By: Carolyn Keating
With an unrivaled combination of year-round sunshine, natural beauty and exciting things to see and do, you’ll want to make sure you experience it all. Greater Miami and the Beaches offers more fun attractions that you could possibly fit into one vacation. From adventures on the water to a walk on the wild side on land, here’s a look at some of the gems in our kaleidoscope of attractions. You can mix and match itineraries according to which Miami neighborhoods and attractions you most want to see.
DAY 1 - Explore Downtown
9 a.m. – Breakfast at Bayside
Start your Downtown Miami adventure at Bayside’s 2nd Floor Food Court. Go American-style at Starbuck’s or enjoy a Latin-style breakfast of Cuban coffee and pan tostada (toasted Cuban bread) at Café Con Leche.
10:30 a.m. – Downtown Attractions
Option #1 – Jungle Island
This tropically enchanting attraction offers up-close fun with a variety of exotic animals including parrots, reptiles, lemurs, orangutans, African penguins and more. At Jungle Island, stroll through a lush landscape with palms, tropical flowers and waterfalls while enjoying animal shows or having one-on-one time with fuzzy (think baby chimpanzee) or scaly creatures (a big boa constrictor).
Option #2 – Miami Children’s Museum
At Miami Children’s Museum, kids can wander through more than 14 interactive and bilingual galleries here. The Sea & Me, Ocean Odyssey, the Health & Wellness Center and the Supermarket are just a few of the stimulating spots where children can have a good time while learning about the world around them. A full calendar of exhibits and special events adds to the fun.
1 p.m. – Lunch at Mary Brickell Village
Mary Brickell Village is a delightful open-air shopping and entertainment area with a wide variety of restaurants. After lunch, make time for some souvenir shopping at Brickell Village’s stylish boutiques.
4 p.m. – Sightseeing by Land or Sea
Option #1 – Bayside Marketplace
Buy tickets at Bayside Marketplace for an Island Queen cruise.Boats depart on the hour from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hop aboard for a fun 90-minute sightseeing cruise that takes you past waterfront mansions, Port Miami, Fisher Island and other highlights. See captivating views of the Miami skyline while enjoying beverages and light snacks.
Option #2 – Big Bus Tours
Enjoy sightseeing with the flexibility of a hop-on hop-off bus tour on the Big Bus Tour, which departs from Bayside Marketplace. See South Beach, Little Havana, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and other popular spots around Miami. Tip: buy your tickets online.
6:30 p.m. – Dinner Miami-style
Option #1 – Tuyo
Dress up a bit and get a bird’s eye view of Downtown Miami at Tuyo, a Modern American gem which is operated by Miami-Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute. Reservations recommended.
Option #2 – Versailles
Go casual and try out one of the many ethnic eateries in Downtown Miami. Or sample one of Miami’s most famous Cuban restaurants, Versailles. Located on 8th Street or Calle Ocho, Versailles is about a 20-minute taxi ride from Bayside Marketplace.
8 p.m. – Showtime
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts serves up first-rate theater and other live performances. Located in the center of the city and easily accessible through public transportation, you and your party are sure to be impressed with the quality of the shows at the state-of-the-art performance venue, which serves as home to The Florida Grand Opera and Miami City Ballet, as well as a home away from home to the Cleveland Orchestra and various touring Broadway productions. Check out their online calendar and book your group's tickets today!
DAY 2 - Walk on the Wild Side
9 a.m. – Breakfast on Your Own
10:30 a.m. – Visit Zoo Miami
One of the nation’s top-rated zoos, Zoo Miami is the place to see a variety of animals from Asia, Australia and Africa, as well as exciting attractions like Amazon & Beyond where you can immerse yourself in Central and South American sights and sounds that span over 27 acres. For an aerial view of the many animals and exhibits, hop on the Monorail. Experience the zoo aboard their Asia or Africa Safari Tram Tours, which depart every hour from the Main Station. For another cool way to get around the zoo, you can rent safari cycles, which feature their own built in shade! Kids can have fun cooling off at one of several Waterplay Areas throughout the zoo, so bring bathing suits and towels or a change of clothes.
1 p.m. – Lunch
Zoo Miami offers a wide selection of dining, including vegetarian, at several places throughout the zoo. Several kiosks also sell ice cream, cold beverages and light snacks. After lunch, make time for some souvenir shopping.
5 p.m. – Shop and Dine in Coconut Grove
An action-packed day at the zoo may leave you in need of some relaxing down-time. Coconut Grove, Miami’s “Village by the Bay” is the perfect spot to unwind. Head first to CocoWalk, where there is ample covered parking. Stroll through CocoWalk’s colorful boutiques and kiosks. When hunger strikes, head for Chili’s, Fat Tuesdays, Duffy’s Sports Grill or the Cheesecake Factory. If you’re in the mood for Latin food, check out Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & LatAm Grill (next door to CocoWalk) or stroll over to the Sonesta Bayfront Hotel and sample excellent Peruvian fare at Panorama (located on the hotel’s 8th floor) which boasts a spectacular view of Dinner Key Marina sailboats and Biscayne Bay.
9 p.m. – Cocktails and Dancing with Latin Flair
Experience fine art, live music and all things Cuban at the eclectic and elegant Cuba Ocho gallery cum nightclub in Little Havana. Located on Calle Ocho, Cuba Ocho is a sensory experience. Antiques fill the large entertainment space; elegant sofas and a mix of intimate seating invites you to enjoy whatever live band is playing on stage. There’s a lovely bar in the front of the house, with a New Orleans-style courtyard and fountain beyond. Cuba Ocho is a Miami original and a unique place to spend and evening soaking up Latin culture.
DAY 3 - Tropical Fun in South Miami-Dade
9 a.m. – Breakfast on Your Own
10 a.m. - Everglades Alligator Farm
Everglades Alligator Farm is located next to Everglades National Park between Miami and Key Largo. South Florida’s oldest alligator farm is one cool place to visit. More than 2,000 of these unique reptiles – big and small – can be seen on the premises, from the baby alligators in the hatchery to the famous 14-foot “Grandpa” gator. Bonus: Admission includes an exciting airboat ride through the surrounding river of grass. Take the walking trail around the farm to see the alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and wildlife, a great display of local and exotic snakes, and informational wildlife shows every hour.
12:30 p.m. – Lunch
If you just want a light snack, head to Robert Is Here fruit stand for a tropical fruit smoothie (Key lime and strawberry are popular). You are guaranteed to see some very unusual fruits here! For a full-bellied lunch, try one of several Mexican restaurants in the area. Puerto Vallarta, located at 248 S. Dixie Highway in Homestead, is a popular choice for authentic Mexican dishes.
2 p.m. – Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery
Located in the Redland area, Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery specializes in table and sparkling wines made from exotic tropical fruit, such as guava, lychee, passion fruit, carambola, and even avocado. Craft beers are a more recent addition to this unique South Miami-Dade attraction. Beer buffs can sample a Big Rod Coconut Ale or a Vice IPA, among others. Chickee huts and picnic tables are set amidst a central waterfall with a koi pond and lush, tropical landscaping. Tastings are offered seven days a week, tours are available on the weekends, and private tours for 12 or more guests require a reservation. Come by Fridays for barbecue night at the winery. Make sure to check out their event calendar to see if live music or one of their other many events coincides with your visit.
4 p.m. – Florida Pioneer Museum
Located in Historic Downtown Homestead off Krome Avenue, the Florida Pioneer Museum features several historic items and structures that tell of pioneer life. There is an antique car on display, as well as a pioneer community meeting space, memorabilia, and other records demonstrating in South Florida’s rustic wilds at the turn of the century. The museum is housed in a reproduction of the early 20th century East Coast Railway agent’s house.
5 p.m. – Dinner at The Whistle Stop
Located inside the circa 1914 Redland Hotel, this charming restaurant serves down-home cooking. Friendly service and filling portions add to the pleasure of stepping back in time to Homestead’s early pioneer days.
DAY 4 - South Beach Sights
9 a.m. – Breakfast
The Big Pink is a bustling eatery right off Ocean Drive with a large menu and generous portions. Fuel up here to get ready for your exploration of the Art Deco District.
10:30 a.m. – Art Deco Welcome Center
The Art Deco Welcome Center offers a wealth of information explaining what Art Deco District is all about. It is also the best place to begin a tour of the area. Pick up brochures and maps here, and take a free, self-guided walking tour. If you don’t care to walk, then hop on a sturdy Deco Bike rental and take a ride along Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and the historical Miami Beach Art Deco District. Download Deco Bike’s iPhone app to find stations easily.
1 p.m. - Lunch & Shopping on Lincoln Road
Lincoln Road is an outdoor pedestrian mall in the heart of South Beach. type Everyone gathers here to people watch, shop, dine at an outdoor café and browse galleries such as ArtCenter South Florida and Britto Central. Numerous cafes run the length of Lincoln Road. It’s simply a matter of deciding which of food you are hungry for.
3 p.m. – Green Spaces
Option #1 - South Pointe Park
At the southern tip of Miami Beach is South Pointe Park, a delightful green space with lovely rolling hills and footpaths that run straight down to the beach and the crystal blue Atlantic ocean. Come here to admire the natural beauty of Miami Beach. Kids can jump around and cool off in the park’s fun water features. Stop for a sunset cocktail at Smith & Wollensky’s outdoor patio bar (adjacent to the park) and watch the cruise ships as they head out to sea.
Option #2 – Miami Beach Botanical Garden
This lovely oasis in the heart of South Beach showcases a variety of tropical blooms. Special events such as concerts, art exhibits and a green market take place at Miami Beach Botanical Garden throughout the year. Come see collections of orchids, palms, bromeliads, flowering trees and the lovely Japanese Garden.
6:30 p.m. – Dinner
As you might expect, South Beach dining is varied and plentiful. Decide whether you want a casual night out or prefer to dine in style at a chic South Beach restaurant. Make reservations in advance so you won’t be disappointed.
8 p.m. – Night on the Town
Option #1 – New World Symphony
Experience Miami’s world-class New World Symphony at the stunning New World Center performance hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry. You may be able to view a free Wallcast concert or a movie outside in the adjacent SoundScape Park, depending on the symphony’s schedule.
Option # 2 - Nightlife
Immerse yourself in South Beach’s legendary nightlife. Hot clubs include LIV, Mansion, Story and Mango’s Tropical Café – along with a host of other night clubs with celebrity DJs and celebrity patrons. Dress to impress and get ready for a night full of fun!
Option #3 – Bowling
For a more casual evening, head to Lucky Strike Lanes for a night of bowling, billiards and camaraderie in a hip and upscale lounge environment, complete with American-style fare and a full bar. You can plan your private party ahead of time by contacting one of their party planners.
DAY 5 - A Need For Speed
Breakfast - On Your Own
11 a.m. – Fast Times in Miami and Beaches
Option #1 – Fast cars, fast boats and fast horses are all part of Greater Miami and the Beaches’ exciting landscape. Check out Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures. Tours depart several times a day from Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami to provide guests with a unique sightseeing experience. You'll ride aboard a vessel that goes up to 50 miles per hour as the tour guide points out the sights, including great views of famous homes, other vessels and our iconic city skyline. It's an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable way to get some sun on your skin and sea spray in your hair.
Option #2 - Gulfstream Park
When it comes to fast horse racing or fast games, Miami offers a few hot spots: Gulfstream Park, Hialeah Park Racing & Casino, Miccosukee Resort & Gaming and Magic City Casino. At Gulfstream Park and The Village at Gulfstream Park, thoroughbred horse racing, fine shopping and nightlife come together. You may see the next Kentucky Derby winner racing here. At historic Hialeah Park Racing & Casino, see the famous pink flamingos, catch a horse race or check out their state-of-the-art casino. Live rock concerts are a highlight at Magic City Casino, located close to the airport and the city of Coral Gables. Travel west toward the Everglades and you’ll find Miccosukee Resort, where you can choose from poker, high stakes bingo, gaming machines and more.
Option #3 – Homestead Miami Speedway
The Redline Experience at Homestead Miami Speedway will fulfill your racecar dreams. Drive up to six exotic cars including Lamborghini, Audi, Ferrari, Porsche and Nissan as you wind around this professional track. Pre-ride instruction from in-car professionals is given to every participant. There’s nothing like a spin in a high-performance exotic supercar to make your daredevil dreams come true.
5 p.m. – Cocktails
After a day full of high-speed Miami adventure, wind down at one of Miami’s cool rooftop bars. In Downtown Miami, check out Club 50 atop the W Miami’s 50th floor; on South Beach, head for the Spire Bar and Lounge at The Hotel or the Townhouse Hotel’s Rooftop Terrace.
7 p.m. – Dinner for Winners
Miami is no desert when it comes to steakhouses. In Downtown Miami, choose from Capital Grille, Morton’s or Edge Steak and Bar in the Four Seasons. On South Beach, there’s Smith & Wollensky, Fogo de Chão, Meat Market and Prime 112. Seafood lovers will want to check out Area 31 (at the EPIC Hotel) – located in Downtown Miami.