As one of Florida's biggest and brightest cities, Miami -- and particularly its popular South Beach area -- often lands on many travelers' bucket lists. Though the city has always been a cultural hub for the Sunshine State, its contemporary art scene has exploded recently, thanks to the popularity of the annual Art Basel festival as well as the street-art murals throughout Wynwood. The food scene here is also top-notch -- expect to find some of Florida's best restaurants, from cool cafes to fine-dining establishments. Seeing and experiencing everything the city has to offer can feel overwhelming, so we've whittled it down to the essentials in this three-day Miami itinerary. Follow our lead for a taste of Miami's stellar art and food scenes, served with heavy dose of history and, of course, time in the sun.
Hotels in this story
Located on Collins Avenue, just a block from the soft sands of Mid-Beach, Circa 39 is a godsend for folks wanting accessibility without the hype and hullabaloo that comes with staying directly in South Beach. The 97 retro-inspired rooms are bright with orange and lime accents, and all feature hardwood floors, Aveda toiletries, robes, mini-fridges, and tons of natural Florida sunlight. Guests also get direct beach access, free beach towels, and two free padded sun beds per room for use on the beach. The hotel itself is a one-stop shop, thanks to its 24-hour pool (with comfy cabanas available for rent during the day) and locally-loved restaurant, Jules Kitchen, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Meanwhile, the small, trendy WunderBar is ideal for mingling while sipping on tropical cocktails. There’s also a shady secret garden, which is perfect for happy hour, curling up with a good book, or getting in a few ‘grams. Bonus: The resort fee and parking cost about half of what you’ll find elsewhere in the area.
For a trendy beachfront property in South Beach, the SLS is a solid pick. Rooms here are designed by Philippe Starck and come equipped with minibars and flat-screen TVs.The Bazaar by Jose Andres gives the hotel serious foodie cred, plus two bars crank out tapas and cocktail happy hours. A full-service beach, two pools, and weekend pool parties round out the offerings, but note there are daily resort fees.
Meanwhile, the luxurious Fontainebleau Miami Beach is the area’s largest hotel, with rooms and suites that are high-end without being over the top. Located on a northern stretch of Mid-Beach, the hotel offers a quieter atmosphere than the party-heavy shores of South Beach, although the on-site LIV nightclub is a Miami hot spot. Expect food from celebrity chefs, eight pools, and direct access to a gorgeous beach, plus kid-friendly features and a moderate resort fee.
MORNING: Get an early start with yoga on the beach (the donation-based classes at 3rd Street Beach Yoga are a South Beach favorite). Forget the yoga mat, as these sun salutations are best done on a beach towel. After class, head over to Big Pink diner for a tasty breakfast. Here, you’ll find everything from pancakes and fried chicken and waffles to eggs Benedict and fruit smoothies. (It’s also open late for post-bar munchies.)
Next, grab a Citi Bike from the racks right outside the restaurant and peddle your way through the Art Deco Historic District, known for its beautiful Art Deco buildings. If you’re a history or architecture buff, it might be worth looking into dedicated tours of the strip as these stylish buildings have several stories to tell. Drop off your two-wheeler at the Citi Bike station on 40th Street, right around the corner from the hotel. If you’re not a yoga fan, start the bike ride from 40th Street and cycle to and from Big Pink.
AFTERNOON: Take a quick plunge in the pool or refresh in your room before hitting the beach. Circa 39 provides free beach towels and sun loungers on the sand for guests. Miami Beach is public, so feel free to bring your own towel and claim a spot anywhere. Unfortunately, booze is not allowed on the beach, but you can bring your own snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. If you’re interested in sipping a cocktail, head back to the hotel for drinks (and food) by the pool.
RAINY DAY ALTERNATIVE: Miami Beach has several stellar spas to choose from.Some of our favorites include the gorgeous, 75,000-square-foot spa at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, the luxe Lapis Spa at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, and the more affordable, but still lavis, Aveda spa at The Palms Hotel & Spa.
NIGHT: Grab happy hour at the hotel or head straight into the city for a casual meal at the St. Roch Market in Miami’s Design District. This upscale, hip food hall opened in February 2018 and is a great place to get a taste of the emerging food vendors in Miami. Stalls sell everything from fresh pasta to bright bahn mi sandwiches to sushi. The swings outside (and even the parking garage) are photogenic enough for Instagram.
If it’s the first Friday of the month, walk over to the Institute of Contemporary Art for their first Friday celebration. You’ll be welcomed with free entrance and access to the exhibits, plus live music, free drinks, and a vibrant crowd. From here, head to a fun local watering hole, like Phuc Yea for tropical cocktails, or The Anderson, a dive bar with strong drinks and DJs.
MORNING: Miami has excellent museums that are worth visiting, especially if you are traveling with kids. Located in downtown Miami’s Maurice A. Ferré Park (formerly Museum Park), the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is one of our favorites. The large space houses a planetarium, science museum, and aquarium all under one roof. If you’re looking for art, there are tons of galleries to check out, including the De la Cruz Collection in Buena Vista, the David Castillo Gallery in South Beach, and the newly opened Rubell Family Collection Contemporary Arts Foundation in Wynwood.
AFTERNOON: Speaking of Wynwood, beer and street-art lovers should make their way to this now-famous neighborhood. Join a walking tour or jump into a golf cart and explore the area with . The latter is run by two local artists who have a passion for sharing the history and stories behind Wynwood’s murals. There are also three craft breweries here — Concrete Beach Brewery, Wynwood Brewing Company, and J Wakefield Brewing — and all are within walking distance of each other. If you’re lucky, you might even arrive just in time for one of the tours that showcase the magic behind the malted curtain.
RAINY DAY ALTERNATIVE: Explore the museums and galleries, then skip the walking tour and opt to visit one of the breweries.
NIGHT: Miami Beach is famous for its club scene, and you’ll often find famous DJs spinning at nightclubs or even hotels. The most famous (and exclusive) of the bunch? LIV, located at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Getting in can be tricky (hotel guests don’t even have guaranteed admission). This is one of the biggest hot spots in Miami, with big-name DJs, beautiful people, and a party that goes well into the morning. Other clubs worth checking out include Twist (an LGBTQ club) and Do Not Sit on the Furniture. If clubbing isn’t your thing, South Beach is full of bars, including Circa 39’s small, but fun, WunderBar, which serves up flights from their collection of over 80 rums. Don’t drink? Catch a movie in the park or stroll down Collins Avenue to people-watch.
Day 3 — Little Havana: Food Tour, Beach, Botanical Gardens, and Shopping
MORNING: Make reservations for Sunday brunch at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club in Surfside. The chic and stylish Champagne bar is worth a trip alone, though the brunch menu features chef Antonio Mermolia’s tasty southern Italian recipes. Another great option: Grab a quick brunch at the hotel and hit the beach for a few final hours.
AFTERNOON: If you don’t want to go to the beach, you can still catch some sun at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Admission is free and visitors will find themselves walking through a sub-tropical paradise full of palm trees, native Floridian plants, fountains, and blooming flowers. Classes and tours are available for anyone wanting a little more information or interaction.
For a late lunch, take the Little Havana Food Tour from Miami Culinary Tours. You’ll shuffle through the history and eats of this vibrant neighborhood, which has managed to hold onto its culture through the years. Hang around after the tour to shop for art, Cuban cigars, and more, or grab a mojito at the iconic Ball & Chain, where famous jazz musicians like Billie Holiday and Louie Armstrong have graced the stage.
RAINY DAY ALTERNATIVE:Visit Miami’s boutiques, go thrift shopping, or search for estate sales. Then, grab food at the health-conscious eatery DIRT.
NIGHT: This is your last night in Miami, so go out with a bang. Treat your taste buds one last time at the seasonally focused Vista restaurant in Buena Vista. Seafood is king here, though you really can’t go wrong with any dish. Plus, cocktails are creative and the wine list is well-curated. If the weather permits, choose a table outside, under the trellis dripping with plants. After dinner, have a nightcap at the rooftop bar while listening to live music.
If you feel like staying closer to home, Miami Beach is packed with outstanding restaurants, like Dolce Italian at the Gale hotel, Lucali, The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS South Beach, Diez y Seis by Jose Icardi at Shore Club, and of course, the famous Joe’s Stone Crab (though stone crab is available — often for less — at other establishments).
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