Welcome to Miami, Florida
Beneath the tropical sun, Miami, Florida is a cosmopolitan city—a city of contemporary art and international food, cutting-edge music and all-night dance parties. With one of the tallest skylines in the country, its shimmering skyscrapers rise from the low-lying swamps of South Florida and tower over the Atlantic. It’s a place where generations of Cubans and Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans and Haitians, Nicaraguans and Colombians—and many more—have come and created a thrillingly multicultural metropolis with a distinctly Latin-imbued, Caribbean-hued flavor. For an insider’s look at the city, we asked locals what to do when you visit. Here are some favorites:
Home to some of the city’s most colorful walls and most delicious food, locals say your first stop in Little Haiti should be Naomi's. This modest takeout window serves too-good-to-be-true Haitian staples with zero pretense. Locals advise ordering the curry chicken, sweet plantains, or fish—steamed or fried, snapper, grouper or Kingfish—and eating out back in the garden, where you can sit beneath the palms, chickens clucking at your feet, as you devour “the best rice ever.” Do not, we repeat—do not—forget a glass of passion fruit juice to wash it all down.
Part record store, part vegan cafe, and part community space, Little Haiti’s Sweat Records is wrapped in a mural of musical greats, sells records and rock t-shirts, and hosts DJ sets and art shows. Next door to the infamous punk club, Churchill’s Pub, Sweat has had everyone from Iggy Pop to Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye browse its bins. For vinyl lovers looking to spin a set of their own, locals recommend the Vinyl Social Club’s Friday night party: 12-16 deejays, with decks (and $3 beer) open to all.
Two on Two Wheels
Flat, sprawling, and blessed with year-round sunshine, Miami is a terrific bike town. Whether you’re grabbing a Citi Bike from one of the dozens of docking stations in Downtown and Miami Beach or renting a cruiser, tandem, kid’s bike, or child’s seat from South Beach’s Bike and Roll, this is a city that relishes a leisurely cruise. Try the Commodore Trail, which travels five miles—along South Miami Avenue, Bayshore Drive, Main Highway and Douglas Road—through one of Miami’s most gorgeous and historic ‘hoods: breezy, shady Coconut Grove. Or, if you’re feeling flashy, deck yourself out in your most stylish duds, strap on a pair of skates or blades (for rentals, hit Fritz’s), and head to the boardwalk for some high-speed, only-in-South Beach people-watching.
Miami’s a party town, a nightlife capital where you can dance to salsa, dancehall (Jamaican pop music), or hip hop every night of the week. The best place to meet Miamians, according to locals themselves, is “dancing under lights.” For a quintessentially South Florida experience (the city is more than 50% Cuban-American), head to Little Havana’s historic main drag: 8th Street is where you’ll find community theaters, people playing dominoes, and families lining up for traditional Cubano-style ice cream at Azucar Ice Cream Company. The street is the hub for the annual Calle Ocho Festival—the largest Hispanic festival in the U.S., with 20 blocks of food and dancing, and 12 stages of music. For year-round Salsero Sundays, Mambo Mondays, rumba, jazz, and lady's night karaoke—plus themed-cocktails in a former gambling den and mobster hangout—head to the iconic, circa 1930s Ball & Chain nightclub.
Weird Science, Righteous Art
Home to the outrageous and outsized Art Basel annual art show, Miami is huge in the international contemporary art scene. The Design District’s new Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is an effort to scatter some of that brilliance across the calendar. The gallery has a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden, works by both big names and emerging artists, and—maybe best of all?—is free. Meanwhile, 10 minutes south in Downtown’s Museum Park, Frost Science is three museums in one: a planetarium, aquarium, and science museum. Big and ambitious, the Frost is also a lot of fun. Kids will go wild for the museum’s 30-foot-long feathered dinosaur, its interactive dance floor, and its aquarium elevators that look like yellow submarines—and will transport them beneath the water’s surface, where they can stare down Hammerhead sharks, face-to-face.
Street Art Central
Locals call the former warehouse district of Wynwood “a one-stop shop” for a taste of what Miami’s all about. Wynwood Walls has blazing murals by internationally-known graffiti and street artists that practically beg for a selfie. Recently, Miami’s most fashionable district has begun luring upscale shops from Europe and other US outposts like New York City and Los Angeles to Wynwood and the neighboring Design District, which features amazing street art on every block, including a massive, wraparound exterior mural by Polish artist 1010. The façade will change bi-annually to highlight a new artist every two years. How cool is that?
While in Wynwood, locals suggest a stop at the hip new Asian marketplace 1-800-Lucky: a 10,000-square-foot food hall with a record store, a bodega, a collection of trendy Asian-inspired “food stations,” and a bumping hip hop soundtrack directed from the DJ booth within. You’ll be tempted by everything from soup dumplings (Yip) to California-style poke (Poke OG) to crazy ice cream concoctions, including the built-for-Instagram Unicorn Boat at Taiyaki, the shop famous for irresistibly cute fish-shaped cones.