Miami is known as the ‘Magic City’ and, for once, the nickname perfectly suits its subject. There's nowhere as enchanting as Miami.
Wherever you go, from the Art Deco condos of Miami Beach to the beautiful-people populated clubs of South Beach, Miami transports it’s visitors to another world, a world of glamor, decadence and pure pleasure.
Part of the magic is Miami's role as a meeting point for cultures. With everyone from Cuban exiles to elderly New Yorkers, European surfers to Venezuelan dancers, Orthodox Jews and Caribbean musicians to college party animals, the people of Miami are half the show themselves.
Whether you’re jetting in for a two-week break or are just on shore for a couple of days as part of a cruise, there are places to see and things to do that no visitor to Miami should miss.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Miami
1. It's a People-Watching Paradise
Keep a look-out for A-List global celebrities or take in the costumes and smiles of people from every corner of the world, all while sipping an ice-cold Mojito in Coconut Grove.
2. The Delights of Cuban Cuisine
Miami has benefited from the influx of exiles from Fidel Castro's Cuba. In fact, 34 percent of the city's people have some Cuban heritage, and they all love to eat. Join the fun with platters full of croquetas con Jamon; chicken drenched in mojo sauce, or a classic Cuban sandwich.
3. Wall to Wall Entertainment
Miami is one of America's entertainment capitals. Regularly hosting the Superbowl, Miami is also home to legendary nightclubs like LIV, Indie music venues like Bardot, and year-round theater events performed by local organizations such as the Miami Light Project and Miami on Stage.
4. An Urban Landscape Like No Other
If you love architecture, Miami Beach is the place to be, with an unparalleled collection of Art Deco buildings dating back to the 1920s and 30s.
5. The Allure of the Beach
There's no escaping the siren song of Miami's beaches, home to the world's highest concentration of bronzed, muscle-bound guys and perfect bikini bodies. Check out The Beach at 3rd to get a feel for the original 'locals' section. Here you'll find morning beach yoga, a playground, and nearby dog walking.
What to do in Miami
1. Visit South Beach
South Beach is where the celebrities hang out and the beautiful people come to relax. It's also lined with sandy beaches, is a nightlife hub and is Miami's shopping center, so it must absolutely not be missed.
2. Go to Monkey Island
Along with Zoo Miami and Seaquarium, Monkey Island is Miami's premier natural attraction. It's walkways allow visitors to get as close as possible to primates who are free to swing through the park's trees.
3. Take a Trip to the Everglades
Home to crocodiles, manatees and panthers, the 1.5 million acres of the Everglades National Park are an unmissable attraction. Plus, they are just 45 minutes from Downtown Miami.
4. See All of Miami's Beaches
Well, maybe not all of them. The city has 16 beaches, each with their own unique look and atmosphere. Head down to Key Biscayne or Homestead Bayfront Park for quieter beaches that are off the usual tourist trail.
5. Tour Miami's Museums
Miami has some fantastic museums, like the fascinating Museum of Science, the Children's Museum and the stunning gardens of the Vizcaya Museum. Giving you a little more than just beach bodies and cocktails.
High season in Miami falls between November and April, when you can expect perfect weather and nonstop entertainment choices, but on the downside, crammed restaurants and busy hotels. Head over at Christmas for the Art Basel event at Miami Beach, or book a Spring Break and hang with the college kids in March. Although the weather is more humid (and still scorching hot) from May to September, night-time temperatures are fine, hotel rates come down, and restaurants lower their tariffs. Visits between September and November can work out to be even cheaper, however, with hurricanes a real possibility during this period, it could turn out to be a different-kind-of-experience than you might have planned!
Most visitors to Miami arrive at Miami International Airport (MIA), which is situated a short distance to the west of the city center. As a busy transport hub, things can get quite hectic, meaning the arrivals process can take some time. The major airline servicing MIA is American Airlines, which provides a connection to most other US cities. The airport itself is roughly 10 miles from the city center. You can get an express bus service or an electric train into Miami Central Station. From there, intercity rail and bus transport, as well as rental cars, are readily available.
Miami is the final stop of Amtrak's Silver Service from New York, Washington D.C. and other cities on the east coast. Miami station is located north of the airport on the border between Miami and neighboring city, Hialeah, meaning that the commute from here to the city center is similar to the journey from the airport. Amtrak operates two trains every day from New York to Miami, and the journey takes around 24 hours in total.
If you are driving to Miami, you'll probably take one of two main routes. Anyone coming from the eastern cities will most likely take I-95 straight into the city center, while those coming from the Mid-West and Atlanta can take I-75. The historic US Highway 1 runs out to the Keys, while the Florida Turnpike connects Miami with Orlando.
Miami has excellent bus connections to the rest of the USA, with regular services operated by Greyhound, RedCoach, MegaBus, Gray Line Miami and ATC Buses, along with scheduled services on the Key West to Miami Bus route. Long-haul buses tend to terminate near Miami International Airport. From here you can take multiple Metrobus routes to the city.
Accommodation-wise, Miami is most famous for its up-market boutique hotels, with a cluster of smaller luxury options in South Beach. Many of these hotels feature lavish interiors and imaginative exteriors as imagined by leading designers. They are a great choice for art lovers, but not so good for families, as the rooms can be a little small. If you do need to stretch out, try the high-rises around Miami Beach or Downtown Miami, such as the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, the Conrad Miami or the impressive Grand Beach Hotel.
Popular Neighborhoods in Miami
Coconut Grove – this famous nightlife spot is located south of the Downtown Area and still oozes class. Shop for gifts and food at Cocowalk or take in a Broadway show at the elegant Coconut Grove Playhouse.
Key Biscayne – the southern end of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne is set apart from mainstream Miami. It's a tropical island fringed by beaches, and host to the spectacular Aquatic Nature Preserve and the family-friendly Miami Seaquarium.
Miami Beach – for many people, Miami Beach is Miami. With its soaring hotels and packed beaches, you cantroll along the boardwalk, people-watch on the strip and take an Art Deco tour to see its architectural marvels.
Downtown – the beating heart of Miami, Downtown is both a tourist hub and world-leading financial center. It also contains Little Havana, with its myriad of gourmet restaurants.
South Miami – As Miami's creative and educational heart, South Miami is home to Miami University and some of the city's many galleries, including the Emerson Dorsch Gallery and the Avant Gallery. It also hosts the massive MetroZoo, making it an excellent place for families to stay.
Miami has the most extensive and easy to use public transit system in Florida, so getting around is pretty simple. For visitors, an 'Easy-ticket' can be ordered online and comes recommended, as fare gates do not accept cash.
Getting around Miami by taxi may be convenient, but it's costly, with a surcharge of $2.50 for every pick-up and then $2.40 per mile after that. If you need to get to Key Biscayne or any of the outlying nightclubs, most taxi operators will offer fixed prices, ranging from $30 to $60, which makes getting back in the early morning much easier.
If you wish to travel by car, rental cars are readily available and can be organized at the Miami Central Station, near the airport. Parking however, can be complicated. Cash parking meters are the norm but be warned; they usually only accept small bills. Parking is free after 6 pm in some locations, but not all. The meter often contains information in this regard, but it is best to know the parking procedure before you go.
If you want to shop for everything from clothes to electronics, Collins Avenue (between 3rd and 15th Street) is the place to head, although Lincoln Road in South Beach comes a close second. It's a great place to window shop for exclusive boutique fashion through to high-street labels, and being Miami, you can dine in style or sip a coffee with a newspaper whenever you need a shopping break. There's even a South Beach Farmers' Market every Sunday, as well as the regular street markets to explore.
Groceries and Other Necessities
Miami has all of the major supermarket brands that you'd expect, such as Aldi, Public, Winn Dixie and Walmart, as well as specialist stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, so everyone's grocery needs should be covered. There are also plenty of Cuban and Jewish delis for foodies to sample.
Eating is one of Miami's obsessions, and the city is famous across the world for its New World fusion cuisine. As its name suggests, New World (or Nuevo Latino) cuisine brings together cooking traditions from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Florida. Try Chef Allen's for New World masterpieces by acclaimed chef Allen Susser.
Check out downtown Miami for a huge selection of Cuban joints serving up huge portions of meat, or fantastic sushi and steak restaurants. Coral Gables is a great neighborhood to visit if you want great quality Italian food or open air cafes, and for anyone looking for dining with a Bohemian vibe, Coconut Grove is the best place to explore.
Popular options include:
Cuban favorite La Carreta - offering filling, no frills, affordable Cuban mainstays.
Casa Tua - a superb Italian restaurant which relies totally on word of mouth for promotion. Booking is essential.
Nobu - a world-class Sushi restaurant in South Beach. The freshest fish and a dizzying sushi selection.