The perfect weather year round, the miles of beaches that stretch on endlessly – the list of reasons why Miami is an attractive destination are endless. However, most are centered around our phenomenal beaches. Sure, you can come here and sit in the sun sipping mojitos for the duration of your stay (and we recommend you do so at least once on the infamous Lummus Park Beach), but there is so much more to Miami, which makes it worth your while to get out and explore.
Nature takes the forefront, with several places in the Everglades offering the opportunity to come within feet of a Florida alligator. At Shark Valley, you’ll have the chance to walk or bike down one of the longest stretches of mostly untouched Everglades without having to put on snake boots and wade in the sawgrass. But if that’s a bit too up close for you, Everglades Safari Park offers airboat rides, which is surely the funnest way to get around in the Everglades.
Then there are spots like Zoo Miami and Jungle Island, who bring the best of wildlife from all over the world and are constantly evolving and incorporating new exhibits, shows, and exciting animal encounters. You’ll have the chance to feed giraffes, take photos with macaws, watch tigers getting fed, listen to the songs of the howler monkeys, and even come face to face with lemurs at these two unique destinations.
Photo courtesy of used in book.
Intensely moving, this memorial created by artist-architect Kenneth Treister honors victims and offers solace to survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust of the Jewish people in Europe. Included in its design are an arbor that depicts the history of the Holocaust in black granite and a tunnel that opens up to “The Sculpture of Love and Anguish.” This enormous bronze arm, with its base of writhing human forms, is variously interpreted as a symbol of despair or hope. The memorial also encompasses a reflecting pool and walls inscribed with the names of thousands of victims. The overall effect is visually and emotionally stunning.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Everyone goes to Miami for the beaches. Gain knowledge and understanding at this important memorial for a meaningful change of pace.
Priscilla’s expert tip: This experience is both chilling and uplifting. The memorial frequently hosts Holocaust survivors, who deliver speeches and personal experiences to visitors. Check the Holocaust Memorial website for the dates of special events such as these.
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The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (formerly known as the Miami Museum of Science) has not yet opened, but from the plans we’ve seen, it will certainly be even more impressive than its former location by Vizcaya. Like before, the new museum will have many hands-on and interactive exhibits for children and adults, a 500,000-gallon, multi-level Gulf Stream aquarium, plus moon roof and sun roof garden areas which will also be used as event spaces, an exploration center featuring permanent interactive exhibits: Feathers to the Stars and The River of Grass (a space dedicated to children), a special exhibition gallery, and of course, what is sure to be a most impressive state-of-the-art full-dome planetarium.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Our local science museum received a much needed facelift thanks to the Frosts. It now resides in downtown, and features an aquarium, planetarium, and more.
Priscilla’s expert tip: If you’re a Miami-Dade resident, make sure to show your ID for an extra discount on admission.
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Constructed in 1916 for industrialist James Deering, this Italianate palace is often referred to as the Hearst Castle of the East. Intended to appear centuries-old at completion, it is absolutely rife with architectural detail and elaborate accents. In fact, more than a thousand artisans took five-plus years to complete the ornate flourishes. Deering was fascinated by 16th-century art and architecture, and most of his fine collection remains on display within the mansion. The beautifully landscaped grounds aptly complement the building, whose name remembers the Basque term for a raised site. Built on the bay, you’ll also appreciate beautiful views of the water while touring the estate.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Along with Miami Beach’s Art Deco buildings, this is the most interesting architecture you’ll find in Miami proper. Beautiful to behold.
Priscilla’s expert tip: On the eve of the full moon each month, Vizcaya hosts moonlight garden tours complete with live music and refreshments in the Courtyard.
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This small neighborhood packs a big cultural wallop. Settled in the years following Castro’s revolution, it’s now home to a third of Miami’s 2 million residents. Its main drag, Calle Ocho (or Southwest Eighth Street), is the heart of Little Havana, a place to indulge in authentic food, hand-rolled cigars and strong, fragrant coffee. In Maximo Gomez Park, older folks gather daily to play dominoes, talk politics, and share stories, while each March, the Calle Ocho festival celebrates Latino culture in a boisterous street party. There’s the Cubaocho Museum and Gallery for those interested in learning about Cuban art and culture, nightclubs like Hoy Como Ayer to dance in at night, and plenty of delicious eateries in which to sample and savor Cuban (and Nicaraguan, Honduran, Mexican, and Salvadorean) foods. Don’t leave without trying the Cuban coffee, which is said to be the lifeblood of Miamians.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Little Havana is the closest thing to true Miami culture without sending you into the sprawl of the suburbs. Enjoy its authenticity.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Make a day of it and plan to visit on the last Friday of the month. Experience Little Havana in the day by walking along Calle Ocho, catching a ballgame at Marlins Park, and dropping into the various shops and stick around for the Viernes Culturales street party at night.
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This is the most all-encompassing alligator experience you can have in Miami, and it will surely be the experience you go back home and tell all your friends about. Whip around through the tall saw grass of the Everglades in an airboat or swamp buggy, where you can observe the alligators in their natural habitat while maintaining a presumably safe distance. Back on shore, you can catch an alligator wrestling show, pet the baby alligators (don’t worry, precautions are taken so you don’t get your fingers bitten off), and come face to face with other wildlife. At the end, pick some gifts up in their shop or dine on some gator tail in the cafe.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Airboat rides are a lot of fun and are probably the coolest way to travel around the Everglades and see gators up close.
Priscilla’s expert tip: The airboat rides, while amazing, are exceptionally loud. Do not refuse the ear plugs! For a gorgeous and intimate ride, the park offers sunset trips, where you can watch the sun go down over the majestic river of grass.
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Photo courtesy of Alain M
Tropical birds have the run of this unusual island park off MacArthur Causeway. Approximately 1,100 macaws, parrots and other winged residents join giant reptiles and exotic primates to impart special character to the attraction. Although the 18 landscaped acres showcase some 500 species of plants and flowers, don’t come expecting peace and quiet. Some of the opinionated inhabitants are neither shy nor retiring. Though it’s noisy, the sight of a parrot riding a miniature bike is enough to make even the most jaded visitor smile. Other shows include Winged Wonders (singing Amazons and Andean condors), Reptile Giants (snakes, alligators, crocodiles) and Wild Encounters (apes, tigers, even a liger).
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Photo ops abound at Jungle Island, especially with all the birds literally flying overhead. They’ve also got a great petting zoo.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Jungle Island has been closed for a few months after last hurricane season, but is expected to open up this Spring, so keep your eyes peeled for news!
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Photo courtesy of Everglades National Park
Part of the Everglades National Park, the Shark Valley Visitor Center is located in the center of an expansive river of grass, punctuated only by a 15-mile asphalt trail. Visitors can opt to take the tram tour, bike or walk. There are no fences here, and full-grown alligators often sunbathe in the middle of the trail. Key deer can be seen bobbing around, as can snakes, turtles and native Florida birds. At the midway point, a water tower can be easily climbed and the silence and sheer beauty found at the top is absolutely astounding. Alligator calls echo as a slight breeze blows over the grass. This is the place to really see the Everglades as it is meant to be seen – untouched and pristine.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Everglades takes up the majority of South Florida and is a true natural wonder, a breath of fresh air from Miami’s mostly urban sprawl.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Bike rentals are available, however they go extremely quickly. The trail opens at 9:15 a.m. and closes at 5:15 p.m. As the trail takes an average of four hours to complete, getting into the park early to secure a bike rental is advisable.
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The only US zoo set in a subtropical climate, ZooMiami mesmerizes visitors with remarkable, open air exhibits and exotic creatures from around the world. Favorite animals among zoo-goers include clouded leopards, Komodo dragons, ring-tailed lemurs and tree kangaroos. They get ample competition from standard wildlife like giraffes, lions, meerkats, koalas, gorillas and colorful birds. When the heat starts to take its toll, Dr. Wilde’s World provides a rainforest-themed, air-conditioned refuge for hands-on fun, or you can always just hop on the monorail and get a bird’s eye view of the whole park. A petting zoo and wildlife shows also keep kids engaged, plus a fun splash zone and even swan and duck boat rides.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Considered one of the best zoos in the country, with an plethora of wildlife and even a monorail, ZooMiami is our local pride and joy.
Priscilla’s expert tip: Check schedules prior to arrival for animal shows and feeding times. Some of the coolest experiences you’ll have at the zoo revolve around these two things.
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Visiting this Homestead fruit stand, established by Robert Moehling in 1959 when he sold cucumbers street-side for his father, is a local tradition. Here, you can stock up on all manner of tropical fruits: papayas, sapote, jackfruit, avocado, as well as Kent and Keitt mangos (in season). In addition to offering tropical and citrus fruits and vegetables, the store stocks sweet, savory and spicy preserves and pickles as well as homemade salsas and sauces, and visitors. When you first arrive, make sure to order a key lime, guava, dragon fruit or passion fruit milkshake to sip as you roam the shelves or head outside to visit with the animals; Robert and his family keep emus, goats, geese, tortoises and donkeys, and even have a park for picnics and a splash fountain exhibit on the premises. Robert Is Here opens for the season in November and typically closes in late August.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Fresh produce, homemade goods, delectable milkshakes, plus a free petting zoo and splash pad make Robert’s one of the best, most inexpensive attractions in town.
Priscilla’s expert tip: This is a great attraction to hit up if you’re en route to or from the Keys.
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Photo courtesy of Wilfred Hall
Because South Beach is such a broad description, and because the varying beaches here go on for miles, we thought we’d narrow it down. Lummus Park, the area of the beach located along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Street, is the all-encompassing South Beach experience. This is the strip of sand that is always the most crowded, which makes for excellent people watching. There is a mini playground before the entrance to the beach for children ages two through 5, but they may be just as happy splashing on the shore. With Brazilian bikinis and fluorescent tans as far as the eye can see, adults will likely tire their necks from spinning around doing a double take at colorful locals. Once you’ve soaked up all of the sun you can possibly fit into one day, the strip of restaurants and bars lining Ocean Drive are close at hand.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is the main reason folks flock to Miami and South Beach. Have you seen these beaches? Blue water, soft sand, and proximity to nightlife!
Priscilla’s expert tip: The best place to park is the garage on 7th Street and Collins Avenue, which charges only $1.00 per hour and is located a few blocks away from Lummus Park.
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