Three Miami attractions off the beaten path

The Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami

While few tourists leave the confines of South Beach during their vacations, repeat visitors may want to discover some locally famous places that have nothing to do with beaching, tanning, or partying. Below are three Miami attractions far off the beaten path.

Freedom Tower (600 Biscayne Boulevard, Downtown): The Ellis Island of Miami, the Freedom Tower was used by the federal government to process and document Cuban immigrants between the late 1950s and 1960s and to provide medical and dental services for the immigrants. Originally a printing facility and later abandoned, the Freedom Tower has now been restored and converted into a monument for the refugees who once fled Cuba and passed through the very doors of the establishment nearly 50 years ago. Inside, it houses occasional art exhibitions. The Freedom Tower is a short walk from the Intercontinental Miami.

Eleven hundred tons of coral rock later, and you have the Coral Castle

Coral Castle (28655 South Dixie Highway, Homestead): Imagine the life of a five-foot-tall, 100-pound Latvian immigrant left stranded the day before his wedding by his 16-year-old bride-to-be. Apparently, Edward Leedskalnin took solace in hand, building a monument to his lost love over 28 long years in Florida City (1932 to 1951). Eleven hundred tons of coral rock later, the amazing feat of this nonconformist had been completed single handedly with the use of only hand tools. Dancing on a fine line between romance and lunacy, Leedskalnin’s cathartic Coral Castle is a sight to behold and admire. It is a 45-minute drive from most Miami hotels.

Fairfield Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables

Fairchild Tropical Gardens (10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables): An 83-acre verdant paradise, Fairchild Tropical Gardens is Florida’s finest and most pristine botanic garden. It’s worth the drive for those willing to drive (and spend $20) to enjoy collections of extensively diverse and well-presented rare tropical trees and plants against a lush Florida background. The Gardens are a 15-minute drive from Coral Gables hotels, including the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables and the Westin Colonnade.

– Paul Rubio