Sweetwater is a small city located in the wider Miami-Dade County, making it the perfect base to explore the best that south-east Florida has to offer.
The city is found just 20 minutes drive from downtown Miami, while it’s also positioned right on the edge of the vast wetlands that form the Everglades. You can find alligators aplenty in the surrounding area, while there are plenty of things to do in Sweetwater, Florida itself.
Visit the local parks, see the city’s Nicaraguan influences at the catholic church, and enjoy local life in a quiet city that’s just a short journey from Florida’s best sights and attractions.
Here are the best things to do in Sweetwater, Florida:
1. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Sweetwater has a huge Latin American connection. In fact, the majority of the population speak Spanish as their first language, and the city was known in the past as Little Managua in recognition of its Nicaraguan heritage.
That heritage also expresses itself in the religion. Just a few minutes out of Sweetwater, in Doral you can visit the local Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, a catholic church designed in distinctly Latin style.
You don’t need to be religious to admire the architecture or the impressive Catholic designs and sculptures that are found inside; it’s a wonderful cultural experience when you are visiting Sweetwater.
2. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum
One of the best things to do in Sweetwater is to visit the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum. Located on the grounds of the Florida International University, the Frost Art Museum – as it’s usually referred to in its shortened sense – is one of the state’s most well-known art institutions.
The art museum hosts an incredible array of works from around the world, but the focus is primarily on 20th-century American art, with a healthy dose of Latin American art thrown into the creative mix too.
The Frost Art Museum is frequently cited as being Florida’s best museum; you’ll see why when you spend hours strolling through the galleries and exhibits, admiring the eclectic collections of artwork.
3. Dolphin Mall
Every city in America has a shopping mall, and Sweetwater is no exception. This one though, is enormous, and for locals, it forms the centerpiece of the small city. In fact, little Sweetwater is home to one of the largest Outlet Shopping and Entertainment Centers in Florida; the Dolphin Mall is reason enough to visit the city on its own.
There are quite literally hundreds of shops and outlets to browse through, and you can quite easily find yourself lost for hours in retail heaven. You can find brands from across the world here, including all the major international fashion and designer labels you could ever need.
Dolphin Mall is a city in itself; as well as the shops, you can dine out at a different restaurant every day of your stay in Sweetwater, or sample a new bar every evening.
4. Doral Central Park
In neighboring Doral, you can find the wonderful Doral Central Park. This is a lovely public space that’s built around a small lakeside.
The park is green and open and is perfect for running, jogging, or simply walking around. There are benches, play areas, and most importantly, the grassy area around the lake is used to host public events through the year, attracting crowds from the local communities.
5. Tropical Park
Another great park to visit in the Sweetwater area is Tropical Park, which is just a ten-minute drive away. This large park is a great place for exercising or doing nothing at all. In an area that’s heavily built up in the suburbs of Miami, it makes for a great outdoor escape within the urban environment.
For the active traveler, there are several miles of walkways and running tracks that lead through the grassy park, and there’s even an outdoor gym. In fact, it’s a sports-orientated park, as there are football fields and running tracks too.
If you don’t fancy exercising, there’s plenty of space to sit around and just relax in the Floridian sunshine.
6. Tamiami Park
Next to Florida International University, you can find the Tamiami Park, one of the largest parks in the Miami-Dade area. This is where you’ll find the Miami Fair Expo Center, which holds events throughout the year, and also several local stadiums, sports facilities, and recreation areas.
The Olympic-sized swimming pool is a popular place, especially when the sun is out – which in Florida, is almost every day of the year. All around Tamiami Park, you can find walking and biking trails, as well as plenty of picnic tables and benches to relax at.
7. Coral Gables
A 15-minute drive from Sweetwater, you can visit Coral Gables, a small city which is packed full of great things to do. Coral Gables is full of classic 1920s Floridian architecture, including the famous Douglas Entrance, which was built in 1924 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s also the iconic Miami Biltmore Hotel.
The best place to visit, though, is the Venetian Pool. This large, outdoor public swimming pool was also built in 1924 and is the only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places in the country.
8. East Coast Buffer Water Preserve
Sweetwater is one of the last urban areas before you reach the Everglades; right next to the city, you can get a taste of this wonderful wetland wilderness by visiting the East Coast Buffer Water Preserve.
This is a restored area of wetlands, with a hiking and biking trail that encircles a man-made lake. There’s plenty of wildlife returning to the area too, and you’ll likely encounter a few alligators in the water as you explore.
9. Everglades Safari Park
At the Everglades Safari Park, which is found just a 20-minute drive into the Everglades proper from Sweetwater, you can experience the best of the wetlands with the help of local guides.
The safari park offers classic airboat tours through the creeks and waterways, and you’ll likely be spotting alligators all day as you travel around.
10. Miccosukee Indian Village
Not far from the Everglades Safari Park, you can find the Miccosukee Indian Village, which is the traditional land of the Miccosukee people.
In the village, you can learn more about the traditions and history of the Miccosukee Indians at the local museum, while the guides also offer airboat tours through the Everglades.
11. Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center
On the edge of the Southern Everglades, and an easy 40-mile ride from Sweetwater, you can call into the excellent Ernest F. Coe Visitors Center to learn more about the incredible diversity of Florida’s most famous natural area.
This is the Southern Glades, in a remote and wild location, and at the Visitors Center, you can walk through storyboards and exhibits that tell the natural and human history of what is one of the largest wetland ecosystems in the world.
12. Biscayne National Park
Another beautiful national park that’s within easy reach of Sweetwater is Biscayne National Park. Protecting the iconic waters and islands of Biscayne Bay, despite being so close to such a huge urban area, this national park will quickly sweep you away with its solitude and beauty.
You can snorkel or dive the coral reefs, kayak through dense mangroves, or take boat tours along the coast. There’s a real diversity to be found in this unique ecosystem that encompasses everything from wetlands to beaches; it’s one of the best day trips you can make from Sweetwater.
13. Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands that stretch far out from the mainland, deep into the Gulf of Mexico.
This collection of islands are all linked by one spectacular road; one of the best things to do in Sweetwater is to take a road trip all the way to Key West, the most westerly island in the chain. It’s a spectacular drive, with breathtaking vistas wherever you look.
14. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is a classic vacation destination on the south-east coast of Florida. If you’re based in Sweetwater, you can easily day trip to the city and return to the quieter climes of Sweetwater in the evening.
There are several charming museums and galleries to visit, but of course, the bustling, yet beautiful beaches of Fort Lauderdale take pride of place in the city.
Of course, no trip to Sweetwater would be complete without journeying into Miami, one of the most iconic cities in the United States.
You can visit beautiful Miami Beach to stroll along endless boardwalks in the sunshine or drink cocktails overlooking the ocean.
In downtown Miami, you can explore the city’s extensive array of cultural sights, from the Art Deco District to the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. There’s much, much more to do in Miami than this though, and you can easily make several day trips from Sweetwater to the big city.