15 Best Things to Do in West Miami (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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This small city is by the intersection of two of the Miami area’s most famous roads. Along the north side of West Miami is the Tamiami Trail, which crossed the Everglades in the 1920s. 

Running down the east side is Red Road, which became the western boundary with Coral Gables in that same decade. 

Indeed, many of Coral Gables’ most iconic sights are moments from West Miami. That includes the sublime Venetian Pool, which I think everyone should experience at least once.

There’s a long line of stores and eateries along both Tamiami Trail and Red Road, including a rare concentration of jewelry stores. Food-wise West Miami is as exciting as you would hope, and I’ll talk about a couple of treasured Peruvian and Cuban joints in this list.

1. Tamiami Trail

Completed in 1928, one of the region’s most famous roads passes along West Miami’s northern edge. If you were to stay on the Tamiami Trail  (US 41) you could travel all the way to Tampa without needing to turn off.

I don’t think it’s too surprising that the Tamiami Trail was a nightmare to build. The long section crossing the Everglades required 13 years, more than 2.5 million sticks of dynamite, and cost $8 million. That’s around $110 million in today’s money.  

Anway, the stretch of the Tamiami Trail in West Miami is a commercial corridor. Lining the way are a lot of jewelry stores (I counted ten), as well as shops for home furnishings, electronics, religious items, books, and fashion.

In between there’s a wide range of eateries. Think tapas, Cuban, Peruvian cuisine, as well as a range of chains at Trail Plaza, west of the city limits.

2. Red Road

While West Miami’s interior is a grid of quiet residential streets, the city is framed by a couple of the Miami area’s most important arteries.

North to south down the city’s east side is Red Road (West 57th Avenue), running for more than 20 miles through Miami-Dade County.

All down this street is a profusion of local businesses, from eateries to, one-off shops, martial arts studios and a branch of Publix. 

West Miami’s stretch of Red Road is a great place to get food. When I came past, there was a clutch of Italian restaurants, as well as a sushi bar and two Cuban spots.

3. Coral Gables

West Miami shares a boundary with arguably the most beautiful city in South Florida. Coral Gables is a planned community, laid out in one go in the 1920s. 

This has given the city a uniform appearance, with hundreds of buildings in the Mediterranean Revival style. Many were built from local quarried coral rock, and one of the old quarries has become a magnificent pool complex.

If, like me, you’re interested in Coral Gables’ architecture you can set off on a walking tour of the city’s many nationally recognized historical landmarks. One, the old police and fire station, houses a museum explaining how the city came about. 

In this rarefied cityscape you’ve got awesome shopping and dining along the Miracle Mile, as well as botanical gardens, many more museums, entertainment venues, and the sublime Biltmore Hotel. The latter was a centerpiece for the original vision in the 1920s.

4. A.D. (Doug) Barnes Park

It’s natural given the size of the city, but West Miami’s parks are relatively small. Still, I found a large one less than five minutes to the southwest.

On more than 60 acres, A.D.(Doug) Barnes Park is crossed on its north by the Coral Gables Canal. The headline at this park is surely a 15-acre pine rockland habitat. Highly unusual for the Miami area, this habitat and its towering pines can be discovered on a nature trail.

The park’s active recreation facilities are further south. Among them are fitness zones, basketball courts, and a public pool, which was being updated for a few months when I visited.

5. Venetian Pool

In the 1920s, the source of much of the building material for Coral Gables became a public swimming pool. For me, Venetian Pool is one of the Miami area’s must-see places.

At four acres it’s the largest freshwater pool in the United States. Every day it’s replenished by more than 800,000 gallons, rising up from artesian wells. 

That alone would make the Venetian Pool amazing, but then you’ve got the sumptuous Venetian-style architecture, caves, waterfalls and swaying palms. 

There’s a shallow area where younger children can make a splash, as well as a sandy beach area and concessions.

6. Cooper Park

Just in from Red Road you’ll find West Miami’s community park. There’s a lot to love about Cooper Park, but what caught my eye right away was the east end behind the war memorial. 

Contrasting with the open layout of the rest of the park, this is a cool, shaded hammock, and the perfect place for the park’s playground.

The park’s paved trails lead out from this area to a large gazebo and another tight clump of trees on the north side where you’ll find picnic tables. You’ll find exercise equipment along the way, as well as a sandlot for kids, with swings and climbable animal models.

7. J. Fritz and Frances Gordon Park

On West Miami’s northeast corner there’s a stately park designed in the 1920s as an entrance to Coral Gables.

J. Fritz and Frances Gordon Park is at the northern tip of Country Club Prado, with two lanes flanking a central green median and stretching south for about a mile.

The work of Denman Fink, who designed all of Coral Gables’ entrances, as well as the City Hall and Venetian Pool, the park is highly theatrical. 

There’s a pair of walkways under pergolas, as well as grand gateway arches, with a fountain and reflecting pool in between.

I love the endless rows of live oaks here, and the view reaching into the distance along Country Club Prado.

8. Tropical Park

Another spellbinding urban park within a few minutes of West Miami is the 275-acre Tropical Park. What grabs me about this place is the amount of things going on throughout the year.

When I was in town there was a Christmas Wonderland, a sprawl carnival with rides, shows, enchanting light displays, and delectable fair food. But if you come to Tropical Park on any given Friday there’s an awesome food truck rally, the aptly named Food Trucks Fridays Fiesta.

As for permanent facilities, the star is the Ronald Reagan Equestrian Center, hosting dozens of shows a year. There’s also amenities for baseball, tennis, soccer, basketball, racquetball, fishing, as well as a place where you can rent bikes.

9. El Palacio de los Jugos

A part of the scenery in the Miami area, this chain of Cuban eateries goes back to 1977. The original location on Flagler is a couple of minutes north along Red Road, while there’s another branch, southwest of the city on Coral Way.

Hard to miss thanks to their red and yellow-striped awnings, El Palacio De los Jugos is all about Cuban comfort food. 

I’m talking, chicharrones, ropa vieja, tamales, arroz congri, arroz moro, and hunger-busting sandwiches. True to the restaurant’s name, there’s also an extensive choice of tropical juices, from pineapple to mango.

10. Aromas Del Perú

CevicheSource: 1000Photography / shutterstock

Another local chain that embodies modern MIami’s culinary scene is Aromas Del Perú. Founded by the entrepreneurial chef, Marita Astete in 2003, this place features Peruvian classics in a contemporary environment.

Naturally, ceviche is prominent on the menu, and is something any first-timer should try. I’d also consider the choice of sushi maki rolls, the signature seafood paella (Arroz con Marisco), and the hearty churrasco, which comes with a homemade chimichurri. 

As an accompaniment, you have to get the festive and fruity sangria. They’re open every day from 11:30 until late, and offer valet parking.

11. Church of the Little Flower

Chiming with Coral Gables’ Mediterranean Revival architecture, this magnificent Spanish Renaissance church dates to 1951. 

The Roman Catholic congregation dates back to 1926, and the original church from that time survives as Comber Hall (1928), next to the current building. 

The Church of the Little Flower has a lot of important parishioners. In fact, senator Marco Rubio married Jeanette Dousdebes here, while his 2016 presidential rival Jeb Bush is a regular at services. 

The building is recognised by its beautiful dome. Inside, you can appreciate the vibrant stained glass windows by artist William Haley. There’s also fine statuary, depicting Jesus and the patron St. Therese of Lisieux, among others.

12. City of West Miami Recreation Center

With a wealth of indoor and outdoor features, West Miami has the kind of active recreation facility you might expect from a much larger city. 

I counted two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a ballfield, a racquetball court, and a batting cage, all lit. 

Also here is a children’s playground, a one-wall court for tennis practice, and a weight training room with eight stations and free weights. The main building has games like air hockey and foosball, as well as a large-screen TV.

The rec center hosts a variety of seasonal public events. When I was in town the whole place was decorated for a halloween carnival.

13. Granada Golf Course

Granada Golf CourseSource: Phillip Pessar / Flickr
Granada Golf Course

Part of Coral Gables’ original layout, this nearby municipal course has been open since 1923. Set on a narrow plot of land that arcs through the city, this nine-hole par-36 was laid out by the famed course designer, Donald Ross.

For my money, Granada Golf Course is the best 9-hole track in the Miami area, especially for newcomers. On this uncomplicated layout, you’ve got excellent conditions and beautiful palms and banyan trees all around.

The only downside is the proximity of neighboring residential streets. So you’ll need to play conservatively on the edges of the course.

14. Alhambra Water Tower

Another monument to the area’s rapid development in the 1920s is this soaring water tower from 1923. 

Designed like a Spanish Mudéjar lighthouse, the Alhambra Water Tower is credited to Denman Fink, who helped define Coral Gables’ unique cityscape.

This building only served its original purpose up to 1931. It was due to be pulled down in the 1950s, but was saved after a public outcry. 

A wonderful photo opportunity, you can find the tower among gardens just east of Country Club Prado. I’d recommend a little detour to find this beautiful landmark before returning to Red Road.

15. White Rose Coffee

White Rose CoffeeSource: White Rose Coffee / Facebook
White Rose Coffee

A little further east on Tamiami Trail, there’s a superb local coffee shop sharing a space with a tattoo studio.

In a short time, they’ve attracted a loyal following. In addition to their wide variety of hot and cold coffees, there are fresh-baked goods that are delivered from local bakeries daily. Cold-brew, iced Americano, and Cuban-style espresso are ever-popular menu items. 

I love the shop’s subtle alt stylings, art displays, comfortable interior, reasonable prices, and attentive servers. White Rose has free Wi-Fi, and is favored by students and remote workers.

15 Best Things to Do in West Miami (FL):

  • Tamiami Trail
  • Red Road
  • Coral Gables
  • A.D. (Doug) Barnes Park
  • Venetian Pool
  • Cooper Park
  • J. Fritz and Frances Gordon Park
  • Tropical Park
  • El Palacio de los Jugos
  • Aromas Del Perú
  • Church of the Little Flower
  • City of West Miami Recreation Center
  • Granada Golf Course
  • Alhambra Water Tower
  • White Rose Coffee