There's nothing subtle about Miami: spring breakers and the nip-and-tucked swarm beaches and nightclubs, Ferraris flaunt, and cheery Art Deco buildings charm. A burgeoning art scene, sizzling temperatures, and Cuban culture round out an experience unlike anywhere else.
Miami knows how to spice things up. Neon lights guide you from Calle Ocho to the hottest clubs in South Beach, the Art Deco whisks you away to a glamorous yesteryear, while the Lambos and Ferraris cruising down Ocean Drive grounds you in the present. Whatever you've come looking for in Miami, you're likely to find it — as long as what you're looking for is a good time.
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The high season begins in November and runs through mid-April, as snowbirds, students, and anybody seeking refuge from the cold flock south for the sunshine. It is especially busy around the holidays, so expect higher prices, large crowds, and less availability at top restaurants. Temperatures top out in the high 70s with very little rain, and low humidity. At night temperatures can get down in the 50s, so having a light jacket on hand is a good idea.
Visiting in the springtime, from mid-February through May, you will find warmer temperatures without the humidity of summer. High season has petered out, meaning smaller crowds and lower hotel rates. Summers (June through August) are hot, sticky, and rainy, with temperatures reaching the high 90s on a daily basis. Summer storms can occur daily, lasting anywhere from minutes to an hour. Although these storms are passing, the humidity lingers after the sun comes out. Don't forget to seek shade, drink water, and reapply sunscreen as often as possible.
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Hurricane season in Florida begins in June and runs through November. While it does not necessarily mean a hurricane will hit Miami during this time, it is important to be aware that it can happen. To prepare, consider buying traveler's insurance when booking your flights. If you're stuck in Miami during a storm, make sure to listen and follow instructions administered by city officials.
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Miami happens to the have the largest street-grid system in Southeast US. Like Washington DC, this grid is divided into four quarters — NE, NW, SE, or SW. Avenues run north-south and streets and drives run east-west. It is important to know which part of the grid you're in as to avoid confusion (i.e. similar addresses). Although Miami Beach's grid aligns with the mainland's, the narrow island city follows its own numbering system and names its avenues.
Stretching approximately 55 square miles long, it's close to impossible for visitors to see the entire city by foot because neighborhoods are so spread out from one another. Consider renting a car if you plan to bounce from one end of Miami to the other. If you anticipate getting on the expressways (which you should avoided during rush hour at all costs), make sure your rental comes equipped with a SunPass to pay tolls. If not, SunPass transponders can be purchased at local retailers like Publix Super Markets, CVS Pharmacy, and Walgreens.
When it comes to street parking, make sure to read signs carefully. South Beach is notorious for towing away cars — they love it so much they made a television show about it. Scoring free street parking is as rare as getting a Golden Ticket, so chances are you'll have to feed the meter. You can do so with coins or through an app (there will be signs with instructions nearby). Parking lots and garages are available throughout the cities for varying prices. Miami Beach and downtown are walkable but you will need a car to get between the two.
Buses are the most comprehensive form of public transportation available in Miami. One-way fares cost $2.25; certain routes can fluctuate by a few cents but you'll never pay more than $3. Unfortunately, they are not always reliable as they run on congested routes, but the vehicles are air-conditioned and clean. Bus service varies depending on the route and time of the day/week. At peak hours they come every 10 or 15 minutes but at night it can take as long as 45. You may pay with exact change or with an EASY Card.
The Metrorail runs 25 miles from Medley and Miami International Airport to as far south as Kendall and also through downtown Miami. There are only two lines — green and orange — and one-way fares cost $2.25. You can pay with a rechargeable EASY Card, available for purchase at any Metrorail Station, Transit Service Center, or at over 90 sales outlets in Miami-Dade county. You can also purchase a 1-day pass ($5.65), 7-day pass ($29.25), and a 1-month pass ($112.50). If you you don't plan to rely on the public transportation, EASY Tickets are available and can be loaded with 1-day and 7-day passes, or up to $40 in cash value.
Miami offers a few free transportation options as well. The Metromover is a train that operates seven days a week, from 5am to midnight, between downtown and Brickell. (Both Metromover and Metrorail operate above ground, offering great views of the city.) The Miami Trolley operates in Wynwood, Little Havana, Coral Gables, Edgewater, and more. These run from as early as 6am and as late as midnight depending on your location. Try flagging one down or wait at a designated spot, but be aware they will not stop if they are full. South Beach has a trolley as well that operates pretty much the same. To make things easier, you can track their current location.
If you'd rather skip car rentals and all forms of public transportation, Major ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft are popular here. As always, Uber/Lyft provide a fixed price depending on distance and demand. These are especially great options if you plan on partying through the night. Whether in a car rental or Uber, traffic can get pretty gnarly during rush hour, especially if you're entering, leaving, or traveling within Miami Beach.
US dollars is the official currency. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere but it's not a bad idea to keep some bills on hand for small transactions and for picking up the tab at the rare cash-only establishment, or for paying tickets when exiting parking garages or parking meters.
Miami's proximity to Cuba and other Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands means Spanish is very prevalent in the Miamians' day-to-day. According to US Census figures, almost 77 percent of Miami residents speak a language other than English, Spanish being the most common. Brushing up on basics like Hola, cómo estás? (Hi, how are you?) or gracias (thank you) won't hurt.
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Of course there is more to Miami than just pristine sand and Caribbean blue waters. But if you're coming to Miami and not setting foot on the beach at least one time, then you're doing it wrong. With so many beaches to choose from — Sunny Isle, Mid-Beach, Bal Harbour, to name a few — it's important to remember: no matter where you sunbathe, there are rules you should keep in mind. First and foremost, don't crowd another person's space. Rarely are the beaches so crowded you'll have to share close quarters with your next-towel neighbor. Give them some space, even if that means walking a little farther down the beach. If you do happen to be close to another group of sunbathers, mind the wind and don't shake your towels directly at them!
Drinking on the beach is illegal, don't do it. Always pick up your trash when you leave. Try to keep the music down. And lastly, be respectful to your fellow beachgoers: don't go in the nude unless signs indicate that it's okay to do so. For those more comfortable au naturale, clothing-optional beaches do exist, Haulover Beach being one of them. Many hotels provide private beach access to guests and their guests, which means cleaner stretches of sand, facilities, and lower noise levels. Naturally, this is not a free service but is typically tacked onto your hotel room rates and fees. Take advantage, especially if you can order food and drinks without interrupting your tan.
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For a city once more concerned with DJ lineups than local chefs, Miami has turned its focus to food over the last few years, becoming one of the most dynamic restaurant cities in the country. Perhaps the most dominant international influence on local flavors came in the 1960s when a wave of Cuban migrants fled the revolution. They brought staples like the Cuban sandwich and ropa vieja, the picadillo (a zesty hash of ground beef served with rice or as a filling in tacos and croquettes) and the very strong café Cubano. Try some out at the palatial Versailles — practically a Miami celebrity itself — where affordable main entrées and heaping mounds of rice and beans have been on the menu since 1971.
Caribbean and Pan Latin restaurants are popular as well. Miami's proximity to the Caribbean means there is no shortage of island fare. Eateries like Naomi’s Garden Restaurant and Lounge serve up favorites like jerk chicken, fish stews, and boniato in a no frills atmosphere, while Piman Bouk Bakery: The New Florida Bakery delights with piping hot and flaky meat patties and the Haitian signature bread, pain Kreyol. Peruvian flavors are finding increased popularity as well. Derived from piquant chilis and with an emphasis on seafood over meat (hello, ceviche), it's perfect party fuel.
Don't overlook southern comfort food while you're in town — after all it is still part of the south. This means standout barbecue joints and soul food options abound. Local haunts like MLK Restaurant and Jackson Soul Food invite big appetites in back-to-basics surroundings. Generous portions of finger-licking meats and sides can be found at Tom Jenkins BBQ and 4 Rivers Smokehouse. And there's no better way to top things off than with a Key Lime pie (even if the lime tart's origins are still a matter of debate).
A burgeoning food hall scene is hitting Miami as well. In 2017, the city had none, but since 2018, four (and counting) have sprung up. Brickell alone is home to two expansive spaces, including the bustling Casa Tua Cucina. Hundreds of seats and bar stools are clustered around counters where chefs whip up fresh pizzas, handmade pastas, salads, and sushi. Yes there's also a wine bar. In Wynwood, 1-800-Lucky boasts a collection of Asian fusion concepts with communal tables both indoors and out. Bridging the gap between affordability and top quality ingredients, these food halls are perfect for exploring the area between fast food and fine dining options.
Miami is also known for its myriad of hotels, but only since the mid-aughts have top hoteliers abandoned offering uninventive, even downright awful, menus and aspired to something more. Thanks to James Beard Award-winning chefs who gravitated to the city during the hotel boom, hotel dining has morphed into a lavish, buzzy affair. La Mar by Gaston Acurio at the Mandarin Oriental focuses on Peruvian staples, including a tasting menu, with a view of Biscayne Bay in chic Brickell; at Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, you can eat haute Cantonese at Hakkasan, taste celebrity chef Scott Conant's handmade pastas at Scarpetta, or go for a juicy steak at Stripsteak by Michael Mina. For old-school vibes and traditional plates, The Surf Club Restaurant in Surfside delivers the goods (plus, it's helmed by America's only chef with two Michelin triple stars). And if you want a taste of the Amalfi Coast, the Surf Club's La Sirenuse serves fine Italian in an Art Deco space overlooking the ocean. Lastly, Faena Hotel's red velvet opulence and gilded embellishments make the perfect setting to try Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann, an Argentinian steakhouse known for its live-fire cooking and sophisticated dishes derived from rustic recipes.
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Nothing screams Miami like a shopping spree in South Beach's Lincoln Road. The outdoor pedestrian mall stretches from the center of the neighborhood and runs east to the beach. Boasting luxury shops, big brands like Forever 21, and high-end boutiques like Alchemist, shoppers can find anything from a clubbing dress to a gift for mom back home. Just south sits Washington Avenue where shops stay open late. Indulge in select vintage and club-ready finds. Head north a few blocks to Española Way, where shops filled with souvenirs and one-of-a-kind products are housed in the popular Spanish Colonial style buildings. If shopping is a bust in any of these outdoor promenades, opt to people watch as all three corridors are packed with outdoor restaurants, cafes, and live music.
If you're looking for traditional shopping, you have two options: Bal Harbour has its own open-air mall, just north of Miami Beach. Expect high price point luxury shops like Versace and Chanel, and fine dining options for refueling as you buy. If your wallet can't stretch that far, Aventura's mall has budget friendly favorites, and a few luxury shops that hordes of visitors and locals flock to for the latest fashions. On the mainland, visit the Design District, often dubbed the Rodeo Drive of the East. NE 40th Street is the main hub here with a mix of luxury boutiques. You can continue alfresco shopping at the newly erected Brickell City Center in Brickell, which spans five city blocks and offers a cluster of high-end and big name brands plus a food hall.
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Pitbull said it best: in Miami, "the parties don't stop 'til the next afternoon." While clubs are dispersed throughout the city, South Beach is the main artery of Miami's nightlife. Dance until 5am alongside A-list celebrities and VIPs at LIV, a popular club located inside the Fontainebleau Hotel (it is perhaps the city's most opulent fixture). Continue the party at Story, LIV's cousin, where DJs spin more hip-hop, less dance and techno. Sophie's, a Euro-chic lounge can satiate your clubbing thirst if lines are too long at the premiere spots. Expect house music on Thursdays and open format during the weekends.
Twist, the iconic gay club, is a two-story disco located just a few blocks from Ocean Drive. Most come to dance but ogling at the shirtless bodies on display doesn't hurt. You can party 24-hours (literally) at E11even in Downtown, part strip club, part night club, part rooftop restaurant, and all the way over the top. For some chill vibes, head back to South Beach's Basement, which offers booze, music, and bowling for the heavenly hipster set and is a favorite haunt during Art Basel and Miami Music Week.
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Maybe the only real problem with Miami is sorting through the infinite beach options — there are so many to choose from, it's overwhelming. The good news is: you really can't go wrong with any of them. Not for the faint of heart, Lummus Park Beach is located right in the thick of the South Beach chaos. If you're looking for a relaxing beach time, you won't find it here. What you will find is bright colors, eye-popping get-ups (think revealing neon bikinis) and spring breakers leaving Ocean Drive's strip of bars. Escape the muddle a few blocks north at 21st-45th Beach in Mid-Beach. Locals set up spots for the day, go jogging, and people-watch. These beaches intersect the city's most celebrated hotels; keep in mind that some offer private beach access to guests, meaning certain sections may be closed to the public.
Dog lovers and nudists find haven in Haulover Park north of Bal Harbour. A nude beach, including an LGBTQ-specific section, and a separate dog-friendly beach are yours for the taking. Surfside beaches are quieter, more residential, and you'll typically find locals congregating here for picnics or outdoor music events during the summer months. Things get a tad fancier (and maybe a little kitschy) in Sunny Isles, where two miles of public beach stretch along Caribbean-blue water.
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The Magic City is more than just pristine beaches and beautiful people. It is home to an ever-evolving contemporary art scene that has caught the world's attention over the last few years. Wynwood Arts District, aptly named, ****is a major hub: the neighborhood was once ruled by textile warehouses and storage facilities but since the mid-2000s has transformed into a destination in itself. Large murals splash the neighborhood with color, the Wynwood Walls being a particular center — but take a good look (or picture) because these unsanctioned urban canvases go up as quickly as they come down. The Margulies Collection and the Bakerhouse Art Complex takes things indoors and showcases videos, photography, and sculpture, and artists' open studios.
The Design District is known to flaunt its designer stores but beyond the Hermes and Louis Vuitton is its collection of notable galleries. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami offers experimental contemporary art, while the de la Cruz Collection houses works by local and established artists in a 30,000 square-feet space. Other galleries include Primary, Swampspace, and Markowicz Fine Art.
Architecture buffs can get their fill of Art Deco and MiMO architecture so synonymous with Miami by taking a drive or walking down Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue in South and Mid-Beach. Neon lights, colorful facades, and playful structures take you back into the 20th century. Art Basel also takes place each December at the Miami Beach Convention Center in South Beach. A weekend long art fair, Basel presents hundreds of galleries and thousands of artists to some of the top curators and collectors in the world. Major events and parties run concurrently with the event — plus, chances are high for celebrity sightings if you're not in the market for a new painting.
For more traditional museums and galleries throughout the greater Miami area, visit Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, The Bass Museum of Art, or Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.
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Nothing beats finding a haven in Miami to relax and have a quiet getaway. Of course, that requires avoiding most, if not all, the brouhaha along Ocean Drive. Bal Harbour, in northern Miami Beach, offers some of the city's finest resorts, pristine beaches, and chic shops. Just a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of urban Miami, this upscale neighborhood boasts high-class ambiance. Great for spending your lottery winnings or retirement fortunes, you'll find prestigious clothing labels and delectable dishes at fine dining eateries throughout the area. Sunny Isles Beach is very similar to Bal Harbour, also full of luxurious beach resorts and world-renowned restaurants. Here, you'll find some of Miami's best oceanfront vistas. Once you've had your fill of sunbathing, there are enough theaters and cultural destinations to keep the night going if you wish.
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While Miami tends to cater to an adult, party-centric crowd, there are plenty of non late-night and non-boozy activities for the family to enjoy. Coconut Grove is particularly a great area for visiting families. This seaside village is Miami's oldest neighborhood, with tall oak tree-lined streets, ample parks, and the occasional roaming peacock. Not to mention, it is a very walkable and bike-friendly area. Families who appreciate art can visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, which houses over 2,000 art pieces in a 43 acre estate, or take a walk through the The Kampong, National Tropical Botanical Garden, a lush green space known for having over 50 types of mango trees.
Downtown puts you and the family in the middle of all things cultural. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science just underwent major renovations and is ready to awe visitors with its aquarium, wildlife center, and planetarium. Basketball fans can catch a Heat game at the American Airlines Arena located adjacent to Bayside, an al fresco mall that offers boat rides along Miami's canals and waterways. Animal lovers can head to Watson Island, just in between Downtown and Miami Beach, to catch lemurs, sloths, and monkeys in action at Jungle Island. Kids who prefer a more hands-on approach to things can visit the Miami Children's Museum, also located on Watson Island or the Miami Zoo in South Miami.
Miami brings the heat in every possible way, but let the creative cocktails at these spots cool you off.
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When the sun sets on the British empire, you can expect a jolly good time. Look right when crossing the streets though.