Cool hotels

Miami is full of swanky luxury hotels, where you’ll spot celebs and models regularly lounging by the pool. Of course, those places are often filled with tourists, too, and may have you blowing your whole vacation budget on one night’s stay. But other spots around the city are just as cool and will leave you with money to enjoy something other than your hotel room.

Copper Door B&B in Miami.
#22
Copper Door B&B in Miami.

Copper Door B & B

439 Northwest 4th Avenue, Miami, FL, USA

The Copper Door sits in Overtown, Miami’s historically Black enclave just west of downtown. The historic property brings 22 individually appointed rooms and a chef-driven breakfast/brunch restaurant at Rosie’s to an area that was once home to after-hours performances by some of the biggest names in jazz.

Also see:

The Copper Door B&B

 

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Freehand in Miami.
#23
Freehand in Miami.

Freehand Miami

2727 Indian Creek Drive, Miami Beach, Fla, USA

Calling the Freehand a youth hostel would be a bit misleading, as the rooms here are for the most part solo and have all the amenities you’d want in a full-service hotel. It’s also home to the Broken Shaker, one of Miami Beach’s most celebrated cocktail bars, and the funky, eclectic 27 Restaurant.

Also see:

Freehand Miami

 

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The Vagabond in Miami.
#24
The Vagabond in Miami.

The Vagabond

7301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, Fla, USA

This restored Miami Modern gem is the lone boutique property in the city’s neon forest of the MiMo district. The classic motel has a lush, palm-filled pool area, complete with a cocktail bar. The rooms are done up in retro white and teal, invoking a cool escape from bustling Biscayne Blvd.

Also see:

Vagabond Hotel

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Live music

Live music in Miami generally used to mean stuffing yourself into a club while you watched a guy in headphones demand you “put your ****ing hands up!” But Miami’s definition of live music has changed, and now you can catch live stuff at a handful of unique venues across the city.

Ball and Chain in Miami.
#25
Ball and Chain in Miami.

Ball and Chain

1513 SW 8th St, Miami, Fla, USA

Miami’s most historic bar was once the site of live shows from the likes of Tommy Dorsey and Ella Fitzgerald after they finished their shows in Miami Beach. Now it’s got a big, pineapple-shaped bandshell in the back, where local Latin musicians and occasional national acts play nearly every night of the week.

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Gramps in Miami.
#26
Gramps in Miami.

Gramps

176 NW 24th St, Miami, Fla, USA

A spot that gained its fame for craft cocktails, monstrous pizza slices and drag queen bingo has also made its mark as Wynwood’s best spot for live music. Touring national acts often play the outdoor courtyard, where music combines with a warm, tropical breeze.

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