Last Updated on January 15, 2024
As a native of South Florida who spent her college years in Miami, I was excited for the opportunity to write an article on the best places to visit in Miami. The beach. The food. The music. I remember it well. But it’s been a few years, so on my recent cruise out of Miami, I went a few days early to revisit this city I once called home.
Wow, has Miami changed!
If you’re looking for a vibrant destination with iconic neighborhoods, a creative food scene, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches, fantastic architecture, and great history too, Miami is a must do. Want to stick to things that are cheap or free? It has plenty of that too!
Here is my list the best places to visit in Miami . . .
It goes without saying, no one goes to Miami and doesn’t go to the beach. With 35 miles of ocean front beaches, not to mention the tranquil barrier island beach on Virginia Key (my favorite), you’ll never be far from a beach when visiting Miami.
If a side of the road slice of paradise with easy parking and water calm enough to wade in sounds like you, head on over the Rickenbacker Causeway just off Brickell and visit Virginia Key. And while there, be sure to enjoy a waterfront lunch across the street at a Miami original, The Rusty Pelican.
For a more see and be seen beach experience, you’ll want to make your way to Ocean Drive on South Beach.
Miami’s Free Trolley
First things first. My absolute favorite thing to do when I go to a new destination is to take a ride to familiarize myself with where I am and all that I want to see and do.
Did you know Miami, Miami Beach, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables all have free trolleys? For trolley stop locations and times – there’s a trolley tracker for that (Miami tracker, Miami Beach tracker).
The MiMo District (short for the Miami Modern) is a must-see part of Miami. Running 27 blocks on Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 50th to 77th, he architectural style here is playful and carefree. Think tropical playground, which is how Miami was promoted during the 1940s-1960s. Influenced by the Art Deco Movement after WWII, MiMo had similarities to Art Deco with modern touches and flat top roofs.
As a lover of all things old Florida, I couldn’t be happier that this district was preserved. When there be sure to stop for a bite to eat at one of many old school diners and grab a fun photo of the original 35ft tall Coppertone girl sign at 73rd and Biscayne.
Miami is because of its people. Originally settled by Tequesta Indians, Miami has experienced growth and developed its own identity thanks to the influx of people from around the world who now call this city home.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to Little Havana (see my list of things to do in Little Havana!). Maybe it’s the roosters that roam free that draw me to it. Or the yesteryear sight of elderly men in their guayaberas playing dominos in the park. Whatever it is, the authenticity of this neighborhood is fantastic.
Located just minutes west of downtown Miami, Little Havana came on the scene in the early 1960s thanks to an influx of Cuban refugees and is today one of the most well-known of all Miami neighborhoods. Sounds of Salsa and Merengue and scents of guava pastries and Cuban coffee billowing from coffee windows known as ventanitas announce you have arrived.
It’s the blocks and blocks of graffiti-like street art combined with lively patios, trendy food, elevated cocktails, vibrant music, and loft living that sets Wynwood apart from all other Miami neighborhoods.
During my last visit, I wanted to experience Miami as I never knew, so I went to Mayami in Wynwood. It didn’t take me long to question if I might be a bit old for this place, but I must say this vibrant, sexy, multi-level restaurant and lounge with a high energy Mayan theme including fire dancers is an experience!
I hear Sunday afternoons are Sunday Funday in Wynwood, so I plan on visiting this neighborhood again on my next trip to Miami.
Ever since my days of living in Miami, we’re talking the mid-1980s, Brickell has always been a glitzy concrete jungle. Located along Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, Brickell is lined with residential skyscrapers and home to an international banking scene, world class hotels, and some of the hottest and most trendy restaurants in Miami. If you’re riding the Miami trolley, you’ll go down Biscayne Blvd over the river and through the Brickell neighborhood. This is a great place to get off and wander.
Speaking of wandering, you’ll want to do that here too. Just south of Brickell is Miami’s oldest neighborhood and my favorite! Located along the bay with a walkable downtown – think Italian restaurants with sidewalk cafes, lush foliage, coral and limestone walls, and peacocks.
Coconut Grove is upscale yet laid back and artsy, with a strong bohemian vibe. Coconut Grove is also home to a multitude of ticketed attractions including Vizcaya Museum and Gardens where you could easily spend a day.
If words like scrumptious, opulent, and decadent pique your interest, reserve an evening at the Faena Theater. Dripping in red velvet, this intimate venue was inspired by the world of European opera houses, burlesque, and jazz.
If you do go, go early, and take in the sights. Travel from downtown Miami across the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach. This path will take you past Miami’s world-famous cruise port and offer expansive views of Biscayne Bay and the islands where many celebrities live. Once in Miami Beach, head north along Collins Avenue, home of the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world.
Venture to The Redlands
Ever wonder where all the palm trees come from? As Miami-Dade’s last agricultural region, this area of Miami called The Redlands lies 30 minutes south of the airport and is everything the rest of Miami is not.
Here you’ll experience acres and acres of palm tree farms, one of the most diverse agricultural communities in the country thanks to a year-round tropical climate, and a creative beverage scene from wine to milkshakes.
I love all things Tiki, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned I could sip lychee and starfruit wine under a tiki hut! Do a wine tasting, feed the koi, and feed yourself at this tropical winery featuring a restaurant and live music in Miami’s countryside.
Robert Is Here
On a trip to Key Largo, which is not far from this part of Miami, I completely missed this must-do attraction with an intriguing name that dates back to 1959. So, on my recent visit to Miami, I made it a point to stop. Music. Food. Fruits you never heard of. A petting zoo too. Turns out what I thought was a humble roadside fruit stand is famous for a lot of reasons, but milkshakes? And not just any milkshakes – exotic fruit milkshakes! It’s Miami after all.