Miami Travel Guide
Think of Miami and the first images to come to mind are probably of famed South Beach: pastel-coloured Art-Deco buildings, aquamarine water, glitzy nightclubs full of glamorous, sun-kissed beauties. There’s no denying the allure of Miami Beach—or that the city lives up to its reputation as a haven of good-looking, party-loving people. But the Miami Beach stereotypes barely crack the surface of all Miami has to offer. Head across the causeway, and you’ll find an up-and-coming foodie movement, a buzzing art scene and vibrant Hispanic culture (some 70% of Miami residents are Latino.) Start your cultural exploration in the Wynwood Arts District, home to over 50 independent art galleries, studios, and museums, along with the mesmerising Wynwood Walls Street Murals. Satiate your palate at any of the innovative restaurants putting Miami on the culinary map (they’re largely dotted around Downtown, Brickell, and Wynwood, with the best compiled below.) And while homegrown, forward-thinking chefs continue to create mouthwatering new menus, be sure to include authentic Cuban food on your culinary bucket list—it remains a mainstay of Miami cuisine. Miami is considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, and it shows. No visit is complete without a day of lounging at 12th Street Beach, a proudly gay gathering spot on South Beach that’s marked by the lifeguard station’s billowing rainbow flags. Then there’s Haulover Beach, Miami’s designated clothing-optional area, with a favourite gay spot on the north end. When the sun goes down, take your pick from intimate cocktail bars to lively drag queen shows to pulsating gay nightclubs. Experience the best of it all with these top Miami points of interest.
The best hotels in Miami
Many of Miami’s most stylish and luxurious hotels are located in the heart of Miami Beach, where you’ll have easy access to white sand beaches, iconic nightlife, and top-rated restaurants. One of our favourites is Hotel Gaythering, Miami’s “hetero-friendly” hotel with the catchy motto: “Why stay at a gay-friendly hotel when you can stay at a friendly gay hotel?” Hotel Gaythering is sexy, masculine, and adults-only. The rooms are chic and comfortable, but what truly sets the hotel apart is its buzzing communal spaces, ideal for meeting and mingling with other gay travellers. After a long day of sightseeing, don’t forgo Gaythering’s on-site, clothing optional, self-service sauna. For another adults-only hotel ideally located in South Beach, try Blanc Kara. The luxury boutique hotel offers 25 well-equipped and elegant studios, ideal for those who want to forgo paying for extra amenities in favour of a personal kitchen and spacious suite just a block from the beach.
Go green without sacrificing any luxury at 1 Hotel South Beach, a hotel seamlessly merging wellness, eco-consciousness and sophisticated style. The decor takes clear inspiration from Mother Nature, with lots of reclaimed, upcycled wood, and in-room filtered tap water means you can ditch the plastic bottles. Detox from a night on the town with a private yoga session or a meal at the on-site restaurant Plnthouse, featuring plant-based, organic cuisine. There’s even complimentary Tesla car service available within a 10-mile radius of Miami Beach.
Of course, South Beach isn’t the only place to stay. Brickell Neighborhood is often dubbed Miami’s best-kept-secret, and at EAST, you’ll be right in the centre of it. This luxurious lifestyle hotel is North America’s first iteration for the famous Hong Kong-based Swire Hotel. Here, East-meets-West design nods to the brand’s Chinese roots—without forgoing a bit of Latino flair. The on-site Quinto La Huella Uruguayan restaurant is of particular note. The restaurant is rustic but stylish, with a leafy patio ideal for sipping on one of La Huella’s signature craft cocktails. The true highlight though is the grill room, which features the restaurant’s signature wood fire parilla; request a seat here to watch the grillmaster in action.
Finally, the storied history behind the ultra-luxurious Villa Casa Casuarina makes it a must-visit in its own right. The building dates back to 1930 when it was commissioned by Alden Freeman, Mayflower descendent and heir to the Standard Oil company. It then served a stint as a run-down three-story apartment building before famed Italian designer Gianni Versace purchased the villa and transformed it into his personal mansion in the 90s. He spared no detail or dollar in the renovations. (The iconic pool boasts thousands of glimmering 24-karat gold tiles.) Versace was tragically murdered on the steps of his mansion five years later. Today, Villa Casa Casuarina is a luxury boutique hotel, restaurant, and bar that retains its original opulence, while offering a glimpse into Versace’s fascinating life and home.
For a look at one of the world’s largest privately owned art collections, head to The Rubell Family Collection
Things to do in Miami
Every December, art lovers from around the world congregate for Art Basel, the famed international art fair that attracts everyone from dealers to artists to private collectors. But you don’t have to wait until December to experience Miami’s innovative art culture. Start at Perez Art Museum Miami, better known as PAMM, a flagship in Miami’s art scene. It’s perched on Biscayne Bayfront inside a spectacular Herzog & de Meuron building, where hanging gardens and sublime waterfront views only add to the appeal. The contemporary art museum features a wide array of rotating exhibitions from 20th and 21st-century artists, so you never know what you might find. That said, don’t miss the permanent collection of large-scale sculptures in the outdoor garden. Also on Biscayne Bay is the landmark Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This 34-room mansion (which once belonged to tractor icon and industrialist James Deering) features acres of immaculate, European-style gardens dotted with antiques, fountains, and statues.
For a look at one of the world’s largest privately owned art collections, head to The Rubell Family Collection. The 45,000-square-foot DEA warehouse turned art gallery is chock full of avant-garde pieces by both emerging and legendary artists. The Rubell family played an integral role in transforming the once crime-ridden Wynwood District into the hip, art destination it is today—as well as cementing Miami as the annual destination for Art Basel. Engage with the local art community at Mana Contemporary Miami, located in the historic 777 International Mall. Celebrating the creative process, the art centre is dedicated to fostering artist communities and promoting public engagement with the arts. The residence houses over 40 artist studios, including iconic Queef Latina, drag performer and founder of Wigwood (Miami’s top drag festival.) Then there’s the artist-run non-profit Locust Projects. The exhibits feature contemporary visual art from emerging young artists, providing space and freedom for experimentation. It’s Miami’s longest-running alternative art project, and while the exhibitions might not be for everyone, they’ll undoubtedly prompt a conversation.
What to see in Miami
Not long ago, Wynwood was a grey and gritty neighbourhood full of windowless, large stock warehouses. Now, it’s Miami’s go-to destination for arts and culture. What changed? In large part, Tony Goldman decided to transform the ageing area into the home of “the greatest street art ever seen in one place.” The Wynwood Walls are life-size murals, street art and graffiti from both emerging and well-known artists. Plan to spend at least an afternoon admiring (and probably Instagramming) the fascinating art statements. They’re even better when enjoyed with an all-natural Cielito Artisan Ice Pop, with flavours like star fruit pomegranate and passionfruit mousse. When you’re ready to escape the sounds of traffic, head to serene Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden. Here you’ll find some 84-acres of tropical plants and trees, including flora and fauna that can only survive in South Florida. The Wings of the Tropics exhibition is particularly worthwhile; around 3 thousand exotic butterflies flutter about to create a truly magical scene.
You don’t have to be an architecture buff to appreciate Miami’s signature pastel-coloured Art Deco buildings. While you could walk past these marvels, we recommend a visit to the Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center. Home to a museum and cute gift shop, this is also the place to sign up for captivating walking tours of Miami’s Art Deco buildings. The 90-minute tours are led by experts from the non-profit Miami Design Preservation League and offer fascinating facts about Miami’s history, culture, and people. Finally, don’t end your Miami sightseeing without a visit to iconic Espanola Way for a stroll. Long a popular Miami attraction, the pedestrian-only street is now better than ever after a multi-million dollar revitalisation project. The original charm of the 1920s Mediterranean design remains, but now you’ll also find some of Miami’s top boutiques, galleries, and open-air events.
Easily offering the best brunch in Miami Beach, don’t miss the fried chicken and watermelon waffles or decadent homemade biscuits and gravy
Where to eat in Miami
Chances are you’ll find yourself strolling down popular Lincoln Road during your Miami stay. While there, keep an eye out for London-based Nikkei restaurant Chotto Matte, the place for mouth-watering Japanese Peruvian. The kitchen only uses natural, locally produced ingredients to create bold flavours and innovative menu items. (Sea Bass Ceviche and Nasu Miso are fan favourites.) The bustling open kitchen, colourful decor, and unparalleled pisco sours add to the experience. For contemporary Asian cuisine that consistently draws a fashionable foodie crowd, there’s KYU. The industrial design and distinctive funk music set the scene for classic Asian cuisine with a notable southern flair. Think Thai coconut cream spinach and roasted cauliflower with shishito herb vinaigrette. Speaking of southern fare, for something a bit more classic, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar won’t disappoint. Easily offering the best brunch in Miami Beach, don’t miss the fried chicken and watermelon waffles or decadent homemade biscuits and gravy. Wash it all down with Yardbird’s house-made cinnamon bourbon, and it’s the perfect start to any Miami day.
One of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, no Miami guide would be complete without renowned chef Bradley Kilgore’s New American restaurant Alter. Opt for the Full Chef’s Experience for a shockingly creative culinary adventure, always innovative without being pretentious. In the nearby Design District, there’s Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. Before the Design District was “cool,” Michael’s was transforming high-quality ingredients into homestyle meals, all in a cosy bistro atmosphere. The varied menu has a little bit of everything, from small snacks to wood-fired snapper to homemade banana toffee buns.
For Eastern Mediterranean cuisine in a two-story masterpiece, try Byblos. Housed in an official Art Deco building, the inside has gorgeous murals and Grecian design, but it’s the small outdoor patio that’s especially romantic. Plates are meant to be shared, so plan to order a little of everything. Fooq’s is another innovative Middle-Eastern restaurant with an emphasis on family-style dining. Chef David Foulquier draws on his Persian and French roots to offer everything from hummus and challah to bucatini. Also in the Brickell neighbourhood is Miami’s latest food-and-design collaboration, Bazaar Mar. Award-winning chef José Andrés features a molecular-based menu in a blue and white tiled space, where nautical decor takes centre stage. As the name would suggest, it’s all about seafood here; expect responsibly sourced fish, oysters, and more. When you need a caffeine boost, there’s Panther Coffee. Once a simple bicycle cart serving cold brew, now Panther Coffee is an award-winning coffee house featuring java from small farms around the world.
Shopping in Miami
Start your Miami shopping spree at BASE, a hip men’s lifestyle store featuring multi-brand clothing, footwear and accessories as well as fragrances, magazines and books. Located in Wynwood, you’ll find local artwork adorning the walls to amplify the perfectly curated collection of men’s goods.
For conscious fashion, Nomad Tribe features ethical clothing and accessories. Whether it’s a piece by a local designer or an accessory that’s sustainably sourced by artisans around the world, you can rest assured you’re purchasing stylishly, snappy pieces while also making the world a better place.
Discover the best of local artists in one convenient location at Wynwood Shop. There are notable indie vibes here, with everything from one-of-a-kind prints to wooden watches to artisanal loose-leaf teas. It’s made-in-Miami at its best. Del Toro is another Wynwood staple, this time for men’s kicks. You’ll find a nice variety of Handmade Italian shoes, including everything from sneakers to slippers to loafers. Can’t find anything that hits the mark? Opt for something custom made. When you’re walking down Lincoln Road, hop into Taschen. Part gallery, part bookstore, here the German publishing company has hundreds of visually stunning books on display. Themes focus on art, architecture, fashion, and film.
For Miami’s best weekly drag party, head to Gramps. This gay-friendly Wynwood bar has original, breathtaking performances, weekly karaoke, live comedy and, of course, strong drinks
The best Happy Hour in town might just go to Sweet Liberty; enjoy 75-cent oysters and $5 cocktails from 4-7pm. Even better, the cocktails are strong, exciting and delicious. Award-winning bartender John Lermayer offers all the classics, along with innovative new recipes (try the Sweet Potato Painkiller.) Can’t make it for Happy Hour? Music goes until 5 am on weekends. No wonder it’s made the list of World’s 50 Best Bars. Another excellent spot for Prohibition-era cocktails that’s also gay-popular is Floyd Miami, offering speakeasy vibes in a luxury British mansion. Floyd Miami is open late; expect live jazz, soulful house, and even chamber orchestra music well into the night.
Space is one of Miami’s most famous 24-hour clubs, with over 15 years of music and dancing. In recent years, Space has gone through a sort of revival and now boasts tropical inclusive vibes. The rooftop terrace is lovely at all hours, but especially to watch the sunrise. Then there’s Basement, an LGBT-friendly club that’s particularly popular during Pride Week. What sets Basement apart is its colourful bowling alley and indoor skating rink, where you can drink, dance and play the night away. Of course, you’ll also find DJs and beautiful people swaying to house music. Finally, for Miami’s best weekly drag party, head to Gramps. This gay-friendly Wynwood bar has original, breathtaking performances, weekly karaoke, live comedy and, of course, strong drinks.
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Photo: Nichlas Andersen
Mana Contemporary | Photo courtesy of Mana Contemporary
BASE | Photo: Mateus Image Production LLC
Photo: Jason Briscoe
1 Hotel South Beach