Located on natural and manmade islands between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach is Florida’s most trendy vacation destination and is largely the realm of the conspicuously wealthy.
Miami Beach was incorporated in 1915 and is close to some of the state’s most visited sites, like Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Florida Keys.
Miami and Miami Beach are particularly famous for their all-night clubs, posh eateries, and endless stretches of white beaches. The cities boast stunning art-deco architecture and an interesting and diverse mix of cultures.
Below are 15 things to do in Miami Beach.
1. South Beach
Often referred to as the American Riviera because it’s the playground of the rich and famous, South Beach draws a large number of visitors annually, and not all of them are high rollers.
Of course, you may stand out if you’re wearing a fanny-pack and a pair of Hush Puppies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take in some of the area’s best attractions.
As its name implies, South Beach is known for its stunning beaches, but it’s also full of historic art-deco buildings that are best seen with a tour.
The food scene in South Beach is renowned for its international influences; though many of the restaurants are prohibitively expensive, there are reasonably priced options as well.
2. Miami Children’s Museum
Located on one of the smaller islands Between South Beach and the city, the Miami Children’s Museum is a family-friendly oasis in the midst of a city that’s mostly full of adult-only entertainment.
Featuring a host of educational exhibits, the museum’s highlights include a mock castle, a giant piggy bank, and a music production studio, all of which encourage kids to play and interact.
Though the museum is great to visit anytime, it’s particularly inviting when the South Florida weather isn’t conducive to outdoor activities.
Rumor has it that the museum offers one free evening per month; though you’ll save on the cost of admission, you’ll likely have to compete with hordes of other cost-conscious families.
3. Ocean Drive
For lovers of architecture — especially the iconic forms and sleek lines standard in the art-deco movement — Ocean Drive is well worth a visit.
For the average Joe, many of the hotels and restaurants are out of financial reach, but it’s still possible to visit the scenic area and get a sense of its history and culture. Doing it as part of a guided tour is convenient and relatively inexpensive.
You’ll definitely appreciate the historical and architectural insight from your local guide, and you may discover a few affordable and relatively undiscovered gems along the way.
4. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Located in laid-back Coconut Grove, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens isn’t as well-known as some of Miami Beach’s other attractions, but it packs a big punch in the natural beauty and history departments and is worth a few hours of valuable vacation time.
Comprised of nearly 50 acres of professionally cultivated gardens, the grounds also include a stunning Italian Renaissance villa with sweeping views of the nearby city and bay.
The idyllic venue features an activity-packed calendar of events, including things like yoga, live entertainment, and arts and crafts shows.
Check their website for directions, hours, and the cost of admission.
5. Spanish Monastery
South Florida is home to the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the country, and it was Spanish merchants and monks who were among the first to explore and settle in the area.
With a fascinating history dating back more than seven centuries, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was originally built in Spain, but was bought in the ’30s by American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had it disassembled, shipped to Florida, and reconstructed.
Consisting of tens of thousands of individual pieces, it was no small fete, and it’s a true South Florida treasure that’s worth a look.
It’s open every day and is surprisingly inexpensive.
6. Holocaust Memorial
Though it may seem out of place in a city so full of flash, vanity, and materialism, the Holocaust Memorial in South Beach is a poignant local attraction that makes an interesting and educational side excursion.
Opened to the public in 1990, it includes some fantastic sculptures, architectural elements, and a serene meditation garden.
The site’s most prominent sculpture captures the anguish and torment of the victims of death camps like Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and many visitors claim that it was one of the most memorable things they experienced on their trip.
The site is free to visit, and guided tours are available.
7. Phillip and Patricia Museum of Science
Consisting of hundreds of thousands of square feet of wonderful exhibits, displays, and activities, the Phillip and Patricia Museum of Science is the perfect spot for a few morning or afternoon hours of learning and fun – especially for those traveling with children.
Spread over four buildings, the museum’s most popular features include a massive aquarium containing a half a million gallons of water that’s home to a mind-boggling array of colorful sea creatures. There’s also a planetarium that offers guided tours of the cosmos and cool laser shows.
The museum also hosts unique slumber party events that include chaperones, kid-friendly activities, and meals.
8. Wynwood Brewing Company
Like much of the rest of the country, South Florida has experienced a beer renaissance in recent years, and Wynwood Brewing Company was one of the area’s pioneers.
Located in an unremarkable warehouse, Wynwood’s claim to fame isn’t its location, but its amazing variety of high-quality microbrews available in a variety of styles.
Many of the brewing company’s offerings are available at local retailers, but they’re really best appreciated at the taproom.
Food is available as well; it’s the perfect way to get out of the Florida sun for a few hours, taste some great beer, and support the local economy.
9. Deering Estate
Originally, the Deering Estate was the winter vacation home of a wealthy family, but it’s now a unique historic attraction that’s open to the public.
Comprised of a variety of buildings and an elevated boardwalk, the estate is particularly well-known for its Native American archaeological site that dates back nearly 50,000 years.
It’s all best experienced as part of a guided history and nature walk. Along the way, visitors will learn about the Deering family and the site’s historical significance, especially as it relates to the lives of the Native American’s who inhabited the area for millennia before it was settled by Europeans.
10. Wynwood Walls
With humble beginnings, the Wynwood Walls started as just a few commissioned murals, but over the years, has blossomed to nearly 40, many of which were done by famous artists from around the world.
The murals change frequently to coincide with the annual Art Basel event. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area before the show, you may see new artists working on their giant masterpieces.
Wynwood Walls is open year-round and is free to visit, but for those who’d like to know about the piece’s creators and their inspiration, relatively inexpensive one-hour guided tours are available as well.
11. Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden
With hundreds of days of sun annually, plenty of rainfall, and a sub-tropical climate, south Florida is the perfect environment for a growing a variety of plants, trees, and flowers, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden is brimming with a colorful array of both native and non-native species.
Comprised of nearly 90 acres, it is named after a world-renowned local botanist and features a museum and a number of distinct gardens that have been professionally cultivated.
Narrated tram tours are available, and they also offer a variety of seasonal festivals and activities that include guest speakers, arts and crafts, and tasty food and drink.
12. Perez Art Museum
Miami and Miami Beach are meccas of the contemporary art world and draw artists, gallery owners, and collectors from all over the world.
Located along picturesque Biscayne Bay, Perez Art Museum features one of the country’s premier collections of modern art in a variety of mediums by some of the biggest names in the game.
It may all sound like a straight-laced and hands-off venue, but that’s not the case at all; the museum has a variety of interactive exhibits and other programs specifically designed with children in mind.
The museum also has a cool gift shop and a trendy onsite restaurant with a view.
13. Little Havana
South Florida is well-known for its large Cuban population, many of whom arrived in the country as part of the Mariel Boat Lift that took place in 1980.
Known for its Caribbean inspired music, culture, and cuisine, Little Havana is one of the area’s most distinct neighborhoods and offers visitors a wide variety of shopping, dining and sightseeing options.
Little Havana is home to quite a few unique galleries as well, and it has always been a fusion-cuisine hotspot that features up-and-coming chefs famous for their contemporary twists on old Cuban classics.
Consider enjoying a Cuban sandwich and espresso at a local hole-in-the-wall for a truly unique experience.
14. Everglades National Park
Comprised of more than a million acres of largely pristine forest, mangrove, and swamplands, the Everglades are a natural treasure that are home to one of the country’s most diverse ecosystems and a number of iconic animals like American alligators and crocodiles, Florida panthers, and a huge variety of predatory and wading birds.
The Everglades National Park is open to the public, and though it’s possible to explore on your own, many visitors opt for a guided tour.
Seeing it all by airboat is an exhilarating experience and will get you up close and personal with many fascinating swamp denizens.
15. Do Some Clubbing
No ‘things to do’ list of Miami Beach worth its salt would exclude its world-famous clubs.
In fact, the city’s clubs are among the most well-known in the world. Though it’s true that they’re primarily the realm of the young, wealthy, and stunningly attractive, there are options for travelers with modest means too.
If you’re lucky enough to fall into the former category, clubs like Bleau Bar and STORY would be good matches, but if you’d rather not put up with long lines and overdone snobbery, consider lower key clubs that offer evening out tours that often include dinner and drink deals, making them great value.