Photo: Dan DeLuca
Cuban and Latin American immigrants brought their Latin culture to Miami and transformed the winter retreat for retirees into a thriving Hispanic metropolis known as “The Gateway to Latin America.” With its multiculturalism comes unique experiences you can only have in Miami.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
It is rated as one of the top Graffiti areas in the US along with New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Once a neighborhood of empty warehouses, it’s now known for its colorful murals concentrated on NW 2nd Avenue between NW 20th Street to NW 36th Street. Start at Wynwood Walls (NW 2nd Avenue and 25th Street), where the vision began in 2009.
Fairchild Tropical Garden
Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens located 5 miles south of Miami, is one of the treasures of Miami often missed by tourists who do not have a car. The 83-acre botanic garden houses extensive collections of rare tropical plants. The Garden opened to the public in 1938, is named after Dr David Fairchild, one of the great plant explorers. There are several exhibits on the grounds including a 2 acre Tropical Rainforest, Spiny Forest of Madagascar and Wings of the Tropics, a collection of exotic butterflies from Central and South America. A guided tram tour runs hourly. There are festivals at Fairchild Gardens throughout the year, so check their website (www.fairchildgarden.org) for events.
The Biltmore Hotel built in 1926 in the Coral Gables residential area is one of the most fashionable hotels in Miami. The guest list includes US presidents, European and Hollywood royalty, and notorious gangsters. Enjoy afternoon tea served in the lobby Wednesday through Sunday at 2 pm and 3:30 pm. Don’t miss the Grecian statues overlooking the outdoor pool of this National Historic Landmark. The pool hosted aquatic galas in the 1920s that drew crowds of up to 3,00 spectators on Sundays to watch synchronized swimmers and diving events. The Palme d’Or, the longest-running French restaurant in the Miami area offers fine dining. On Sunday, there is Champagne Brunch in the courtyard which is well worth the $85 plus tax and gratuity (per person).
KYU Restaurant in Wynwood
This Asian-inspired restaurant is the latest additional to an expanding list of dining options in the Wynwood district. The menu focuses on wood-grilled Asian specialities with a touch of American barbeque. It’s a winning combination. Think of it as Asian tapas, so go with a few friends and share. Tuesday to Sunday, 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm, is Happy Hour offering a selection of dishes at $5 and drinks starting at $4.
Bike across the Venetian Causeway
The Venetian Causeway, constructed in 1925, connects mainland Miami with the Venetian Islands and Miami Beach. The Venetian Islands are a chain of six artificial islands in Biscayne Bay created from materials which came from the dredging of the bay during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920’s. The Causeway, 2.8 miles in length, is a popular place for people to jog, ride bikes, or stroll.
The Frieze Ice Cream Factory
On Michigan Avenue, just a block south of Lincoln Road is The Frieze Ice Cream Factory. Owned and operated by the Warren family since 1987, this is the place for all-natural ice cream and sorbet. Try their mango or lychee sorbet.
Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall
Walking the eight blocks of the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall are as obligatory to a Miami vacation as a visit to the beach. Lincoln Road is a great place for Happy Hour and people watching, and there are a couple of noteworthy stops among the increasingly upscale stores. At the corner of Euclid Avenue and Lincoln Road, you are greeted by the squawking of a flock of monk parakeets perched high in the date palms. Many of these non-native birds escaped from their habitats during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and have taken up residence on Lincoln Road.
Romero Britto, originally from Brazil, launched his career as a Pop artist in Miami. His distinctive style with brightly colored shapes and Cubist influence epitomizes the vibrancy of Miami. The Britto store is located at 532 Lincoln Road.
Learn to Salsa at Yuca Lounge
Join the 2-hour Salsa classes every Wednesday and Friday nights at 8:30 pm on the second floor. A 1-night pass is $40. No prior experience is necessary. There are several instructors teaching Level 1, Salsa Basics to Level 4, Advanced Salsa.
Rent a Segway or bike and explore the Miami Beach Boardwalk
Miami Beach has a boardwalk that extends from South Pointe Park to 21st Street that caters to pedestrians, joggers, bikers, Segway, and skateboards. No bikes are allowed north of 21st Street. On one side, you have the view of the Atlantic Ocean and sand dunes and on the other the hustle and bustle of Collins Avenue or Ocean Drive. You can rent a Segway or bike, or use the Citibike “bike sharing” program. Bike docking station locations are shown at www.citibikemiami.com. Use your credit card to rent a bike and ride to your destination. The sturdy three-speed bikes with large front basket are perfect for exploring the area.
The pool at the Raleigh Hotel has been a Miami Beach icon since it served as the backdrop for Esther Williams’s films in the 1940’s and 50’s. Although the curvaceous pool is the drawing card, the Raleigh is considered a “Grand Dame” of Art Deco Style. Enjoy the pool with a day pass for $25 per person on weekdays and $50 per person on weekends.
New World Center
The New World Center is Home to the New World Symphony, a unique post-graduate orchestral academy. The New World Center Campus is the result of the collaboration between the co-founder of New World Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry. Grab a blanket and picnic basket and head to the adjacent Soundscape Park with its surround sound system and enjoy free outdoor movies on the 7,000-square foot projection wall of the New World Center. Movies are shown every Wednesday evening from October through May. There is a series of New World Symphony Wallcast concerts as well (refer to their website for the schedule). All events are free.
Stop by David’s Café for Café Cubano or Cafecito.
Served in a small cup, like an espresso cup, Café Cubano is very strong and very sweet. Other caffeine options are a Colada, a large Café Cubano, which is meant to be shared or a Cortadito, Café Cubano with milk. The family owned restaurant is open from 6 am to 10 pm every day and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try a Cuban sandwich (ham, pork, swiss cheese with pickles and mustard on Cuban bread) or another Latin favorite, tostones (fried green plantains).
Art Deco District
Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is home to over 800 Art Deco structures, built between 1923 and 1943. The Art Deco District is now recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the historic buildings are along Ocean Drive between 5th Street and 15th Street, where Ocean Drive stops. Continue Collins Avenue from 15th Street to 18th Street for more historic hotels. Begin your exploration at the Art Deco Welcome Center (Ocean Drive and 10th Street), home of the Miami Design Preservation League, which formed in 1976 to preserve the historic hotels from being razed by developers.
Eat at Joe’s Stone Crab
No visit to Miami is complete without stopping at Joe’s Stone Crab for the legendary stone crab, a delicacy introduced to the world by Joe Weiss, the founder of Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe’s does not take reservations, so be prepared to wait or arrive at 5:00 when the restaurant opens. An alternative is to have lunch (same menu as dinner) when it is much less crowded. There is a limited number of parking spaces for those dining at Joe’s in the free self-parking lot across the street from the restaurant. Valet parking is available ($6 at lunch and $7 at dinner).
Smith and Wollensky at South Pointe Beach
When you tire of the sand or need some refreshment, go to Smith and Wollensky and dine on their outdoor patio overlooking the waterfront of Government Cut. There are no reservations for outdoor seating, so go off hours or be prepared to wait. It’s a great place for watching the cruise ships sail out through the Government Cut inlet, a manmade channel between Miami Beach and Fisher Island which allows better access to the Port of Miami. Miami is the cruise capital of the world, so your chances for seeing a sailing are good. The cruise ships usually depart between 4 pm and 5:30 pm, so make your plans accordingly and wave “Bon Voyage.”
South Pointe Park
Avoid the crowds at South Beach and share the beach with the locals at South Pointe Park. The recently renovated park at the southernmost point of Miami Beach not only has access to the beach, but modern benches for lounging, a sidewalk for jogging, cycling or skateboarding, green areas, a children’s playground, and a pier for fishing.
Everglades National Park
Meet up with an alligator on the Anhinga Trail. The Everglades National Park is 45 minutes south of Miami. The Anhinga trail begins four miles from the main park entrance. Less than a mile in length, the elevated boardwalk winds through a sawgrass marsh bringing you in close contact with snoozing alligators and turtles. The trail is named after the water bird, Anhinga. The trail is known for the Anhingas perched on trees with their out stretched wings catching the sun to dry their water absorbent feathers. There are many other birds including herons and egrets. Winter is the best time to visit. Avoid the rainy season.