Miami is an adult’s playground, with sun, surf, luxury hotels, award-winning restaurants and nightclubs open well into the evening. As the biggest city in Florida, you can expect that there’s plenty to do on your weekend in Miami and there’s always a festival or event going on. Settled by the Spanish in the 1500s, Miami is a major cruise port and is the last stop before you get to the Everglades. It’s broken up into many neighborhoods, the most well known being downtown Miami, where you’ll find the central bus station, and Miami Beach, home to South Beach and Collins Avenue.
What to Do
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens– Tycoon John Deering made his home outside of Miami in 1916 but only spent the winters at his lavish waterfront retreat. Today the mansion and gardens have been restored and turned into a museum. Admission is $15 for adults, which includes the house and grounds. 3251 South Miami Avenue
Wynwood Arts District– A former factory district has become one of the city’s cultural hotspots, full of art galleries, restaurants, and nightlife. The monthly art walks regularly bring in locals and visitors, but if you’re not in town for an event you can still wander around and see the commissioned works of street art covering every building. 404 NW 26th Street
The Wolfsonian-Florida International University– This art museum is a part of Florida International University and has a collection of pieces from the 1800s to present. Their exhibitions focus on the power of art in terms of propaganda posters and other works. Admission is free every Friday from 6-9 pm but otherwise $7 for adults. 1001 Washington Avenue
CitiBike– Much like the rental bikes available in other cities, CitiBikes are public use bicycles that you can rent for a specific time period. They can be returned at any docking station and include a basket for your items. There are the most stations the more south you get on Miami Beach, so start there and work your way up.
Sporting events– Miami is home to its fair share of sports teams, so if you get the chance, go see the Miami Marlins, Miami Heat or Miami Dolphins play a game. Each event varies, but for most you can get a last minute ticket for under $10 per person.
You can also take a free tour every Sunday with Wynwood Mural Tours, which are operated by a fellow artist and go by bike.
Where to Eat
Islas Canarias Restaurant– It’s in an unassuming strip mall, but it was as authentic as they come and I may have been the only non-Cuban in the restaurant. I ordered a lunch portion of arroz con pollo, which was large enough for at least two meals and came with a side of plantains and bread. 13695 SW 26th Street, (305) 559-6666
Versailles Restaurant– Another Miami staple is this Cuban restaurant. They’re open daily from 8 am into the early hours of the morning for a strong coffee and hearty food.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar– The South comes to South Florida at Yardbird, where you can get cocktails in Mason jars and heaping portions of fried chicken and biscuits.
Juice and Java– For cleaner eating, check out this Miami Beach restaurant for acai bowls, wraps, and juices.
Twenty Seven Restaurant– Located at the Freehand, Twenty Seven serves Caribbean-inspired food. Come by for brunch and split a pitcher of mimosas with friends before hanging poolside.
Where to Stay
Dozens of hostels dot the South Beach area, some of better quality than others, but I found Freehand Miami to be one of the most luxurious hostels I’ve ever stayed at. There were a few things I didn’t like about it, but overall I would recommend it to budget conscious travelers staying in Miami. Beds n’ Drinks is another option, located further south. There are also plenty of budget hotels and luxury options for those who aren’t interested in hostels. Circa 39 was mid-range boutique ideally located near the beach and restaurants.
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Certain parts of Miami are walkable, specifically South Beach and Little Havana. If you’re looking for a way to get around once you’re in the city but the distance is too far to walk, you can rent bikes from DecoBike, a Miami-based bike sharing program similar to Citi Bike in New York and Bixi Bike in Montreal. There are dozens of locations in both Miami Beach and downtown Miami where you can insert your card and retrieve a bike to use for the day. Simply put it back in one of the stations when you’re done and it will charge your card. Bikes have baskets and LED lights, but not locks or helmets. You can choose from monthly memberships or day and weekly passes for visitors. A 30-minute pass for a quick ride across town is $4, while a full day pass is $24. Note that you will be charged $4 if you are late to return the bike.
Miami is a standard stop on most Florida road trips, especially as it’s a jumping off point for trips to the Keys and the Everglades, but driving in Miami isn’t for the faint of heart. Much of Miami Beach is a parking nightmare, as there are metered spots and small lots, but nothing more long term. Many hotels don’t have onsite parking and you have to fend for yourself. If you find a place to park, I recommend that you keep your car there and find alternate ways around town. The tolls coming in and out of Miami are another reason to avoid driving if you can avoid it. If you still need a car to get around, you can rent from Zipcar or one of the many rental agencies at the airport.
Yellow Cab and Super Taxi are among the recommended companies to use, especially if you’re coming in from the airport. Ride share and taxi apps Uber and Lyft both have cars in Miami. Uber offers UberX, the budget option where drivers are in their own cars, as well as UberXL for large parties.
If you’re getting around Miami but don’t have a car, you can take advantage of Miami’s public transportation. Metrobus runs all over town, which I took from the Freehand to the Wynwood Walls. The main depot is downtown, so you may have to change buses there. Each ride costs $2.25 for each method of transportation but you can also use the reloadable EASY card, which works on all of them. Metrorail runs in two tracks from Palmetto to Dadeland South, with stops at Vizcaya and Miami International Airport. Metromover is a smaller scale electrical rail line that connects Omni with the Financial District and makes a loop around downtown.