Miami holds towering skyscrapers, beautiful beaches, gorgeous islands full of fun activities, and party scene all in the same place. It lies at the southern tip of Florida. When you arrive, you’ll land at Miami International Airport. It is the second most populous city in Florida and the seventh most populous metro area in the United States.
Generally speaking, tourists (both Americans and International) consider Miami Beach to be part of Miami city, but, in reality, Miami Beach is pretty large and a neighboring city of Miami. You may want to plan your travels as if you will be visiting two cities. Allow yourself ample time to enjoy the Miami vibe! It is one of the most popular spring break party destinations in the world.
Located east of Miami, Miami Beach region was originally a mangroves lowland. In the late 1800s, it was cleared to make way for coconut farms and was later incorporated as a city. It soon turned into a popular tourist destination. Like Miami, it has a huge Latin American population, and Spanish is a language often used for day-to-day use. If you speak English, you should have no problem as English is the language of preference and the majority of people can speak decent English.
Spanglish, a mixture of English and Spanish, is a somewhat common occurrence, with bilingual locals switching between English and Spanish mid-sentence.
The local Latin population is mostly of Cuban background. Other South Americans from various Latin countries have also immigrated in large numbers. There is a large Haitian community and many road signs and public announcements are often made in English, Spanish, and Creole.
Things To Do In Miami Beach
Miami Beach has a rich history as a trend-setting arts center, from the world-famous nightclubs to the rich cultural life of today’s modern South Beach. Museums, ballet performances, cultural events, and world-class entertainment are a part of this great city.
South Beach – The most popular part of Miami Beach. It’s on the southern tip of the island to about 23rd Street. You can rent Jetskis and do water sports. Restrooms and shower facilities are available in plenty. There is a walking trail; several beach volleyball courts. Lifeguards and beach patrol are present. You can easily rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and pretty much anything you need for a beach day. Topless bathing is allowed here, and a mostly-gay crowd sunbathes around 12th Street.
Also, South Beach has the best reputation in international cuisine. Most of the popular nightclubs are walking distance from South Beach.
Miami Beach – Spans between 23rd Street and 63rd Street.
Haulover Beach – Popular among nude beachgoers. Located at the northern tip of the island, from about 63rd Street up, North Beach does not experience heavy erosion and, therefore, has higher quality sand and shells. Also unlike other Florida beaches, you can see some noticeable waves (so its good for surfing). The northern half of Haulover Beach (North Beach) is one of the few and also one of the better nude beaches in the US, with reasonable facilities and a welcoming mixed crowd. Located approximately ten miles north of South Beach.
Art Deco District – It only takes a stroll down Ocean Drive and through much of the neighboring blocks to see the world’s largest collection of modern Art Deco architecture. The Miami Design Preservation League runs an Art Deco Welcome Center that serves as the base of operations for all things Art Deco: they hold lectures, show films, and other special events here. They also conduct guided walking tours of the district for a fee; call ahead for times and to make reservations.
Casa Casuarina (Versace Mansion) – Built-in 1930 and remodeled by Gianni Versace in 1993, this famous house is where he was murdered in 1997. It is one of the most photographed landmarks in South Beach, but it is not open to the public. It now houses a boutique hotel.
Espanola Way – Modeled after Mediterranean villages found in France and Spain.
Star Island (Biscayne Bay) – An artificial island within Miami Beach. The houses are colossal and the architecture is worth taking a look at. Most of the houses are gated. The island looks exclusive because there is a guard house, however, it is a public neighborhood and you are able to go to the island and check out the houses. Many Hollywood, Music, and Sports Celebrities such as Will Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, Madonna have houses here. If you are planning a trip to Miami this is a good bit of free sightseeing for you.
Lummus Park – The famous beachfront park of South Beach located along all the party destinations on Ocean Drive. Huge grassy areas and giant palm trees make for a great backdrop for photo shoots, which happen frequently, alongside volleyball courts and pull up bars. A wavy pedestrian walk called the Promenade weaves through the north end of the park and up along the beach to 21st St, where it turns into the boardwalk. The bathrooms, located at around 11th Street, are in a stunning Art Deco boat-shaped building but have rusty fixtures and are dirty.
South Pointe Park – Good park to sit and watch the cruise ships as they pass by.
Miami Beach Botanical Garden – A collection of subtropical palms and plants. Includes a Japanese Garden, orchid collection, exotic plants and varieties of subtropical palms.
Rent a Bike or Scooter – South Beach has a number of bike rental places. Bikes are a convenient way of traveling around South Beach very quickly, particularly if you want to see a lot in a short amount of time, but it will be hard to ride a bike through large crowds on busy weekends. Lummus Park and Lincoln Road will have bike racks if you want to stop and get around on foot. Scooters can also be rented and it will be faster but more expensive than bikes. You’ll need a Driver Licence to rent a scooter.
Rent a Boat – You can rent small 4-6 seaters boats. You will need a drivers license to rent a boat as well.
Take Miami Helicopter Tour – You can take a private or group helicopter tour of Miami Beach. The tours usually take you all the way to South Beach, Miami. This is a great way to take in the city and beach sights from the air.
Enjoy Spas – Both Miami and South Beach are known for luxury spas. You can choose from individual or couples packages. Usually, the spa also has a salon and gym.
Nightlife & Night Clubs – Nightlife in South Beach starts late and ends early in the morning. No matter which club you go to, please note that drinks will be expensive in the clubs. You are better off drinking a few drinks at a lounge or at home and then take Uber or taxi or a party bus to the club. The Miami South Beach clubs are top class and among the best in the world. No exaggeration.
Museums, Exhibits, Memorials
Bass Museum of Art – This art museum, expanded by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, houses European art from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Baroque and Northern European artworks are the highlights. The Bass Museum also hosts touring exhibitions and the New Information Workshop, a computer laboratory that allows visitors to create their own artwork.
The Holocaust Memorial – Located adjacent to the Botanical Garden, the memorial was created with the help of Miami Beach Holocaust survivors and sculptor Kenneth Treister in 1984 and was funded by a private, non-profit organization. The most noticeable features of this memorial include a sculpture of a giant outstretched arm covered with climbing Holocaust victims and an Auschwitz tattoo; the Garden of Meditation, with a 200-ft diameter reflecting pool with a dedication to victims; and sculptures of a dying mother and her children surrounded by Anne Frank quotes. In addition, there is a memorial wall etched with the names of victims with candles placed by visitors honoring the memory of the dead. Entry is Free.
Miami Beach Cultural Campus – Located between the Beach to Park Ave, between 20th and 22nd St. Known as the museum district which includes the Miami City ballet building, the Bass Museum, Miami Beach Regional Library and Collins Park.
Red Bull Art of Can Miami Exhibit (Ocean Dr.) – An exhibit showing 47 original pieces all made out of Red Bull cans. The pieces range from shoes to birds to face masks all made from the different cans that Red Bull makes. The show is not always there, so check it out on their website. It is for sure a must see.
Wolfsonian-Florida International University Museum – The Wolfsonian hosts a large Modernist-era (around 1885-1945) art collection that includes propaganda posters and postcards, Art Deco household items, and other touring exhibits.
Things To Do In Miami City
Miami Zoo – The largest and oldest zoological garden in Florida. It houses over 1,200 wild animals and is a free range zoo. Its climate allows it to keep a wide variety of animals from Asia, Australia and Africa like no other zoo in the country.
Jungle Island – A lush tropical garden that features animal shows and exhibits. Great outing for the family to enjoy.
Miami Seaquarium – This 38-acre tropical island paradise features marine shows and marine life exhibits. Expect to stay around two to three hours touring the large aquarium. Just ten minutes from downtown Miami and directly adjacent to Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden – Home to the only outdoor rainforest in North America, several famous outdoor art installations (including world famous Chihuly glasswork), the January Chocolate Festival, and world-famous Mango Festival (every June or July featuring information on and samples of hundreds of different mango varieties).
Museums, Exhibits, Memorials
Frost Art Museum – Located at Florida International University, the Frost Art Museum has a large variety of 1960’s and 1970’s American photography, pre-Columbian artifacts dating back from 200 to 500 AD, ancient African and Asian bronzes, and a growing number of the Caribbean and Latin American paintings and artwork.
The Caribbean Museum – With many antique art, ceramics, pottery and sculptures ranging from Greco-Roman times, Renaissance, Baroque, Art of Asia, Art of Latin America, and ancient potteries, the Lowe Art Museum offers a great range of art through the centuries.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens – European-inspired estate. Includes a main house filled with art and furnishings and ten acres of gardens on Biscayne Bay.
Scenic & Historic Sites
Oleta River State Recreation Park – The largest urban park in Florida has trails for biking, a beach for swimming, picnic areas and a playground for kids. Get a canoe or kayak to row to a mangrove island within the park. Several animals such as eagles and fiddler crabs also make their home here. Fourteen cabins with air conditioning are also on the premises, but bathrooms, showers, and grills are located outside the cabins and guests should bring their own linens.
Venetian Pool – In the 1920s Denman Dink transformed this limestone quarry into a pool with a waterfall, an area for kids and an area for adults. The water in this pool comes from a spring and is drained daily. In addition to the swimming facilities, there is a snack bar (you cannot bring outside food into the Venetian Pool) and lockers. Swimming lessons are also offered here. The Venetian Pool is best known for having Esther Williams and Johnny Weissmuller (the silver screen’s first Tarzan) swim here.
Matheson Hammock Marina – Grassy park with a man-made atoll pool, which is flushed naturally with the tidal action of nearby Biscayne Bay. The park has a full-service marina, snack bar and restaurant built into a historic coral rock building, picnic pavilions and nature trails.
Ancient Spanish Monastery – Originally built in Segovia, Spain in 1141, this monastery was original to be a part of William Randolph Hearst’s property in California. Partly because he ran out of money and partly because the United States would not allow the monastery to be built in California, the monastery remained in New York Harbor until 1954, when a couple of businessmen bought the property and assembled it in Miami. Today the monastery is a church as well as a popular marriage location. Also featured on a History Channel show.
Other Things To Do In Miami
Port of Miami – Miami Port is a major cruise ship embarkation port. Take a relaxing cruise to a variety of locations.
Miami City & Boat Tour – Experience the sights, sounds and tropical flavors of Miami and Miami Beach. As you become acquainted with the Magic City you will learn about the culturally diverse and rich history the city embraces.
Miami Yacht Charters & Rentals – Large selection of yachts to choose from between 35 and 150 feet. Half-day, full-day, and multi-day charters. Great way to experience Miami. Call for yacht availability and charter quotes.
Everglades National Park – Third largest national park in the United States, home to several animals native to Florida. You can take Everglades Airboat Tour. Journey across the Everglades National Parks river of grass. Tour passengers will find themselves surrounded by wild animals, in their natural habitat. as they travel into the swamp by airboat.
South Beach Food Tour – Explore the cultural diversity of the neighborhood, learn about the Art Deco architecture while you stop at restaurants and eateries to savor the local flavor.
Miami Balloon Rides – Year round sunrise flights with views of the Miami skyline, Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and Redlands of Miami, including a post-flight toast and picnic. Reservations are required.
Biscayne National Park – The largest marine park in the National Park System.
Getting Around In Miami
Getting around in the city is relatively easy, but taxis can be expensive. You can rent cars and drive yourself. But keep in mind that you should book hotel rooms where you can park your vehicle is available.
Public transport, like the Metrorail and the bus service, is efficient. You can walk around and witness the magnificent Miami or take a boat cruise along the Biscayne Bay. The major districts you should cover while you are on land are The Art Deco District, Little Havana, Coconut Grove, Downtown Miami and The Venetian Pool. The Art Deco district is sprawling with the modern architecture of the Twentieth century.
You can accumulate immense knowledge by just looking at the buildings. Little Havana has flourishing art galleries, beautiful Cuban culture, and colorful storefronts. A sneak peek of the modern Hispanic trend, The Coconut Grove is the community which has been set up for ages. People here are easy going. You can feel the relaxed atmosphere in open air parks. The Venetian pool offers you a cool dip in the carved pool of coral rock. It isn’t just beach, it is a cosmopolitan center. The laid-back attitude of locals just makes it a comfortable destination for any traveler.
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