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.
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.
The famous Wynwood Walls attract quite a bit of attention and you can see why.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just be careful getting close to those babies. Mama can’t be far. Better not get too close to the water by the way!
You too could have this ridiculous Gator Selfie!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Hotels to Consider
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 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.
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.
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.
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!!