Without a doubt the most famous beach city in the USA, Miami is all about fun under the sun, beach time, and partying. Or is it? Truth is it does not require too much digging to learn and find out about many other things to do which are entertaining for the cultural traveler, families on holidays, or even something to do during the day after having spent a day or two at the beach.
During my recent visit I was able to enjoy a side of the city I did not see when I lived in South Florida a good number of years ago. Ranging from free historical tours to nature walks and even entertainment on the kinky side I discovered a wide variety of things to do that most vacationers miss all to often. Without further due let’s begin with the list.
Several of the attractions mentioned in this post are within walking distance if your hotel is in South Beach (for more info find out the hotels where I slept during my recent trip to Miami). While it may take a while to get from one place to the other some planning will make it easy and there’s great people watching to do anyhow! If your hotel is not as close and you have to rent a car, there is an alternative to the typical can rental options you already know about: Car2Go.
Car2Go is a relatively new car rental concept by which you can rent a car by the hour. All you need to do is register in their website (see the resources section at the bottom of this post) providing credit card information and a valid license and you’re set. Once in town you can look online for the closest car and use the provided code to unlock it and drive away. Gas is included with your rental and you can park it pretty much anywhere without having to pay (yes, parkings and metered parkings included), and as the cars are all Smart cars you don’t really need much space. I used one for a day (courtesy of Car2Go) and found it very convenient indeed.
Begin With an Art Deco Free Tour
Seeing the gorgeous pastel buildings of Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District is something no first-time visitor should miss. You can take a self-guided audio tour or even better join one of the regularly scheduled walking tours of one of the world’s greatest concentrations of 1930’s architecture. I opted for the second,which lasted about an hour and a half and learned quite a bit of Miami’s history and it’s architecture.
Explore Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall
This pedestrian street is loaded with restaurants, fashion shops and cafes. It is here that you will find the latest trendy clothes and entertaining people- people watching is one of the main activities here.
Visit the World Erotic Art Museum
The museum started as a private collection by Naomi Wilzig, its exhibits showing fine erotic art pieces from around the world some of which are more than 2000 years old! From the website,
“Founded in 2005 , WEAM is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to fine erotic art. In a remarkably short time for a still private collection, WEAM has developed one of the world’s most renowned permanent museums for this genre.
Today the WEAM Collection includes over 4000 works of international art, ranging from 300 BCE to the immediate present. In terms of its quality, diversity and incomparable profile of erotic art, the WEAM stands out clearly from other museum collections.
Alongside its mission to familiarize the general public with erotic art, the WEAM’s other prime objective is the ongoing expansion of its Collection. We collect, preserve and present works of erotic art of the highest quality from diverse cultures. We embrace our responsibility to engage and educate our community, to contribute to cultural knowledge of erotic art in history.”
Entrance fee is 15 USD.
If Traveling With Kids Visit Jungle Island and the Orangutan School
Jungle Island is a zoo halfway between Miami Beach and downtown. Of all the activities there is one that stands out above the rest, and that is being able to become an Orangutan teacher for a while. You’ll be able to get past the outer fence and play with the animals, but don’t get your hopes high as you will not be able to go inside the cage with them- a friendly squeeze from them could break your ribs and kill you.
Visit Little Havana and Join a Food Tour
A lively, family-friendly neighborhood, it is one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods. Learn about traditional, rustic Cuban cuisine by tasting and walking your way through the must-visit street in the area — Calle Ocho. Learn about the area’s history and culture while tasting Cuban foods that have been prepared by the same families from recipes handed down through generations. Meet local artists, watch cigar rollers and take a peek at Domino Park – all while getting the insights of a vibrant Miami neighborhood.
Everglades Alligator Farm
You’ve heard about them, you’ve seen them on TV and now you have to see them in their environment too. At alligator farm you’ll get to watch a couple of shows meant mostly for children in which you will learn a bit about their habits and feeding, but most exciting of all you can hop on an airboat tour of the Everglades. These are a lot of fun and on a good day offer a unique view of the Everglades, but at just over 15 minutes I felt they are a bit too short. By the way, if you don’t want to get wet stay away from the first row!
Sample Grape-less Wines at Schnebly Redlands Winery
This winery in Miami’s Redland tropical countryside offers tours and wine tastings around natural coral waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical foliage. Visitors can compare the taste of lychee, passion fruit, carambola, guava and mango wines, just to name a few, and in case you’re wondering I was pleasantly surprised. This is the southernmost winery in the Continental U.S., handcrafting tropical wines without using grapes. The Grand Tasting Room has a Southern plantation agricultural style. The building is 5,000 square feet and has a view of the tropical courtyard, waterfalls, winery and Grand Tiki, and they’re also now brewing their own beer!
Visit Monkey Jungle
In this unusual wildlife park humans are caged and monkeys run wild! Home to nearly 400 primates you’ll get to see (and if lucky even play with) quite a few of them. During an exhibition you will also learn about them and even see them swim into a pond (uhh, yeah, throwing food as bait is the reason). Because of its location I would recommend you visit in when returning from the alligator farm or on the way there as it is not close to Miami Beach.
Visit Coral Castle Museum
From 1923 to 1951, Edward Leedskalnin single-handedly and secretly carved over 1,100 tons of coral rock to build a castle for a girl he fell in love with, and his unknown process has created one of the world’s most mysterious accomplishments. His work did not win her heart, but remains today as an incredible piece of history that will certainly make you wonder how a 5 ft man weighing barely 50 kg could accomplish such a masterpiece. Open every day, the Coral Castle Museum welcomes visitors from around the world to explore this enchanting South Florida destination.
There is much more to Miami than the nightlife and beaches, the city having entertainment for both independent travelers and those traveling with family. While it is true that you will need private transportation to visit all of the places mentioned here there are several within walking distance of all hotels in South Beach, keeping you busy for at least a couple of days. Most of the attractions have a fee, check the websites of each below to get updated information.
Car2Go website www.car2go.com
Art Deco free tours www.mdpl.org
World Erotic Art Museum www.weam.com
Jungle Island website www.jungleisland.com
Little Havan Food Tours website www.miamiculinarytours.com
Everglades Alligator Farm website www.everglades.com
Schnebly Redlands Winery www.schneblywinery.com
Monkey Jungle website www.monkeyjungle.com
Coral Castle Museum www.coralcastle.com
Have you been to Miami? How many of these attractions have you seen, or which would you like to experience next time you go? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you think readers will find it useful!
My trip to Miami was possible thanks to the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. This said all opinions and photos in this post remain, as always, entirely my own.