Party in the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach ‘til the break of dawn… okay, all Will Smith lyrics aside, Miami, FL is simply one of the coolest US cities around – check out this guide for all the best unique things to do in Miami the next time you’re in the city where the heat is on!
Just 330 air miles from Cuba and 1,772 miles from the equator, Miami is a perfect getaway destination. A short flight, gain an hour coming back but overall nowhere too crazy, the city fits the bill for everything you might be looking for in a getaway – culture, beach time and good food.
Home Base – Where to Stay
AC Hotel Miami Beach
The AC is located on Mid-Beach and is a quick walk over the main thoroughfare of Collins Ave to the ocean which keeps costs lower than beachfront properties, but it is still pretty much “on the beach”. It has a gorgeous rooftop pool with lounging cabanas and our room had a terrace, so we were left wanting nothing. The hotel is a 25-minute walk from the bustling “center” of the island, and close to a TON of shops, nightlife spots and restaurants. Most notably, Tropical Beach Café (the best Cuban breakfast joint on the island, supposedly), the original Freehand Hotel Miami, and BASEMENT night club.
The Plymouth Hotel – South Beach
The Plymouth Hotel is right across from Collins Park and The Bass art museum and is an awesome location for accessing all sections of Miami Beach. Come hungry and in the mood for entertainment because this hotel boasts the Blue Ribbon Sushi restaurant, as well as the lively bar in the lobby (tiki themed, of course!). Want to catch some rays? You’re in luck because there is also a courtyard pool with lounge chairs and plenty of cabanas. You’ll feel beyond pampered with Molton Brown toiletries and a killer color palette.
The Shepley – Miami Beach
Want to stay in an art deco masterpiece? Look no further than the Sheply Hotel! Designed by Henry Hohauser in 1937, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time. Take in the beautiful terrazo floors and the well-appointed kitchen just off the lobby and sip your morning coffee on the street side terrace. Each room has a safe and a beautifully designed bathroom. You’ll also be able to take advantage of complimentary beach chairs, towels and umbrellas if needed.
*Note: if you’re sensitive to mildew, be sure to read reviews. We had a little bit of an issue with a mildew smell at The Shepley; often the super humid air means things don’t always dry out all the way.
Unique Things to Do in Miami – The Eats
You could eat all day and never make it through the incredible options in Miami – but here are a few gems that you absolutely must put on your list, both for the taste AND for the concepts:
Life Pro Tip: service charges are often already included in your bill (kind of like Europe) so keep an eye out when you get the check!
Taquiza was so nice, you might eat there thrice! Holy guacamole, this teeny taco stand is amazing. Go for the tacos and freak out about the totopos – hand torn blue corn masa chips that are fried and puff up into little delectable pillows of yum that you dip into guacamole.
Bonus Tip: try to avoid the M-F lunchtime crowd window because things can turn into a clusterf@$!. Check their site for hours. They recently moved, too!
In the mood for Japanese fare? Head to Kosushi Miami – originally located in Brazil, Kosushi came to Miami as the first international location of the brand. KO means turtle and also ‘number one’ – turtles are a sign of good luck and fortune, which is why you’ll find the unique interior resembles a turtle shell! Be sure to try the crispy rice, wagyu goyza, the salmon truffle maki, and the yakimeshi (Japanese fried rice with truffle) – but save that for last, otherwise the flavors can get really overpowering!
Ceviches by Divino
In the mood for seafood? You won’t find fresher fish than in Miami and you may as well take advantage of it. Ceviches by Divino offers traditional Peruvian ceviches and fish-forward dishes, as well as Japanese inspired maki and other items. In the mood to sample a variety? Try the trio! The crispy cilantro rice with salmon and the pulpo (octopus) anticuchero are to die for!
Planning a beach day and don’t know what to do for food? Grab a sandwich from the walk-up window at the original La Sandwicherie and take it to go! The local sando shop has an amazing selection of internationally-inspired fare, including French takes (their specialty) on the classics and of course, some amazing Italian options, too. You’ll also find mainstays like a Club, homemade tuna, and some not-so-traditional options like the Tropical. They also have vegan options and a killer vinaigrette you can’t miss.
Eat Lots of Oysters at Monty’s Sunset Miami Beach
In the mood for some coastal food? Head to Monty’s Sunset for one of the cheapest happy hours (M-F, 5-8- but double check their website first) in the area and fill up on frozen cocktails, oysters by the dozen, fresh caught fish, conch fritters, and of course Key Lime pie! They also have a stage for tons of live music and other events. Great atmosphere, beautiful spot to watch the sunset – what more could you ask for?!
Bodega Taqueria y Tequila
If a speakeasy and street tacos had a baby, Bodega Taqueria would be that beautiful baby. Again, Miami’s taco game is on POINT. The restaurant is a bit out of the way if you are staying on the eastern side of the island (it’s basically due west, toward the mainland) but you HAVE to get out here.
If you hit up this joint during the daytime for lunch, you will be spoiled with some dang good street tacos – try the chimichurri steak tacos, the al pastor and the mahi ceviche tacos. The guac is also really good.
Salon du Café
Hidden behind a thick wall of palm fronds is an adorable Parisian-inspired cafe called Salon du Cafe. It’s part of the new Cadet Hotel in Miami Beach and is one of the best spots for working remote you can find in the area. An outdoor-yet-covered patio means you get cool breezes, shade from the harsh sun, and covering for if it rains. Enjoy a latte, baked goods or a hearty breakfast and fuel up for your day ahead!
27 Restaurant at the Freehand
Head to the Freehand for the atmosphere but stay for the food and head to 27 Restaurant! Make sure to order Gabe’s Arepa Platter – arepas being kind of like corn pita pockets that you stuff with delicious ropa vieja and other goodies.
The atmosphere of 27 Restaurant was also something noteworthy and made for a really unique experience – kind of like you might be hanging out in someone’s house in the 70s and their parents decided to have you stay for dinner and then stick around longer for a rowdy game night.
Honorable mentions go to:
- Naked Taco – awesome options plus cocktails, too! Be sure to try the crispy Key West shrimp tacos and the queso.
- Zen Sai – really good sushi if you’re tired of the whole street taco party.
- Tropical Beach Café – it may be in a strip mall, but the food is to die for. Get the scrambled eggs with chorizo!
- Market at the EDITION – if you’re feeling fancay, go for the oysters.
- Cheeseburger Baby – late-night fast food and amazing burgers worth waiting in line for.
- Havana 1957 – with a number of locations, including one on Espanola Way, this is a great place for Cuban food and entertainment. Order the maduros – sweet fried plantains – (and a mojito), they’re a MUST.
Related: from east to west – looking for a weekend getaway? Check out this comprehensive guide to all the best California cities by clicking here!
Unique Things to Do in Miami
The history, culture, Art Deco, oh my! Miami has a sneaky propensity for serving up amazing things to see and do. Here’s a quick roundup of some of our favorite unique things to do in Miami!
Take an Art Deco Walking Tour & Visit the Art Deco Welcome Center
Just off of Ocean Drive, about one block south of the Versace Mansion you’ll find the Art Deco Welcome Center – a museum and headquarters of the Miami Design Preservation League. Talk about unique things to do in Miami! In August 1976, the league was formed, thanks to the tireless efforts of design journalist Barbara Baer Capitman and her son. Now it’s the starting point for exploring the largest concentration of art deco (as well as Mediterranean revival and Miami modern – aka MiMo) buildings in the whole world. The museum is fantastic and is definitely worth a visit, but to really get the full South Beach experience, you need to take a walking tour. A variety of options are offered, from traditional Art Deco to a Neon walk and even a South Beach Scandals stroll!
Walk the Wynwood Walls of Miami
A quick Uber or bike ride away lies one of the largest collections of street/urban/ graffiti art in the country. Contemporary art, pop art and mural lovers alike will rejoice in this artistic playground, where every surface is a canvas. Grab a bite to eat or a coffee and simply stroll the streets, or head to the famed Wynwood Walls exhibit and gallery space to feast your eyes on larger-than-life eye candy.
Left mural by @sipros_sipros; middle by mitrooper / @angelonce / @goopmastta and @bogeydraws; right by @sebastiancoolidge
Easily book your time by buying tickets in advance online, or use an on-site kiosk. You’ll get the most out of your experience by downloading the immersive Wynwood Walls app – which lets you tap on an interactive map to read all about the background and mission statements of the featured artists. Don’t forget to make a stop in the gift shop for some unique souvenirs – and everyone knows the best gifts come from art museum gift shops, anyway! Still looking for goodies to bring a taste of Wynwood home? Check out the Wynwood Kollective, a boutique featuring local artisans and one-of-a-kind clothes, accessories and odds and ends.
Rent Bikes & Cruise the Boardwalk
Miami has a gorgeous, slightly-elevated boardwalk that runs along the beaches which makes it perfect for moseying, yogging and soul skating. While Miami has TONS of transportation rental options (longer-term bikes, mopeds, Slingshot cars, jet skis – you name it!) they also have the popular bike share program Citi Bike Miami, which allows you to rent bikes for a very low fee for a specific duration of time (usually about 30 minutes or so).
You can also pay a little more to rent them for hours, during which you can ride them to and from various checkpoints. It’s a great way to see a lot of the island in a short amount of time!
Dine Like a Designer at the Versace Mansion
Technically, this may belong in the restaurant section of this guide, but the Versace Mansion is more of an experience that needs to be appreciated from many perspectives – not just the food. Fans of the designer label and true crime alike may recognize the name of Gianni Versace, famed fashion icon who was tragically shot on the steps of his Ocean Drive home in 1997. Take a stroll down closed-to-cars Ocean Drive to appreciate the beautiful Mediterranean architecture, or snag a reservation and tour the mansion for a cocktail or a bite to eat. Pro tip: it’s often easier to get a reservation during the week (especially early on in the week, on Monday or Tuesday) and you’ll need to call or do it via OpenTable – but it is absolutely worth it, even if you’re paying for the atmosphere!
Visit A BASEMENT Worth Living In
When it comes to unique things to do in Miami, you cannot skimp on the nightlife and Basement in the Miami EDITION hotel is a good option! If you plan to do it up big one night, this is a spot you definitely NEED to check out.
Situated in the sleek museum-esque Miami EDITION Hotel, BASEMENT is your little brother’s dream, with a side of quirky fun and bumpin’ tunes. What do we mean by that? BASEMENT is a nightclub that also features multiple bars, a bowling alley, DJ booth, dance floors, ice skating rink and arcade games.
To sum it up, Miami is an amazing destination that’s perfect for either an entire week away or just a quick weekend jaunt. It’s got enough culture to feel like you’re traveling outside the country without the hassle of a passport… and you gain an hour or more coming back if you’re in the west!