Miami For First Timers

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By: Jenny Agress

There is so much to see, do, eat and experience in Greater Miami & Miami Beach, and on your first trip to the destination, you’ll want to try as much as you can. From visiting its famous beaches, sailing through Biscayne Bay and exploring its man-made and natural attractions to shopping, partying, getting a taste of its arts and culture and more, your first trip to Miami should be both fun and relaxing—with activities the whole family will love.

Follow our suggested itinerary below for the best introduction to Miami.

Day 1

Morning: Explore the Art Deco Delights in Miami Beach

Miami Beach is famous for its Art Deco Historic District, and for good reason. Its 800+ pastel-colored buildings with their ornate, geometric details, whimsical porthole windows and breezy porches make up one of the world’s greatest concentrations of 1920s and 1930s architecture. If this is your first visit to Miami, you don’t want to miss it. The district is spread between 5th Street and 23rd Street and runs along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Washington Avenue. Start at the Art Deco Welcome Center and join one of its guided walking tours or take a self-guided audio tour to catch the highlights.

Thriller Miami speedboat zipping through the water
Feel the speed on a Thriller Miami speedboat tour

Mid-Day: See Miami from Biscayne Bay

From Miami Beach, take the scenic drive over Biscayne Bay to mainland Miami via the MacArthur Causeway. On the other side, stop at Bayside Marketplace for lunch and a boat tour. There are plenty of restaurants here, from Hard Rock Cafe and Fat Tuesday to Landshark Bar & Grill and Kuba Cabana, where you can grab a casual lunch with a stunning waterfront view. Then, buy a ticket for a glass-bottom boat ride or a boat tour aboard the Island Queen or Thriller Miami speedboat. No matter which one you take, you’ll get to see beautiful Biscayne Bay, the Downtown Miami and Miami Beach skylines and the celebrity mansions on Star and Fisher Island.

Performer at LIV
Spend an unforgettable night at LIV

Late-Night: Experience Miami’s Nightlife

After a shower, a nap and dinner, end your first day in Miami experiencing its legendary nightlife. South Beach is home to the iconic LIV nightclub, as well as popular spots such as Baoli and Do Not Sit On The Furniture. Here’s a tip: To avoid waiting in line, call ahead to get your name on a guest list or find a promoter who can do that for you (they’re everywhere).

Front view of Pérez Art Museum Miami
Experience a day of art & leisure at Pérez Art Museum Miami

Day 2

Morning: Culture Quest

Today, celebrate Miami’s thriving cultural side. In a destination full of diversity and a thriving arts and culture scene, visitors can find everything from world-renowned ballet and New World Symphony performances to a vast list of museums, art galleries, cultural festivals and more. Spend the morning strolling through the exhibits at one of Miami’s many history museums, such as HistoryMiami, the Jewish Museum of Florida or The Wolfsonian – Florida International University. If it’s art you crave, don’t miss the contemporary art collections at Pérez Art Museum Miami, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU or the Bass Museum of Art. If you’re in Miami during the first week of December, check out Art Basel Miami Beach, a mega art fair that attracts the best artists, art galleries and art connoisseurs from across the globe.

Locals playing dominoes
Watch or get in on a game of dominoes

Lunch: Taste Miami’s Latin Flavors

It’s time for lunch, so head to Little Havana and get a taste (literally) of Miami’s Latin culture. Wander along Calle Ocho (Southwest Eighth Street) and grab lunch at a popular Latin eatery such as Sanguich de Miami, El Rey de las Fritas or Cafe La Trova. Before you leave, watch the locals playing daily domino matches at Maximo Gomez Park (or “Domino Park”) or pop into a cigar shop to see real Cuban cigars hand-rolled by the masters. While on Calle Ocho, look around. Cuban flags, wall murals paying homage to the Cuban revolution, live music and couples salsa dancing on the sidewalks really give you a sense of Miami’s Latin pride.

Night: Catch a Show

Spread across two large city blocks in Downtown Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts regularly hosts major Broadway, jazz and classical music and theater performances coming through South Florida. Visit their website to see what’s playing that night, or check out smaller venues around town, like Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, Miami Improv or New World Center, or local or regional theater productions, modern dance, symphony concerts, comedy and more.

Fairchild's beautiful orchids
Enjoy a day of exotic plants at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Day 3

Morning: Visit Miami’s Most Popular Outdoor Attractions

This last day is all about exploring Miami’s great outdoor spaces. Step back in time when you visit Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, the Mediterranean-style winter estate of wealthy industrialist James Deering. Filled with bespoke art and furnishings, this gorgeous villa and its surrounding 10 acres of gardens sit right on Biscayne Bay.

Or, head to Coral Gables where Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden has over 3,400 exotic plants and species, all spread across 83 acres of lush and colorful tropical gardens, rainforests and coastal habitat that you can walk through.

If you’re traveling as a family, take your kids to Miami Seaquarium, in Key Biscayne, and swim with dolphins.

Kids feeding giraffes
Discover Zoo Miami's animals

Afternoon: Then head south for more outdoor pursuits.

South Dade is filled with exciting outdoor adventures for all ages, so your most difficult task will be choosing what you want to do. If you’re traveling with kids, take them to see over 2,000 animals at Zoo Miami or to see primates playing and swinging through the trees at Monkey Jungle. Stop by the enchanting Coral Castle Museum and uncover the mystery of its 1,100-ton castle. It was hand carved by one man over the course of nearly 30 years, and no one knows how or when he did it.

Craving a day on the water? Miami is home to the only underwater national park in the country, Biscayne National Park, and offers countless opportunities to dive, snorkel, canoe, kayak, standup paddleboard (SUP), windsurf or fish.

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