Located in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Palmetto Bay is a small city of just 23,000 set amidst the state’s largest metropolitan area that’s home to more than six million residents.
During Hurricane Andrew in the summer of 1992, Palmetto Bay was one of the most extensively damaged areas along the coast; entire neighborhoods and business districts were destroyed.
The rebuilding has been slow, and there are still signs of the epic storm more than 25 years later.
Palmetto Bay is ideally located to offer visitors easy access to natural, historical, and cultural attractions. Below are 15 of the most popular things to do while in town.
1. Coral Reef Park
Comprised of more than 50 beautiful acres, Palmetto Bay’s Coral Reef Park is a popular attraction for locals and visitors alike, but don’t let the name fool you – it’s a landlocked park.
Perhaps the name was a clever marketing tactic thought up by overzealous city planners, but despite not being on the ocean, the park is a beautiful oasis for walkers, bikers, and picnickers.
Due to its popularity, some recent visitors have noted that it’s becoming a bit more commercial than they’d like, and that there’s often loud music and relatively raucous events.
If that’s a scene you’d like to avoid, consider a weekday visit or one in the morning when the park first opens.
2. Deering Estate
Charles Deering was an American industrialist who founded the International Harvester Corporation that made everything from dozers and tractors to on-highway trucks and combines.
Located on more than 400 scenic coastal acres, the property was once the winter retreat for Deering and his family and includes a number of cottages, a main house, and extensive grounds and gardens.
The estate is located in the city’s Cutler neighborhood and contains one of the most extensive remaining tracts of tropical hardwood in the county.
Though you won’t likely see Don Johnson, the estate has been featured in Florida-based programs like Miami Vice over the years and is relatively inexpensive to visit.
3. Pisco y Nazca
Though it’s technically located in nearby Doral, Pisco y Nazca is often referred to as a ceviche gastrobar; its mainstay dishes are of Peruvian origin.
For those unfamiliar with ceviche, it’s a simple dish of fresh seafood and vegetables that aren’t cooked using heat, but instead using the acid from lime juice.
It’s healthy and full of bold and vibrant flavors that are big hits with those interested in venturing off the well-worn culinary trail. The restaurant serves other Peruvian favorites as well as a full beer, wine, and cocktail menu.
Previous guests have described the restaurant as trendy, unique, and comfortable.
4. Palmetto Golf Course
South Florida is packed with so many golf courses that it can be frustrating deciding which ones deserve your valuable time and money.
Located on SW 152nd Street, Palmetto Golf Course is a par-70 course that’s spread over more than 100 acres of scenic South Florida land.
The 18-hole championship caliber course was built in the late-‘50s and was originally private, but has been a municipal facility since the ‘60s.
It’s known for its manicured greens and fairways and its plentiful but not overabundant sand and water hazards that make things pleasantly challenging.
It’s wise to book your tee time in advance of your visit.
5. Mystery, Mayhem and Vice Crime Bus Tour
From Miami Vice to Scarface, South Florida has a unique film and television history that’s more often than not focused on the area’s seedier side. For those looking to take it all in as part of a professionally guided tour, there’s no better way than the Mystery, Mayhem and Vice Crime Bus Tour.
The tour also touches on unique bits of Florida history that aren’t so well-known, like the fact that Al Capone spent much of his time in the Sunshine State, and the shocking murder in 1997 of international fashion mogul Gianni Versace.
Tours are open seasonally, so check online before making a special trip.
6. Brickell Bay Terrace
Biscayne Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway offer visitors to south Florida some of the most stunning scenes they’ll see anywhere. Terrace by Brickell Bay on SW 13th Street in Miami is the perfect place to cool your heels with an afternoon drink and some amazing vistas.
Though the neighborhood itself is exclusive and often restricted, the Terrace is open to the public, and the views have been featured in many television shows and movies.
It’s common to see dolphins in the bay and waterway, so don’t forget your camera, and for lovers of sunsets, there are few better places to capture a real Florida masterpiece.
7. Biltmore Hotel Walking Tour
Florida has always drawn its fair share of ritzy Hollywood types, but back in the pre-World War II years, it was a magnet for the beautiful and well-heeled that rivaled southern California.
The Biltmore Hotel on Anastasia Avenue in Coral Gables has a rich history in hosting movie stars, heads of state, and business moguls. For common folk who’d like to get a glimpse into the lifestyles of the famous and ultra-rich, a guided tour would be just the way to do it.
The tours are free, last a few hours, and are offered on Sundays at 2 PM. Due to their popularity, it’s wise to show up early.
8. Wolfsonian Museum
Located on the campus of Florida International University in Miami Beach, The Wolfsonian Museum isn’t as well-known as other south Florida museums, but previous guests have noted that they were pleasantly surprised at its extensive displays.
The collection is focused on contemporary art and design, and there are quite a few international influences found throughout as well.
The museum is located in Miami’s art deco district, so if you love that aesthetic architectural style, it’d be worth considering a guided tour in conjunction with your visit to the museum.
9. Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park
The Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park is a 20-plus acre oasis in the middle of Florida’s largest urban center that most guests find lives up to its name.
The park’s entrance is located on NE 135th Street in North Miami and is open every day year-round.
The treed areas, creeks, and shaded trails are perfect for a variety of activities. For those traveling with little ones in need of something extra special, there are inexpensive pony rides offered in the afternoons.
Open from sunrise to sunset, the park can get annoyingly busy during peak times, so consider a morning visit to avoid the masses.
10. Little Havana
Miami’s Little Havana is the state’s epicenter of all things Cuban, and one of those neighborhoods that’s full of guided tours appropriate for lovers of food, culture, and history.
Much of Little Havana lies along Called Ocho – or 8th Street in English – and it’s full of authentic restaurants and coffee shops, galleries, artist’s studios, and lots of tobacco shops as well.
Though the neighborhood is predominately Cuban, there are a number of other Latin and South American influences too. It’s an excellent place for a relaxing happy hour with island music, tasty treats, and chilly mojitos and Cuba Libres.
11. Venetian Pool
Comprised of hundreds of thousands of gallons of natural water that well from beneath the earth’s surface, the Venetian Pool in nearby Coral Gables is one of those unique attractions you won’t find anywhere else, and is the perfect break after a few long days on the beach.
The pool has been around since the ‘20s, and the grounds include several waterfalls, caves, a manmade island, and grottos that provide shaded areas perfect for relaxing out of the sweltering Florida sun.
The pool is relatively inexpensive to visit but does tend to get crowded during peak times, so plan accordingly.
12. FIU – Biscayne Bay Butterfly Garden and Natural Trail
Located on NE 151st Street in North Miami, the Biscayne Bay Campus of Florida International University is home to a fantastic butterfly garden and nature trail that leads guests through some surprisingly untouched stretches of natural habitat.
The grounds are comprised of more than ten acres, and though the butterfly garden is the centerpiece, it’s just one of many outdoor and nature-related activities, including bird watching, hiking, and wildlife photography.
Several staff-guided tours are available as well. For those who’d like to show themselves around at their own pace, the trails are free to visit and open to the public daily.
13. Everglades Safari Park
The Everglades are Florida’s most iconic natural attraction, and though the glades’ sheer vastness is overwhelming, it’s possible to get all the highlights in a relatively short time at Everglades Safari Park.
From gators and airboat tours to world-class fishing and swamp buggy excursions, there’s not much you can’t do in the park. For many guests, it’s their best chance to get up close to some amazing animals that call the area home.
The park is part zoo, part theme park, and part natural history museum; it’s one of those places that previous guests agree really shouldn’t be passed up.
14. Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
If you’ve ever marveled at the amazing Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, then you’ll appreciate the dramatic architecture for which the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is known, because they were designed by the same man.
Though the verdict is still out on the performing arts center’s look, there’s no denying that it’s home to some of the area’s best productions, including Latin dance festivals, opera and jazz concerts, and a few shows that absolutely defy categorization and are therefore listed as ‘experimental.’
The center offers a variety of events appropriate for children, and there’s an onsite restaurant as well.
15. Miami-Dade County Youth Fair
Since 1952, the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair has been a popular family attraction that takes place annually in the late spring.
Much of what you’ll see is similar to what you’ll find at county fairs all over the country, but the youth fair is more child and young-adult centered. It includes cattle and farm-related competitions and events, arts and crafts, carnival-style rides and games, and tasty food – from funnel cakes and cotton candy to corn dogs and ice cream.