22 Best Things to Do in Miami



Slide 1 of 22: First things first: You came to Miami for some sun and sand, and you’re going to get it—with a side of people-watching of course. And if that's all you want (along with a cold glass full of your preferred fruity rum concoction), that's fine, but Miami's beaches are barely the beginning of what the Magic City has to offer. From the highest of high end designer shops to every type of walking tour imaginable to salsa dancing to museums and animal reserves that will captivate any kids in your group, Miami is a complete city. Here, our picks for the best things to do when you're in Miami.
Slide 2 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Located right on the beach on Ocean Drive, smack dab in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, the Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center is where architecture enthusiasts can pop in and learn more about the iconic, colorful buildings that give this neighborhood its personality. While just looking up and admiring the glamorous geometric details and chrome accents is enough for some people, the Miami Design Preservation League—a nonprofit advocacy group that fights to maintain the city’s architectural character—offers daily walking tours of the neighborhood (10:30 a.m., plus 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays).
How much time are we dedicating to one of these tours?
Tours last about 90 minutes—just enough time to leave you fulfilled but not worn out. It’s an easy walk around the neighborhood, where you’ll dip in and out of buildings to explore their Art Deco facades, terrazzo floors, and other design elements.
How are the guides, then?
The members of the Miami Design Preservation League are knowledgeable and passionate about the topic at hand. They'll offer a bird's-eye perspective of Art Deco architecture before delving deeper into all the nerdy, fascinating details. Forget Art Deco 101—this is an advanced crash course. To say the tour guides are dedicated to the effort of protecting the city’s Art Deco past would be an understatement; their passion for preservation is palpable. Which is probably why the tours are so popular; space fills up fast, so book tickets in advance online.
What will we remember weeks or months or years from now?
You'll be struck by the details you gain on your tour, whether they're about the specific materials used to construct some of Miami's most iconic Art Deco buildings or the nitty-gritty about the luminaries who designed them. In all, you'll walk away with some expert-level factoids—just perfect for a trivia night down the road.
Bottom line: who is this tour for?
This is technically an architecture tour, but anyone with an interest in learning more about Miami Beach—how its culture, people, and buildings came to be—will appreciate it.
Slide 3 of 22: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Known as Miami's most Instagrammed place, this outdoor "gallery" is a cornucopia of artwork by graffiti artists and muralists. There are different seating options throughout, but folks are mostly invited to peruse the murals and take photos, of course.
Any standout features or must-sees?
The murals are constantly rotating and being updated but closer to the entrance are the iconic murals by artist Shepard Fairey (he’s the one who designed the Obama “Hope” poster).
Was it easy to get around?
It's a relatively small outdoor space so it's easy to navigate, and there are plenty of benches or rocks to sit on and take it all in.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
People with active social media will love the opportunity for unique selfies; conversely, lovers of street art will find much to inspire.
Slide 4 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
The Dade Heritage Trust is a large organization dedicated to the cultural preservation of Miami and it offers two tours of Brickell Avenue—North and South. Both start at the Dade Heritage Trust offices, the former home of Miami’s first physician. The walking tour encompasses Point View (the city’s first subdivision) and a good number of the mansions of the former Millionaire’s Row. The tour tells of the fortunes of the families that once inhabited these grand residences, and the events that shaped the first half of the 20th century in this part of the world.
Tell us about your fellow tourees.
The small group consisted mostly of local history buffs, though a few of us were from out of town and had a more generalized interest in the city. It’s not the shortest tour, but the pace is leisurely enough and there are multiple stops.
How are the guides, then?
The guide expertly brought the former glamour of the area to life—not that the backdrop is too shabby these days, but stories of the golden age of Point View (when it was an incredibly extravagant development) were delightful. Seeing Nolan House—one of the few places to have escaped replacement by condos—and hearing the story of the Nolan family, revealed a different side to the city. Delivery was engaging and our guide was nothing but charismatic.
Anything you’ll be remembering weeks or months or years from now?
It's a shame that so many of the great mansions of the former Millionaires’ Row have been lost to redevelopment, but the Trust has managed to preserve several in the face of onslaught. It was moving to hear firsthand about the organization's ongoing preservation work.
So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
This is a perfect tour for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into the history of the city and its historically most affluent area, and hear about ambitious projects such as Point View. The glamour associated with Miami today has its roots here, and it’s fascinating to learn about those origins.
Slide 5 of 22: Give us the wide-angle view: what kind of beach are we talking about?
You came to Miami. You weren't planning to avoid the sand right? Well, there’s no way you’ll be able to resist the wide, white-sand beaches of South Beach. Running the length of more than 15 city blocks, this beach has a party reputation for a reason. Although you’ll see plenty of wild things as you saunter up and down—no, nude sunbathing isn’t technically allowed, but yes, you’ll see a lot of it—South Beach is big enough that it won’t be hard to find your very own slice of it. That’s not to say you won’t be surrounded by hundreds of other sun worshippers looking to soak up every ray that they can, but even at its most crowded times, the beach is wide enough to give you a bit of breathing room.
How accessible is it?
South Beach is a public beach that's free and open to everyone. And it's easily accessible by foot, though the most scenic part on the southern end, via Lummus Park, which runs along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th streets. This is where you'll see people getting serious about volleyball, plus oil-slicked guys doing pull-ups. It's been used as the backdrop for just about every movie and TV show set in Miami, so it'll all look familiar.
Decent services and facilities, would you say?
Just like those iconic and brightly colored lifeguard stations you’ve likely seen in pictures, South Beach is lined with kiosks (courtesy of Boucher Brothers) where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. Just be warned that it’s not cheap; a day of lounging and protecting yourself from the sun can easily cost a couple $50 or more. But here’s a pro tip: Many South Beach hotels—even those that don’t boast oceanfront views—offer free beach chairs for the day. If you’re staying for a few days and have your sights set on the beach, it’s worth opting for a hotel that offers this service. Better yet, choose a hotel that has a beach club of its own.
As for food and drink: there are bare-bones snack bars along the beach peddling convenience-store basics (bottles of water, candy, etc.). If you’re looking for something more substantial and want a short break from the sun, Ocean Drive is lined with bars and restaurants, though they push their food and drinks aggressively (sometimes a bit too aggressively!). While most of these spots don’t mind if you show up in beach gear, a cover-up or t-shirt is always appreciated.
How’s the actual beach stuff—sand and surf?
You’ll see more people lounging by the water than you will actually going into it, which is strange given its crystalline hue and warm temps. Even in the coldest months (well, “cold” for Miami), the water usually stays above 70 degrees, which is perfect for a dip. You’ll see some people swimming, kids splashing around, and couples taking the long way along the surf. But the majority of the crowd seems perfectly content to stay posing—err, seated—on the sand.
Can we go barefoot?
The farther north you go on Miami Beach, the narrower—and less white-sand—the beach becomes. That's because South Beach is man made; however, it’s very sandy, and you don't need to worry about rocks and other debris damaging your feet.
Anything special we should look for?
Since there’s really no shade on the beach itself (which is why you’ll want to bring or rent an umbrella), the sand can get hot. Like, really hot. So make sure you bring sandals; otherwise, you'll feel like you’re walking on coals.
What—and who—is this beach best for?
South Beach is world-famous for a reason. And while you’ll probably find it slightly tamer than what you’ve seen on reality shows, this is a place where people come to party. But the sandy stretch also attracts a huge population of European travelers, plus lots of families, so there’s really no one-size-fits-all type of beachgoer. Even if you’re not big on sitting in the sun, it’s worth taking a stroll up or down the beach to see what all the fuss is about. If you wait until the late afternoon (around 4pm) the crowds will have thinned out a bit.
Slide 6 of 22: Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
What was once an eyesore of urban decay has been transformed into one of the world’s shiniest arts and shopping destinations, thanks in large part to real estate developer and philanthropist Craig Robins. It all began in 2009, when Christian Louboutin became the first high-end retailer to take a chance on the neighborhood’s future. Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Fendi, and Hermès quickly followed suit. Today, the 18-block neighborhood is home to more than 150 high-end boutiques, design showrooms, art galleries, restaurants, and bars—with new neighbors popping up seemingly every week. What a difference a decade makes.
What can we find here, or what should we look for?
With dozens of shops, boutiques, showrooms, and galleries, you’d be hard-pressed to not find whatever you're looking for—provided you're looking for something with a designer tag, that is. In addition to a wide range of popular clothing boutiques, including Alice & Olivia, Pucci, Rick Owens, Valentino, Prada, and Zadig & Voltaire, there’s an impressive lineup of handbags and accessories (Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci); jewelry and watches (Rolex, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., Tag Heuer, and Piaget); and home furnishings (Jonathan Adler, Versace Home, and Holly Hunt). If you can dream it, you can find it.
If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
For a true splurge, head to Jason of Beverly Hills for a sparkly pair of chandelier earrings or a Dunamis Pantheon watch.
And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
When window shopping just won’t do, The Bazaar Project is one of the area’s funkiest and most eclectic, shops. The inventory here is a fun mix of items that owner (and avid traveler) Yeliz Titiz has come across as she's crisscrossed the globe: soaps and books, handbags and textiles, and other ever-changing objects and collectibles.
Who else shops here?
Because the Design District is home to a number of the city’s favorite restaurants, not everyone you’ll be sharing the sidewalks with is necessarily shopping. But those who do throw down their plastic in this area tend to have exacting tastes and aren't afraid to shell out for high quality. Birkin bag, anyone?
Any secret tips?
Don’t leave the area without glimpsing its impressive public art, including works by Buckminster Fuller and Zaha Hadid.
Slide 7 of 22: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Spanning nearly 84 acres, the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden is filled with tropical plants, flowers, and trees, including extremely rare species like the petticoat palm. It's also home to flora that can't survive anywhere else in America except for South Florida.
Any standout features or must-sees?
For a truly magical experience, make your way to the Wings of the Tropics exhibition, where as many as 40 species of exotic butterflies will engage in a colorful display of acrobatics all around you. It's like something out of a fairy tale.
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Every square inch of this facility—from the gardens to the many lakes and water features—has been thoughtfully designed and constructed, making it easy to navigate. There's plenty of seating when you need a break, plus a handful of places for a quick bite. (The garden hosts a series of outdoor teas as well.) While there are several guided walking tours, the best way to see a little of everything is by hopping aboard one of the tram tours, which run year-round on the hour (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends). Narrated by one of the garden’s experts, the tours last about 45 minutes and provide a solid overview of the history of the Fairchild, its collections, and its worldwide plant-preservation efforts.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
A thorough tour of the Fairchild typically takes about three hours, but time-challenged visitors should opt for a 45-minute tram tour. Horticulture enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to see rare plants they won’t find anywhere else in the United States; however, those with severe plant allergies might prefer a different kind of outing.
Slide 8 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
There’s a lovely, casual air to The Coral Gables Museum Downtown Walking Tour, which takes in the historic highlights of the affluent neighborhood. It begins in downtown Coral Gables at the museum, a historic former police station and courthouse. Our guide gave us a rolling history of the area from the turn of the 20th century, beginning with buildings such as the Hotel Colonnade, which was once a sales center for the burgeoning neighborhood. The impressive examples of Coral Gables’ famed Mediterranean Revival architecture is the main thrust of the tour, though, and there are examples everywhere, from the former outdoor Dream Theater to former car dealerships to the grand private homes.
Tell us about your fellow tourees.
The dozen tourees were diverse in age and provenance, with even a couple of local residents looking to delve deeper into their home city. The pace is slow enough to be comfortable for most people, even in the midday Floridian heat.
How are the guides, then?
Our wonderful guide was from the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, and effortlessly brought to life the history of this experimental neighborhood. The stories were vivid—you could really envision the electric trolleys and the lives of those first residents.
What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
Aside from the museum itself and some of the main sites on the tour, it’s the general spirit of optimism and the sense of a vision put into practice that really stays with you. The opulence of some of the buildings reflects the spirit of upward mobility that must have been apparent during the neighborhood's earliest stage.
Slide 9 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Sure, the water in Miami is pretty to gaze at from your lounge chair. But give yourself a real experience by hopping aboard the Therapy-IV, a 58-foot sportfish boat, and head out with the ever-personal Captain Stan Saffan and his crew for a day (or half-day) of deep sea fishing. You’ll definitely need to reserve ahead, as the boats accommodate just six guests. Even if your party is smaller than that, Captain Stan will fill in the rest—which makes it feel like a private charter, even when it’s not (though they’re happy to do those, too).
Tell us about your fellow tourees.
It’s not just any old tourist who decides that spending a day at sea fishing for marlin, sailfish, or hammerhead sharks qualifies as a good time. So if you’re paired with a couple of strangers, it’s safe to assume you’ll have at least a love of the ocean in common. If you're a bit less seasoned, a half-day journey—which lasts about four hours—is recommended. The full-day trip will give you twice as much time and the chance to try your luck fishing in a few different areas. (Nighttime excursions can also be arranged.)
How are the guides, then?
Even if the fish aren’t biting, Captain Stan will make this excursion worth every moment—and penny. He’s been fishing these waters since he was a kid; he knows every trick in the book, every hidden spot. Whether you’re totally new to the sport or have been doing it for decades, you’ll walk away with at least one priceless new tip—and memories of a day out at sea.
What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
Captain Stan started fishing in this area at the age of seven with his dad and brother. Deep-sea fishing is more than a sport or a job or a hobby for him—it’s an experience that can bond strangers. You’ll feel that at the end of the day.
Who is this tour best for?
Anyone who thinks the idea of spending several hours out at sea trying to capture any one of the dozens of fish that call these waters home (including a few different species of shark) is bound to have fun. If you’re prone to seasickness, skip it.
Slide 10 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Sponsored by Florida International University and run through the Jewish Museum of Florida, the Jewish Walking Tour of Miami Beach, a short look at the history of the Jewish people and Jewish culture in Miami, begins at the museum itself, a historic former synagogue. The ten or so people in a group are first shown a short video presentation and then some of the main artifacts (if you're interested in the museum itself, you can return later). Then begins a 90-minute walk around a 10-block radius, with stops at various significant buildings such as the Lord Balfour Hotel. Tourees learn about Jewish immigrants to the area and the various trials they faced.
Tell us about your fellow tourees.
When I went the crowd was a mix of general Miami visitors with an interest in its history and Jewish people from other cities learning more about their own culture. The walk doesn’t stretch that far from the museum, and the guide, very aware of some of the energy limitations on a hot Miami day, kept things at an easy pace.
How are the guides, then?
Lively, informative, knowledgeable, and humorous at just the right times, the guide was a consummate professional. Every observation and story felt fresh and unrehearsed, and the use of old photos at various points—to give a sense of how things looked at whatever period was being referenced—was a great touch.
What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
The stories of segregation and prejudice really stay with you, as does the sincerity and integrity of the guide. There are also curiosities, such as a stained-glass window in the museum that's dedicated to Meyer Lansky, an infamous Jewish mobster.
So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
The tour is a great palate cleanser for the decadence and glitz of Miami Beach. It’s a humbling, grounding experience in the best way, and gives some much-needed cultural context to this part of the city. History buffs, people with an interest in comparative religion, and anyone looking to scratch beneath Miami's surface will get a lot out of it.
Slide 11 of 22: Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
Running almost the entire width of South Beach, Lincoln Road Mall is a mile-long pedestrian mall and one of Miami’s favorite spots for outdoor activities—besides the beach, which is just a couple blocks away. Designed by Morris Lapidus, the architect behind The Fontainebleau hotel, the strip maintains a fun, Miami Modern (MiMo) style of the past, but with more than 100 fashionable shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés.
What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Peppered within the more than 75 shops are plenty of mall mainstays like the Gap, American Eagle, H&M, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Pottery Barn. But there are some great high-end names as well, including All Saints, Scotch & Soda, and John Varvatos.
If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
For a dedicated dose of retail therapy, head straight to Alchemist—located at the top of 1111 Lincoln Road, a seriously fancy parking garage designed by Swiss starchitecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. The gallery-like boutique is as pretty as the clothing it sells, and the clothing it sells is strictly top-tier: Celine, Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, and others. The store recently launched its own brand of easy-to-wear Ts, dresses, and hoodies. Snag a “Paradise Lost” collection T-shirt for about $350; hoodies, meanwhile, range from $700 to $2,900, depending on whether it's, ahem, fur-lined.
And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
Bibliophiles should make a beeline for the Lincoln Road branch of Books & Books, a local bookstore chain that regularly hosts readings and other literary events. If you’re into art, fashion, and architecture, you’re in great company; gorgeous tomes covering these very topics are among the store’s specialties. If you’re looking for a quick beach read, the shop also carries an impressive collection of international magazines. Post up at the store’s cafe (which has a great selection of vegan bites) out front, and begin browsing your purchase.
Who else shops here?
While Lincoln Road is a retail paradise, it's also dotted with bars, restaurants, and cafes, most of them with large outdoor seating areas that offer some of the best people-watching in Miami.
Any secret tips?
If you think that things quiet down here when the sun sets, you’d be wrong. Sure, the stores stay open late, but it’s the restaurants and bars that keep Lincoln Road buzzing into the wee hours. In the middle of the super-wide walkway (it’s lined with storefronts on both sides) you'll notice some original MiMo elements, including fountains, green spaces, and small playground-like areas for kids, who will still be running around late into the night.
Slide 12 of 22: What’s this place all about?
This oolite limestone structure is both a Miami landmark and a bit of a mystery. Between 1923 and 1951, under the cover of night, Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin transformed more than 1,000 tons of coral rock into what is now a world-renowned stone sculpture garden, with walls, furniture, carvings, and a castle tower. Yet, even to this day, no one knows how he did it—some have posited reverse magnetism, others have suggested that the may have had supernatural powers. Whatever your belief, there’s no denying that it’s a wondrous accomplishment indeed. And it's as much a testament to the power of one man’s single-minded dedication as it is to the magic of architecture. Tickets can be purchased online or on-site.
Do we know anything else about its history?
Though you’ll undoubtedly leave the Coral Castle Museum with an overwhelming curiosity as to how one man was able to build such a magnificent structure, there’s a sad side to the story as well: many believe that Leedskalnin built the property as a tribute to his 16-year-old fiancée, who called things off a day before the wedding. Though he invited her to visit the property a number of times, she never accepted.
Is there a guide involved?
Leedskalnin made a living by giving tours of the property while he continued to build it. Today, it's worth signing up for a tour as well; you'll be led around the museum by one of the knowledgeable guides. There are also audio stands throughout the property, which deliver a history of what you’re seeing in four languages.
Who comes here?
You'll find romantics, history buffs, and architecture aficionados wandering the grounds of Coral Castle, mouths agape at the impressive structure. Given the fact that you practically need to drive right past The Everglades (some 15 miles away) in order to get to here, the landmark has become popular with visitors making the trek from Miami to Florida’s famed wetlands.
Did it meet expectations?
Even if the story of its creation doesn’t immediately wow you, it’s hard not to be impressed when you see Coral Castle up close. Given the primitive tools that were available at the time it was constructed, even the most skeptical visitors won’t be able to stop themselves from swooning.
So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
The castle is perfect for curiosity-seekers, history buffs, and conspiracy theorists, plus starry-eyed types taken with Leedskalnin's grand, if somewhat misplaced, romantic overture to his almost-bride.
Slide 13 of 22: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
In the early 1920s, as part of real estate developer George Merrick’s plan to turn Coral Gables into a South Florida destination, he commissioned the reconstruction of an abandoned four-acre coral rock quarry into what he imagined would be one of the world’s most magnificent public swimming pools. And boy, did he succeed. Opened in 1924, the Venetian Pool—originally known as the Venetian Casino—brought a piece of old-world European architecture to the then-growing city. With its loggias, porticos, bridge, and two lookout towers, the pool immediately began drawing visitors to Coral Gables. And it continues to do so to this day. Since it can get crowded—management stops allowing people in once the pool has reached capacity—we recommend calling ahead of time to see if there's still room. Or plan to get there early.
What’s it like being there?
Relaxed and ready for lounging.
Who comes here?
It only takes a few minutes of Miami heat to realize that a quick dip is a necessary survival strategy on a hot day. For residents and tourists who don’t have access to a pool, the Venetian Pool is a luxurious option. Cool off, then take some time to explore the surroundings.
Did it meet expectations?
Pictures don’t do the Venetian Pool justice; it's truly is a thing of beauty, and it's well worth the trip to Coral Gables for the first-hand look. That said, on hot days—and particularly on weekends and in summer when kids are out of school—it can get crowded. Management stops allowing people in once the pool has reached capacity, so we recommend calling ahead of time to see if there's still room. Or plan to get there early.
So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Anyone who appreciates a lazy day of lounging will fall in love with the Venetian Pool. But if you’re averse to crowds, you’re probably better off hanging at the hotel pool or the beach. Be warned that kids under 3 aren't allowed inside—the service team will likely ask for proof of age. And whatever you do, don’t forget the sunscreen!
Slide 14 of 22: What’s this place all about?
Charles Deering was a successful businessman and philanthropist who recognized Miami’s potential as a great winter escape, even in its earliest days of development. As such, he created The Deering Estate—a 444-acre environmental and archaeological preserve fronting Biscayne Bay. In addition to its historic houses, which can be toured daily, it’s the estate’s al fresco features that seemed to have developed the most rabid following, especially among locals. The family-friendly property offers plenty of outdoor activities, including nature hikes, paddling, biking, and more. A regular calendar of events also includes concerts, theater, movies, culinary festivals, art exhibitions, and lectures.
What’s it like being there?
It's invigorating.
Is there a guide involved?
There are tour guides in nearly every corner of the vast property, each an expert in a particular field, whether it’s historic houses or nature trails. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Who comes here?
The Deering Estate is a regular haunt for locals looking to engage with nature and visitors with an interest in the city’s history and long-held dedication to environmentalism.
Did it meet expectations?
Even if you don’t consider yourself an “outdoorsy type,” The Deering Estate is bound to impress. With so much to see and do, both indoors and outdoors, it’s a fantastic way to get to know the history of the city and its environment.
What, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Outdoor enthusiasts and families tend to make up the majority of visitors, but the Estate is chock full of areas that would be of just as much interest to history buffs, animal lovers, environmentalists, and archaeology enthusiasts. You’ll just want to be sure to reserve at least a few hours to explore the various features and activities. And with a $12 admission fee ($7 for kids), it’s also a cost-effective way to spend a day.
Slide 15 of 22: Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Since 2010, Miami Culinary Tours has orchestrated deep-dives into some of Magic City’s most famous neighborhoods, Little Havana among them. The heart of Miami’s Cuban population, the area includes Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), famous for Domino Park, strong cafecitos, and counter-service croquetas. You’ll get to experience all of that and more over the course of two-and-a-half hours on this popular walking tour, which hits several Calle Ocho hotspots. Just be sure to book online; tickets must be purchased in advance.
Tell us about your fellow tourees.
Calle Ocho is one of Miami’s most dynamic neighborhoods, and the folks on this tour are eager to explore its history and food. You'll only cover an eight-block area over the course of 2.5 hours, and there are lots of stops along the way; in other words, it's not strenuous. You'll spend much of your time chatting with neighborhood locals, learning more about Miami’s Cuban population, and snacking.
How are the guides, then?
Although guides freely discuss history, politics, and architecture, they know you're here chiefly to eat. Luckily, they’ve got great relationships at all the local hotspots, where they've prearranged each pit-stop. Get ready for picadillo-stuffed empanadas at El Pub, Cubanos at Old Havana Restaurant, guava pastelitos at Yisell Bakery, and a sweet, potent caffeine boost at La Ventanita. Vegetarian variations are also available.
What will we remember weeks or months or years from now?
You won't soon forget all the delicious things you've eaten—you may even be tempted to plan a return visit to the neighborhood before the tour's over! But you'll also learn about some of the neighborhood’s cultural customs, including Santeria, and pay a visit to a local cigar factory. Those are the kind of experiences that will stick with you long after your trip.
So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
Come for the food, stay for the culture. Anyone with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for well-seasoned Cuban bites will surely consider this one of the most memorable experiences of their time in Miami.
Slide 16 of 22: What’s this place all about?
Originally known as The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, this ancient monastery started life in the year 1133—in northern Spain. For more than 700 years, it served as a home for Cistercian monks, until a social revolution saw it seized and turned into a granary and stable. Awed by it history, beauty, and significance, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst bought the monastery’s outbuildings and cloisters in 1925; he had each structure dismantled, stone-by-stone, packed into more than 11,000 crates, and shipped to New York. After sitting in a warehouse in Brooklyn for more than a quarter-century, the crates were purchased by Raymond Moss and William Edgemon a year after Hearst’s death. The new owners understood the stones’ potential value as a tourist attraction, and set about spending nearly two years—and about $20 million (in today’s dollars)—to relocate and rebuild the structure in North Miami. It’s easy enough to buy tickets upon arrival, but as the location is often utilized for special events—filming, weddings, and the like—you’ll want to call ahead to make sure it’s open to the public on the day you're planning to visit.
What’s it like being there?
Knowing the history of the building you’re looking at is all it takes to be awed by this architectural wonder.
Will anyone show us around?
Tours typically run throughout the day (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m), and they're steered by guides who know every detail of the history of these buildings—so, totally worth it. Remember that the guides deliver the same set of information multiple times a day, so the key to getting a personal touch is to engage them with questions.
Who comes here?
In general, no one without a serious interest in history and/or architecture goes out of his or her way to walk around a nearly 900-year-old monastery. Sure, some of them may drag their less-than-enthusiastic kids along, but it’s hard not to be impressed by how this place of worship (yes, it's an active church with regular services) came to be. The congregation is refreshingly progressive too; according to its website, “We are young and old, families and singles. Gay and straight. Rich and poor (but mostly in-between).”
Did it meet expectations?
Though we tend to save the phrase “work of art” for museums, it’s really the best way to describe this wondrous structure—especially when you understand how much time, dedication, and precision it took to reassemble it.
Anything else we need to know before we go?
Although the Ancient Spanish Monastery is only some 13 miles north of Miami, you’ll need a car to get there; the drive takes about half an hour. It's certainly worth the visit though, particularly for architecture buffs—and especially if you’re already planning on heading north for any other reason. (It’s about 15 minutes from the Bal Harbour Shops, 10 minutes from the Aventura Mall, and about halfway between South Beach and Fort Lauderdale.) With a $10 admission fee ($5 for seniors and students), it’s money well spent, and you can easily tour the site in an hour.
Slide 17 of 22: First impression?
If the address doesn’t ring a bell, the exterior of this gated Mediterranean Revival mansion in the heart of South Beach certainly will: it’s the former home of fashion designer Gianni Versace, and exactly the place where he was shot and killed in 1997. Today, it’s one of the most photographed homes in America (yes, it’s odd to see so many people taking selfies outside) as well as a hotel—and a very exclusive one at that (rooms start at about $1,400 per night). Inside, it’s glamour as far as the eye can see—from the restaurant, Gianni's, to the minuscule, but excellent, Onyx Bar.
So who’s there?
Though the hotel is for guests only, Gianni’s and Onyx are both open to the public. The six-seat bar is definitely a special-occasion kind of place, and given that it’s so small, it’s not always easy (or even possible) to nab a seat. There aren't a lot of regulars, and the crowd seems to be as enthralled by the setting as they are by their drinks. So if you're lucky enough to find room, settle in and stay a while.
How are the drinks?
The best way to take in your surroundings is to savor it over a glass of wine—actually, make that a bottle. The menu includes 25 sparkling vintages, which make for an appropriately celebratory night. There’s also a fantastic selection of bourbons and scotches, including a 21-year-old Macallan that’s perfectly peaty.
Worth ordering something to eat, too?
You can sample select small bites from Gianni’s at Onyx; the so-called “teasing menu" includes Key West prawns in a sweet-and-sour chili sauce and black truffle arancini that prove rich enough to serve as a meal.
Did the staff do you right?
The staff is attentive and efficient, and understands this is a one-of-a-kind experience for most customers. They don’t mind if you linger.
Wrap it up: what are we coming here for?
You can grab a glass of wine anywhere in the city; Onyx Bar is the only place where you can grab one in what was Gianni Versace’s kitchen.
Slide 18 of 22: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
This facility – essentially a conservation and observation park – has been here since 1933 and so boasts an impressive history. It is home to around 500 primates, covering 18 different species of monkeys and apes. Guests navigate the 30-acre park through a series of tunnels, and indeed the park’s tagline is "Where the humans are caged and the monkeys run wild". The animal inhabitants live in semi-natural habitats where they can live as they would in the wild.
Any standout features or must-sees?
There are four main attractions within the general park. The first is the Wild Monkey Swimming Pool, where the cheeky, nimble, Java Macaques wade and dive into the pond on the outskirts of their habitat. The Cameroon Gorilla Forest is home to a huge, silverback gorilla – at set times, his keepers interact with him. Wings of Love is a sanctuary for captive parrots that have been displaced from their natural homes or have been abandoned as pets by their owners. Finally, guided tours are available of the Amazonian Rainforest, the only semi-natural monkey habitat in North America. The primates here are free range, and include Squirrel Monkeys, Capuchins and Howler Monkeys. Feeding and photo opportunities with the monkeys are possible and encouraged.
Was it easy to get around?
The park is very easy to navigate and you can’t go too far wrong given the construction – the humans are corralled rather than the apes and so you can’t wander too far.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Even including the special shows, it’s easy to see almost everything in the park in a couple of hours. It’s perfect for families with young children who may not have seen wildlife up this close before, and the information and habitats will also be of huge interest to fans of natural science in general.
Slide 19 of 22: Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
The New World Center, home to the New World Symphony, is just as state-of-the-art as you'd expect from any Frank Gehry–designed building. Although the venue is officially the campus of an orchestral academy, it also strives to make music accessible to the public through a range of experiences and programs, most of which are family-friendly.
What kinds of events can we see here?
Music is the main event here, and the programming is impressively wide-ranging; you can catch a chamber music concert one night and groove to your favorite movie soundtracks, performed as a collaboration between the school’s orchestra and a DJ the next night. Outside, there’s a lovely, tree-filled park with a regular lineup of WALLCAST events that take shape on the facade's 7,000-square-foot projection screen, including simulcast music events from around the world and a free weekly Cinema Series from January through May.
How are the seats?
In addition to multiple rehearsal and concerts halls, the New World Center has a bunch of other spaces that can be reconfigured to accommodate different groups and events. Yet there's never a bad seat in the house, particularly not with the state-of-the-art sound system in every corner of the venue.
Good for kids?
Though our experiences have all been kid-free, the center actively promotes itself as a family-friendly place—and indeed, there are always kids around, whether at concerts or movie screenings. There are a handful of kid-specific performances throughout the year. In addition, there's a "sensory-friendly environment” for both kids and adults with sensory-processing or autism-spectrum disorders.
Anything in particular that makes this place special?
Though music may be the main business here, the annual Cinema Series at SoundScape is also a local favorite. Bring a blanket or chair, pack some sustenance, find a spot under the stars, and watch a movie on a gigantic screen.
What—and who—do you think this is best for?
Whether you’re looking to get dressed up and enjoy an elegant night of chamber music, or you just feel like giving the kids a dose of culture but don’t want to change out of your jeans and T-shirt, the academic nature of the New World Center makes welcoming to all.
Slide 20 of 22: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
As much as locals might have liked to keep South Pointe Park under wraps, it was only a matter of time before word got out about this park, located at the southernmost tip of South Beach just a few steps from Joe’s Stone Crab, the legendary restaurant that everyone's got to try at least once. While it’s technically just a city park, the 17-acre spot offers much more than a couple of benches and pretty palm trees. There’s beach access, a fishing pier, a playground for kids, interactive water features, paved sidewalks for jogging, biking, and skateboarding, and a dog park.
Any standout features or must-sees?
Given Miami’s art-forward reputation, it’s probably not surprising that the park benches here are works of art all their own. So grab a seat—or make your way right off the park and pull up a table or barstool outside at Smith & Wollensky—and wait for one of the many cruise ships to make its way past you. Watching one of these gigantic boats head out to sea is a one-of-a-kind sight.
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
The park is large but very open, so it’s easy to see where you’re headed. There are signposts, too. And there are always people around; if you find yourself unable to locate the fishing pier (the big structure hanging over the water), just ask one of your fellow park-goers.
__ All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?__
If you have limited time, decide what's most appealing; if it’s people-watching, find a seat near the promenade and gaze away. If you’ve got kids in tow, they’ll love the playground and water features, especially on a hot day. If you’ve got a fur baby, head straight for the Bark Park.
Slide 21 of 22: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Can’t decide between a trip to Miami and a vacation in Italy? You can have a little bit of both: In the 1910s, noted industrialist James Deering decided to bring a taste of Europe to Biscayne Bay when he commissioned the construction of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, modeled on a centuries-old Italian villa, as his winter home in Miami.
What are we going to see here?
In the 1950s, James Deering’s nieces decided that their uncle’s carefully constructed estate—now a national landmark—could make for an interesting tourist attraction. Between the house and its grounds, Vizcaya became a sort of living museum not just to the early days of Miami’s rise as a destination for both tourists and snowbirds but to old-school European design. Among the home’s many treasures are more than 2,500 antique art objects and furnishings; 10 acres of immaculately landscaped gardens, including 2,000 orchids; and 25 acres of endangered forest lands. It would be easy to while away an entire day at Vizcaya—and imagine what it would be like to live here, prowling around the main house’s 34 beautifully decorated rooms. There’s a lot of corners to turn and furniture to browse, and you’d be remiss to miss one inch of either the house or the gardens, so plan your visit accordingly.
What did you make of the crowd?
As one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, there’s always a crowd at Vizcaya. Lucky for you, there’s plenty of acreage to explore. The crowd is largely made up of tourists, including families, though there are plenty of locals who make a regular pilgrimage to bask in the opulence. You won't have the place to yourself no matter when you visit, unfortunately.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Given the property’s age, and its dedication to preserving the grounds just as they were in Deering’s time, visitors should be aware that uneven floors and lots and lots of steps are part of the property’s makeup—and charm.
Any guided tours worth trying?
If you want to make the best use of your time, opt for a guided tour. Guided tours are a popular option for visitors, with a handful of available options: If you want to go it (sort of) alone, there’s a 90-minute audio guide (available in five languages for $5) that lets you choose your own path as you make you way through both floors of the main house and the gardens. If the garden is your main interest, $5 will get you an interactive, guided adventure detailing everything from the landscaping decisions to the animals that call it home. (Tours take place on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. between November and April.) For a shorter version, take a 45-minute house tour where guests get to ask all the questions they want; tour times are posted daily.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The shop typically offers a set of fascinating mementos from Deering’s estate but it's closed due to Hurricane Irma; it may reopen soon. Right now, there's a much smaller selection of products on the Café North Patio.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Like the gift shop, Vizcaya’s café also suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017. For now, a temporary space for snacking has been set up under a tent in the Café North Patio. The menu has been reduced, but there's still a decent selection of sandwiches, salads, and power bowls—plus snacks, desserts, and ice cream.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It would be easy to spend several hours at Vizcaya without getting bored. If you only have an hour to spare, you might need to decide: house or gardens. Sure, you could spend 30 minutes in both, but you’d be better off choosing one over the other to maximize the experience.
Slide 22 of 22: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Miami Seaquarium is one of the oldest aquariums in the country (opened in 1955) and its enduring popularity can perhaps be traced to its philosophy to show visitors "something new, something dangerous and something impressive." The huge, 40-acre facility brings in half-a-million visitors a year, and is one of the city’s biggest attractions.
What sorts of ocean life will we find here?
The aquarium’s residents are a diverse group and stretch way beyond fish to sharks, sea turtles, flamingos, reptiles, and manatees. The Encounter programs are especially great, with a chance to feed, pet, and generally hang out with dolphins, penguins, and seals. The Sea Trek Reef Encounter puts you in a special diving helmet and gives you the chance walk around among tropical fish. The Seaquarium also offers a selection of live shows, with killer whales, dolphins, and seals showing off their best tricks.
Are there rotating exhibits?
You bet. On a recent visit, "Savage Ancient Seas" included the skeletons of sea-dwelling dinosaurs and ancient fish, some dating back 75 million years.
What did you make of the crowd?
This is a real family attraction, with plenty of children and field trips. The Seaquarium’s educational programs are top notch, and there’s more than enough for visitors of all ages to enjoy.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Even though it’s a sizeable facility, the Seaquarium is completely accessible and easy to navigate. Plenty of staff are on hand to help anyone with difficulties.
Any guided tours worth trying?
There's a huge range of experiences that offer behind-the-scenes access and special privileges, from one-off special encounters to a comprehensive VIP tour that takes two-and-a half hours and includes feeding and training sessions.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The gift shop is suitably stocked with everything from fluffy toy versions of the animals that you may have seen, to a range of educational resources.
Should we get food here or just plan on going elsewhere?
There are nine food outlets, from casual hot dogs and burgers to a more substantial barbecue restaurant to the Manatee Bay Café, which has healthy, organic options.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
You’d have to time your visit exceptionally well to take in one of the live shows and see the Seaquarium in 90 minutes, but if you arrived to coincide with the start of the killer whale show, then hit the manatee exhibit, the dolphin harbor, and the reef aquarium, you'd have a pretty good sampler.

First things first: You came to Miami for some sun and sand, and you’re going to get it—with a side of people-watching of course. And if that’s all you want (along with a cold glass full of your preferred fruity rum concoction), that’s fine, but Miami’s beaches are barely the beginning of what the Magic City has to offer. From the highest of high end designer shops to every type of walking tour imaginable to salsa dancing to museums and animal reserves that will captivate any kids in your group, Miami is a complete city. Here, our picks for the best things to do when you’re in Miami.

Art Deco Walking Tour

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Located right on the beach on Ocean Drive, smack dab in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco District, the Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center is where architecture enthusiasts can pop in and learn more about the iconic, colorful buildings that give this neighborhood its personality. While just looking up and admiring the glamorous geometric details and chrome accents is enough for some people, the Miami Design Preservation League—a nonprofit advocacy group that fights to maintain the city’s architectural character—offers daily walking tours of the neighborhood (10:30 a.m., plus 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays).

How much time are we dedicating to one of these tours?
Tours last about 90 minutes—just enough time to leave you fulfilled but not worn out. It’s an easy walk around the neighborhood, where you’ll dip in and out of buildings to explore their Art Deco facades, terrazzo floors, and other design elements.

How are the guides, then?
The members of the Miami Design Preservation League are knowledgeable and passionate about the topic at hand. They’ll offer a bird’s-eye perspective of Art Deco architecture before delving deeper into all the nerdy, fascinating details. Forget Art Deco 101—this is an advanced crash course. To say the tour guides are dedicated to the effort of protecting the city’s Art Deco past would be an understatement; their passion for preservation is palpable. Which is probably why the tours are so popular; space fills up fast, so book tickets in advance online.

What will we remember weeks or months or years from now?
You’ll be struck by the details you gain on your tour, whether they’re about the specific materials used to construct some of Miami’s most iconic Art Deco buildings or the nitty-gritty about the luminaries who designed them. In all, you’ll walk away with some expert-level factoids—just perfect for a trivia night down the road.

Bottom line: who is this tour for?
This is technically an architecture tour, but anyone with an interest in learning more about Miami Beach—how its culture, people, and buildings came to be—will appreciate it.

Wynwood Walls

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Known as Miami’s most Instagrammed place, this outdoor “gallery” is a cornucopia of artwork by graffiti artists and muralists. There are different seating options throughout, but folks are mostly invited to peruse the murals and take photos, of course.

Any standout features or must-sees?
The murals are constantly rotating and being updated but closer to the entrance are the iconic murals by artist Shepard Fairey (he’s the one who designed the Obama “Hope” poster).

Was it easy to get around?
It’s a relatively small outdoor space so it’s easy to navigate, and there are plenty of benches or rocks to sit on and take it all in.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
People with active social media will love the opportunity for unique selfies; conversely, lovers of street art will find much to inspire.

Dade Heritage Trust: Brickell Walking Tours

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
The Dade Heritage Trust is a large organization dedicated to the cultural preservation of Miami and it offers two tours of Brickell Avenue—North and South. Both start at the Dade Heritage Trust offices, the former home of Miami’s first physician. The walking tour encompasses Point View (the city’s first subdivision) and a good number of the mansions of the former Millionaire’s Row. The tour tells of the fortunes of the families that once inhabited these grand residences, and the events that shaped the first half of the 20th century in this part of the world.

Tell us about your fellow tourees.
The small group consisted mostly of local history buffs, though a few of us were from out of town and had a more generalized interest in the city. It’s not the shortest tour, but the pace is leisurely enough and there are multiple stops.

How are the guides, then?
The guide expertly brought the former glamour of the area to life—not that the backdrop is too shabby these days, but stories of the golden age of Point View (when it was an incredibly extravagant development) were delightful. Seeing Nolan House—one of the few places to have escaped replacement by condos—and hearing the story of the Nolan family, revealed a different side to the city. Delivery was engaging and our guide was nothing but charismatic.

Anything you’ll be remembering weeks or months or years from now?
It’s a shame that so many of the great mansions of the former Millionaires’ Row have been lost to redevelopment, but the Trust has managed to preserve several in the face of onslaught. It was moving to hear firsthand about the organization’s ongoing preservation work.

So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
This is a perfect tour for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper into the history of the city and its historically most affluent area, and hear about ambitious projects such as Point View. The glamour associated with Miami today has its roots here, and it’s fascinating to learn about those origins.

South Beach

Give us the wide-angle view: what kind of beach are we talking about?
You came to Miami. You weren’t planning to avoid the sand right? Well, there’s no way you’ll be able to resist the wide, white-sand beaches of South Beach. Running the length of more than 15 city blocks, this beach has a party reputation for a reason. Although you’ll see plenty of wild things as you saunter up and down—no, nude sunbathing isn’t technically allowed, but yes, you’ll see a lot of it—South Beach is big enough that it won’t be hard to find your very own slice of it. That’s not to say you won’t be surrounded by hundreds of other sun worshippers looking to soak up every ray that they can, but even at its most crowded times, the beach is wide enough to give you a bit of breathing room.

How accessible is it?
South Beach is a public beach that’s free and open to everyone. And it’s easily accessible by foot, though the most scenic part on the southern end, via Lummus Park, which runs along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th streets. This is where you’ll see people getting serious about volleyball, plus oil-slicked guys doing pull-ups. It’s been used as the backdrop for just about every movie and TV show set in Miami, so it’ll all look familiar.

Decent services and facilities, would you say?
Just like those iconic and brightly colored lifeguard stations you’ve likely seen in pictures, South Beach is lined with kiosks (courtesy of Boucher Brothers) where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas. Just be warned that it’s not cheap; a day of lounging and protecting yourself from the sun can easily cost a couple $50 or more. But here’s a pro tip: Many South Beach hotels—even those that don’t boast oceanfront views—offer free beach chairs for the day. If you’re staying for a few days and have your sights set on the beach, it’s worth opting for a hotel that offers this service. Better yet, choose a hotel that has a beach club of its own.

As for food and drink: there are bare-bones snack bars along the beach peddling convenience-store basics (bottles of water, candy, etc.). If you’re looking for something more substantial and want a short break from the sun, Ocean Drive is lined with bars and restaurants, though they push their food and drinks aggressively (sometimes a bit too aggressively!). While most of these spots don’t mind if you show up in beach gear, a cover-up or t-shirt is always appreciated.

How’s the actual beach stuff—sand and surf?
You’ll see more people lounging by the water than you will actually going into it, which is strange given its crystalline hue and warm temps. Even in the coldest months (well, “cold” for Miami), the water usually stays above 70 degrees, which is perfect for a dip. You’ll see some people swimming, kids splashing around, and couples taking the long way along the surf. But the majority of the crowd seems perfectly content to stay posing—err, seated—on the sand.

Can we go barefoot?
The farther north you go on Miami Beach, the narrower—and less white-sand—the beach becomes. That’s because South Beach is man made; however, it’s very sandy, and you don’t need to worry about rocks and other debris damaging your feet.

Anything special we should look for?
Since there’s really no shade on the beach itself (which is why you’ll want to bring or rent an umbrella), the sand can get hot. Like, really hot. So make sure you bring sandals; otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re walking on coals.

What—and who—is this beach best for?
South Beach is world-famous for a reason. And while you’ll probably find it slightly tamer than what you’ve seen on reality shows, this is a place where people come to party. But the sandy stretch also attracts a huge population of European travelers, plus lots of families, so there’s really no one-size-fits-all type of beachgoer. Even if you’re not big on sitting in the sun, it’s worth taking a stroll up or down the beach to see what all the fuss is about. If you wait until the late afternoon (around 4pm) the crowds will have thinned out a bit.

Design District

Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
What was once an eyesore of urban decay has been transformed into one of the world’s shiniest arts and shopping destinations, thanks in large part to real estate developer and philanthropist Craig Robins. It all began in 2009, when Christian Louboutin became the first high-end retailer to take a chance on the neighborhood’s future. Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Fendi, and Hermès quickly followed suit. Today, the 18-block neighborhood is home to more than 150 high-end boutiques, design showrooms, art galleries, restaurants, and bars—with new neighbors popping up seemingly every week. What a difference a decade makes.

What can we find here, or what should we look for?
With dozens of shops, boutiques, showrooms, and galleries, you’d be hard-pressed to not find whatever you’re looking for—provided you’re looking for something with a designer tag, that is. In addition to a wide range of popular clothing boutiques, including Alice & Olivia, Pucci, Rick Owens, Valentino, Prada, and Zadig & Voltaire, there’s an impressive lineup of handbags and accessories (Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci); jewelry and watches (Rolex, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., Tag Heuer, and Piaget); and home furnishings (Jonathan Adler, Versace Home, and Holly Hunt). If you can dream it, you can find it.

If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
For a true splurge, head to Jason of Beverly Hills for a sparkly pair of chandelier earrings or a Dunamis Pantheon watch.

And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
When window shopping just won’t do, The Bazaar Project is one of the area’s funkiest and most eclectic, shops. The inventory here is a fun mix of items that owner (and avid traveler) Yeliz Titiz has come across as she’s crisscrossed the globe: soaps and books, handbags and textiles, and other ever-changing objects and collectibles.

Who else shops here?
Because the Design District is home to a number of the city’s favorite restaurants, not everyone you’ll be sharing the sidewalks with is necessarily shopping. But those who do throw down their plastic in this area tend to have exacting tastes and aren’t afraid to shell out for high quality. Birkin bag, anyone?

Any secret tips?
Don’t leave the area without glimpsing its impressive public art, including works by Buckminster Fuller and Zaha Hadid.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Spanning nearly 84 acres, the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden is filled with tropical plants, flowers, and trees, including extremely rare species like the petticoat palm. It’s also home to flora that can’t survive anywhere else in America except for South Florida.

Any standout features or must-sees?
For a truly magical experience, make your way to the Wings of the Tropics exhibition, where as many as 40 species of exotic butterflies will engage in a colorful display of acrobatics all around you. It’s like something out of a fairy tale.

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Every square inch of this facility—from the gardens to the many lakes and water features—has been thoughtfully designed and constructed, making it easy to navigate. There’s plenty of seating when you need a break, plus a handful of places for a quick bite. (The garden hosts a series of outdoor teas as well.) While there are several guided walking tours, the best way to see a little of everything is by hopping aboard one of the tram tours, which run year-round on the hour (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends). Narrated by one of the garden’s experts, the tours last about 45 minutes and provide a solid overview of the history of the Fairchild, its collections, and its worldwide plant-preservation efforts.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
A thorough tour of the Fairchild typically takes about three hours, but time-challenged visitors should opt for a 45-minute tram tour. Horticulture enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to see rare plants they won’t find anywhere else in the United States; however, those with severe plant allergies might prefer a different kind of outing.

Coral Gables Museum: Downtown Walking Tour

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
There’s a lovely, casual air to The Coral Gables Museum Downtown Walking Tour, which takes in the historic highlights of the affluent neighborhood. It begins in downtown Coral Gables at the museum, a historic former police station and courthouse. Our guide gave us a rolling history of the area from the turn of the 20th century, beginning with buildings such as the Hotel Colonnade, which was once a sales center for the burgeoning neighborhood. The impressive examples of Coral Gables’ famed Mediterranean Revival architecture is the main thrust of the tour, though, and there are examples everywhere, from the former outdoor Dream Theater to former car dealerships to the grand private homes.

Tell us about your fellow tourees.
The dozen tourees were diverse in age and provenance, with even a couple of local residents looking to delve deeper into their home city. The pace is slow enough to be comfortable for most people, even in the midday Floridian heat.

How are the guides, then?
Our wonderful guide was from the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, and effortlessly brought to life the history of this experimental neighborhood. The stories were vivid—you could really envision the electric trolleys and the lives of those first residents.

What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
Aside from the museum itself and some of the main sites on the tour, it’s the general spirit of optimism and the sense of a vision put into practice that really stays with you. The opulence of some of the buildings reflects the spirit of upward mobility that must have been apparent during the neighborhood’s earliest stage.

Therapy-IV Deep Sea Fishing

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Sure, the water in Miami is pretty to gaze at from your lounge chair. But give yourself a real experience by hopping aboard the Therapy-IV, a 58-foot sportfish boat, and head out with the ever-personal Captain Stan Saffan and his crew for a day (or half-day) of deep sea fishing. You’ll definitely need to reserve ahead, as the boats accommodate just six guests. Even if your party is smaller than that, Captain Stan will fill in the rest—which makes it feel like a private charter, even when it’s not (though they’re happy to do those, too).

Tell us about your fellow tourees.
It’s not just any old tourist who decides that spending a day at sea fishing for marlin, sailfish, or hammerhead sharks qualifies as a good time. So if you’re paired with a couple of strangers, it’s safe to assume you’ll have at least a love of the ocean in common. If you’re a bit less seasoned, a half-day journey—which lasts about four hours—is recommended. The full-day trip will give you twice as much time and the chance to try your luck fishing in a few different areas. (Nighttime excursions can also be arranged.)

How are the guides, then?
Even if the fish aren’t biting, Captain Stan will make this excursion worth every moment—and penny. He’s been fishing these waters since he was a kid; he knows every trick in the book, every hidden spot. Whether you’re totally new to the sport or have been doing it for decades, you’ll walk away with at least one priceless new tip—and memories of a day out at sea.

What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
Captain Stan started fishing in this area at the age of seven with his dad and brother. Deep-sea fishing is more than a sport or a job or a hobby for him—it’s an experience that can bond strangers. You’ll feel that at the end of the day.

Who is this tour best for?
Anyone who thinks the idea of spending several hours out at sea trying to capture any one of the dozens of fish that call these waters home (including a few different species of shark) is bound to have fun. If you’re prone to seasickness, skip it.

Jewish Museum of Florida – FIU: Jewish Walking Tour of Miami Beach

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Sponsored by Florida International University and run through the Jewish Museum of Florida, the Jewish Walking Tour of Miami Beach, a short look at the history of the Jewish people and Jewish culture in Miami, begins at the museum itself, a historic former synagogue. The ten or so people in a group are first shown a short video presentation and then some of the main artifacts (if you’re interested in the museum itself, you can return later). Then begins a 90-minute walk around a 10-block radius, with stops at various significant buildings such as the Lord Balfour Hotel. Tourees learn about Jewish immigrants to the area and the various trials they faced.

Tell us about your fellow tourees.
When I went the crowd was a mix of general Miami visitors with an interest in its history and Jewish people from other cities learning more about their own culture. The walk doesn’t stretch that far from the museum, and the guide, very aware of some of the energy limitations on a hot Miami day, kept things at an easy pace.

How are the guides, then?
Lively, informative, knowledgeable, and humorous at just the right times, the guide was a consummate professional. Every observation and story felt fresh and unrehearsed, and the use of old photos at various points—to give a sense of how things looked at whatever period was being referenced—was a great touch.

What will we remember weeks, months or years from now?
The stories of segregation and prejudice really stay with you, as does the sincerity and integrity of the guide. There are also curiosities, such as a stained-glass window in the museum that’s dedicated to Meyer Lansky, an infamous Jewish mobster.

So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
The tour is a great palate cleanser for the decadence and glitz of Miami Beach. It’s a humbling, grounding experience in the best way, and gives some much-needed cultural context to this part of the city. History buffs, people with an interest in comparative religion, and anyone looking to scratch beneath Miami’s surface will get a lot out of it.

Lincoln Road Mall

Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
Running almost the entire width of South Beach, Lincoln Road Mall is a mile-long pedestrian mall and one of Miami’s favorite spots for outdoor activities—besides the beach, which is just a couple blocks away. Designed by Morris Lapidus, the architect behind The Fontainebleau hotel, the strip maintains a fun, Miami Modern (MiMo) style of the past, but with more than 100 fashionable shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés.

What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Peppered within the more than 75 shops are plenty of mall mainstays like the Gap, American Eagle, H&M, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Pottery Barn. But there are some great high-end names as well, including All Saints, Scotch & Soda, and John Varvatos.

If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
For a dedicated dose of retail therapy, head straight to Alchemist—located at the top of 1111 Lincoln Road, a seriously fancy parking garage designed by Swiss starchitecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. The gallery-like boutique is as pretty as the clothing it sells, and the clothing it sells is strictly top-tier: Celine, Rick Owens, Maison Margiela, and others. The store recently launched its own brand of easy-to-wear Ts, dresses, and hoodies. Snag a “Paradise Lost” collection T-shirt for about $350; hoodies, meanwhile, range from $700 to $2,900, depending on whether it’s, ahem, fur-lined.

And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
Bibliophiles should make a beeline for the Lincoln Road branch of Books & Books, a local bookstore chain that regularly hosts readings and other literary events. If you’re into art, fashion, and architecture, you’re in great company; gorgeous tomes covering these very topics are among the store’s specialties. If you’re looking for a quick beach read, the shop also carries an impressive collection of international magazines. Post up at the store’s cafe (which has a great selection of vegan bites) out front, and begin browsing your purchase.

Who else shops here?
While Lincoln Road is a retail paradise, it’s also dotted with bars, restaurants, and cafes, most of them with large outdoor seating areas that offer some of the best people-watching in Miami.

Any secret tips?
If you think that things quiet down here when the sun sets, you’d be wrong. Sure, the stores stay open late, but it’s the restaurants and bars that keep Lincoln Road buzzing into the wee hours. In the middle of the super-wide walkway (it’s lined with storefronts on both sides) you’ll notice some original MiMo elements, including fountains, green spaces, and small playground-like areas for kids, who will still be running around late into the night.

Coral Castle

What’s this place all about?
This oolite limestone structure is both a Miami landmark and a bit of a mystery. Between 1923 and 1951, under the cover of night, Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin transformed more than 1,000 tons of coral rock into what is now a world-renowned stone sculpture garden, with walls, furniture, carvings, and a castle tower. Yet, even to this day, no one knows how he did it—some have posited reverse magnetism, others have suggested that the may have had supernatural powers. Whatever your belief, there’s no denying that it’s a wondrous accomplishment indeed. And it’s as much a testament to the power of one man’s single-minded dedication as it is to the magic of architecture. Tickets can be purchased online or on-site.

Do we know anything else about its history?
Though you’ll undoubtedly leave the Coral Castle Museum with an overwhelming curiosity as to how one man was able to build such a magnificent structure, there’s a sad side to the story as well: many believe that Leedskalnin built the property as a tribute to his 16-year-old fiancée, who called things off a day before the wedding. Though he invited her to visit the property a number of times, she never accepted.

Is there a guide involved?
Leedskalnin made a living by giving tours of the property while he continued to build it. Today, it’s worth signing up for a tour as well; you’ll be led around the museum by one of the knowledgeable guides. There are also audio stands throughout the property, which deliver a history of what you’re seeing in four languages.

Who comes here?
You’ll find romantics, history buffs, and architecture aficionados wandering the grounds of Coral Castle, mouths agape at the impressive structure. Given the fact that you practically need to drive right past The Everglades (some 15 miles away) in order to get to here, the landmark has become popular with visitors making the trek from Miami to Florida’s famed wetlands.

Did it meet expectations?
Even if the story of its creation doesn’t immediately wow you, it’s hard not to be impressed when you see Coral Castle up close. Given the primitive tools that were available at the time it was constructed, even the most skeptical visitors won’t be able to stop themselves from swooning.

So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
The castle is perfect for curiosity-seekers, history buffs, and conspiracy theorists, plus starry-eyed types taken with Leedskalnin’s grand, if somewhat misplaced, romantic overture to his almost-bride.

Venetian Pool

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
In the early 1920s, as part of real estate developer George Merrick’s plan to turn Coral Gables into a South Florida destination, he commissioned the reconstruction of an abandoned four-acre coral rock quarry into what he imagined would be one of the world’s most magnificent public swimming pools. And boy, did he succeed. Opened in 1924, the Venetian Pool—originally known as the Venetian Casino—brought a piece of old-world European architecture to the then-growing city. With its loggias, porticos, bridge, and two lookout towers, the pool immediately began drawing visitors to Coral Gables. And it continues to do so to this day. Since it can get crowded—management stops allowing people in once the pool has reached capacity—we recommend calling ahead of time to see if there’s still room. Or plan to get there early.

What’s it like being there?
Relaxed and ready for lounging.

Who comes here?
It only takes a few minutes of Miami heat to realize that a quick dip is a necessary survival strategy on a hot day. For residents and tourists who don’t have access to a pool, the Venetian Pool is a luxurious option. Cool off, then take some time to explore the surroundings.

Did it meet expectations?
Pictures don’t do the Venetian Pool justice; it’s truly is a thing of beauty, and it’s well worth the trip to Coral Gables for the first-hand look. That said, on hot days—and particularly on weekends and in summer when kids are out of school—it can get crowded. Management stops allowing people in once the pool has reached capacity, so we recommend calling ahead of time to see if there’s still room. Or plan to get there early.

So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Anyone who appreciates a lazy day of lounging will fall in love with the Venetian Pool. But if you’re averse to crowds, you’re probably better off hanging at the hotel pool or the beach. Be warned that kids under 3 aren’t allowed inside—the service team will likely ask for proof of age. And whatever you do, don’t forget the sunscreen!

Deering Estate

What’s this place all about?
Charles Deering was a successful businessman and philanthropist who recognized Miami’s potential as a great winter escape, even in its earliest days of development. As such, he created The Deering Estate—a 444-acre environmental and archaeological preserve fronting Biscayne Bay. In addition to its historic houses, which can be toured daily, it’s the estate’s al fresco features that seemed to have developed the most rabid following, especially among locals. The family-friendly property offers plenty of outdoor activities, including nature hikes, paddling, biking, and more. A regular calendar of events also includes concerts, theater, movies, culinary festivals, art exhibitions, and lectures.

What’s it like being there?
It’s invigorating.

Is there a guide involved?
There are tour guides in nearly every corner of the vast property, each an expert in a particular field, whether it’s historic houses or nature trails. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

Who comes here?
The Deering Estate is a regular haunt for locals looking to engage with nature and visitors with an interest in the city’s history and long-held dedication to environmentalism.

Did it meet expectations?
Even if you don’t consider yourself an “outdoorsy type,” The Deering Estate is bound to impress. With so much to see and do, both indoors and outdoors, it’s a fantastic way to get to know the history of the city and its environment.

What, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Outdoor enthusiasts and families tend to make up the majority of visitors, but the Estate is chock full of areas that would be of just as much interest to history buffs, animal lovers, environmentalists, and archaeology enthusiasts. You’ll just want to be sure to reserve at least a few hours to explore the various features and activities. And with a $12 admission fee ($7 for kids), it’s also a cost-effective way to spend a day.

Little Havana Food & Cultural Tour

Zoom out. What’s the big picture here?
Since 2010, Miami Culinary Tours has orchestrated deep-dives into some of Magic City’s most famous neighborhoods, Little Havana among them. The heart of Miami’s Cuban population, the area includes Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), famous for Domino Park, strong cafecitos, and counter-service croquetas. You’ll get to experience all of that and more over the course of two-and-a-half hours on this popular walking tour, which hits several Calle Ocho hotspots. Just be sure to book online; tickets must be purchased in advance.

Tell us about your fellow tourees.
Calle Ocho is one of Miami’s most dynamic neighborhoods, and the folks on this tour are eager to explore its history and food. You’ll only cover an eight-block area over the course of 2.5 hours, and there are lots of stops along the way; in other words, it’s not strenuous. You’ll spend much of your time chatting with neighborhood locals, learning more about Miami’s Cuban population, and snacking.

How are the guides, then?
Although guides freely discuss history, politics, and architecture, they know you’re here chiefly to eat. Luckily, they’ve got great relationships at all the local hotspots, where they’ve prearranged each pit-stop. Get ready for picadillo-stuffed empanadas at El Pub, Cubanos at Old Havana Restaurant, guava pastelitos at Yisell Bakery, and a sweet, potent caffeine boost at La Ventanita. Vegetarian variations are also available.

What will we remember weeks or months or years from now?
You won’t soon forget all the delicious things you’ve eaten—you may even be tempted to plan a return visit to the neighborhood before the tour’s over! But you’ll also learn about some of the neighborhood’s cultural customs, including Santeria, and pay a visit to a local cigar factory. Those are the kind of experiences that will stick with you long after your trip.

So: money, time—how can we make the most of both?
Come for the food, stay for the culture. Anyone with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for well-seasoned Cuban bites will surely consider this one of the most memorable experiences of their time in Miami.

Ancient Spanish Monastery

What’s this place all about?
Originally known as The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, this ancient monastery started life in the year 1133—in northern Spain. For more than 700 years, it served as a home for Cistercian monks, until a social revolution saw it seized and turned into a granary and stable. Awed by it history, beauty, and significance, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst bought the monastery’s outbuildings and cloisters in 1925; he had each structure dismantled, stone-by-stone, packed into more than 11,000 crates, and shipped to New York. After sitting in a warehouse in Brooklyn for more than a quarter-century, the crates were purchased by Raymond Moss and William Edgemon a year after Hearst’s death. The new owners understood the stones’ potential value as a tourist attraction, and set about spending nearly two years—and about $20 million (in today’s dollars)—to relocate and rebuild the structure in North Miami. It’s easy enough to buy tickets upon arrival, but as the location is often utilized for special events—filming, weddings, and the like—you’ll want to call ahead to make sure it’s open to the public on the day you’re planning to visit.

What’s it like being there?
Knowing the history of the building you’re looking at is all it takes to be awed by this architectural wonder.

Will anyone show us around?
Tours typically run throughout the day (10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m), and they’re steered by guides who know every detail of the history of these buildings—so, totally worth it. Remember that the guides deliver the same set of information multiple times a day, so the key to getting a personal touch is to engage them with questions.

Who comes here?
In general, no one without a serious interest in history and/or architecture goes out of his or her way to walk around a nearly 900-year-old monastery. Sure, some of them may drag their less-than-enthusiastic kids along, but it’s hard not to be impressed by how this place of worship (yes, it’s an active church with regular services) came to be. The congregation is refreshingly progressive too; according to its website, “We are young and old, families and singles. Gay and straight. Rich and poor (but mostly in-between).”

Did it meet expectations?
Though we tend to save the phrase “work of art” for museums, it’s really the best way to describe this wondrous structure—especially when you understand how much time, dedication, and precision it took to reassemble it.

Anything else we need to know before we go?
Although the Ancient Spanish Monastery is only some 13 miles north of Miami, you’ll need a car to get there; the drive takes about half an hour. It’s certainly worth the visit though, particularly for architecture buffs—and especially if you’re already planning on heading north for any other reason. (It’s about 15 minutes from the Bal Harbour Shops, 10 minutes from the Aventura Mall, and about halfway between South Beach and Fort Lauderdale.) With a $10 admission fee ($5 for seniors and students), it’s money well spent, and you can easily tour the site in an hour.

Onyx Bar at Gianni’s

First impression?
If the address doesn’t ring a bell, the exterior of this gated Mediterranean Revival mansion in the heart of South Beach certainly will: it’s the former home of fashion designer Gianni Versace, and exactly the place where he was shot and killed in 1997. Today, it’s one of the most photographed homes in America (yes, it’s odd to see so many people taking selfies outside) as well as a hotel—and a very exclusive one at that (rooms start at about $1,400 per night). Inside, it’s glamour as far as the eye can see—from the restaurant, Gianni’s, to the minuscule, but excellent, Onyx Bar.

So who’s there?
Though the hotel is for guests only, Gianni’s and Onyx are both open to the public. The six-seat bar is definitely a special-occasion kind of place, and given that it’s so small, it’s not always easy (or even possible) to nab a seat. There aren’t a lot of regulars, and the crowd seems to be as enthralled by the setting as they are by their drinks. So if you’re lucky enough to find room, settle in and stay a while.

How are the drinks?
The best way to take in your surroundings is to savor it over a glass of wine—actually, make that a bottle. The menu includes 25 sparkling vintages, which make for an appropriately celebratory night. There’s also a fantastic selection of bourbons and scotches, including a 21-year-old Macallan that’s perfectly peaty.

Worth ordering something to eat, too?
You can sample select small bites from Gianni’s at Onyx; the so-called “teasing menu” includes Key West prawns in a sweet-and-sour chili sauce and black truffle arancini that prove rich enough to serve as a meal.

Did the staff do you right?
The staff is attentive and efficient, and understands this is a one-of-a-kind experience for most customers. They don’t mind if you linger.

Wrap it up: what are we coming here for?
You can grab a glass of wine anywhere in the city; Onyx Bar is the only place where you can grab one in what was Gianni Versace’s kitchen.

Monkey Jungle

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
This facility – essentially a conservation and observation park – has been here since 1933 and so boasts an impressive history. It is home to around 500 primates, covering 18 different species of monkeys and apes. Guests navigate the 30-acre park through a series of tunnels, and indeed the park’s tagline is “Where the humans are caged and the monkeys run wild”. The animal inhabitants live in semi-natural habitats where they can live as they would in the wild.

Any standout features or must-sees?
There are four main attractions within the general park. The first is the Wild Monkey Swimming Pool, where the cheeky, nimble, Java Macaques wade and dive into the pond on the outskirts of their habitat. The Cameroon Gorilla Forest is home to a huge, silverback gorilla – at set times, his keepers interact with him. Wings of Love is a sanctuary for captive parrots that have been displaced from their natural homes or have been abandoned as pets by their owners. Finally, guided tours are available of the Amazonian Rainforest, the only semi-natural monkey habitat in North America. The primates here are free range, and include Squirrel Monkeys, Capuchins and Howler Monkeys. Feeding and photo opportunities with the monkeys are possible and encouraged.

Was it easy to get around?
The park is very easy to navigate and you can’t go too far wrong given the construction – the humans are corralled rather than the apes and so you can’t wander too far.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Even including the special shows, it’s easy to see almost everything in the park in a couple of hours. It’s perfect for families with young children who may not have seen wildlife up this close before, and the information and habitats will also be of huge interest to fans of natural science in general.

New World Center

Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
The New World Center, home to the New World Symphony, is just as state-of-the-art as you’d expect from any Frank Gehry–designed building. Although the venue is officially the campus of an orchestral academy, it also strives to make music accessible to the public through a range of experiences and programs, most of which are family-friendly.

What kinds of events can we see here?
Music is the main event here, and the programming is impressively wide-ranging; you can catch a chamber music concert one night and groove to your favorite movie soundtracks, performed as a collaboration between the school’s orchestra and a DJ the next night. Outside, there’s a lovely, tree-filled park with a regular lineup of WALLCAST events that take shape on the facade’s 7,000-square-foot projection screen, including simulcast music events from around the world and a free weekly Cinema Series from January through May.

How are the seats?
In addition to multiple rehearsal and concerts halls, the New World Center has a bunch of other spaces that can be reconfigured to accommodate different groups and events. Yet there’s never a bad seat in the house, particularly not with the state-of-the-art sound system in every corner of the venue.

Good for kids?
Though our experiences have all been kid-free, the center actively promotes itself as a family-friendly place—and indeed, there are always kids around, whether at concerts or movie screenings. There are a handful of kid-specific performances throughout the year. In addition, there’s a “sensory-friendly environment” for both kids and adults with sensory-processing or autism-spectrum disorders.

Anything in particular that makes this place special?
Though music may be the main business here, the annual Cinema Series at SoundScape is also a local favorite. Bring a blanket or chair, pack some sustenance, find a spot under the stars, and watch a movie on a gigantic screen.

What—and who—do you think this is best for?
Whether you’re looking to get dressed up and enjoy an elegant night of chamber music, or you just feel like giving the kids a dose of culture but don’t want to change out of your jeans and T-shirt, the academic nature of the New World Center makes welcoming to all.

South Pointe Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
As much as locals might have liked to keep South Pointe Park under wraps, it was only a matter of time before word got out about this park, located at the southernmost tip of South Beach just a few steps from Joe’s Stone Crab, the legendary restaurant that everyone’s got to try at least once. While it’s technically just a city park, the 17-acre spot offers much more than a couple of benches and pretty palm trees. There’s beach access, a fishing pier, a playground for kids, interactive water features, paved sidewalks for jogging, biking, and skateboarding, and a dog park.

Any standout features or must-sees?
Given Miami’s art-forward reputation, it’s probably not surprising that the park benches here are works of art all their own. So grab a seat—or make your way right off the park and pull up a table or barstool outside at Smith & Wollensky—and wait for one of the many cruise ships to make its way past you. Watching one of these gigantic boats head out to sea is a one-of-a-kind sight.

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
The park is large but very open, so it’s easy to see where you’re headed. There are signposts, too. And there are always people around; if you find yourself unable to locate the fishing pier (the big structure hanging over the water), just ask one of your fellow park-goers.

__ All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?__
If you have limited time, decide what’s most appealing; if it’s people-watching, find a seat near the promenade and gaze away. If you’ve got kids in tow, they’ll love the playground and water features, especially on a hot day. If you’ve got a fur baby, head straight for the Bark Park.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Can’t decide between a trip to Miami and a vacation in Italy? You can have a little bit of both: In the 1910s, noted industrialist James Deering decided to bring a taste of Europe to Biscayne Bay when he commissioned the construction of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, modeled on a centuries-old Italian villa, as his winter home in Miami.

What are we going to see here?
In the 1950s, James Deering’s nieces decided that their uncle’s carefully constructed estate—now a national landmark—could make for an interesting tourist attraction. Between the house and its grounds, Vizcaya became a sort of living museum not just to the early days of Miami’s rise as a destination for both tourists and snowbirds but to old-school European design. Among the home’s many treasures are more than 2,500 antique art objects and furnishings; 10 acres of immaculately landscaped gardens, including 2,000 orchids; and 25 acres of endangered forest lands. It would be easy to while away an entire day at Vizcaya—and imagine what it would be like to live here, prowling around the main house’s 34 beautifully decorated rooms. There’s a lot of corners to turn and furniture to browse, and you’d be remiss to miss one inch of either the house or the gardens, so plan your visit accordingly.

What did you make of the crowd?
As one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, there’s always a crowd at Vizcaya. Lucky for you, there’s plenty of acreage to explore. The crowd is largely made up of tourists, including families, though there are plenty of locals who make a regular pilgrimage to bask in the opulence. You won’t have the place to yourself no matter when you visit, unfortunately.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Given the property’s age, and its dedication to preserving the grounds just as they were in Deering’s time, visitors should be aware that uneven floors and lots and lots of steps are part of the property’s makeup—and charm.

Any guided tours worth trying?
If you want to make the best use of your time, opt for a guided tour. Guided tours are a popular option for visitors, with a handful of available options: If you want to go it (sort of) alone, there’s a 90-minute audio guide (available in five languages for $5) that lets you choose your own path as you make you way through both floors of the main house and the gardens. If the garden is your main interest, $5 will get you an interactive, guided adventure detailing everything from the landscaping decisions to the animals that call it home. (Tours take place on Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. between November and April.) For a shorter version, take a 45-minute house tour where guests get to ask all the questions they want; tour times are posted daily.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The shop typically offers a set of fascinating mementos from Deering’s estate but it’s closed due to Hurricane Irma; it may reopen soon. Right now, there’s a much smaller selection of products on the Café North Patio.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Like the gift shop, Vizcaya’s café also suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Irma in 2017. For now, a temporary space for snacking has been set up under a tent in the Café North Patio. The menu has been reduced, but there’s still a decent selection of sandwiches, salads, and power bowls—plus snacks, desserts, and ice cream.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It would be easy to spend several hours at Vizcaya without getting bored. If you only have an hour to spare, you might need to decide: house or gardens. Sure, you could spend 30 minutes in both, but you’d be better off choosing one over the other to maximize the experience.

Miami Seaquarium

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Miami Seaquarium is one of the oldest aquariums in the country (opened in 1955) and its enduring popularity can perhaps be traced to its philosophy to show visitors “something new, something dangerous and something impressive.” The huge, 40-acre facility brings in half-a-million visitors a year, and is one of the city’s biggest attractions.

What sorts of ocean life will we find here?
The aquarium’s residents are a diverse group and stretch way beyond fish to sharks, sea turtles, flamingos, reptiles, and manatees. The Encounter programs are especially great, with a chance to feed, pet, and generally hang out with dolphins, penguins, and seals. The Sea Trek Reef Encounter puts you in a special diving helmet and gives you the chance walk around among tropical fish. The Seaquarium also offers a selection of live shows, with killer whales, dolphins, and seals showing off their best tricks.

Are there rotating exhibits?
You bet. On a recent visit, “Savage Ancient Seas” included the skeletons of sea-dwelling dinosaurs and ancient fish, some dating back 75 million years.

What did you make of the crowd?
This is a real family attraction, with plenty of children and field trips. The Seaquarium’s educational programs are top notch, and there’s more than enough for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Even though it’s a sizeable facility, the Seaquarium is completely accessible and easy to navigate. Plenty of staff are on hand to help anyone with difficulties.

Any guided tours worth trying?
There’s a huge range of experiences that offer behind-the-scenes access and special privileges, from one-off special encounters to a comprehensive VIP tour that takes two-and-a half hours and includes feeding and training sessions.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The gift shop is suitably stocked with everything from fluffy toy versions of the animals that you may have seen, to a range of educational resources.

Should we get food here or just plan on going elsewhere?
There are nine food outlets, from casual hot dogs and burgers to a more substantial barbecue restaurant to the Manatee Bay Café, which has healthy, organic options.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
You’d have to time your visit exceptionally well to take in one of the live shows and see the Seaquarium in 90 minutes, but if you arrived to coincide with the start of the killer whale show, then hit the manatee exhibit, the dolphin harbor, and the reef aquarium, you’d have a pretty good sampler.

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