Miami does not really need an introduction. It is well known across the globe for its glitz and glamor and its beaches and sunny weather. Miami is a city that will capture you with its dazzling glamor and hold you in its spell. The beauty of the city’s nature will also steal your heart from Biscayne Bay and the clear blue South Florida skies.
Miami is glamor first and foremost but spend a little time here and dig a little deeper to see what is under the surface. Or simply go with the flow and indulge in the glamor in true Miami style.
Here is our list of the 25 Best Things to do in Miami:
1. Visit the iconic Miami Beach
When you think of Miami chances are you think of a sandy beach with the sun shining.
Miami Beach is the best area in Miami for soaking up some rays on a sandy beach and it is something of a legend in the city.
The beach itself technically outside of the Miami municipality as it is located on an island. Aside from the beaches, the area is also known for its Art Deco district and the odd but beautiful buildings within.
2. Explore Jungle Island
Jungle Island is one of the most popular attractions in the city of Miami.
It is located on Watson Island and was formerly known as Parrot Jungle and even had Winston Churchill visit in 1946.
The Jungle is only minutes away from South Beach and Downtown Miami.
Through interactive experiences, Jungle Island enthralls park visitors with a sense of adventure and discovery. Why not catch one of the exciting shows which are a daily occurrence.
3. Wander the Art Deco District
With a hint of 1930’s nostalgia, the beautifully restored buildings within the Art Deco District have a lot to offer on a relaxed day in the Miami beach area.
Looking out to see, (a lot of them located front Ocean Drive) the pastel painted buildings pose a great place to stop for lunch of an evening meal.
With its neon signs and canopy covered dining areas, the Art Deco District truly comes in its own after dark.
4. Bayside Marketplace
Hosting over 150 specialty and tourist shops, cafes and restaurants, Bayside Market place has it all.
As well as well known chain stores visitors will find an array of charming boutiques in this outdoor style mall.
Located along Miami’s waterfront, as the name suggests, many locals come here to soak up the lively atmosphere and admire the bay, with its daily live music and fun vibe the Bayside Market does not fail to entertain.
Cruise starting at Bayside: The Original Millionaire’s Row Cruise
5. Stroll through The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Recognized as one of Miami’s greatest treasures, The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens with its stunning architecture, grounds and artwork are certainly worth a visit.
Featuring 34 rooms arranged around a breath taking courtyard, the Renaissance-style villa is filled with the most exquisite European furniture and arts reaching from the 15th to the 19th century.
Over 1,100 craftsmen were bought over from Europe for true authenticity in design, to complete this 28-acre estate.
6. View over 2000 wild animals at Zoo Miami
Providing animals with habitats close to their natural setting, Zoo Miami visitors get the sensation of exploring a real safari.
With open-air exhibits and a cage free environment, zoo visitors have a chance to enjoy endangered wildlife up close.
With lots of interaction with the animals, Zoo Miami while not the biggest is fantastic for families especially for the younger ones with a children’s zoo featuring a range of different attractions including camel rides.
Book online: Zoo Miami Admission Ticket
7. Soak up the Cuban Flavor at Little Havana
Well recognized for its cultural flavor, Little Havana offers a great deal of entertainment from open air social areas to its many restaurants and specialty food shops.
With non stop lively Latin music drifting through the air and street art depicting important Cuban figures you will feel completely immersed in the distinctive cultural atmosphere.
While Calle Ocho is know as the heart of little Havana and setting for most of the activity , the district has slowly spread into the surrounding streets and avenues.
Recommended tour: Little Havana Walking Tour
8. Explore salt marshes and Indian burial grounds
Encompassing mangrove forests, salt marshes, a coastal dune island, coastal tropical hardwood rockland hammocks and endangered pine habitats, this 440 acre Deering Estate at Cutler property has it all.
Also home to the Richard cottages c1900 which served as a hotel, the Deering Estate hosts other historical buildings of importance dating from 1896 to 1922 and an Indian burial ground circa 1500.
Visitors are welcome to stroll through the stunning grounds, explore the houses or simply relax and soak up the surroundings.
9. Get hands on at The Miami Science Museum
With its many interactive exhibits and a large number of hands-on displays the Miami Science museum offers a truly immersive experience encompassing a wide range of scientific fields including physics, biology and chemistry.
Established in 1950, the museum has grown significantly and has expanded its space considerably throughout the years.
The Museum exhibits regularly change offering fresh themes and displays to a 2nd 3rd or 4th visit is never too much.
10. Explore Croc ridden swamplands at the Everglades National Park
Just a short drive from Miami, The Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of swamp lands home to alligators, snakes, crocodiles and a whole host of birds.
As well as walking trails and boardwalks to for wildlife viewing, one of the most exciting way to see the everglades is aboard a high speed airboat.
Taking visitors deep into the marshes and streams, the airboat tour is guaranteed to entertain and is the best way to see alligators.
Available tour: Everglades National Park: Airboat Tour and Wildlife Show
11. Admire Freedom Tower
Built in 1925 with a the important role of an immigration-processing center for the many hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees that were arriving, today freedom tower stands as a tribute to Cuban immigration and proudly stands out as one of the most striking and oldest skyscrapers in southern eastern United states.
Freedom Tower also served as the head office of the Miami Daily New for many years.
12. Meet Flipper at The Miami Sea Aquarium
Actively rehabilitating and rescuing Florida’s endangered manatees, the Miami Sea Aquarium has forever been a firm family favorite attracting visitors from far and wide.
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With daily shows displaying dolphins, killer whales and other ocean mammals, the aquarium will delight any visitor.
If that’s not enough, check out the large observation tanks containing a wide range of tropical fish, sharks and even alligators.
Still not satisfied? Why not get involved in the “swim with dolphins” program that educates about the behavior and natural history of dolphins.
13. Catch a live event
Standing out prominently on the waterfront in a fresh and developing area of town, The American Airlines Arena is the main venue for large concerts and many other events including top name singers and of course the home of NBA’s Miami Heat.
With a Capacity of 19,000 people, the building opened in 1999 and had proudly been awarded the Leed Green Building Certification for being a super energy efficient building.
14. Visit Bayfront Park
Located on the east side of Biscayne Boulevard, Bayfront park was refurbished and given a fresh new look in the 1980s.
Highlights include an electronically controlled Pepper Fountain, a huge amphitheater used for a range of musical events and performances, a tower for laser illuminations and features three very important monuments; the challenger memorial commemoration to the crew of the challenger aircraft that exploded in 1986, the touch of friendship; a symbol of Miami’s relationship with central and south America and the World War II Memorial.
15. Take a slow cruise down Ocean Drive
Running along the Oceanfront of Miami Beach and passing by the iconic sands of south beach, Ocean Drive is a popular tourist destination night and day and offers a great opportunity for those with a special interest in the unique skyline and scenes Miami has to offer.
The Beacon being some of the most exciting and notable structures in the area but also don’t forget to look out for those beautiful pastel colored art deco buildings.
Suggested tour: Ocean Drive Private Tour by Legendary Vintage Convertible
16. Soak up the sun at South Beach
Renowned for being the most popular section of Miami beach, in the summer the beach is packed with locals and visitors from around the world but in the winter months the area becomes more of a chilled out area and is a great place to take a stroll whilst admiring the art deco buildings that provide a backdrop for the beach.
Fun tour: Duck Tour of Miami and South Beach
17. Be childish at the Miami Children’s Museum
Founded back in 1983 but only moving to its current site as recently as 2003, the Miami Children’s Museum is a great place for children to be educated and entertained at the same time.
Appealing to the imaginations and curiosity of youngsters the exhibits are interactive and revolve around themes such as cultures around the world and art.
The museum is set in a unique looking 56,000 square foot building.
18. Learn about locomotive history
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum was created in the 1950’s by the Miami Railroad Historical Society and houses 30 historic locomotives in pristine condition.
Famous carriages include the one that once carried Roosevelt, Truman and Reagan. Also at the museum is an impressive and detailed model railway that is worth admiring.
There are also some wooden toy train sets for children who will inevitably be inspired to play with trains after looking around the museum.
19. Visit Crandon Park
South of Miami Beach and across the Rickenbacker Causeway you will find Key Biscayne, a beautiful but small area with stunning beaches and fantastic park areas. Crandon Park is probably the most visited park in the area and for good reason.
The reef here means that the swimming conditions are ideal. Also in the park, you will find an Amusement Center and Nature Center adding even more to the family appeal of Crandon Park.
Facilities in the park are good with plenty of parking and lifeguards keeping lookout year round.
20. Stroll around Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has a vast collection of rare tropical plants including vines, flowering trees and cycads. The gardens are open year round except for Christmas day.
Exhibits of note include the Richard H Simons Rainforest which was built thanks to a generous grant and showcases the habitat of tropical and often endangered rainforests around the world.
21. See some coral art
Coral Castle is the work of eccentric Latvian American artist Edward Leedskalninand is made from 1100 tons of coral rock.
The building was built by Edward alone and is both an impressive feat and a stunning work of art.
It is not actually known how Edward achieved this massive feat and this is partly the reason why so many visitors to the castle are left fascinated by their trip.
22. Swim in the Venetian Pool
The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables just outside of Miami is a little taste of Venice. It is a historic aquatic facility and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
It was built in 1923 out of a coral rock quarry. The pool holds 820,000 gallons fed from underground spring water and in the busy spring and summer months in emptied and refilled daily. The pool gets very busy in peak season and the attraction stops selling tickets once its capacity is reached.
23. Pay your respects to the victims of the holocaust
Situated on Miami Beach, the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is a good place to take time out and pay respects to the victims of the holocaust. The memorial itself was designed by Kenneth Treister and commissioned by a small group of holocaust survivors.
During its planning period, many people objected to the memorial being built saying it would ruin the fun and sun party atmosphere of Miami Beach.
24. See smart design at the Wolfsonian FIU
The Wolfsonian FIU is a museum, library and center for research located in the Art Deco district of Miami Beach. The museum is what will interest you. It houses a range of exhibitions that explore design at its most intelligent and most beautiful.
The museum is affiliated with the Smithsonian and explores everything from book covers to propaganda pieces.
25. Catch a performance at the Olympia Theater
There are plenty of theaters in Miami but none are as iconic as the Olympia Theater. Located on Flagler Street, the theater has a range of performances and events throughout the year ranging from concerts to comedy but what will really stick in your memory is the interior decor.
The theater is styled in Moorish fashion with splendid balconies and columns that would not look out of place in North Africa.
— Update: 25-12-2022 — We found an additional article Things to Do in Miami BESIDES Party from the website hulalandblog.com for the keyword crazy things to do in miami.
I have a love/hate relationship with Miami. There are things I LOVE about Miami and things I’m…not so crazy about.
The list of things I’m not interested in is like this: partying, night clubs, pool parties with bottle service, barely there swimwear, trendy dinner reservations made months in advance with stiff cancellation policies. Unfortunately (for me), that’s a lot of Miami. Especially Miami Beach.
But there’s more to Miami than just the party scene. And every time I go back to Miami I find places and parts of the city that I REALLY like. But they’re not always the headliners in all the “XYZ things to do in Miami” lists you see on the internet.
So if you’re like me and you’re not into the party scene, here’s a list I’ve put together of things to do in Miami BESIDES party:
Art Deco Walking Tour
This is hands down at the very top of my “things to do in Miami” list. It’s actually one of my favorite things I’ve done anywhere.
Miami Beach is famous for its heavy concentration of art deco style architecture (a style super popular during the 20s and 30s). There are 800+ buildings in its historic district in South Beach! But seeing them on your own just doesn’t cut it. I did a 2-hour walking tour with James Cubby from Art Deco Walking Tours and IT WAS INCREDIBLE.
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He covered the Miami night scene as a reporter in the 90s and in addition to being recognized as a leading expert on Miami Beach’s art deco history, he knows ALL the juicy stories of Miami Beach’s past. I’m talking the Mob days (he showed us the clues for how to find hidden illegal casinos during the depression and prohibition), Sinatra and the Rat Pack, the cocaine cowboys of the 70s and 80s, the party scene from the 90s, Versace’s famous manion (he actually went to a party there), Miami Vice, and everything that happened BEFORE Miami Beach became the international tourist destination that it is today.
What does all of that have to do with the art deco architecture in Miami Beach? Well, it turns out…a lot. I won’t give away all of the secrets, but safe to say this is a definite must do. I recommend the 10AM tour because it gets HOT, but there’s also an evening version that includes a cocktail tour that sounds fun fun fun.
Read my full review of the art deco tour here.
You can’t go to Miami and not visit Little Havana. Over 1 million people of Cuban descent live in the Miami area so Cuban culture is everywhere, but it’s preserved and celebrated like no other in Little Havana. I recently did a walking tour with Little Havana Tours and I 100% recommend it, but even if you’re not up for a full organized tour, you’ve got to at least come and walk down the street. Unlike some cultural neighborhoods where it feels like there’s not much to see beyond restaurants if you don’t have connections (Chinatowns, Little Italys, etc.), Little Havana is super accessible for visitors.
Calle Ocho is the main strip and it’s packed with things to see. The area is pretty safe and you shouldn’t feel out of place as a tourist. Actually, I recommend going earlier in the day as it gets pretty crowded in the afternoons (especially on the weekends).
Don’t miss food: Lunch at Old’s Havana, ice cream at Azucar, churros at Churromania, cafecito (tiny coffee) at Versailles,
Don’t miss cultural sites & experiences: Watch a master cigar roller, listen to live music at Ball and Chain, visit Domino Park, see the art deco Tower Theater, spot the brightly painted roosters around town.
Here is the tour I booked. Read my full review (plus 10 things to do in Little Havana) here.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Built in 1915 by James Deering (of the International Harvester fame), this Italian-inspired villa turned museum is a primetime example of the “American Renaissance” when wealthy American businessmen built grand “country estates” in the European tradition. Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Hearst may be the first ones you think of, but Deering’s Vizcaya is STUNNING. I have a thing for poking around old houses (palaces, museums, estate sales haha), but even the most neutral visitor can’t help but be impressed by this place.
It’s called a museum, but they haven’t turned the rooms into art galleries…the house, the rooms, the furnishings, the decorations…they’re the main attraction. It’s like Downton Abbey meets Marie Antoinette meets…I don’t know, something fabulous. The rooms are all done in different styles and time periods but it’s pretty spectacular. There’s an audio tour you can play from your phone with a QR code.
While the house is phenomenal, most people are even more drawn to the gardens. The grounds of the estate are easy to get lost in and feel so luxurious. My best tip is to go on a weekday or at least early in the day or you’ll be dodging influencers staging photo shoots everywhere (mostly in the gardens).
Buy your tickets in advance here. Read my full review of Vizcaya here.
Miami Beach & Lifeguard Towers
In most beach towns/destinations, the beach is the main event, but in Miami it kind of seems like a sideshow. But I have to say…the actual beach in Miami was a lot prettier than I expected it to be! There was quite a bit of seaweed when I was there and not really many shells, but overall the sand and the water were nice. By far the prettiest stretch of beach I saw was at South Pointe Park. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen water so blue in Florida. Don’t miss walking the pier out over the water and you can even see the cruise ships in the distance.
I will admit…I had very low expectations about the beach because I’m used to the beaches on the Florida Gulf Coast and panhandle and the Atlantic certainly doesn’t compare, but Miami Beach does have its charms…
My two favorite parts of the beach ended up being with iconic lifeguard towers and the beachwalk.
The paved beach path runs all the way from South Pointe park at the very tip of the island up to Bal Harbor on the north end which is roughly 10 miles. As someone who loves to walk, I loved being able to use the beach walk to go north and south instead of being out on the city sidewalk.
Also, the lifeguard shacks!!! Seeing all of the different ones quickly became one of my favorite things to do. There’s a shack every few blocks and pretty much every single one is unique (there seemed to be 4-6 different architectural styles and then a lot of color variations). The hours are posted 9:30AM-6:30PM so if you want to climb the steps and get a picture in one, you’ve got plenty of time before or after the crew shows up.
Joe’s Stone Crab
If there’s only one “must eat” restaurant in the Miami area then this is surely it. Joe’s has been in business (and owned by the same family) for well over 100 years making it a Miami institution. Famous for their stone crab, this place serves up good food without a lot of pretense. In a city where so much is “trendy” “hot” and “of the moment,” this place is old school. They don’t take reservations and during the winter the wait can be 2-4 hours. They seat 300-600 people at a time depending on the season so the key is to go early. Their special includes the famous stone crab claws, three sides, and a slice of key lime pie. We also had the lobster mac and cheese and it was PHENOMENAL. And next time I go back, I’m definitely trying the fried chicken.
This trendy neighborhood in mainland Miami is famous for its “walls.” The Wynwood Walls is an outdoor “urban graffiti art museum.” I actually only figured this out after I arrived. If you read any number of “things to do in Miami” articles or posts, they all mention the Wynwood Walls, but I don’t feel like many say exactly what it is. I (inaccurately) assumed it was a part of the city with a high concentration of street art that you could walk around and look at. While it is outdoors, it’s actually a walled off exhibit that requires a ticket for entry.
I’m certainly not opposed to supporting artists (and I do consider this an art), but since I was just passing through Wynwood after another activity nearby, I didn’t end up actually buying a ticket and going through the museum. And I’d be curious to know how many people end up doing the same thing. It’s a little odd because the “museum” is in the middle of the neighborhood of Wynwood which is COVERED with street art. Literally every building within blocks is covered with murals. There is something to see absolutely everywhere you look.
So while a lot of people say come to wee the Wynwood Walls, I say come to see just the neighborhood in general. There are a lot of shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Zak the Baker (I had a DIVINE salmon bacon egg and cheese sandwich) and Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop (the red velvet nutella cake was AMAZING). Also, because I practically live in beach coverups, I think a stop at Pitusa is a must.
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Don’t miss these other posts about Miami:
Miami Art Deco Walking Tour
Things to Do in Little Havana
Biking on Key Biscayne (Cape Florida Lighthouse)
Where to Play Tennis on Key Biscayne
Bike to the Cape Florida Lighthouse
Everglades National Park
ALLIGATORS! Spread out over 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is definitely a gem in the National Park system. This uniquely Florida ecosystem is an adventure seeker’s paradise…canoeing, hiking, kayaking, biking, camping – you name it and you can do it in the Everglades! Hike the Anhinga Trail to spot birds, alligators and turtles. Stop at the ponds along the way to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive flamingo! If you want less action but still want the full nature experience, try the 2-hour Shark Valley Tram ride led by a knowledgeable naturalist.
Originally a rock quarry in the 1920s, the Venetian Pool is the only swimming pool to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. With waterfalls, cave-like grottos, bridges and freshwater that comes from an underground aquifer, it’s a pretty cool spot! Bring the whole family to experience this fun one-of-a-kind spot. Take some food and water with you because although there is a snack bar on site, they tend to run out around midday.
Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
How many museums can boast having both an aquarium and a planetarium in the lineup? Not many, but the Frost Museum of Science does. If you’ve got the kids in tow, this is probably the top place you’ve got to take them. With six levels of science to explore, you’ll need an entire day to experience it all. Interactive exhibits, touch pools with manta rays, and a state-of-the-art planetarium with an 8K visual system – this place has it all.
Biscayne National Park
With 95% of Biscayne National Park being underwater, the best way to get around this National Park is by boat. Charter one or bring your own, but out in the water is where you want to be to explore this park to the fullest. Go snorkelling, scuba diving if you’re certified, swimming and of course, fish for some lobster. Visit Boca Chita Key island and it’s historic lighthouse, or Elliott Key for some picnic and camping spots. If you’re a National Park enthusiast, don’t forget to get your National Park Passport stamped at the visitor’s center.
Perez Art Museum
Take a day trip to the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County to immerse yourself in its collection of modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. With so many vistas scattered through the premises, you’ll find the architecture of the museum to be as much of an attraction as the art itself. Great views out across Biscayne Bay from the property.
Built during the same time as his famous brother’s villa Vizcaya, Charles Deering’s Estate is a more understated show of grandeur, but a show of grandeur all the same. The main building on the premises is called the Stone House and it boasts architectural elements derived from Charles’ properties in Spain. The Deering Estate offers visitors marvellous, sweeping views of the Biscayne Bay; a chance to explore its famous grounds which house an ancient fossil pit containing decades old animal and human bones; as well as fun nature activities like walking the mangrove boardwalk, and pre-booked canoe and kayak trips.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Whether you’ve got a green thumb or you’re just looking for the best backdrops for your Instagram photos, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is where you need to be! Walk and explore the gardens, exhibits, museum, laboratory and learning Center yourself or catch a free, narrated tram tour. It’s lush and tropical and between the butterflies, exotic birds, palms, and fruit trees, you’ll probably feel like you’ve entered another world.
Ever dreamed about feeding a giraffe? What about a one-horned Indian rhino, camel or giant tortoise? At Zoo Miami, you can do all that and more! Take a walk around or catch the monorail to see as many of the upwards of 3000 animals at the zoo. You’ll see Komodo dragons, meerkats, lions, kangaroos, gorillas and clouded leopards, just to name a few. Take the kids for some hands-on fun at the rainforest-themed, air-conditioned Dr. Wilde’s World; visit the petting zoo and don’t even think about missing the splash pad! Miami Zoo is one of the best family friendly spots in the Miami area.
Neighborhoods to Explore
My favorite parts of Miami are it’s neighborhoods. Some are big tourism destinations like South Beach and Little Havana, and others are a little more quiet. But you never really know a city, until you spend some time in its neighborhoods.
Coconut Grove: With a history that goes back three centuries, Coconut Grove is Miami’s oldest neighborhood. Today it’s one of the hippest and most vibrant communities in Miami. Whenever I ask locals where the best places to go are, they always say “The Grove.” Spots to check out include: CocoWalk, the shopping complex, the Vizcaya estate, the 5-acre Barnacle State Park, and Peacock Park. For food visit the popular Cuban-fusion restaurant, Ariete, and the classic oldie but goodie Greenstreet Cafe.
Coral Gables: Developed in the 1920s in Mediterranean Revival style, the pedestrian-friendly historic downtown area in Coral Gables is known for its gorgeous boulevards and historic locations. Must visit destinations are the Venetian Pool and the world-famous Biltmore Hotel. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Caffè Italiano are also worth a stop. Catch the vintage-style trolley to make getting around more fun!
Key Biscayne: Key Biscayne looks so dreamy that I’ve already booked a trip for later this year. I love that it seems to have a “Florida Keys” vibe but is actually just south of Miami Beach and only about 20 minutes from the airport.
Miami Design District: If you’re one with a flair for art, design and the finer things in life, Miami Design District will be a must-visit for you. Spread out over 18 square blocks, this international destination for edgy art, architecture, trendy fashion and fine dining seems like the place to be in Miami.
Brickell: Located in the heart of downtown Miami, Brickell is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city. Everything you’d expect from a large city’s downtown, but of course with some Miami flair. It’s a millennial paradise…everyone has a dog, no one has a kid.
Wynwood: Famous for its “walls,” Wynwood is best known for its murals and street art, but the restaurant and shopping scene is noteworthy too. It’s kind of hipster and artsy, but pretty laid back. It’s got a different vibe than a lot of Miami.
Posts about where to stay in Miami:
Where to Stay in Miami (Besides Miami Beach)
Miami Beach! Mid Beach vs South Beach (+My Favorite Hotels)
Miami Beach vs South Beach: Is South Beach Really the Best Place to Stay in Miami?
Downtown Miami vs South Beach: Brickell is the REAL Star in Miami
Key Biscayne vs South Beach: As Different As It Gets in Miami
The EDITION Miami Beach Review (Marriott Bonvoy)
Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne Review
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