South Florida’s glitzy vacation destination has much more to offer than beautiful beaches and year-round sunshine. There’s a castle made of coral, wildlife, culture, a district dedicated to Art Deco, wetlands, and more to explore! Read on for our favorite things to do in and around The Magic City.
Florida offers the largest coastline in the contiguous United States. The Atlantic Ocean merges with the Caribbean Sea to create crystal blue waters that lap up against swaths of white sand. Miami offers over a dozen stunningly beautiful beaches that draw over 100 million tourists each year. Dozens of designated public parks stretch along the shore. Each has its own vibe, but all feature sun and sand and are open to the public. Most offer plenty of water activities, trained lifeguards, facilities like restrooms, picnic areas, and on-site grills, and many are close to bars, restaurants, and other attractions. Whether you’re into swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, or surfing, Miami’s coastlines have you covered.
Located primarily between Fifth Street and the Collins Canal at 24th Street, South Beach is easily the most-visited part of Miami. Miami Beach is known for the largest collection of art-deco architecture in the world, and this section is no exception. While it can be chaotic and touristy, this barrier island chain across Biscayne Bay is a must-visit if you’ve never been before as it is the Miamist of Miami Beaches.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Key Biscayne. Just a short ride over the Key Biscayne bridge, “The Key” is home to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. A historic lighthouse overlooks the wide shoreline offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. Established in 1825 to mark the Florida Reefs for ships entering Biscayne Bay, the Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Florida. Key Biscayne offers fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, and cycling. On the east side of the key, Crandon Park is a family favorite for beach barbecues, with easy parking and a boardwalk.
Located between Homestead and Leisure City in Miami-Dade County, the Coral Castle is a structure made entirely from Miami oolite limestone. It took eccentric Latvian-American Edward Leedskalnin 28 years (1923-1951) to create this wild landmark. The massive castle features a 9-ton gate and hand-carved garden sculptures. No one knows how he single-handedly carved and sculpted over 1,100 tons of coral rock with no outside assistance or large machinery. Tour the over 30 structures inside Miami’s own modern megalith for under $20.
This 17-acre zoological theme park in the heart of the city is home to nearly 3,000 animal, bird, and plant species. Located on Watson Island, this eco-adventure park features extremely rare twin orangutans and the world's only trained Cassowary. The feathered, flightless emu-like species of bird is endangered and is considered the world’s most dangerous bird. Admission is $45 for adults and $34 for kids ages 3-10. Tickets include exhibits of extraordinary animals from around the globe, the petting zoo, the kangaroo walkabout, and live shows. Cuddle with a sloth, interact with lemurs, feed flamingos, and cozy up with a capybara. Plus, there’s zip lines, rock climbing, and escape room, and more. Plan to be there for a few hours, and be sure to get a picture with the parrots upon entry!
Get immersed in Cuban culture in Little Havana, ooh-na-na. The vibrant Cuban heart of the city is located just west of Downtown and is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Miami. Cruise down the main strip, Calle Ocho (8th St), to take in the neighborhood’s charm and history. Little Havana is home to Mediterranean-style houses; incredible Cuban restaurants, clubs, and lounges; as well as Latin American art galleries. Head to Versailles for an authentic Cubano sandwich, order a Cuban coffee and a cigar from one of the many cafes with walk-up windows, and move your hips to live Latin tunes. Older locals gather in the Little Havana landmark Maximo Gomez Park, aka Domino Park, to discuss politics over dominoes.
The city’s most iconic street stretches from 1st St to 15th St along Miami Beach’s oceanfront. This South Beach neighborhood thoroughfare is the center of the Miami Art Deco District with the largest concentration of 1920s and '30s resort-style architecture. It’s pastel-hued hotels have been featured in films from The Birdcage to Scarface. This quintessential Miami spot is a must-visit. Start at 5th and shop, drink, and eat your way north.
One of the world's largest tropical wetlands, The Everglades sprawl between South Florida's Lake Okeechobee and the Gulf of Mexico. The largest subtropical wilderness in the US Everglades National Park boasts 1.5 million acres of swamplands and is the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the western hemisphere. Located on the opposite coast of Miami, about an hour away via US-41W, the wetlands preserve is home to alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and birds like the blue heron. The marshy wilderness is free to drive through, but everyone knows the real way to explore is by airboat.
Formerly known as the Miami Science Museum, The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is part science museum, part planetarium, and part aquarium. The world-class science museum relocated to the Downtown waterfront in 2017 and is now part of Maurice A. Ferré Park, a 30-acre urban park that was once known as Museum Park. The 250,000 square-foot museum is made up of an aquarium, a planetarium and two wings full of hands-on weather and technology exhibits. The aquarium takes up three levels and features a 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream tank full of sea creatures.
Located in Coral Gables, this historic US public swimming pool was built out of a coral rock quarry in 1923. The iconic 820,000-gallon springwater-filled pool is the largest of its kind in the country. This unique aquatic facility also features two waterfalls, cave-like grottos, and two large historic lookout towers with a view to the City Beautiful. Admission to this family favorite is $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 3-12 (kids under 3 not admitted).