1. South Beach (“American Riviera”)
This is the ‘hot spot’ of Miami where the rich and famous, artistic and eccentric, and scads of tourists flock to mingle. Known as the “American Riviera” around the world, this area is also referred to as “SoBe” by the locals. Here you can stroll on the oceanfront boardwalk, sunbathe at the beach, taste the flavors of the Caribbean, gaze at Art Deco period architecture, and/or shop, shop, and shop some more.
2. Coconut Grove
For a more laidback atmosphere, spend some time in Coconut Grove. This area is the oldest community in Miami, and has retained its bohemian charm that many of us are familiar with from the movies. It’s a pedestrian friendly location with parks, cafés, galleries, and boutique shopping.
3. The Everglades
No trip to Miami would be complete without visiting the Everglades National Park. This wetland preserve is 1.5 million acres of mangroves, sawgrass marshland, pine flatwoods and wildlife. I recommend an airboat tour as the most immersive way to experience this ecosystem. You’ll see alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and possibly a manatee and a Florida panther – all in their native surroundings.
4. Little Havana
A trip to Miami must include a visit to Little Havana, the city’s historic Cuban district that continues to thrive in the 21st Century. Generations-old family recipes are used to cook THE best local cuisine in the area. Cuban sandwiches, flan, guava pastelitos, and rich coffee are waiting for you. While you can enjoy landmark locales such as Maximo Gomez Domino Park and the El Credito Cigar Factory, go to Little Havana just to eat!
5. Wynwood Arts District
Rescued from the brink of urban decay, this district of Miami is now the top art scene in the city (and renowned around the world). Thoughtful rehabilitation has transformed warehouse and factory spaces into 70+ art galleries. Also take the time to walk amongst the open-air street-art installation that is the largest in the world.
6. Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux
For an experience of quiet reflection in the bustle of Miami, visit this ancient Spanish monastery. It was built in Spain in A.D. 1133; served as a monastery for monks for 700 years; and ultimately shipped to America in pieces in 1925. As ‘the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle,’ the building (once reassembled) began its life in the US as a tourist attraction. Today it is an active church with a congregation and open doors to visitors. The architecture and grounds are worth the short trip to the north side of Miami.
7. Hop-On Hop-Off Tours
If you would rather freestyle your visit around Miami, the best option is a ticket for a hop-on hop-off bus. They have routes all over the city with regular schedules at the top attractions. Some are even double-decker with the top ‘floor’ open for improved sightseeing. When you purchase your pass, ask the guides for maps, information, or recommendations. Remember, the best tip for exploring any location when you travel is to ask the locals.
Angela is a professional freelance travel writer and published indie author – AngelaMinor.com