Day 1: Getting to Know Miami Beach’s Art Deco District
Start your trip by getting a feel for your surroundings on an Art Deco District Tour. Led by knowledgeable guides from the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), these walking tours highlight Miami Beach’s architectural jewels including traditional Art Deco, Streamline Moderne and Spanish Mediterranean styles. The tour departs from the Art Deco Welcome Center daily at 10:30 a.m. except Thursdays, when it leaves at 6:30 p.m.
The MDPL also teams up with the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau to offer the Gay & Lesbian Walking Tour, which departs from the Art Deco Welcome Center at 5 p.m. the last Saturday of every month. If you’re not able to take one of these tours but want to learn about the wealth of options available for gay and lesbian travelers, stop by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC) LGBT Visitor Center, which is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Your tour will likely lead you to plenty of areas that you’d like to explore further, and your guide will also offer ideas for the rest of your trip. As you plan your activities, keep in mind that Miami Beach’s compact layout makes it the perfect destination for getting around on a bike. Luckily, it’s one of only a few cities in the country to offer a bike sharing program. Just pick up a bike at any DecoBike station conveniently located throughout Miami Beach, and return it at any other station when you’re finished.
Lunch & Shopping on South Beach
You’ll probably work up an appetite on the walking tour, so take a lunch break on Ocean Drive. This world-famous street is lined with sidewalk cafes right across from the beach. Sit back and watch as an eclectic crowd of locals, tourists, beachgoers and unique characters stream past your table.
After lunch, stroll up and down Ocean Drive and duck into any of the one-of-a-kind boutiques that might catch your eye. A block inland, Collins Avenue is an upscale shopping paradise featuring one designer shop after another. One block over, Washington Avenue offers edgier fare, with vintage and club wear shops reflecting its status as a mecca for nightlife and clubbing. Work your way north, and then head inland a couple of blocks to Española Way. This charming pedestrian-only street, tucked between 14th and 15th streets just west of Washington Avenue, features delightful boutiques and cafes set against a backdrop of Spanish Mediterranean architecture.
Heading south on Washington Avenue, you can visit three quite distinct museums. The World Erotic Art Museum features thousands of fascinating, one-of-a-kind historical and contemporary pieces. The Wolfsonian—Florida International University is a fascinating museum highlighting architecture, design and propaganda from the years 1885 to 1945. Stop by the Jewish Museum of Florida and browse hundreds of photos and artifacts depicting the Florida Jewish experience since 1763.
Sunsets, Cruise Ships & Delightful Dining
The South of Fifth (SoFi) area of South Beach has a number of fine restaurants, from steaks to stone crabs. At the southern tip of the island, South Pointe Park winds along the beach and Government Cut, the entrance to the Port of Miami. It’s the perfect spot to watch the big cruise ships glide by as the sun sets behind the Downtown Miami skyline.
South Beach Nightlife and Music
After enjoying a relaxing sunset and dinner, it’s time to turn up the volume. Stay up as late as you can, roaming the sizzling nightlife corridors of Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington avenues, and Lincoln Road.
If you’d prefer a more subdued evening, check out the New World Symphony schedule. This world-class orchestra performs at the New World Center, its spectacular new home designed by Frank Gehry. Some performances are even projected against the building’s huge wall facing the adjacent public park, so bring a blanket and enjoy the show. On Wednesday evenings, the City of Miami Beach’s Arts in the Parks program presents the SoundScape Cinema Series, with free outdoor screenings of popular movies.
Day 2: Sun & Fun
Beach, Water Sports, Golf & Spas
There are so many exciting things to do throughout Greater Miami and the Beaches you might forget the reasons you visited in the first place: the white-sand beaches and the glorious weather. Make sure to spend some time soaking up the sand, sun and surf. If you’d rather get out on the open water, you can choose from boating and sailing charters, dining and sightseeing cruises, deep-sea fishing trips, diving and snorkeling adventures, rowing facilities, and every other form of fun on the water.
If golf is your game, set aside time to play at least one round at one of Greater Miami and the Beaches’ more than 20 spectacular courses. Or just spend a relaxing morning in a luxurious spa and treat yourself to a yoga class, herbal scrub, manicure, pedicure or massage.
Lunch on Lincoln Road
Grab an outdoor seat on Lincoln Road at one of countless cafes and restaurants offering every type of cuisine imaginable, and watch the parade of locals and visitors from all over the world strolling along this pedestrian-only promenade.
After lunch, take a moment to relax at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, an oasis of tropical beauty just north of Lincoln Road in the heart of Miami Beach. Visit the inspiring Holocaust Memorial and pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. Nearby, the Bass Museum of Art features major European paintings, sculpture and textiles, plus temporary contemporary art exhibitions.
MiMo on the Beach
Heading north, you’ll find a distinctive architectural style in mid Beach and North Beach. Download a self-walking tour at Mimo on the Beach and explore the four historic Miami Modern (MiMo) architectural districts in the northern end of Miami Beach: the Morris Lapidus/Mid-Twentieth Century District, North Beach Resort District, North Shore National Register District, and Normandy Isles National register District. (Guided walking tours are offered at 9:30 a.m. the first Saturday of every month).
Head to the Mainland
Cross over to the mainland and head to Wynwood and the Miami Design District. These areas are known for cutting-edge art galleries and innovative restaurants. After dinner, travel a few miles south to Downtown Miami to catch a performance at the dazzling Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts or the grand Gusman Center at the Olympia Theater.
After the show, stop by a Downtown Miami/Brickell area hotel for a nightcap. The area is buzzing with luxurious hotels with spectacular restaurants and elegant lobbies, making it the perfect place for light bites and cocktails.
Day 3: Amazing Attractions & More
Two of Miami’s most exciting attractions are located just off the MacArthur Causeway between Miami Beach and Downtown Miami. Step into the lush and tropical Jungle Island and mingle with birds, monkeys and the world’s rarest creatures. Just across the street, play, learn, imagine and create at Miami Children’s Museum.
Downtown Miami Museums
Continue into Downtown Miami and visit the Cultural Plaza at 101 W. Flagler St. Here you’ll find the Miami Art Museum, which displays international 20th- and 21st- century art, and HistoryMiami, showcasing 12,000 years of fascinating South Florida and Caribbean history.
Swimming with Dolphins
Just south of Downtown Miami and Brickell, Miami Seaquarium is located just off the causeway connecting the mainland to Key Biscayne. Enjoy 38 acres of entertainment, water shows, and exhibits, and get a chance to swim with dolphins. Continue on to verdant Key Biscayne to visit family-friendly Crandon Park or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
History & Charm in the Grove
Just south of the Rickenbacker Causeway, Coconut Grove is one of Greater Miami’s oldest and most intriguing areas. On its northern edge, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a Renaissance-style bay-front villa housing a priceless collection of 15th through 19th-century decorative arts, as well as 10 acres of formal gardens and fountains. Just across the street, the Miami Science Museum features national traveling exhibitions, an educational Wildlife Center with rare birds of prey and reptiles, and fascinating Planetarium shows.
In the heart of the Grove, the Barnacle Historic State Park shows the spirit of early Miami. The main house was built in 1891 by pioneer Commodore Ralph Munroe. The surrounding streets are filled with charming and casually elegant restaurants and tree-shaded sidewalk cafes. Enjoy a leisurely lunch while watching the world go by.
Adjacent to Coconut Grove, Coral Gables is an elegant enclave featuring manicured streets and attractive Mediterranean architecture. Attractions here include the Venetian Pool, a historic Venetian-style swimming lagoon carved out of coral rock, and the brand new Coral Gables Museum, celebrating the community’s history.
Downtown Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile and surrounding streets feature quality shops, art galleries, bridal boutiques, restaurants and a live theater in a lushly landscaped environment of tree-lined streets. Choose from a number of fine restaurants for a delightful dinner.
Afterwards, visit Little Havana, a unique neighborhood that showcases Greater Miami’s Latin flavor. Try some café cubano (Cuban coffee) before hitting a club to dance to some of the best live Latin music in Miami.
Catch the Game
Depending on the season, join the crowds and cheer for the Miami HEAT (National Basketball Association) the Miami Marlins (Major League Baseball) or the Miami Dolphins (National Football League).
Day 4: Venture South
Sightseeing Along the Way
Now that you’ve sampled some of what the densely populated areas of Greater Miami have to offer, it’s time to try something completely different and explore the wide open spaces of South Miami-Dade. Less than an hour away from Miami Beach and Downtown Miami but a world apart, this is the agricultural heartland of the region. It offers a variety of outdoor experiences including two national parks.
On the drive down, you’ll find a number of family-friendly attractions. Deering Estate at Cutler is an estate overlooking Biscayne Bay that is also an environmental, archaeological and historical preserve. From little kids to great-grandparents, everyone loves Zoo Miami, consistently ranked among the country’s top 10 zoos. Right next door, Gold Coast Railroad Museum houses a collection of historic railroad cars and memorabilia. Stop at Monkey Jungle and see how monkeys live in the wild.
Take a break for lunch and some shopping at Cauley Square Historic Village. Its quaint cottages have been restored into specialty shops, offering a glimpse of Old South Florida at its best.
A bit farther south, the Fruit & Spice Park displays more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts from around the world. Coral Castle is a mystery rock garden that begs the question, “How was it built?”
Not One, But Two, National Parks
South Miami-Dade is the only area of the country blessed with two national parks. Biscayne National Park lies almost entirely underwater, treating divers and snorkelers to views of brilliant coral reefs. You can also take a glass-bottom boat tour and enjoy a picnic. One of the largest national parks in the United States, Everglades National Park is a great place for a guided tour through swamps and hardwood hammocks to see alligators and graceful birds.
A Taste of the Tropics
Before heading back north, stop at the southernmost winery in the Continental U.S., Schnebly Redland’s Winery. Sample handcrafted wines made with tropical fruits including carambola, guava, passion fruit and carambola. Get a few bottles for friends back home, or to remember your trip to Greater Miami and the Beaches.