Free fun in Miami
By: Ginger Harris
Here’s what to do in Miami without spending a dime.
Miami’s exotic restaurants, five-star hotels, upscale spas, luxury shopping destinations and touted nightclubs put it on the map as a must-experience for jet setters and celebs. But there’s another side to Miami that’s fun, family-oriented and so affordable - it’s free. From beaches to outdoor yoga in the park to art and cultural events, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy what Miami has to offer. In fact, you may not even need to break out your wallet. If you’re looking for a frugal family vacay, consider these free and nearly free activities during your stay.
Hit the Beach
Miami’s main attraction is its ideal weather, which is always free. And when it comes to seasonal travel, the weather during a Miami winter is all you need to have a good trip. With December through March temps in the high 70s, it's easy to enjoy the great outdoors at its fullest while the rest of the U.S. is donning jackets and darting indoors. This is, after all, the Sunshine State, which is packed with free beaches. So grab a chair, a cooler and hit the water’s edge.
A good rule of thumb for those looking for a quieter beach experience is, the further north you go, the less populated the beach. Miami Beach Central, from Collins Avenue and 21st Street to 46th Street, has a raised boardwalk for walking with shoes and without sand. While parking in these areas may be challenging, there’s always metered street parking, even if it may take a few laps around the block to find it.
The beaches of Key Biscayne, a residential island off of mainland Miami, cost a minimal fee, but are guaranteed to be very clean and incredibly beautiful. Crandon Park Beach is a three-mile, lagoon-style beach with walking and biking trails, beach volleyball nets, shelters for shade and barbecue grills available for the ideal beach day. An even more remote beach on Key Biscayne is at the tip of the island, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, with fishing and an historic lighthouse.
Art Deco Tours
Easter egg-colored buildings with defined style, dubbed Art Deco, are what put Miami in the pages of magazines and in the movies. See these stunning structures in person on an Art Deco tour. Whether going on a self-guided tour, or opting for a guided walking tour, get the facts on this ‘50’s architecture style, its pastel palette and mosaic murals at the Miami Design Preservation League’s site MDPL.org.
Home of Art Basel Miami Beach, Miami’s art community is rich and diverse, encompassing a variety of collections, ranging from avant-garde, contemporary, street art and historical pieces from artists from around the globe and notable locals. Art Walks give guests not only the chance to see what Miami has to offer artistically, but it also allows them to explore the city. Nearly every week there’s an art walk somewhere in Miami. Visit ArtCircuits.com for maps and schedules.
The biggest and most popular art walk is the second Saturday of the month in the Wynwood Arts District and the Design District. If you aren’t in town for the Wynwood Art Walk, which includes galleries visits and features late hours for local boutiques, venture there any day of the week to explore the street art museum on a self-guided tour. Colorful murals are painted on the sides of former warehouses-turned-studios, inspirational messages are on the sidewalks, even the crosswalks in Wynwood have an artistic element. Don’t miss Wynwood Walls, home to curated graffiti, which makes a great starting point.
Another notable art walk is Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays) on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, where Miami’s colorful Cuban community shows off its exuberant cultural exports in music, art and food. Be sure to add Coral Gables Art Walk on the first Friday of the month to your list, a calmer and quieter Art Walk in historic downtown Coral Gables.
Free Museum Days
Craving more art? Miami has a host of museums brimming with art and culture, some of which are free. The Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, located at 1001 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach, is free every Friday after 6 p.m. And the highly touted Peréz Art Museum Miami (PAMM), situated at 1103 Biscayne Blvd., is free the second Saturday of each month.
Need to get in a good stretch? Free yoga abounds in Miami. Stop over at Bayfront Park in Downtown Miami every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. There’s also free yoga on Saturday mornings in Coconut Grove at Kennedy Park and Wednesday and Saturday evenings at Margaret Pace Park. And head to the Mondrian in South Beach on Sunday mornings for a free class with a beautiful view of the bay. Be sure to bring water and your mat. Namaste.
Free Bootcamp Workouts
Looking for another way to get in shape under the Miami sky? Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation and Coca-Cola Troops for Fitness Program offers free boot camp classes at six parks throughout the city, each taught by local veterans from the Coast Guard, National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. Classes run throughout the week and last anywhere from two to three hours. Locations and times are as follows:
- Gratigny Plateau Park, 885 N.W. 117 St., Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Gwen Cherry Park, 7090 N.W. 22 Ave., Mondays-Fridays, 5-7 p.m.
- Tropical Park, 7900 S.W. 40 St., Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7-9 p.m.
- North Trail Park, 780 N.W. 127 Ave., Tuesdays-Fridays, 8-10 a.m.
- South Dade Park, 28151 S.W. 164 Ave., Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to noon
- Live Like Bella Park, 29305 Illinois Road, Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to noon
When heading from point A to point B for free fun in Miami, consider the free Metromover. From Downtown to Brickell to Bayside, this shuttle will take you to the doorstop of restaurants, shops and art centers. It runs in loops and is a great way to get around without your own transportation. Feel free to jump on and off as many times as you need. See also: How to Use Public Transportation in Miami.
Want to catch a flick with the fam? Head to SoundScape at New World Center on select Wednesday nights for free movies on the lawn. Take in a classic while enjoying the architecture of Frank Gehry in the 2.5-acre public park. Soundscape Cinema Series takes place at 8 p.m., rain or shine, at 17th Street and Washington Avenue.
Day at the Park
Grab the family and head off to a day in the park for Biscayne National Park Family Fun Fest. Held on the second Sunday of every month from December to April, the interactive outdoor event includes hands-on activities and nature interactions. Then, stick around Biscayne National Park and see all nature has to offer.
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