At the southeastern tip of Florida, the famous Miami is a great seductress, cosmopolitan, artistic, festive, benevolent, permissive and voluptuous. It is both a financial and cultural centre, at the forefront of contemporary art and design, and a city of leisure and entertainment, fashion and pleasure. From the airport corridor, the tone is set with the presentation of works of art. The city is full of art galleries, art museums (MoCA, Bass Museum of Art), remarkable design hotels and a programme of prestigious dance shows or concerts. A few hours by boat from the Bahamas, Miami is already a little bit like the Caribbean, whose influence can be seen in Little Havana. But the spectacular is Miami Beach with its marinas and luxury skyscrapers, Art Deco buildings, white sandy beaches and trendy nightclubs. For shopping, direction Coconut Grove to Bayside, huge shopping center on the water with luxurious shops. South Beach (SoBe) and Ocean Drive live 24 hours a day, with their lively cafés all day long and their clubs where people celebrate until the end of the night. And if you want to escape the city, two iconic national parks are nearby: Biscayne National Park, accessible by boat, and Everglades Park. Even children can enjoy it with the Miami Children’s Museum, Monkey Jungle and Jungle Island, Miami Seaquarium and Miami Metrozoo. There is so much to do and so much to see that your tourist guide will be very handy!
Here are the best things to do in Miami:
1. ART DECO DISTRICT
A major restoration project undertaken in the 1980s in South Beach, Miami’s Art Deco district, built between the 1920s and 1930s, is a symbol of this post-war architectural style and also an essential stopover for any stay in Miami.
2. SOUTH POINTE PARK AND LUMMUS PARK
This is the busiest and most famous part of South Beach, facing Ocean Drive. There are easy access, many palm trees at the edge of the beach near the road, small huts, deckchairs for rent, showers, toilets at some points.
3. VIZCAYA MUSEUM AND GARDENS
The house was built between 1914 and 1916 by James Deering, the heir to a family that had made a fortune in agricultural machinery. Vizcaya comes from the Basque word meaning “high place”. Given the topography of Miami, this name was probably chosen for the site’s similarity to Biscayne Bay. The Vizcaya estate had to be self-sufficient. Its 85 hectares included a small jungle of mangroves and deciduous trees, lemon trees, pastures and a farm village where fruit and vegetables were grown to feed the villa and be sold in the city. Finally, there were workshops, but also tennis courts and a port for yachts. But Deering, who had never enjoyed a robust health, died in 1925. Most of the land was sold. There are now about 12 hectares left.
4. PÉREZ ART MUSEUM MIAMI (PAMM)
The former Miami Art Museum moved on December 4, 2013 to this brand new ultra-design museum located on the bay. A beautifully landscaped walkway provides a breathtaking view of Downtown’s skyscrapers (take your cameras!). This construction is directly in line with the city’s urbanization policy, which aims to revitalize the Downtown district. The museum has been renamed “The Pérez Art Museum Miami” (named after Jorge M. Pérez, a great Latin American art collector who financed the project with 35 million dollars, hence the tribute paid to him through the museum’s name) or PAMM. It forms a superb design ensemble, created by the famous Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, with a beautiful green space and a pleasant cafeteria facing the bay. The museum is superb with permanent collections that reflect Miami’s vibrant artistic spirit, hence the many names of the city’s contemporary art on display… But the museum also includes works from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the city’s cultural melting pot. Some are very critical of the American cultural model; Bart Simpson in terracotta (to be seen!), the work of a Colombian artist, tends to denounce the cultural globalization induced by the US model. As for temporary exhibitions, they are generally just as committed. Of course, this sublime museum has a price… The total cost of the work is estimated at $220 million!
5. WORLD EROTIC ART MUSEUM (WEAM)
You enter a museum where art rhymes with eroticism. Nothing here is degrading or vulgar and the collection is as vast as it is diversified. Everything was chosen by Naomi Wilzig, the owner, who died in April 2015, shortly after celebrating her 80th birthday… She battled in several American states before she was able to open her museum here in Miami. You will be able to follow the evolution of eroticism through the ages, with paintings, sculptures and objects of the most heterogeneous kind. Unique pieces of cult films, fetish objects of actresses and works of great artists since we find here Picasso, Dali, Helmut Newton who, at one point in their career, expressed their vision of eroticism. Among the last works acquired by the museum: drawings by Botero and a work by Rembrandt. But the most amazing works are undoubtedly the erotic drawings of Disney characters! They are originals, and the author, a certain F. Follmer, really worked for Disney Studios. You might as well warn yourself, you will no longer have the same image of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs after seeing these drawings…. Forbidden for those under 18 years of age, however.
6. JUNGLE ISLAND
Formerly specialized in parrots, the park is now a zoo that presents different species of animals: monkeys, penguins, snakes, alligators, and even ligers (cross between the tiger and the lion). Parrots are always present, of course, and the bird show is worth a visit. Allow 4 hours for the visit.
7. MIAMI SEAQUARIUM
With its show of marine animals including killer whales, dolphins and elephant seals, the Seaquarium is Miami’s biggest private attraction. The Seaquarium talks emphatically about its many research and education plans: environmental lessons, workshops, summer camps, scout programs… Their latest hit attraction is the “Sea Trek Reef Encounter” where you can dive into a huge aquarium that replenishes the ecosystem of a coral reef with the fish that go with it. We tested it and it’s quite impressive! We recommend this small expedition which will still cost you 99 US$ per person. But dolphin fans will surely prefer a swim with dolphins (125 US$ per child and 165 US$ per adult) which is an unforgettable experience. Of course, at both attractions, you will be allowed to take pictures to capture these moments (paid service).nullTHE ANCIENT SPANISH MONASTERY
8. THE ANCIENT SPANISH MONASTERY
This monumental complex, widely promoted as the oldest building in North America, is often given a date of birth that incorrectly dates back to the 9th century. It is actually a monastery from Segovia dating from 1141. It seems that the complex is part of the buildings that William Randolph Hearst (Citizen Kane) bought in Europe. The monastery was dismantled piece by piece and each element carefully noted was crated. The whole thing was to be rebuilt in San Simeon, the property of Hearst in California. But when the crates arrived in the United States, customs officials quarantined them, fearing the spread of a disease that was rampant in the region of origin. The straw suspected of carrying the virus was burned and the stone blocks were extracted from their numbered packaging and it was then impossible to return to a coherent order. It is the writer Ben Hecht who tells the story in his memoirs, Child of the Century. The monastery was effectively abandoned for 25 years before being bought by a real estate entrepreneur who sold the puzzle in 1964 to an episcopal diocese that installed it in its current location.
9. MIAMI CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
In fact, it is not actually a museum, rather a small playground divided into thematic sections. The children can thus improvise themselves as firemen, police officers, go shopping, play cashier, apprehend a television studio, try some musical instruments, etc.. With an educational vocation, this museum is not very interesting, except if it rains and you try to occupy your children. However, over 10 years of age, they may quickly get bored.
10. MONKEY JUNGLE
Another of Miami’s old curiosities that deserves a visit with, original detail, the fact that it is the men who are in cages as they cross the monkey territory. The place recreates the wilderness of Latin America and Asia where 500 monkeys belonging to 50 different species live. We see them swinging in this adapted environment for the greatest pleasure of our eyes.
11. THE CARLYLE
Opened in 1941, this hotel has a very Art Deco style as evidenced by the 3 symmetrical vertical parts of its facade which respect the rule of three and its pastel colors. We see this hotel several times in the movie Scarface.
12. MIAMI BEACH – CENTRAL
This part of the beach is appreciated by Europeans.
13. SUNNY ISLES BEACH
A long, unspoilt and quiet beach. A true haven of peace away from the crowd of tourists who visit the beaches of South Beach. Here we are really in the most residential area of Miami Beach, much further north of South Beach. We meet mostly families and couples, few people come here to show off unlike South Beach.
14. LINCOLN THEATER
The Lincoln Theater has not lost any of its former charm. The symmetrical Art Deco style is clearly visible on its façade, not to mention the pretty bas-relief. Built in 1936, this cinema remained in operation until the 1980s. Today, the area is used as a shopping centre.
15. PHILIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE
This is the brand new Miami museum, it opened in May 2017 after several years of work at a cost of $305 million. It is very successful with a magnificent design and offers a very complete overview of general science with several high-tech or interactive exhibitions on the human body, ecosystems, technological innovations…. It also has an impressive aquarium with many fish, on 3 levels, as well as a planetarium.
16. LESLIE HOTEL
This hotel is one of SoBe’s most emblematic buildings. Built in 1937, it has a beautiful yellow facade with three symmetrical panels, typically Art Deco. Today, it is a pleasant boutique-hotel with 35 rooms.
17. DELANO HOTEL
This Art Deco hotel was redesigned by Philippe Starck in the 1990s but has kept all its original charm with a pretty touch of modernity.
This hotel was originally owned by the Ratner family from Cleveland, Ohio. The Clevelander, with its large luminous letters, was built in 1938 by Albert Anis. After renovation work in the 1950s, it now has an outdoor swimming pool.
19. COLONY HOTEL
Built in 1935 by one of the specialists in the “Tropical Art Deco” style, architect Henry Hohauser, the neon-lit hotel of the Colony Hotel has become one of the symbols of Miami Beach and especially of its nightlife.
20. CALLE OCHO
This is Little Havana’s main and commercial street, the one you have to walk down if you want to get a glimpse of the life in this neighbourhood. It is advisable, or even recommended, to visit this area during the day and avoid staying there after dark. The street has several restaurants and cafés where you can taste their famous cuisine and finish with a Cuban coffee, this very strong nectar, served in very small cups and often very sweet to reduce its bitterness. A visit along Calle Ocho allows us to retrace the history of these Cuban immigrants who came to settle in the United States. Brigade 2506 Memorial (at the corner of SW 13th Ave), is a discreet memorial dedicated to the memory of the Cubans who died in the Bay of Pigs. Next door, Máximo Gómez Park is nicknamed Domino Park because of the large number of domino players who come here to meet each other. A few blocks away, the Hoy Como Ayer bar is one of the most famous and popular in Little Havana and is home to many groups playing Latin music. Finally, the cemetery (3260 SW 8th St) celebrates the fighters for Cuban liberation and houses the graves of the three former Cuban presidents.
- Featured image: “Night view”by j_bongio is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
- 1. ART DECO DISTRICT: Reinhard Jahn, Mannheim
- 2. SOUTH POINTE PARK AND LUMMUS PARK: Visitor7 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 3. VIZCAYA MUSEUM AND GARDENS: Daderot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- 4. PÉREZ ART MUSEUM MIAMI: Sculpture by Raymond Duchamp-Villon; I took this photograph. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- 5. WORLD EROTIC ART MUSEUM: Cullen328 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 6. JUNGLE ISLAND: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 7. MIAMI SEAQUARIUM: Pietro [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 8. THE ANCIENT SPANISH MONASTERY: David H Dennis [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 9. MIAMI CHILDREN’S MUSEUM: No machine-readable author provided. Averette assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 10. MONKEY JUNGLE: Humberto Moreno [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 11. THE CARLYLE: Daniel Di Palma [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 12. MIAMI BEACH – CENTRAL: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 13. SUNNY ISLES BEACH: RustyClark [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 14. LINCOLN THEATER: Infrogmation of New Orleans [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 15. PHILIP AND PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE: Robertsonadams [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 16. LESLIE HOTEL: Gzzz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 17. DELANO HOTEL: Eurovisa [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 18. CLEVELANDER: Visitor7 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 19. COLONY HOTEL: Daderot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- 20. CALLE OCHO: formulanone from Huntsville, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons