Local’s Guide to Miami

Miami is a city of over 400,000 people with a variety of interesting neighborhoods. Most tourists don’t venture beyond Miami Beach which is a great place to visit and well popularized on television and movies.

Read More: Ten Secret South Beach Locations 

For the brave souls who dare to make that long trek across the causeway to explore the vast unknown of the mainland, here are some ideas of where to start.

Wynwood

This is one of my favorite neighborhoods. An artsy, gritty neighborhood that is home to many art galleries and boasts impressive murals on the walls.

Miami Beyond South Beach

The famous Wynwood Walls attract quite a bit of attention and you can see why.

Miami

Miami

There are many great restaurants here too.

Wynwood Kitchen, which is pictured above behind the Wynwood Walls sign.

Freshii Healthy fast food, juices and smoothies

Panther Coffee One of the pioneer establishments in Wynwood. It still manages to maintain a bit of its hipster vibe, despite the popularity. 

Wood Tavern is a fun indoor/outdoor bar with a taco stand in the back.

Plant Food and Wine  A new foodie worthy vegan restaurant with a large gorgeous outdoor space that has  a Bali or Thai-esque feel to it.

Wynwood restaurants

Panther Coffee

 

The Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Cables

Shopping in Miami is plentiful and fabulous. The malls here are outstanding but I’m averse to the hassle of mall shopping.  Aventura Mall, which is probably your best bet for the maximum amount of stores and most diverse mix of price points, is absolute torture for me as far as traffic and parking. It’s not the mall’s fault, it’s Aventura’s (I call it Aventorture) fault. Look at me throwing Aventura under the bus. Sorry, not sorry!

Bal Harbor Mall is considered one of most beautiful malls in the world. However, the shopping is what I would call “Luxury on Steroids”. I could easily spend an entire paycheck on just one item in one store. It is gorgeous with great restaurants and how often do you get to hobnob with Russian mafia? It’s all part of the fun.

The Shops at Merrick Park has a perfect combination of beauty and great shopping. Flanked by Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus, this outdoor Mediterranean courtyard-style shopping mall is a pleasure to walk through, plus there are many good restaurants including Piripi,  and YardHouse .

miami

Merrick Park Miami

http://www.shopsatmerrickpark.com/en.html

 Vizcaya

This Italian style villa was once the winter home of James Deering, built in 1910. It is now a museum with gardens and is a National Historic Landmark.

Vizcaya

It is a lovely place to visit on a nice day. They also host a number of events including a Halloween and New Year’s Eve party. They also do High Tea on the Terrace from time to time. You can check their calendar for event information.

Vizcaya

www.vizcaya.org

The Everglades

The Everglades is a two million acre wetland ecosystem that reaches from central Florida, near Orlando, all the way south to Florida Bay. South Florida was at one time mostly Everglades but construction has aggressively encroached on this river of grass that is home to hundreds of animal species including the endangered panther, the manatee, 37 types of snakes, 350 types of birds and of course, Alligators!

This is why you often see Florida in the news because someone found an alligator in their pool. Well, you built a house in the Everglades homie! Duh!

There is a section of Everglades protected from further development and you can visit. These areas are also ancestral tribal lands of the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian Tribes.

Miami Wandering Redhead

There are tons of ways to explore the Everglades one of my favorites is to bike ride at Shark Valley. You can rent bikes easily and there is a 14 mile loop that takes you into alligator territory. Halfway through is an observation tower where you can look down into the water and view the creatures lurking beneath.  You are guaranteed to see TONS of alligators. They are literally everywhere. There are also beautiful birds and the scenery is tranquil nature lover’s paradise.

Miami Wandering Redhead
I think this is a Great Blue Heron??

Miami Wandering Red Head

Miami Wandering Redhead
There’s even baby gators!

Just be careful getting close to those babies. Mama can’t be far. Better not get too close to the water by the way!

Miami Wandering Redhead

You too could have this ridiculous Gator Selfie!

Miami WanderingRedhead

Just don’t get too close…they don’t seem friendly and I don’t recommend turning your back to them!

It’s also quite a hoot to take an airboat ride were you can really get into the heart of the Everglades and see even more gators.

Miami Wandering Redhead

One of the best airboat Everglade tours is done by the Miccosukee and is called Buffalo Tigers

You can learn more about both Indian Tribes, if you wish, by visiting their respective villages and various tours that they offer, some of which involve wildlife and of course, gators.  The links to both are below.

Seminole Village

Miccosukee Village

Oleta State Park

Oleta State Park is a short twenty-minute drive north of Miami and is a beautiful green getaway from the city. You can bike, hike, picnic or kayak.

Miami Wandering Redhead

Miami Wandering Redhead

 

Brickell/Downtown

Miami Wandering Redhead

Located directly on Biscayne Bay is the financial and business district of Miami. The Miami River cuts through and separates Downtown from Brickell. Brickell has been a hotspot for young professionals and Downtown is quickly catching up. Both have sparkling high-rise buildings and equally sparkly residents.  With the recent addition of the enormous Brickell City Center there will be even more shopping and dining.

Some of my favorite things to do in this neighborhood are:

Perez Art Museum  Beautiful museum with a great brunch at the restaurant Verde.

Ceviche 105  Modern and classic Peruvian cuisine that is a big hit with just about everybody.

River Yacht Club  You don’t have to have a yacht to drink or dine in swanky relaxed surroundings on the Miami River. They have a nice happy hour.

Locals Guide To Miami

Mary Brickell Village  Shopping, Eating, Bars, Nails, Hair, Gym, Massage and more. Beer & Burger, Taverna Opa and Doraku are my favorites.

River Oyster Bar   Hard to find amidst the construction but this is a local hotspot. Great food, classy but relaxed environment and good bar scene.

Zest A Caribbean inspired neighborhood joint with great happy hour specials and live reggae music.

Sugar at East  Located in the East Hotel at the brand spanking new City Center, this rooftop bar and garden is beautiful and the views spectacular, but it is relatively new so there’s usually a line. Bring your standing shoes! I’ve been twice and I must say that the bouncers are fairly polite. Thankfully they haven’t succumbed to South Beach levels of rudeness yet.

American Social  Indoor /Outdoor dining and bar with good food and a great scene. Located on the Miami River this is a the place to have outdoor happy hour or to watch a game. The Sunday brunch here is great as well.

BaysideMarketplace An outdoor waterfront mall with shopping and dining 

Local's Guide to Miami

Hotels to Consider

Intercontinental

JW Marriot

Epic

YVE Hotel

Find Your Perfect Hotel Here:


Booking.com

PLACES TO AVOID

Cantina la Veinte  You will wait minimum two hours even with a reservation and the 16-year-old girls working at the front will look at you like you haven’t bathed in weeks.

Seaspice   Unless you are a celebrity you will be seated far away from the fun part, even when the fun tables are empty for hours. Criminals seem to be in charge of this place so if that’s your thing and you like spending $30 on two bites of raw tuna…

Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne is an island just south of Brickell and north of Coconut Grove. The Miami Seaquarium is here but I currently am boycotting it until they release Lolita, known as the world’s saddest Orca, to a sanctuary. She currently resides in one of the smallest pools of any captive orcas. Shame on you Seaquarium. Also here is the tennis center, home to the annual Miami Open Tennis Tournament occurring every March.

Key Biscayne has beautiful beaches which are part of Crandon Park. This park is woodsy and the beaches more naturally lush than those on south beach. There are picnic tables and grills for use as well. There is even a dog beach.

Miami Guide

Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove is a lush, gorgeous, old Miami neighborhood known for a hippy vibe. You see everything here from small cottages to gated mansions. Coconut Grove has its own shopping, nightlife and restaurant scene.

Locals Guide to Miami

Some of my favorites:

Lokal Sustainably, locally sourced ingredients with a cool industrial vibe. LoKal is the 1st restaurant in Miami-Dade County to use 100% clean, renewable energy sourced from wind and solar power!

Bombay Darbar  This place is a gem, a diamond in the rough, aka one of two really good Indian restaurants in Miami-Dade county. Indian food and Asian food in general is tough to find in Miami.

Ariete A popular newcomer, they feature an innovative take on New American cuisine in an indoor-outdoor space

Bianco Gelato Fresh natural organic gelato and they even have vegan options

Peacock Garden Cafe  A classic Grove spot with a beautiful garden. Great for lunch or brunch on a nice day. Pictured above.

Greenstreet Cafe This has long been a locals’ favorite meeting place, a place to see and be seen, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. I would describe the food as upscale comfort. You never know who you’ll see here…a famous athlete, a politician, or maybe just your Mom. 

Read more:Insider Guide to Cheap South Beach Restaurants

I hope this helps next time you are in Miami or are a local looking for something to do. Miami is many things but boring is not one of them!!

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 Locals Guide to Miami

About The Author

csaradar

28 COMMENTS

  1. Lies | 24th Nov 16

    This is the guide I needed when I went to Miami in June! We only had 1 day but we had no isea what to do 🙂 We stayed at the intercontinental, which is a great hotel!

    • csaradar | 24th Nov 16

      Glad to hear you had a nice hotel. I live next door to the IC!

  2. thischicafrican | 24th Nov 16

    I really want to go to Miami one day. I don’t know if I’ll love it as much as I love Los Angeles though. How close were you to the alligator?

    • csaradar | 24th Nov 16

      Miami and LA are very different cities but they share palm trees and sunshine! The alligator was about 10 feet behind me!

  3. tatumskipper | 24th Nov 16

    Miami is my guilty pleasure! I absolutely love it there. My friends got their engagement pictures done at Vizcaya…it is like a fairy tale! I have never been to the shops in Coral Gables but they look so cute and fun…and I am kicking myself for never making it to the everglades either! I hear they have an awesome air boat tour!

    • csaradar | 24th Nov 16

      How funny to call it a guilty pleasure. I can totally see why! There is a ton to do here. You will have to visit more often:)

  4. carmyy | 24th Nov 16

    Great post! I’ve always wanted to head over to Miami! I love restaurant recommendations so I’ll be bookmarking this for later.

    • csaradar | 24th Nov 16

      One I know is my food 🙂

  5. Carly Wayward Heyward | 23rd Nov 16

    Oh man, I had the best time on an airboat tour down there! I’ll have to check out your restaurant selections emit time I’m in town before a Cruise!

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      Those airboats are super fun! Yes definitely stay a couple days before your next cruise:)

  6. Karlie | 23rd Nov 16

    This is a great guide! I had no idea there was an Italian villa in Miami. I often see photos of the Wynwood Walls on Instagram and I long to go there. Your croc photos are fabulous and only slightly terrifying 😉

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      The Italian Villa is quite strange! The alligators are kind of terrifying. Especially when I was taking a selfie and it moved behind me! Yikes!

  7. kylaandrandy | 23rd Nov 16

    Wow, what a great list!! I LOVE the “places to avoid” part…I think it’s just as important to know what NOT to do. Wynwood looks fantastic, and I can’t believe you got close enough to a gator for a selfie!!

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      Haha I have lived here long enough to know which places to avoid! As for the gator selfie, I cannot recommend that…it was actually scary! LOL

  8. Melinda | 23rd Nov 16

    Yikes! Those alligators are huge and close. I don’t think I could be that brave. The street art looks amazing. Good for you for boycotting the Seaquarium. It’s so sad to see beautiful creatures mistreated in captivity.

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      The gators are enormous. I wasn’t as close as it seems…I was too scared! The art is fabulous. I never get sick of it.

  9. A Resort Rendezvous | 23rd Nov 16

    Haha I love your comments about people building homes near the Everglades! It seems like such a large area to explore. How long were you there? Did you feel like it was enough time to see/do everything in the Everglades?

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      I live here so I have visited the Everglades several times You can see a lot in a day but if you want to do airboat tour, see alligators and explore via nature walks AND visit the native Indian tribe you probably need 2 days.

  10. Madi | Restless Worker | 23rd Nov 16

    I love Miami! Must go back soon, it’s not too far from Toronto 🙂

    • csaradar | 23rd Nov 16

      Nah, just down the street! LOL

  11. Taylor Fuller | 6th Nov 16

    I absolutely LOVE Wynwood. It’s such a cool area.

    • csaradar | 10th Nov 16

      Cool and colorful for sure:)

  12. Molly | 8th Oct 16

    Miami really surprised me. I absolutely loved being there. I visited the Everglades, Coral Gables, Downtown and stayed in the beautiful North Beach. Shopping was fabulous, the weather was perfect. I´d love to return sometime.
    One of the highlights was Vizcaya, it was stunning walking around the gardens there with the views over the bay.
    Before going all I knew about it was that it was a Beach/party place. So it surprised me to find so many other things to do there.

    • csaradar | 17th Oct 16

      Hey Molly! Thanks for the comments. I enjoy the non-beach non-party side of Miami and happy to see others who appreciate it as well! There is a ton to do. Let me know if you ever return!

  13. Alisha | 6th Oct 16

    Omg love the post! Miami and Cuba are high on my list for March.

    Alisha

    Saffrononrose.com

    • csaradar | 6th Oct 16

      Thanks! Anytime you need Miami tips I’m happy to help:)

  14. Cynthia | 19th Sep 16

    We have been wanting to take the boys to the Everglades and your tips are super helpful! I love that you included info on restaurants….bc food is a hot topic in our house on vacation, too!

    • csaradar | 19th Sep 16

      That’s great that you want to go there. It is very cool. Food is very important!!

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