Directly north of Miami International Airport (MIA), Miami Springs is a city that sprang up overnight in the 1920s.
More than a century later the golf course at the core of the planned development is still going strong. Elsewhere you can find a lot of other clues from those early days. One is the home of developer and co-founder Glenn Curtiss (1878-1930), which can be seen on guided tours.
A bit of a renaissance man, Curtiss took part in a number of aviation firsts. In 1909 he broke the international air speed record, and in 1910 he conducted the first takeoff from a US Navy ship.
Between the golf course and downtown is the stately Curtiss Parkway, which hosts the popular River Cities Festival every April.
Below are my 15 favorite things to do in and around Miami Springs.
1. Glenn Curtiss Mansion
To get to grips with Miami Springs’ roots, my starting point would be the 1925 home of its co-founder, Glenn Curtiss.
As an early aviator, motorcycle pioneer, inventor, and developer, he packed a lot into his life. When I compiled this list, his Pueblo Revival home was being turned into a museum in his honor.
In the meantime you could visit for an historical tour of this property. Full of insights about Curtiss, his innovations and early Miami Springs, tours take place on Saturdays.
The mansion is also a venue for community events, including car shows, concerts, and seasonal happenings, like a haunted house at Halloween.
2. Miami Springs Historical Museum
In Stafford Park, this riveting little museum had only just opened when I was around. If you want to learn the origins of the city, and the people involved, this is the place to come.
Naturally Glenn Curtis is prominent, and there’s a lot of detail about his Curtiss & Bright firm, which shaped much of Miami Springs, Hialeah and Opa-locka.
Exhibits go into depth on the land boom days, and the period that followed, when Country Club Estates became Miami Springs.
You’ll also find out about Eastern Air Lines (1926-1991), which was a key employer in Miami Springs for decades. Another thread is the Fair Haven Nursing Home, which has had a long and eventful past.
3. Curtiss Parkway
My favorite part of Miami Springs is this rather grand boulevard linking the downtown area with Miami Springs Golf & Country Club.
At the north end, most of the commerce is along Westward Dr, where there’s a clutch of eateries, shops, services and municipal departments.
The Curtiss Parkway begins at Circle Park, the location for public events like the River Cities Festival in April. From here you can walk or ride southwest, through the green strip in the middle of the boulevard.
This is covered by live oaks and banyan trees, and has a variety of monuments and places to sit. On the west side, look out for the grand Fair Haven Nursing Home complex.
Built in the Pueblo Revival style in the 1920s, this was originally a hotel. Later it became a Kellogg sanitarium, then a WWII military hospital, before landing on its current role after the war.
4. River Cities Festival
This three-day event brings a massive crowd to the Curtiss Parkway every April. Going back half a century, the River Cities Festival brings a mix of live music, dancing and DJs from Friday to Sunday.
There was tons more going on when I took a look, including a car show, local food, arts & crafts, live comedy, martial arts demonstrations, zumba, jazzercise, and more.
Like all great community festivals, children will be entertained throughout. The Kids’ World area has bounce houses, a mini carnival, and tons of activities. You can get to know the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, and even hold a baby alligator.
5. Miami Springs Golf & Country Club
This city has the oldest golf course in Miami-Dade. Opened in 1923, this course was integral to the early city, when it was still called Country Club Estates.
From 1924 to 1955 Miami Springs Golf & Country Club was home to the Miami Open. Golf historians like me may get chills knowing that they’re walking the same fairways as the likes of Gene Darazen and Sam Snead.
The course is simply beautiful today, in a mature tropical landscape dating back a whole century. And, as an alternative to the elevated Trump National Doral, this is one of the top affordable courses in South Florida.
On top of all that, you’ve also got the region’s only practice facility with nighttime access, open until 9 pm.
6. Miami Springs Aquatic Center
As someone accustomed to a colder climate, I’m always jealous of cities with outdoor pools that can stay open all year.
That is the case at Miami Springs Aquatic Center, which opened in 2016 and has a range of attractions. Among them is an accessible 25-yard lap pool, which has a neat zero-depth beach entry with play equipment.
There’s also a 35- foot tower with a twisting water slide, and distant views over the surrounding area. Beyond a year-round facility, the center has programs in every season, from swimming lessons (starting from 1-year-olds) to water aerobics.
7. Miami International Mall
Also close by nearby Doral, Miami International Mall is just on the other side of the airport. Opened in 1983, this is still a prime shopping destination, and ideal for days when the weather is too hot, wet or both.
To give you an idea of the selection, you’ve got Macy’s, Macy’s Men’s Store, Kohl’s and JCPenney as anchors. Looking around, I saw Guess, Sephora, Foot Locker, Hollister Co, Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy, and Pandora, to name a small few.
Dining options are plentiful, with more than 20 places to choose from. These come at a variety of price points, and include sushi, steaks, burgers, and Italian food, and much more.
8. CityPlace Doral
Five minutes from downtown Miami Springs, the fast-developing city of Doral has a variety of spectacular mixed-use developments.
My pick is CityPlace Doral, which feels like a dynamic urban district. There’s a feast of shopping, dining and entertainment, all converging on a monumental central fountain.
A lot of events go down on that plaza, from a weekly market on Sundays to seasonal celebrations and charity drives.
By my reckoning, this is also the location for the nearest movie theater to Miami Springs, at the suitably upmarket CMX CinéBistro. Here you get full-service in-theater dining, and luxury recliners.
9. Casino Miami
Just past Miami Springs’ southeastern corner is a sizable 24-hour casino, one of several in the area. Covering almost 70,000 square feet, Casino Miami has 1,000+ cutting-edge slot machines, but has a lot more going on.
Every Friday and Saturday night, without fail, there’s live music at Club Rio. Added to that, there’s table games, e-tables, and the William Hill Racebook, which had just opened when I wrote this article.
Until recently, this was one of the few remaining places in Miami-Dade where you could watch live jai alai. Now, the nearest spot for jai alai is Magic City Casino, about ten minutes from Miami Springs.
10. Stafford Park
The park surrounding Miami Springs Historical Museum sits right next to the city’s middle school. If you’re looking for a place to go for a walk or run, Stafford Park would be top of my list.
The entire space is bordered by a paved trail, almost exactly 0.4 miles if you’re keeping count. There’s a lot of benches and trees along the route, including some strange looking banyan specimens along East Drive.
Apart from that, this is a typical neighborhood park, with a tot lot, and lighted fields for soccer, baseball, and softball.
11. Trump National Doral Golf Course
The neighboring city of Doral began with a golf resort that rose from the Everglades in the 1950s. This was the venue for the Doral Open, a PGA Tour event from 1962 to 2006.
The Trump Organization took over in 2012, and if you’re ready to pay for a high-end round of golf, then this is the place to go.
Keen golfers will know all about the signature course, the Blue Monster. A round here ends in dramatic fashion at the iconic par-4 18th. This 473-yard hole has been listed among the Top 100 Holes in the World by GOLF Magazine.
The Trump Spa at Doral is one of the premier facilities in the Miami area, with more than 100 treatments available, in a refined and hushed setting.
12. Hialeah Park Casino
There’s a big dose of mid-century glamor at this casino a stone’s throw away from Miami Springs. Beginning in the 1920s, Hialeah Park was one of South Florida’s top thoroughbred horse racing venues.
Those days are now over, although there are pop-up Quarter Horse meets here in winter. A peculiar remnant from the track’s heyday is a flock of flamingos that have inhabited the infield lake since the 1930s.
Set in 200 acres of beautiful gardens and historic Mediterranean Revival architecture, the casino opened in 2013. Inside, you’ll find all the latest slots, as well as one of the top card rooms in South Florida, and a slew of dining and live entertainment options.
13. Old Tom’s Sports Bar
Safe to say that sports are a way of life in this area. Miami Springs is just a few miles from Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, Inter Miami’s Liberty Stadium was being built next to the airport when I visited.
If you want to catch a game, enjoy some great food, and rub elbows with locals, there’s no better place than Old Tom’s Sports Bar.
Tom’s is part sports bar and part restaurant, and their menu features a variety of classic American and Tex-Mex dishes, like burgers, ribs, and fajitas.
They’ve got an extensive beer selection and even samplers for those who’d like to taste small amounts of a variety of different beers.
14. Peavy-Dove Field
Next to the Miami River canal, this public park has a footbridge crossing the water to the Hialeah side.
I was really impressed with the dog park, which makes up a big chunk of the east end of Peavy-Dove Field. This has shelters, a separate space for smaller dogs, water features, and a variety of obstacles for more active pups.
Elsewhere you’ve got a variety of active amenities, including a small covered playground, and fields for tee-ball and speedball. By the canal you can pick up a short trail that runs northwest for about a mile.
15. G. Carl Adams House
Down a cul-de-sac next to Miami Springs Golf & Country Club, this private residence isn’t a tourist attraction per se. Still, I’d recommend passing by if you’re on the Glenn Curtiss trail, or looking out for it if you’re playing a round.
In the same Pueblo Revival style, the G. Carl Adams House was built for George Carl Adams, mayor of Country Club Estates from 1930 to 1942.
He oversaw the name change to Miami Springs, and was Glenn Curtiss’s half-brother and business partner. They pair were involved in a heap of local development ventures, including Opa-locka’s entire streetscape.
The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, and has a remarkable terraced profile when viewed from the golf course.