So you’re headed south and have a day at leisure in the great city of Miami? Make the most of it! Pack your bathing suit and some light clothes, sandals and a hat, and come enjoy the Magic City in all its glory.
This southern gateway for cruises and tours is basically two cities: Miami Beach and Miami. Miami is the mainland city, home to Little Havana and Coconut Grove. Miami Beach is where you’ll find the famous South Beach, and other evolving neighborhoods leading north to the ultra-fancy Aventura. The beaches themselves are gorgeous, calmer toward the north and more social toward the south.
With only one day, it’s hard to stay anywhere but South Beach. Vibrant, bustling, sexy, and energetic, South Beach is a must see for any visitor. Hotels range drastically in price, and be cautious when booking to be sure you don’t end up in a “party hotel.” Expect to pay a little more for a quieter establishment. The Hilton in SoFi, the neighborhood South of Fifth Street, is a good option and a great location.
On the mainland, Miami Design District is the place to go for upscale shopping, or Midtown/Edgewater for affordable shopping and wonderful pizza, Asian fusion, French, and Italian restaurants. Head farther north for Miami’s developing districts like MiMo, with lovely boutiques and cafes, and the Caribbean-style Little Haiti, with brightly painted pastel shops and houses.
Brickell/Downtown is Miami’s financial district with nice happy hours; Little Havana and Calle Ocho is home to a large Cuban and Central American population, and Wynwood is the arts area.
Miami is not known for great public transportation, but it is getting better. From Miami International Airport, you have several rail and shuttle options. Taxis to Miami Beach have zone fares, and a cab to South Beach is a flat rate of about $35.
Travel is free on the MetroMover, as well as by trolley. The bus system leaves a lot to be desired, so opt instead for a taxi or Uber. Miami Beach also has a free trolley system, in addition to a $0.25 blue bus that takes you up and down Washington Avenue every 20-30 minutes. However, it’s easy and enjoyable to walk or bike, and renting a bike for a day will run you about $25.
Strolling South Beach
In South Beach, don’t miss a photo opportunity of the downtown skyline at the beautiful South Pointe Park. Stroll east toward the beach, detouring for a glass of wine at Smith & Wollensky or lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab. On the beach, the colorful lifeguard stands are perfect backdrops to a group photo.
From the park, make your way up Ocean Drive to feel the vibe, but plan to eat elsewhere. Most of the restaurants are overpriced and lower quality. Instead, head northwest to Lincoln Road, a promenade where anything from sushi to bratwurst, and H&M to Dior, is at your fingertips.
If you’ve got the energy, continue west, past Purdy Avenue, over the tiny bridges of the Venetian Causeway to the Standard Spa, where you can get one of the best sunset shots Miami Beach has to offer. Depending on your route, you could cover five or more miles in South Beach alone.
In Miami, catch live music at Lagniappe, a casual wine bar in Midtown, or at Ball & Chain, an old-school club in Little Havana with live jazz for happy hour. There are art galleries galore in Wynwood, and Little River is beginning to bud as an art space, too.
You can also check out the PAMM Museum for some culture and grab lunch at Stephen Starr’s Verde. The view from here is fantastic, and looks out over Biscayne Bay and Miami Beach. The Epic Hotel’s Area 31 restaurant boasts an amazing view of Brickell Key and the Intracoastal Waterway that should not be missed if you are in the area.
If you’re in Miami before (or after) a long-haul flight to South America, don’t pass up a chance to stretch yourself. Free yoga is available on South Beach and Bayfront Park. The North Beach Bandshell offers roller skating on select weeknights, and the Miami Beach Boardwalk is a great place to walk or run with the beach on one side, and high-rise hotels on the other.
The culinary scene is shining, and fish lovers will rejoice with options ranging from excellent ceviche to stone crab claws by the dozen. Simply put, there are so many things to do in Miami, the hardest thing to do is leave!