The 20 Best Things to do in Miami For First Timers

Miami Beach

Glitzy, glamorous Miami is one of the world’s most endearingly popular tourist destinations – and for very good reason. Packed with a vast array of activities and attractions, it makes the perfect destination for families, seniors, singletons, and couples alike. Whether your perfect break involves catching a tan on a white sand beach, swimming with dolphins at one of the country’s premier aquariums, or browsing the art at a world-class museum, you’ll be sure to find what you want in this fun-packed city. If you’re in need of inspiration, check out our list of the 20 best things to do in Miami for first-time visitors.

he Miami Sea Aquarium

20. The Miami Sea Aquarium

If you’re traveling with the family, you’ll find the Miami Sea Aquarium an unbeatable destination. Dedicated to rehabilitating and rescuing Florida’s endangered manatees, the venue attracts thousands of visitors each year… and with its stunning array of tropical fish, sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and even alligators, it’s not hard to see why. For those who want to do more than just stare at the displays, there’s the chance to get involved with the “Swim with Dolphins” program and the extraordinary “Shark and Stingray Interactive Experience”.

Bayside Marketplace

19. Bayside Marketplace

For people-watching, souvenir hunting, wining, and dining, Bayside Marketplace is hard to beat. Ideally located between Bayfront Park, Miamarina and the PortMiami cruise ship terminal, there are enough shops and eateries to guarantee hours of fun. The cash strapped, meanwhile, can simply enjoy a few peaceful hours watching the comings and goings of the yachts in the marina.

Museum of Contemporary

18. Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami

Like art? Then you’ll love the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. Featuring a vast collection of artwork from both established and emerging artists, the museum is a paradise for modern art aficionados. The exhibits from Nam June Paik, Dan Flavin, and Louise Bourgeois are particularly impressive, and worth the $10 admittance fee alone.

Coral Castle Museum

17. Coral Castle Museum

Fans of curiosities will delight at the charmingly eccentric Coral Castle Museum. Created secretly by Ed Leedskalnin over the course of several decades, the museum is a testament to one man’s determination to develop something truly extraordinary- although how one man managed to move and carve 1,100 tons of rock without anyone knowing remains one of the museum’s biggest mysteries.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

16. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Spread across 83 acres, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in the country- and one of the best. Whether you take the free 45-minute narrated tram tour or make your own way around, you’ll find no shortage of treats in store. The butterfly garden is a rare delight of exotic flora and fauna, while the sunken garden is as unique as it is beautiful. Granted, with admittance coasting $25 for adults, $18 for seniors and $12 for kids, it’s not cheap, but few will regret the expense.

Dolphin Mall

15. Dolphin Mall

Some of Miami’s shopping outlets are so high end as to be intimidating- Dolphin Mall, on the other hand, is anything but. Located in an ideal spot near the Miami International Airport, it’s a great place to while away a few hours between flights, as well as the perfect spot to grab a bargain or pick up a few of those holiday essentials that never made it into your suitcase. Those with kids will also appreciate the family-friendly movie theater and various other child-friendly entertainment options on offer.

Bayfront Park

14. Bayfront Park

If you’re tired of traipsing the streets, head to Bayfront Park, an idyllic green space on Biscayne Bay that makes the perfect place to kick back and relax. For those who want to do more than lay on the grass and soak up the sunshine, there’s plenty of attractions and activities on offer, ranging from free yoga, movie nights and salsa classes to a flying trapeze school and concerts.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

13. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

As home to a vast array of art from the 15th to the 19th century, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens makes a lovely place to while away a few hours. Competing for attention with the unquestionably splendid art collections are picturesque grounds reminiscent of those belonging to European mansions of old. The house itself is also home to a charming collection of vintage furniture that you’ll long to pack up and take home with you. Open Wednesday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m, the museum charges an entrance fee of $22 for adults and $10 for children aged 6 – 12.

Brickell City Centre

12. Brickell City Centre

Want to indulge in some serious retail therapy? Then head to Brickell City Centre, a huge four-story, three-city block expanse of retail, dining and recreational opportunities. Despite being an outdoor venue, the center is climate controlled, making it a great place to escape the scorching heat of the city and browse the aisles of the 100 or so different stores on offer. It also makes a great place to treat yourself to some lunch, with the various dining options offering pretty much every type of cuisine you could wish for. Just bear in mind the center is largely centered around high-end stores, so unless you can restrict yourself to window shopping, get ready to blow a serious wad of cash.

Venetian Pool

11. Venetian Pool

If you want sunshine and water but can’t quite bring yourself to face the crowds at South Beach, head to Venetian Pool, a tranquil spot guaranteed to revive even the weariest. The 820,000-gallon pool is a refreshing wonder, eschewing chlorinated water in favor of spring water from an underground aquifer. The site’s stunning architecture and majestic surrounds (complete with 2 large historic lookout towers, loggias, porticos, palm trees, and several waterfalls) enhance the experience even further. In case of hunger strikes while you’re relaxing, the onsite café offers a great assortment of snacks and cold beverages.

Marlins Park

10. Marlins Park

For sports fans, no visit to Miami is complete without a trip to the legendary Marlins Park. As home to the Miami Marlins, the city’s Major League Baseball franchise, the park is the perfect place to enjoy the thrills of a game. Even if you’re not lucky enough to visit during the season, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy at the park, not least The Clevelander, a great spot for a drink, a bite to eat, or even a swim in the pool. Tours are also available, and at just $10 per person, it’s a more than worthwhile investment.

Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center

9. Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center

Anyone with an interest in the historical connections between Miami and Cuba (or really, just anyone who appreciates fine art and culture) should check out the Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center. As well as playing host to a huge collection of both pre-revolution and modern Cuban art, the center is a celebration of Cuban music and dance, offering plenty of opportunities for visitors to experience the eclectic charm and vibrancy of the country’s rich tradition in performance art. If you like what you see on your tour, you’ll be pleased to know the museum doubles up as a store… just be sure to bring plenty of cash with you.

HistoryMiami

8. HistoryMiami

Occupying more than 100,000 square feet and housing a huge collection of artifacts, relics, and collections detailing the rich history of South Florida in all its glory, HistoryMiami is a must-do for tourists. As well as hosting one of the largest Pan American World Airways collections in the world, the museum showcases the impact Miami has had on pop culture over the years, making it a treat for anyone with even the vaguest interest in contemporary history.

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

7. Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is the kind of place where one visit is never quite enough. Its huge array of exhibits, attractions, and interactive activities could keep the whole family entertained for days on end. If you don’t have that kind of time to spare, just be sure not to miss a few of its chief highlights, which include the awe-inspiring planetarium and the otherworldly, three-level aquarium. Exhibits do rotate frequently, so be sure to check the website before your visit so you can plan your itinerary accordingly.

Crandon Park

6. Crandon Park

For those who want a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Crandon Park is ideal. As well as offering the weary the chance to soak up the rays on a pristine white sand beach, it’s got more than enough activities and attractions (including a tennis center with 26 courts, a golf course, a nature center, and a marina) to keep the energetic happy.

Everglades National Park

5. Everglades National Park

Venture just 30 miles from downtown Miami and you’ll find yourself in a different world entirely. As the largest subtropical wetland in North America, Everglades National Park is a treat for nature lovers. Spanning over 1.5 million acres, the park offers eco-adventure tours, interactive alligator shows, trails, and exhibits, as well as the chance to check out the vast array of wildlife (including alligators, crocodiles, 360 different species of birds, and even the endangered Florida panther) that call the park home. Visit during November to March if you want to avoid the plagues of mosquitoes that swarm the area in the wetter months.

Wynwood Walls

4. Wynwood Walls

Fans of street art shouldn’t miss the iconic Wynwood Walls. Founded in 2009 as a means of rejuvenating the formerly rundown area between downtown and the Design District, Wynwood Walls is today an outdoor art museum dedicated to street art in all its forms. Vibrant, eclectic, whimsical, and at times, downright awe-inspiring, the art on display packs a punch 5 times the heft of what you’ll sometimes find in more traditional art galleries. For free access, visit Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tours are also available at a rate of $20 per adult and $15 for kids.

Zoo Miami

3. Zoo Miami

Whether you’re 5 or 65, you’ll be entranced by Miami Zoo. With more than 3,000 animals and 500 different species, the zoo’s commitment to replicating the natural habitats of its various inhabitants is a joy, while the spate of other activities and attractions on offer (including water fountains, misters and shaded play areas) guarantees hours of fun. Bear in mind that the zoo is large and can get packed, especially in summer- wear some comfortable shoes and arrive bang on the opening time of 10 am to avoid the worst of the crowds (and the blisters) as much as possible.

Little Havana

2. Little Havana

You don’t have to travel all the way to Cuba to soak up some of its vibrant energy. Journey west of downtown Miami and you’ll find Little Havana, a buzzing neighborhood that can’t fail to impress with its energy, candy-colored buildings, and, most impressively of all, its amazing food. El Pub makes a great spot for some authentic Cuban cuisine, while those looking to whet their appetite with some culture should check out the cigar factories and the Cuban Memorial Boulevard. If you’re lucky enough to visit the city in March, don’t miss Calle Ocho Music Festival, a joyous street festival celebrating Carnival with all the music, food, costumes, and dancing you could want.

Miami Beach

1. Miami Beach

No visit to Miami is complete without exploring the delights of Miami Beach. The legendary area is the best place to witness the clash between the stunning art deco architecture of the old city and the vibrant thrills and spills of the new. Whether you want to indulge your spending habit at one of the various retail spots, dance the night away at one of the world-class clubs, or simply catch a tan on the white sand beach, you’ll not be short of entertainment, that’s for sure.


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