In many ways, Miami combines the best traits of America’s big metropolises. It parties till 5 a.m. like New York City, it’s got sun-kissed beaches rivaling those of Los Angeles, and it gets down with diversity like Houston. At the same time, one of the most appealing things about Magic City is that it’s culturally much closer to Latin America than it is to any city in the U.S.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect city—after all, local politics are corrupt, the traffic truly sucks, and those shockingly sweet frozen drinks on South Beach are a total rip-off. But if you know how to do Miami right (and maybe if you speak a little Spanish), it’s one of the best damn vacation destinations in the country. In the past new decade, the city’s totally shed its reputation as a town of bottle service and strip clubs—though that’s all still there—and reinvented itself as a hub for contemporary design and art (hello, Art Basel), forward-thinking food and cocktail culture, and electronic music. And travelers from all around the world have caught on: 2018 was a record-breaking year for Miami tourism, with visitors from Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia making up the lion’s share.
Yet for all the constant change, Miami’s heart is still very much intact—from its legendary dive bars and campy gay nightclubs to its magical beaches and the rich cultural fabric of Little Havana’s Cuban-American enclave. And even with the looming, existential threat of climate change, Miami is a feel-good city that knows how to keep the party going.
Planning a trip to the 305? Here’s the VICE guide to Miami.
NEIGHBORHOODS WE LOVE
It’s flashy, it’s colorful, and it’s often very weird—but that’s what we love about America’s most iconic waterfront. While it’s referred to as “beach,” it’s actually a miniature city in and of itself, known for legendary beach resorts and well-preserved historic Art Deco architecture. Here, many of the city’s most well-known hotels and restaurants are clustered along the coast, which is broken down into the locally-beloved North Beach, up-and-coming Mid-Beach, and of course, the tourist central that is South Beach.
For tourists, the party’s mostly happening down in South Beach with all its legendary clubs like Nikki Beach, Mango’s Tropical Cafe, and Twist. Perhaps most notable of these is LIV, a rite of passage for locals and visitors alike. Thankfully, they’re all pretty close to Miami’s best hotels, including both longtime staples like the Delano as well as trendy newcomers like the cute and affordable Generator Miami hostel and the wildly blinged-out Faena Hotel.
Street art heads should head to the Wynwood Arts District, where the Wynwood Walls have been drawing locals and tourists alike with graffiti and murals from the likes of Ron English and Shepard Fairey. Once you’ve checked out the art, wait in line for a cold brew at Panther Coffee, a Miami-based specialty coffee company, or grab lunch at shared-plates hotspot Beaker & Gray, which is set in a former factory space.
Located just west of Downtown Miami, the city’s storied Cuban-American neighborhood should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Miami. Stroll down the famous Calle Ocho strip, between 12th and 27th Avenues, and immerse yourself in the culture at local Cuban coffee shops or outdoor fruit stands. And if you’re visiting in March, be sure to check out Calle Ocho Festival—the biggest street party in the country with over 1 million attendees coming to dance in the street and catch performances from Latin America’s superstars.
Soaring rents in Wynwood drove many galleries down to this colorful Caribbean enclave that’s home to some 30,000 Haitian-Americans, many of whom sought asylum in the 1980s. Geek out over French-Creole literature at the Libreri Mapou, or walk north from 54th Street to find tons of murals that tell the story of Haitian culture. Oh, and definitely check out Botanica Negra Francisca for all your Santería needs—including perfumes, incense, candles and religious figurines.
Developed in the early 2000s, the fresh-faced and fashionable Miami Design District connects Wynwood to Little Haiti and the Upper East Side. Shopping is the main activity here: we recommend a visit to En Avance, a luxury womenswear boutique that’s been showcasing global brands and labels for over two decades.
With an ever-growing skyline of towering buildings, Miami’s city center has been slowly transformed from its colorful 1980s self to a refurbished modern hub of museums, restaurants, and bars. Play tourist at the neighborhood’s most iconic building, Freedom Tower, which has been called the “Ellis Island of the South,” complete with exhibits about Cuban refugees and the Cuban diaspora. If outdoor time is more your thing, head to Bayfront Park, a waterfront green space on Biscayne Bay.
It’s a long-but-worth-it trek to Coral Gables, a historic city near Miami developed during pre-Prohibition times. The walkable area is home to the famed Venetian Pool, a historic public pool—in fact, the largest freshwater pool in America—built in 1924. For shopping and dining, hit the pavement on Coral Way’s Miracle Mile, chock full of designer boutiques and bridal stores. And for a slice of history, check out the Coral Gables City Hall—a Mediterranean Revival-style building built in 1927 and registered with the US National Register of Historic Places.
A hop-skip from Coral Gables, this boho-chic neighborhood offers a visual departure from the pastel-hued Art Deco buildings of South Beach. If you make it out here, stop at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, an Italian Renaissance-inspired villa built in the early 1900s and filled with tons of antiques and art dating back to the 16th century. For outdoor-loving visitors, there are open-air farmers’ markets, parks, and The Kampong, a nine-acre botanical garden.
Hialeah & Opa-Locka
If you head west of Dade County and stop just short of the alligators, you'll find a new-ish arts scene budding in the adjacent communities of Hialeah and Opa-Locka, as ridiculous rents in more central areas have pushed art makers and young scenesters out west. While you're visiting the "Leah Arts District," make a stop at the Ali Baba–themed Opa-Locka City Hall, the most recognizable structure in the wonderland of Moorish and Islamic Revival architecture that is Opa-Locka.
Homestead is far—like, really far from everywhere else in Miami. But the thing is, you drive through it on your way to the Keys or the Everglades, so you might as well stop because it's really the only place to get good Mexican food in South Florida. And there's Robert Is Here, an old-time tropical fruit stand selling really fucking good shakes. It also randomly has farm animals and vintage tractors, because Florida.
BASIC ETIQUETTE (HOW TO ACT)
Once you land in Miami, you’re no longer in America, and you better recognize it. As Miami locals JT and Yung Miami, a.k.a. City Girls, declare on their summer anthem: “Act up, you can get snatched up.” That’s the attitude in Miami—be yourself, be cool, but don’t be acting up. (For a quick primer on Miami-isms, the “Shit Miami Girls Say” video is still great required viewing.)
As far as general etiquette goes, don’t: get mad if people are late; that’s just part of the lifestyle. Do: kiss on both cheeks when you meet up with someone. Attire-wise, the city’s pretty laid-back, given the sweltering heat. Dress for the weather, and remember you can never be too colorful. Rock some Cuban links if you want to fit in. Male, female, or non-binary, you don’t really have worry about covering up—Miami loves to see some skin.
WHERE TO STAY
Generator Miami The first stateside outpost of Europe’s beloved Generator chain of dressed-up hostels, this property takes over part of a 1940s apartment complex with affordable private or shared rooms plus cute communal spaces. There’s a pool in the backyard, which also leads to the hotel bar, Driftway—order a frozen wine cocktail here and kick up your feet on a cabana for the full experience.
Freehand Hotel The O.G. “high-end hostel,” the Freehand is known for its pocket-friendly rates and thoughtful amenities. Think an outdoor terrace with a pool, not one but two cocktail bars, and a really great seasonal restaurant.
Cadillac Hotel Beach Club For the quintessential Miami backdrop—at half the cost of pricier resorts—consider the Cadlillac Hotel. Re-opened last year after a major renovation, this old-school resort was originally designed by Art Deco visionary Roy France in 1940. The suites are fairly large, offering a distinct Mediterranean vibe. When you’re not at the pool, hang out at the awesome beachside bar, Bungalow by the Sea.
Faena Hotel Be ready to splurge at the Faena, the brainchild of Argentina’s own “Great Gatsby,” Alan Faena, who’s breathing new life into Miami with a plethora of namesake concepts in Miami Beach’s mid-beach neighborhood. The star of the Faena portfolio, this luxurious resort is trimmed with a colorful array of art pieces, including artist Damien Hirst’s giant gold-plated woolly mammoth housed in a bulletproof glass case. Rooms are Art Deco-focused with pops of animal print and color, while on-site restaurants include Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s asado-centric Los Fuegos.
Delano South Beach Designed by Philippe Starck and housing a bunch of his work, the Delano did a ton in putting Miami on the scene back in the 90s. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the South Beach landmark is still a head-turner—minimalist but redone with baller chandeliers, pop art, and tons of old-school glamor. I mean, the swimming pool is still called the “water salon.”
The Standard Miami Sitting on an island in Biscayne Bay, The Standard is decidedly more relaxed than those that are smack in the middle of South Beach. You’re basically guaranteed a stress-free stay here, with an indoor-outdoor hydrotherapy spa experience. To eat and drink, there’s a juice café and terrace, a lobby bar and lounge, and the Lido Bayside Grill with plenty of outdoor seating.
1 Hotel South Beach You won’t miss a view at this eco-friendly hotel: It’s got the only oceanfront rooftop on South Beach and 600 feet of private beach below. The design ethos merges outdoor and indoor, with vertical gardens and greenery lining the lobby and plenty of natural wood accents to tie things together. There are four pools on-site, each offering sun and views of the beach.
COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach Sitting in Miami’s Art Deco district, this luxury hotel takes over a preserved 1930s building that’s been protected by the city’s Historic Preservation Board. They’ve got an impressive on-site spa with massages and a rooftop hydrotherapy pool as well as an on-site restaurant, Traymore, where chef Michael Schwartz spotlights Floridian flavors with Southeast Asian influences.
Dream South Beach Sitting on Collins Avenue steps away from the Versace Mansion, this 107-room, Art Deco-inspired hotel offers a prime base for exploring Miami’s trendiest neighborhood. The hotel’s restaurants and bars include Naked Taco, the coffee-centric Bar Mañana, and the rooftop lounge Highbar.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Beyond art and nightlife, it’d be worth visiting Miami for the food alone. The dining scene is in a constant state of flux, with Cuban and Haitian staples joining a movement of new-American dining driven by big-name chefs. Miami’s food and drink skews toward warm weather, spotlighting local fruit and seafood. And in the past decade or so, the city’s also given birth to its own distinct cocktail culture. Here are some of the highlights.
Sweet Liberty This is likely Miami’s best cocktail bar; it’s certainly the most well-known within the cocktail industry. The late John Lermayer was the brains behind the super creative drinks here, and his legacy lives on with the bartenders he mentored and the space he created. Stop by for throwback jams, seriously good beet-pickled deviled eggs, and one of the best piña coladas you’ll ever try.
Mac’s Club Deuce Not much has changed at Deuce, one of America’s most storied dive bars (that are still standing). Bought by WWII vet Mac Klein in 1963, it’s miraculously managed to keep its prime real estate just a stone’s throw from the ocean. The crowd here is a bizarre mix of celebrities and South Beach locals, who come for cheap beers and a game of pool.
La Sandwicherie The move before or after Club Deuce is to grab a sandwich at this late-night favorite. The open-air counter will whip up a sandwich made exactly to your liking. Just choose a protein, cheese, and veggies on a baguette or croissant. Signature combinations include the SOBE club (turkey, brie, avocado) and the Frenchie (French salami, brie).
Joe's Stone Crab This buttoned-up dining room is arguably the most famous restaurant on Miami Beach. The restaurant opened in 1913 and is still family-run. Joe’s doesn't accept reservations, but the hour-long (on average) wait is worth it when you crack open your first claw and dig out that sweet meat.
Yambo Wedged between a car wash and an auto parts shop, this iconic SW First Street restaurant is what Miami locals and their abuelitas call una fritanga. (Basically, a working-class eating spot that serves traditional down-home Nicaraguan grub.) But unlike the Magic City's many other perfectly serviceable fritangas, the ambiance at Yambo goes way beyond "Central American hospital cafeteria." This place is a quaintly kaleidoscopic eye-fuck of Nica knickknacks, patriotic statuary, and trippy folk art. Oh, and the food is fucking delicious too. Just memorize the following phrase: "Carne asada con gallo pinto, maduros, y queso, por favor." (Translation: Gimme two chunks of grilled beef, please, with rice & beans, sweet plantain, and fried cheese.)
Pinolandia Pinolandia is one of the best Nicaraguan fritangas in Miami. Located in Little Havana, this low-key spot offers classic Nica dishes: carne asada, gallo pinto, queso frito—all satisfyingly served, as it should be, on styrofoam plates. Be sure to get extra helpings of the ensalada de repollo if you're into really good coleslaw. (Life tip: You should be into really good coleslaw.)
Cafe La Trova Little Havana is undergoing a cultural revival, the best part of which is being led by locals. At this new gastro-minded cocktail bar, world-famous cantinero Julio Cabrera has teamed up with chef Michelle Bernstein to fuse classic Cuban bartending with modern cocktail culture. Find upmarket takes on staples (lechon con chicharrones, arroz con pollo) to be washed down with classic Cubano cocktails or one of Cabrera’s original creations. A favorite is the La Chancleta, a cachaça-based refresher served in a real chancleta, or slipper.
Ball & Chain Built in Little Havana in the 1930s, this Calle Ocho jazz bar briefly shuttered before reopening in 2014 with fun cocktails. There’s also an outdoor stage for live music, tons of art and photographs, and a totally serviceable food menu.
Versailles Restaurant Billed as “the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant,” Versailles has been a Little Havana mainstay since 1971. Once an unofficial gathering place for Cuban exiles to talk politics, the quirky diner makes a fantastic Cuban sandwich and empanadas.
Prime 112 This hallowed, French-accented steakhouse has been a see-and-be-seen destination for years—catering to celebs and the jetset. If you’re ready to ball out, head to the South of Fifth neighborhood for duck frites, beef sliders, and truffled lobster mac and cheese.
Kaido In the trend of today’s cocktail bars, Kaido is billed as a cocktail bar, but it serves a menu more diverse and well-executed than many restaurants. A joint effort between Miami hitmaker Brad Kilogre and barman Nico de Soto, the Japanese-inspired lounge offers things like egg and sushi tartare rice bowls and Wagyu beef bao.
Alter Brad Kilgore’s progressive American restaurant helped put Miami on the map in recent years. Despite offering a tasting menu in five or seven courses, the restaurant is pleasantly casual—set in an industrially-trimmed space perfect for the Wynwood neighborhood. Its tropically-accented adjacent bar Bar Alter, is equally well-executed, offering a selection of innovative house cocktails alongside large-format punches and riffs on classics.
27 Restaurant & Bar Located within the Freehand Hotel, this lowkey homestyle restaurant bridges Miami’s Latin flavor with Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisines. Try the local catch crudo, lamb ribs, or DIY arepa platter. And save room for dessert—this is comfort food done right. Once you’re done, pop over next door to Broken Shaker for a nightcap.
Itamae Part of the Design District’s ongoing facelift includes fantastic new restaurants. This family-run counter spotlights Nikkei Peruvian fare—that is, the traditional fusion food of Peru’s sizable Japanese population. Helming the kitchen is Fernando Chang and his kids Valerie and Nando, rising stars who’ve been recognized by the prestigious James Beard Foundation. Not to be missed are the various tiradito made with fresh seafood, avocado, onions, and traditional sauces like citrusy leche de tigre.
Swan Pharrell (yes, that Pharrell) and mogul David Grutman bring modern European dining to Wynwood and the Design District. The Instagrammable, vaguely Mediterranean decor is the perfect setting for your high-priced steak tartare and stuffed rigatoni.
Jaguar Sun Downtown Miami is rapidly on the rise, with new concepts opening at an alarming rate. Boston bartender Will Thompson saw an opportunity in the neighborhood, opening up this fantastic year-old bar that serves up fantastic cocktails—like a sherry-passionfruit martini—alongside seasonal pastas and daily seafood crudo.
Tigertail + Mary Opened by Michael Schwartz of longtime Miami favorite Michael’s Genuine, this new Coconut Grove restaurant is vegetable-focused—spotlighting plant-based ingredients alongside thoughtfully-sourced seafood and humanely-raised animals. Order a pressed eggplant sandwich or a peach and speck pizza.
El Santo Taqueria Taking its design cues from Mexico’s Lucha Libre culture, this brand new Little Havana cantina includes a taqueria, 80-seat formal dining room, and hidden cocktail lounge called Don Diablo. Choose from tacos like short rib or al pastor before heading down to the lounge, where an antique chapel piano serves as the DJ booth.
Palacio de los Jugos The Palacio de los Jugos is best described as a Cuban open-air market and restaurant. The classic yellow and red awnings contain various vendors providing everything from just-picked coconuts, fresh tropical juices (we're talking everything: watermelon, mango, mamey, etc.), and many other foods and desserts that'll leave you saying "que rico."
La Palapa Hondurena This hole-in-the-wall Honduran restaurant off Biscayne Boulevard has amazing food that you'll sound cool as hell ordering, like baleada con carne y papusa de chicharrone y queso. (Say it 10 times, fast!) It also gets lit on the weekends with DJs and live music, and it usually has soccer playing on the TVs.
Schnebly Redland's Winery & Brewery Just a half hour drive from the towering high rises of Miami lies Homestead (See: Neighborhoods We Love), Miami's own farming community. It's also home to Schnebly Redland's Winery, where tropical fruits like guava and mango are turned into wine. The winery is also home to Miami Brewing Company and the Redlander restaurant. This gorgeous, yet casual restaurant features hyper local grub like tabbouleh made with spent grains from the beer making process and fish just caught that morning from the Florida Keys.
Miami sports are relatively young in comparison with other large television markets and other grand cities of America. With the exception of the Miami Dolphins, the other major franchises—Marlins and Heat—are less than 35 years old. Despite that, there are plenty of diehard fans here, enough to balance out the bandwagon idiots.
You should go where the Heat play, if just to witness it, because AmericanAirlines Arena is full of people dressed like they're going to the club. (To. The. Nines.) But if not, the best place to watch the game by a million miles has always been Mike's at Venetia Restaurant and Irish Pub.
Even though they have, without question, the best unofficial theme song in the entire MLB courtesy of sad Creed frontman Scott Stapp, the Marlins are absolute garbage, and to root for them almost means you hate the city. They play at Marlins Park. There aren't really any Marlins' bars, per se. Almost 100 percent of the time, if you ask people to put a Marlins game on at a bar, they think you're kidding.
Hard Rock Stadium—whose previous names have included Joe Robbie Stadium and Sun Life Stadium—still has our hearts—even if the Dolphins are being run by human piece of lint Stephen Ross. The best place to watch the Dolphins would be the early 1970s. Second best place would be Shuckers. Third best place would be on a yacht with DJ Khaled. Don't watch the Dolphins unless you're getting beered up at Shuckers. They will only leave you cold, alone, and 6–10.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Putting your vapid Miami Vice fantasies of the Magic City to rest has been the mission of a generation of millennials and settled-down Gen-Xers who chose to stay in this sunny town instead of fleeing to New York or Los Angeles. They met their goal of creating strong, supportive art, music, fashion, and foodie scenes in a town mostly known for the quality of its cocaine.
And since Art Basel sat its fat art ass on Miami Beach over a decade back, culturally, the city has blossomed from a backyard garden to an all-out jungle. There's always been something completely other to do in Miami, and those weird-o roadside attractions withstood the test of time, but nowadays, the city has plenty of legit cool galleries, contemporary art collections, world-class museums, and cultural affairs that mentally and visually transport you to tropical Caribbean islands. Yes, go to Miami Beach; that shit is amazing. The water is piss warm in November. It's heavenly. But don't miss all of the other feats of cultural genius that have sprouted from the minds and hands of Miami's weirdest and most ambitious creators.
South Beach If you’re staying at a hotel on South Beach, chances are they have access to their own beach area. And if not, there’s plenty of public sand to go around. Pro-tip: There’s a party-friendly gay area around 12th Street. And for a more quiet option, head all the way down to the South of Fifth area (below 5th Street)—the southernmost tip of the island, South Pointe, is surrounded by water on all three sides and has a cute boardwalk.
The Everglades South Florida has one of the most unique water systems on the planet, the Everglades. Now, you can take your chances with the sawgrass, mosquitoes, and gators by canoeing there, or you can just hit up the Miccosukee Indian Village for a very loud but intimate airboat ride. The boats are driven by locals so familiar with the landscape that they see an overlay of a roadmap on what looks like an endless river of grass. The Village also has a bit of alligator wrestling for the kiddies. You usually get to pet a baby gator yourself, so it's worth a trip.
The HM69 Nike Missile Base Built in Everglades National Park right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, this decommissioned missile base once had nukes aimed at Havana. It's one of the few places where you can enjoy one of the most unique ecosystems in the world while also contemplating the prospect of total annihilation. Guided tours of this creepy Cold War relic are given from December to April.
Ocean Drive You would be a fool not to take in all the ridiculousness of the beachside strip of Ocean Drive. South Beach may be like that tacky old stereotypical aunt you're not sure your friends will like, but her tasteless jokes and faux pas are what make her so special. And you can enjoy a drag brunch with insane acrobatics by experienced drag queens and unlimited mimosas at Palace Bar across the street.
Haulover Beach It's hot in Miami, so your wang and other unmentionables will want some air. Don't bring them out in public unless you're on Haulover Beach. This naturist enclave is at the northernmost tip of the county and has a gay and straight side, so sun accordingly.
Monkey Jungle The only really good reason to travel by car in the US are the roadside attractions. Miami has its share, but the most spectacular oddities have to be at Monkey Jungle, where you're the one caged and the monkeys run free.
Coral Castle Coral Castle, an outdoor structure with a throne, half moons, and a Saturn made of coral rock was built by a tiny Latvian man in the 20s. It has one of the most bizarre, romantic, and possibly supernatural backstories of any attraction.
The Skunk Ape Headquarters The Skunk Ape is Florida's filthy version of Bigfoot. The Skunk Ape Headquarters is a kitschy "research" facility in Big Cypress National Preserve, dedicated to the hunt for the elusive hominid. Unlike its fresher, pinier-smelling Pacific cousin, the Skunk Ape reportedly smells like shit. Go to the headquarters for Skunk Ape swag and tours.
Jai alai at the Magic City Casino Besides being the name of a local poetry magazine, jai alai is a sport originally from the Basque region. Dudes with xisteras (curved bat things) swing a ball at crazy speeds against a wall, (usually) barely avoiding injury. Though we're not exactly sure how teams win, it's great to watch and bet on, especially when drinking cheap beer and yelling.
Super Wheels Super Wheels is a classic skating rink where many of us natives grew up booty dancing to Miami bass. Go if you're into cheesy neon and skating in a circle for hours. Watch out for the 10-year-old pros whizzing past you while skating backwards and teaching you how to dougie.
WHERE TO SEE ART & CULTURE
Ever since Art Basel Miami Beach crashed down on South Florida, the local art scene has become overwhelming. But that scene’s been innovating and creating since way before Basel was even a thought. And it goes strong year-round. Here, we’ve put together the essential stops.
Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) This eco-friendly Herzog de Meuron structure is instantly recognizable by its huge hanging gardens, situated on Biscayne Bay where dolphins leap. You can sit on the grand, but austere outdoor staircase to watch cruise ships float by or head inside for exhibitions featuring some of the bigger names in contemporary art like Doris Salcedo.
Institute for Contemporary Art Miami The ICA Miami is currently occupying the beautiful Moore space in the Design District while its new structure is being built. Kim Gordon played at its first-ever gala, and ICA's star curator Alex Gartenfeld is pulling in legit shows that have all eyes on Miami.
Wynwood Walls Your trip to Miami would be incomplete, or rather your Instagram feed would be, without a trip to the ever-popular, always dynamic Wynwood Walls. This outdoor museum of international street art brings large-scale murals to the public, open every day for free.
HistoryMiami As the name suggests, this Downtown Miami establishment chronicles Magic City through the years, from the development of certain neighborhoods and communities, to the famous stars and performers who’ve taken the stage in town.
The Bass Founded in 1964, Miami Beach’s preeminent contemporary art museum housed in a historic art deco space. Upon arrival, find Ugo Rondinone’s beloved, rainbow-hued sculpture Miami Mountain, set in the southeast corner of Collins Park. Inside, there’s a wide range of art and artifacts as well as regular film screenings and cultural conversations.
World Erotic Art Museum Need we say more? Fine: this South Beach museum pays homage to the sexual, nude, and taboo. It’s home to a six-foot-tall penis as well as the collection of famed erotic art collector Naomi Wilzig.
The Villa Casa Casuarina (a.k.a. The Versace Mansion) Now a hotel, the erstwhile home of the late, legendary Gianni Versace is still a main point of attraction when visiting Miami. Designed by Versace himself, the palazzo was done up in the Spanish Revival style, featuring extravagant touches like a Mediterranean mosaic garden.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Vizcaya may be the fanciest castle-like villa in town—it took James Deering nine years to build—but his less-pretentious brother Charles made a more humble but equally charming real estate investment. These days, it’s a museum open to the public.
Charles Deering Estate Down the road from Vizcaya is this three-story wooden house built in 1900 and overlooking a tropical paradise untouched by man. This place will blast your ass back to living in Florida in the 20s—and it feels the good kind of spooky. It's simple, it has breathtaking sunsets, and if you're rich and patient, you can get married there.
Locust Projects has been showcasing the area's best artists since 1998. The Little Haiti area is booming with worthwhile galleries like Spinello Projects. But little do many know, Miami has three of the largest private, contemporary art collections in the US on display. They are all within a mile of one another and function almost like museums. The De la Cruz Collection built out a huge structure in what has become the very high-end, posh shopping hood, the Design District. Two Wynwood originals and strongholds are the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection—all which demonstrate why it'd be cool to make a ton of money and buy all of your favorite art.
WHERE TO PARTY
As far as parties go, you really can’t beat South Beach. This where models flock, where mobsters ran mega clubs, and where most visitors spend most of their time. Truth be told, they're not in Miami. The City of Miami Beach is its own municipality, and it's actually an island unto itself, totally man-made 100 years ago. But it’s here that you'll find the most illustrious EDM party palaces and beach clubs.
LIV Set in the Fontainebleau, LIV is one of the world's most famous VIP-centric clubs, a haven for both big room house DJs and hip-hop superstars. Drake sings about it in "305 to My City." Expect celebrities, video vixens, bottle service, sparklers, and a fat tab by the end of the night. Its sister club Story is just as opulent, but caters to a deeper taste in house.
Story It’s quite the circus at Story, the sister venue to LIV. Famous DJs are never in short supply here, and with five full-service bars and premium bottle service, you’ll end the night properly sloshed and probably short at least a couple hundred bucks.
Treehouse For a more music-focused experience, opt for Treehouse, which looks like a dark jungle cave and plays awesome deep house and techno. The environment in Treehouse’s two rooms is more lowkey than at the more mainstream spots, letting the music speak for itself.
Mango’s Tropical Café Fuck it: go to Mango's for a drink but not food. This will be where you realize you're no better than anyone else in the world, and that salsa dancing kind of makes you horny. Shows start at 8:15 p.m. every night and include live performances of samba, salsa, and bachata. Employees dance on the bar. It’s a whole thing.
Saxony Bar This speakeasy is a newcomer to the scene, set in the opulent Faena hotel. Like the rest of the property, there’s a sense of Golden Age glitz and glamor here. And like the rest of Miami, the venue features a rotating list of live DJ sets alongside its fancy cocktails.
Twist Miami’s most iconic gay bar offers the chillest evening or the wildest night…and everything in between. With seven bars spread across three floors—and a different vibe in each—Twist keeps things fun with cheap drinks and barely-clothed dancers. “Never a cover, always a groove,” as they say.
Nikki Beach This South Beach institution—known as the first and original luxury beach club combining music with dining, fashion, and entertainment—celebrated its 20th anniversary just last year. Now with 13 clubs, 4 hotels and resorts, and a lifestyle division, the brand can be found all over the world from Ibiza to Koh Samui. But Miami’s flagship was the first, so don’t miss it.
Basement at the Edition This subterranean den has become a SoBe crown jewel thanks to its neon-lit bowling alley and ice skating rink. The entire venue is rigged with dramatic lighting, projection effects, and a state-of-the-art sound system, making sure it’s always a party.
WHERE TO SHOP
Miami is tacky and materialistic—that's not news to anyone who lives here or has visited the city. Or has any passing knowledge of it at all, really. Miami Vice certainly cemented the city's reputation for outlandish, if impractical, fashion. Even so,though, shopping around Miami is more about looking like you earn a drug lord-sized payout while shopping on a dime bag dealer budget. Places like Flamingo Shopping Plaza, a thrift shop mecca in the suburb of Hialeah anchored by a Red White & Blue and the Community Family Thrift Shop, have long been a locals-only secret. And it's not unheard to find high-end brands among the mountains of clothes there.
Over in the Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti, Little Haiti Thrift & Gift Store also offers someone else's discarded threads but without having to wade through the stretched out and discolored brands from your local mall. Instead, the shop keeps it simple and better organized in case you lack the willpower of trying not to elbow someone's abuela while thrifting.
Fly Boutique After serving as a landmark vintage shop in Lincoln Mall for over 20 years, this meticulously curated store moved to MiMo (Miami Modern) to provide customers the same treasure finds in a bigger space. The perfect place to wait out a Florida afternoon monsoon, there’s seemingly endless aisles of jewelry, bags, clothes, and home furnishings both at thrift and designer prices. You can walk out with $20 vintage bell-bottoms and $300 platforms from Ferragamo’s 1974 collection. The owners Jean Marie and Max give the famously brusque Miami a bad rap with their gracious help.
Yesterday & Today Records Yesterday & Today Records is where to head when your usual record shop doesn’t have what you’re looking for. Yesterday & Today has a large collectable & reissued selection, though they just have a big record selection in general. The walls are lined with every genre you could want to hear, and some you don’t, so don’t be shy to ask for help in locating that needle-in-a-haystack. If the hysterics are right and Miami’s coast really starts to sink, this place has enough vinyl to build a seawall around the entire state.
Books & Books For those Miamians looking for a good beach read, book signings with actually notable authors, and a surprisingly awesome cafe, head to Books & Books. The store does a great job of creating an inclusive environment, something that hasn’t always been the status quo in literature.
BASE Superstore Walk down South Beach and you’ll see the scourge of deep v-necks and visually offensive Ed Hardy shirts that have somehow remained through the years. If you’re looking to step up your fit, head over to BASE Superstore, which has been a style tastemaker in the city since 1989. BASE carries a rotating selection of trendy international brands, from streetwear like Kid Robot to more traditional brands like Carhartt.
Miami Twice This is the original vintage store of Miami and its dumb, punny name will go down in the annals of history. You can really find anything here—from throwback costumes to beautifully preserved Chanel handbags. Miami Twice also has a sizable contemporary selection targeting the cities more elusive subcultures.
Botanica Nena Miami’s rich cultural mix has resulted in several Afro-Carribbean religions and spiritualities finding traction in South Florida, and where religion comes capitalization follows. Botanicas are everywhere, peddling candles, oils, and religious iconography, but Botanica Nena rises above the rest. A convenient location in Little Havana draws many loyal customers looking for products to help their Santeria, Obeah, or just to admire. Miami already has pretty good energy, but if you want to protect from bad vibes you can find a crystal arsenal here that would make Zelda wet.
¡Ñooo! ¡Que Barato! Don’t come here expecting couture—Ño Que Barato roughly translates to “damn that’s cheap”— but this institution of Hialeah has every off-brand clothing item you’d need or want. From jeans to bata de casas (the house uniform of Miami grandmothers), this superstore will give you a glimpse into the real Miami, starting with the life-sized statue of San Lazaro that greets you at the door.
Alchemist This two-story fashion mecca sits on the fifth floor of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure, and you can tell from its glass-box appearance that whatever inside is pricey. Alchemist sits at the intersection of fashion, architecture, and contemporary lifestyle, featuring a premium-only selection hard to find elsewhere in the city. Givenchy, Rick Owens, and other avant-garde designers are mainstays of this temple to the extraordinary.
Simonett For a city claiming to be trend-setting, Miami has few homegrown designers not pushing the type of clothes you’d see Sofia Vergara in on Modern Family. Simonett Pereira, though, has made it her mission to save the city’s fashion scene from a hostile take-over of bodysuits and maxi dresses. Simonett first launched Style Mafia to offer affordable fashionable clothing, and now her eponymous label has grown to include a variety of chic comfortable pieces.
HOW TO GET AROUND
The jitney is almost the cheapest way to get around the city at $1.50 a ride. These big, white vans that run mostly north of Downtown Miami. There's no air conditioning, but the jitney driver will stop anywhere on his or her route if you ask.
But you'll probably want to either rent a car, or take your chances with Uber or Lyft. It's likely that, unless you hit surge charges, it'll all cost you the same as a rental. There is the MetroRail, which has a limited route running southwest to northwest and out to Miami International Airport. The Metrobuses run regularly, but they are not as cheap as you might think, at $2.25 a ride. Still, the interactions you'll have with folks are worth the extra quarters. Buses run from 4 a.m. to midnight.
To visit your bubbies in West Palm and Fort Lauderdale, the Tri-Rail is probably the fastest way to go. The omnipresent Deco Bike makes it easy for an eager cyclist to pedal through the swampy, flat terrain, dodging BMW drivers high on flakka the whole way.
Finally, there are boats and all sorts of vehicles that you can use to ride on waves. You can rent sailboats, canoes, surfboards, jet skis, or yachts. You can honestly rent airplanes to fly over the Everglades, too. You'll just have to decide if your budget is more beach bum or Kim and Kanye.
This story was originally published on February 17, 2016. It has since been updated to keep its recommendations current.