While “Miami” is used as an overarching term to define Miami-Dade County, Miami and Miami Beach are two separate cities – geographically and gestationally. Miami lies inland and gazes over Biscayne Bay, encompassing approximately 55 sq miles; Miami Beach is a barrier island stretching just under 19 sq miles, attached to the mainland by a series of bridges. Both have their draws, so make sure to leave enough time to explore the two

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in Miami

With blues stretching from sea to sky, swaying palms contrasting rising glass towers, and cultures and architectures adding unique nostalgic touches in between, greater Miami’s must-sees are many. When on Miami Beach, drop by the Miami Design Preservation League for a self-guided Art Deco audio tour: it goes along Ocean Drive before diverting through nearby streets. For a snapshot-worthy backdrop, head to South Pointe Park, the island’s southernmost tip, to watch cruise ships move through the channel and break up the Downtown Miami skyline. Cross a westward bridge for a stroll through the Wynwood Arts District, where vibrant murals have overtaken former warehouse spaces. Then head slightly southwest into Little Havana for a glimpse (and taste) of Miami’s Cuban cultural core.

Art and culture

Art and culture in Miami

Miami’s arts scene has exploded in recent years to feed its culturally hungry communities. The last decade sprouted the stunning Pérez Art Museum Miami in Downtown Miami, the Wynwood Arts District and a revitalised Miami Modern District. Then there’s Art Basel Miami Beach, the biggest art fair in the country, which magnetises the art world every December. While the area continues to push towards the future, the past is still very much present. The Miami Design Preservation League leads tours through landmark neighbourhoods, highlighting Art Deco architecture and LGBT hubs. The Cuban and Latin American communities lead the city’s sensorial experiences, from coffee fragrancing the afternoon air to music pulsating from passing cars. Timestamps include the Freedom Tower – Miami’s Ellis Island for Cuban refugees, which is now a free art museum – and Little Havana.

Food and drink

Food and drink in Miami

As the area continues to come out of a culinary adolescence, national organisations are finally taking note: Alter in Wynwood, Macchialina in South Beach and Pubbelly in Sunset Harbour have all recently garnered accolades. The Broken Shaker’s kick-back cocktail stylings and hipster leanings continue to lure weekend crowds, while its adjacent 27 Restaurant & Bar pumps out excellent home-style food. Top chefs have also planted sand-side roots: don’t leave without a reservation at Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft or Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room. When it’s time for libations, The Regent Cocktail Club stirs up flawless classics, and Sweet Liberty keeps things cheeky and chilled.

When Miami gets flashy, it does so shamelessly, tying together the “see and be seen” elements with fervour. In Brickell, nightlife influencer David Grutman has opened up Komodo, joining a line of scene-centric eating and drinking spots like Zuma and Coya Miami.

Shopping

Shopping in Miami

Locally-grown retailers line the storefronts at Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour Shops: peer into Peace Love World for comfy, celeb-approved leisurewear, then pop into swimwear and lingerie shop, Eberjey. For commercial stores and big box names, meander through Lincoln Road, or for high-end retail therapy, head north on Collins Avenue to Bal Harbour Shops, where Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue anchor designer outposts. Back inland, big spending and luxury labels have invaded the Design District: Cartier, Tom Ford, and Louboutin are among the many fashionable names reinventing the neighbourhood. Do stop into Wynwood Letterpress too, for inspired handmade cards and stationery: think pressed, pink flamingos and palm prints alongside delicate illustrations. Boutiques nearby also muse off the street art’s vibe, and the Wynwood Walls Shop sells books and takeaways featuring the district’s decorating artists. Further north in MiMo, mid-century furniture stores and funky thrift shops add an air of discovery to a shopping outing.

Unique to Miami

Unique to Miami in Miami

Miami’s juxtapositions already make it unique, but some attractions are just too rare to overlook. On the cusp of Biscayne Bay stands Stiltsville, a group of wooden stilt houses dating back to the 1930s and layered with Floridian folklore. They are rumoured to have been a smuggling point during Prohibition before evolving into exclusive party pads in the 1960s. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew destroyed most of the homes, leaving only seven standing. If you can, take a boat out to Stiltsville to take in their far out views, or hook up with a local tour to get lost in its decades-old lure.

Day trip

Day trip in Miami

Hop in a car and head south towards Homestead and Redland for seasonal milkshakes and cinnamon buns from Knaus Berry Farm, exotic sips at Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery, and a farm-to-table meal at Paradise Farms. For an old-Florida experience, travel onward towards Key Largo, the first island of The Florida Keys. Elsewhere, the Everglades lie west and southwest from Miami, and offer a plethora of outdoor activities. Take an airboat ride through the marshes and swamps to experience this outlier ecosystem from a unique vantage point. Keep an eye out for alligators, crocodiles and manatees – and, if fortune strikes, you might even catch a rare glimpse of a Florida Panther. A trip inside Everglades National Park, a World Heritage Site, presents hiking, camping, and kayaking opportunities too.

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