Visiting Miami for the first time?
Even if it’s not your first visit to the Magic City, I guarantee there is something on this top 10 list that you haven’t seen or done! I’ve lived in this incredible city for almost 4 fabulous years now and, whenever people come to visit, these are the MUST SEES that I always list for them.
I’ve broken it down into regions of Miami, kind of like the boroughs of NYC. I’ve also included a few MUST places to eat in each area as well as where to stay.
1. Get Some Vitamin D on South Beach
OK OK…I knew you’d pick this one first so I had to list it first…lol While South Beach is to Miamians as Times Square is to New Yorkers, it is a MUST SEE if you’re visiting for the first time. Should you hang out there the ENTIRE time you’re visiting? Absolutely not! Should you stay there…NOPE!
I highly recommend taking a stroll down Ocean Drive and just people watch…you’re bound to see something crazy. Grab a ‘Call a Cab’ at Wet Willies, lay on the white sandy beach, check out Mango’s and the Clevelander and then MOVE ON!
Sadly, South Beach has been getting more increasingly dangerous lately (we’ve even had several shootings in the area and it’s just breaking my heart), so I suggest visiting during the day and then venture off to another area of Miami at night. It’s best to stay and visit South of 5th Street, which is more safe, local and upscale.
2. Stroll Through South Point Park
Arguably my FAVORITE place in Miami (besides Brickell), South Point Park is located just 1 mile south of all the hustle and bustle of Ocean Drive and is MUCH more safe and local (but don’t be fooled, it’s still very busy).
South Point Park is located at the very tip of Miami Beach. You have everything at your fingertips here: a beach, a steakhouse (Smith & Wollensky), a pier, a slash pad or the kiddos, a bike path, a jungle gym, and INCREDIBLE views of the skyline of the city. You’ll even get to see the cruise ships going in and out of the inlet. For more information about the park, check out this website.
Miami Beach Boardwalk: Looking to get moving while taking in a the beautiful ocean views? The Miami Beach Boardwalk is an uninterrupted pathway that extends from South Point Park all the way to 87th terrace (near Surfside). You can ride a bicycle, walk, run, rollerblade or enjoy any other activity on this beautiful pathway.
3. Shopping on Lincoln Road Mall
Lincoln Road Mall is an outdoor shopping mall that will fulfill every shopaholics dreams.
While eating on Lincoln Road isn’t advised (all the restaurants are SO touristy and overpriced, with mediocre food), I highly suggest taking a short walk to Bodega Taqueria and Tequila for the BEST tacos we’ve ever eaten (we literally eat there every few weeks)! Stick around late night-the restaurant turns into a great speakeasy/bar at night!
I also LOVE Ceviche 105, which is nearby. It has some of the greatest ceviche I’ve eaten, but we haven’t been to Peru yet 😉
4. Tour the Art Deco District
Located between 5th Street and 23rd STreet, the Art Deco District is a historical area of Miami Beach that architecturally developed during the 1920’s and 1934’s.
You’ll see nothing but bright colors and really unique lines everywhere you look. With over 800 buildings, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but thankfully Free Tours By Foot has put together this great self guided walking tour to see the the most popular buildings.
You can learn more about the Art Deco District here.
Where to Stay on South Beach
Mariott Stanton South Beach– if you’re set on staying in South Beach, then I highly recommend the Mariott, as it’s south of 5th Street and away from the craziness, but just close enough if you want to go that route.
One Hotel- this hotel is perfect if you’re looking for more of an upscale experience away from all the crazy parts of South Beach.
Satei Hotel-another upscale hotel that won’t disappoint in Miami Beach.
Airbnb-Normally, we stay in Airbnbs when we travel to gain a more local perspective, but I would only recommend an Airbnb on South Beach if you’re on a budget. For $55 off your first AIRBNB booking, click HERE!
Where to Eat & Drink on South Beach
- La Sandwicherie– since 1988 this place has been serving up delicious sandwiches on South Beach (we have one in Brickell too). There’s nothing better than a gourmet sandwich on French bread after a day at the beach!
- Nikki Beach- perfect for a few drinks during the day
- Joe’s Stone Crab– a classic South Beach Restaurant that shouldn’t be missed
- Mila– great drinks and food in a posh rooftop bar atmosphere-you’ll need reservations for this one many weeks in advance
- Carbone– while the OG is in NYC, this second location was one of the greatest meals and experiences I’ve had in Miami (get the spicy rigatoni vodka…trust me)! You’ll need reservations for this FAR in advance.
- Prime 112– a great steak restaurant that surely won’t disappoint
- Juvia-another posh rooftop with great views-go for drinks
- Smith & Wolensky– great for a drink-sit outside and watch the boats go by
5. Explore the Wynwood Walls
Welcome to the “Brooklyn” of Miami! What used to be a working class residential neighborhood/garment district in the 1920’s, is now an urban, fun, young, hip area of Miami to explore.
Thanks to the Miami “BOOM” of the past year, we’ve had even more amazing restaurants come into the area!
As you roam the streets, you’ll see countless amounts of street art that is ever changing each year. Wynwood Walls is not to be missed: it’s an outdoor museum which showcases the best of the best street artists. Note, you MUST pre-purchase tickets to Wynwood Walls.
Explore the surrounding streets that are filled with boutiques, craft breweries and over 70 galleries.
Where to Eat & Drink in Wynwood
There is literally something for everyone on every budget in Wynwood. This list just barely scratches the surface…
- KYU-arguably the #1 restaurant in Wynwood, KYU is Asia style with really unique eats. Get the roasted cauliflower….trust me.
- Astra-a rooftop bar with great views and drinks
- Bakan– upscale Mexican restaurant-the tacos are delish and they have the largest selection of tequilas I’ve ever seen
- Fireman Derek’s– my FAVORITE dessert place in all of Miami-I order their red velvet cake monthly. Be sure to check out the back story on this shop while you’re there!
- Oasis Wynwood– a great place for drinks, food trucks and fun! Be sure to check their schedule, as they’re always having something going on here.
- 1-800 Lucky– a 10,000 square foot food hall filled with countless delicious eats to choose from.
- J Wakefield Brewery– you’ll have at least 5 different breweries to choose from in the immediate area, but I personally love J Wakefield the best!
- Quore Gelato-alcohol infused Gelato…yes, please! I’ve been here several times and personally love the sea salt and praline as well as the salted caramel and whiskey. Beware, though, the gelato is SO delicious and doesn’t taste like alcohol, so it’ll creep up on you 😉
Where To Stay in Wynwood
*Note: You can stay nearby in the Design District, Midtown or Edgewater. Also, be safe at night in Wynwood, as it’s still developing and can be a bit sketchy.
6. Walk Brickell Key Walk
The “Manhattan” of Miami, Brickell is my slice of heaven that I’ve called home for almost 4 years now. I’m horribly biased, but I think this is the most beautiful and happening place in Miami (why else would we live here?!). There’s a reason why the median price per square foot of homes is up 34.45% the last 12 months and +45.94% in last 3 years.
Brickell is the “Financial District” that has the largest concentration of international banks in the USA. It’s all shiny and new and reminds me so much of a mini Singapore/Marina Bay- the city center was literally completed in 2016. Brickell offers up posh restaurants, rooftop bars, and the most beautiful 1 mile walk you’ve ever been on…BRICKELL KEY!
Brickell Key is a man-made island located off of Brickell that houses the most beautifully paved one mile loop you’ll ever see. The skyline of Brickell at sunset is nothing short of amazing from here (see photo). You’ll also have the Mandarin Oriental at your fingertips, a great hotel to grab a drink at while taking in the skyline views or, if you love Peruvian food and have a reservation, also houses one of Brickell’s most popular restaurants, La Mar, by Gaston Acurio.
While visiting, you also cannot miss Brickell City Center, which is where all the magic happens! It’s crazy to believe that Brickell City Center was just completed in 2016 and now is the one of the busiest areas of Miami (it’s honestly still too small for the population here, but it’s thankfully been expanding the past year with the large influx of people). BCC is an small area where you’ll have an endless amount of restaurants and bars to choose from, as well as a great shopping mall!
Where to Eat & Drink in Brickell
Ok Ok…this list is endless and slightly overwhelming (I’m sorry I live here and I have too many faves!), but these are some of our FAVORITES listed in order from most fave to least!
Paper Fish-our FAVORITE happy hour in all of Brickell from 4:00-7:00 daily (yes, we go weekly and I’m not ashamed of it). They have the BEST margaritas and sushi prices around topped with good service (note, service in Miami is sub-par, so Paper Fish being “good” is actually “bad” compared to everywhere else lol). Our faves are the Gyoza, Salmon Aburi (topped with truffle oil…start drooling), the Paper Tuna Roll and the Misuna Roll. Note: you’ll need a reservation here (Open Table App)-don’t bother calling, they won’t answer.
North Italia– we take every person from out town here because the food is good and it’s located right in the HEART of BCC. We love the White Truffle Garlic Bread, Spicy Rigatoni Vodka, Yucca Chips, Italian meatballs, and the Bolognese. Ressie required (unless you want to wait an hour).
Coyo Taco-WARNING: this is no authentic Mexican taco, but it’s a great, faster, chill place with yummy tacos and fountain margaritas. Perfect for late night or if you’re looking for something more casual. The new Birria/beef brisket taco is the DELISH (but NOT healthy, beware). No ressie’s needed, just don’t go on Cinco de Mayo.
Moxies-perfect for a drink and people watching. Moxies offers up traditional American eats with the biggest menu that will appeal to anyone. I personally don’t love the food, just love sitting outside, sipping a beer and watching all the craziness that ensues in Miami. They also have a great Happy Hour from 3:00-6:00pm.
Ojo de Agua– upscale tacos with the best guacamole in the city! YUM!
Bonding Thai-I’d be doing a disservice to my favorite take out restaurant in Miami if I didn’t post them here. You all know we lived in Asia (and if you’re new to the blog, we lived in Singapore 2 years and spent another 6 months roaming the rest of it that we didn’t see yet). Real, authentic Thai food is TOUGH to come by in Miami, as we sadly are lacking a large Asian population. Bonding Thai’s chefs are FROM Thailand (and the brother opened Lung Yai Thai, which I highly suggest you check out too). We love the Green Curry, the Harumaki (veggie spring rolls) and the Thai Donuts.
Rosa Sky Bar– Easily my favorite rooftop bar in Brickell, Rosa Sky Bar is an all open space with great drinks and great vibes. I suggest going early and watching the sunset over the city, its really beautiful! Be advised, though, if it rains, this place is closing down, so plan accordingly with the weather! Also, this place is fairly new (as of 5/8/22) and is super popular, so be prepared to wait in line late night if you’re trying to get in.
Sugar-all things POSH are at Sugar. This rooftop bar located at the East hotel is a beautiful place, with beautiful people and very beautiful drinks. They do take ressie’s, if you book far enough in advance, otherwise, plan to wait in a VERY LONG LINE at peak hours on the weekend.
Marion-if you want to experience all the EXTRA Brickell, Miami has to offer, then you def should go to Marion for drinks late night. Picture beautiful people sipping delish cocktails, with beautiful people dancing on a bar top, spraying bottles with smoke machines and everything else that you’ve always wanted in a late night party! Note: I’v been here once for a private bday party and had a BLAST, but I dont frequent Marion.
Komodo-another VERY upscale restaurant with great drinks and descent food. If you’re looking to go out and see all the “bright and shiny” of Brickell, then make a ressie here. Honestly, the food is mediocre. The service is horrible, but we went for the vibe ONCE…and never went back. I’m just more into low key places, but I’d def take out-of-town visitors here that wanted to live it up!
Sexy Fish: I’d probably be lit on fire if I didnt mention Brickell’s newest and hottest restaurant, Sexy Fish! Originally from London, this new restaurant opened a few months ago (as of March 2022) and is all the RAGE here-like…can’t get a resize for 3 months RAGE. I haven’t been, nor am I trying, honestly. BUT, if you’re looking for that kind of thing, then def try to get in! I’ve also heard the decor is INCREDIBLE (they spent millions on decorating the inside), so if you want to pop in mid-day at the bar and have a drink, apparently, you can do so easily! If you go, let me know what you think!
B Bistro: CALLING ALL BRUNCHERS! There is NO better $$$$ brunch in Brickell than B Bistro! Pastelito Pancakes (sugar overload), spicy tuna toast, and crab cakes Benedict are just a few of the delicious items on their menu. B Bistro is SUPER popular, so go early, or expect to wait.
Cantina la Veinte– Mexican food with a beautiful view. We love the chips for the guacamole and the endless amounts of margarita flavors to choose from!
A hop, skip, and a jump from Brickell:
CALLE OCHO! You can’t come to Miami without seeing Calle Ocho- the CENTER of Cuban culture in the Little Havana neighborhood (just a 5 minute Uber ride from Brickell). In just a few blocks strolling down this street, you’ll find authentic Cuban restaurants, popular ventanitas (if you don’t know what this is, you MUST visit one and get a colada-use caution, this coffee is STRONG), the Cuban Memorial Boulevard and the iconic Domino Park. Eat tacos at El Santo Taqueria, gobble down some ice cream at Azucar, take a photo with the rooster statue and grab a drink and dance the night away at Ball & Chain.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas-one of our favorite Thai restaurants beside Bonding. Fun fact: the owner of Lung Yai Thai and Bonding Thai are brothers.
Versallies– arguably the most famous Cuban restaurant in all of Miami (and definitely the most touristy), Versailles offers up all the yummy Cuban eats. My personal favorite are: croquettes, empanadas, ropa vieja, and the classic Cuban sandwich. Be sure to get colada after your meal if you’re looking for a pick-me-up (be sure to ONLY drink a tiny shot, this stuff is STRONG)!
7. Shopping in the Design District
I know you already have shopping on Lincoln Road listed above, but the Design District is a MUST SEE. It’s really beautiful and where all the designer stores are located. You’re more than likely to see a celebrity or two roaming around at Louis Vuitton or Chanel.
While you’re shopping, be sure to take a look around outside, art is everywhere you look! You can also check out the Institute of Contemporary Art or the De la Cruz Collection, which are both free to enter!
Where to Eat & Drink in the Design District
Mandolin Aegean Bistro– every person that I’ve ever spoken to in Miami who has eaten here, absolutely loved it. Even my Greek patients say its delicious! Be sure to make a reservation, it’s tough to get in!
Swan– founded by Pharrell Williams and David Grutman, Swan is a arguably the most popular restaurant (and night club) in the Design District.
Cote-my FAVE in the Design District (because by now you all know I love love love any Asian cuisine) a VERY upscale Michelin Stared Restaurant by Chef David Shim, Cote will be the greatest Korean Steakhouse you’ll ever set foot in (outside of South Korea, of course). We went for my birthday and it was sooooooo good! Pro Tip: Get the Butchers Feast ($65 per person). The amount of food and sides you get is insane for the price (we had so many leftovers, it was basically an entire meal the next day).
Harry’s Pizzeria– unique pizzas on thin crust, by Chef Michael Schwartz.
Tacombi– you’re probably figuring out by now that I’m obsessed with Tacos. If you’re in the area, check out Tacombi! We’re obsessed with the al pastor, the carne asada and the tuna tostada!
8. Visit Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Built in 1916, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is a waterfront estate home that is incredibly beautiful, both inside and out. Previously owned by businessman James Deering, the estate has 32 rooms inside and is surrounded by 10 lush acres of formal gardens.
I personally think the gardens are the most beautiful place in the entire estate. The shurbbery and its geometric patterns will literally blow you away. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased here.
Vizcaya is Located in the oh-so-classic and beautiful Coconut Grove neighborhood, which, if you go, you’ll quickly realize is one of the most beautiful in Miami. “The Grove” is Miami’s most historic neighborhood and will be SO SO different than everything else you’ve seen on this list. It’s upscale, but relaxed, with cafes and shops, laid back restaurants and bars lining its sidewalks. The Grove has Bahamian roots that date back to the 1870’s. Trust me, you shouldn’t miss this beautiful little nook lined with banyan trees, peacocks, palm trees and live oaks.
Where to Eat & Drink in Coconut Grove
CocoWalk is a new urban village that was recently built in The Grove. It houses boutiques for shopping and some really great restaurants. Don’t miss Planta Queen-a hip, vegan restaurant that will change your mind about vegan food, trust me! Also, Mister-01 is located there, which is EPIC for pizza!
Greenstreet Cafe-a favorite in the Grove, this cafe offers up American eats. I can’t even tell you what to order, because everything is delish.
Glass & Vine– a SUPER popular place located in Peacock Park with Euro-style food. This one is at the top of my list when we visit The Grove next!
Kush-everyone RAVES about the burgers here. We haven’t personally been, but the amount of recommendations I’ve received the last 4 years of living in Miami obligates me to add it to the list.
Monty’s– a beach shack right on the water, you won’t find anything like Monty’s anywhere else in Miami. They’ve been in operation since 1969 with their classic fried American food and raw bar.
The Key Club– yet another great restaurant by David Grutman (Komodo, Swan, Strawberry Moon, Liv ), The Key Club came highly recommended and offers great drinks and delicious food and is at the TOP of our list to go to next!
Bombay Darbar-arguably the BEST Indian restaurant in all of Miami, Bombay Darbar has some of the best tiki masala and butter chicken I’ve eaten in the USA.
Other notable restaurants- we haven’t been yet, but I’ve received countless recommendations for the following: Ariete (American), Sapore di Mare (Coastal Italian) and Bellini (elevated Italian inside Mr. C Hotel with a terrace and beautiful atmopshere- this one is recommended the most)!
9. Bill Baggs State Park
Most tourists are unaware of this beautiful area of Miami. In fact, the beaches on Key Biscayne (Crandon Park) are often where us locals go to avoid the tourist crowds of South Beach (should I really be telling you this?? lol)
Bill Baggs State Park is located at the Southernmost tip of Key Biscayne and is definitely worth a few hours of your time. It houses the Cape Florida Light, which is the oldest standing structure in Greater Miami (constructed in 1825). Fun Fact: in 2013, Bill Baggs was ranked as the 7th best beach in the country.
So, what else is there to do besides climb to the top lighthouse? There is a beautiful pathway that encircles the entire park, so its a great run or walk. You can also rent a single bicycle ($10 per hour) or a quad bike ($20 per hour)/large quad ($30 for 30 min). Hungry? Bill Baggs also has two restaurants: Boaters Grill and Lighthouse Cafe. Honestly, we’ve never eaten at either and I’ve never heard a local Miamian recommend either, ever, but if you’re there and your hungry, why not give them a try? Or, better yet, stop at Publix and pack some subs and eat on the beach 🙂
Cost of entry is surpassingly affordable, at just $8 per vehicle (2-8 people) and $2 per person for pedestrians and bicyclists.
WATER & SPORTS
10. Rent a Boat
If you came to Miami and didn’t get out on the water, then you REALLY didn’t come to Miami!?!?! Our blue waters and sand bars are truly some of the best we’ve seen in the world and should not be missed, if you have the time and budget permits.
This definitely takes some planning ahead of time, but will be worth every penny you pay!
Looking for a more cost effective way to see Miami from the water? Check out the Poseidon Ferry, which runs from Brickell/Downtown to Miami Beach and costs just $13 per person, one way.
I’ve also had a LOT of friends rent jet skis in Miami (personally not for me-I grew up on a lake in Michigan and had my fulfillment of jet skiing). Miami Jet Ski Rentals comes recommended the most, although I personally have not used them.
One of my FAVORITE things to do in Miami (when it’s not blazing hot) is rent a Citibike and Bike the Venetian Bridge from Brickell to South Beach! Citibikes can be found all over Miami an are super affordable (4 hours for $18 or all day for $24) and you can pick up and drop off at different docks!
BONUS: CORAL GABLES
Coral Gables is a super popular neighborhood amongst us locals here in Miami. Located just 5 miles southwest of Brickell, it’s a great spot for great food, drinks and good vibes.
Take a stroll along Miracle Mile and Giralda Ave, two streets packed full of ENDLESS restaurants and bars. It’s a totally different vibe than anywhere else you’ll find in Miami. Luca Astoria and Grazianos are local faves and Cebada Rooftop is almost a must see for a drink.
The Biltmore is a historical Miami landmark that was built in 1926 and spans more than 150 acres. The hotel has the largest hotel pool the East Coast (USA)I highly recommend taking the free 1-hour tour on Sundays, so you get all the inside details. You can check with the hotel on updated times.
The Venetian Pool: I still have yet to go, but the Venetian Pool is one of the main tourist attractions in The Gables that has been there since 1923. This 820,000-gallon pool is fed with spring water and was created from a coral rock quarry. Non-resident entry price is $21 per person.
Fairchild Botanic Garden is an 83 acre botanic garden with rare tropical plants. The Wings of the Tropics Exhibit can’t be missed-it has more than 40 species of exotic butterflies! Adult entry is $24.95.
Other Florida Destinations I’ve Written About:
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