Guide to Miami
By Jen Karetnick
Miami, Florida, offers almost too much of a good thing, with its glittering menu of shopping, restaurants and cultural attractions, not to mention its beautiful beaches. Here's your guide to sample Miami's highlights in an action-packed day.
Start with early morning selfies in South Beach, where the Atlantic Ocean and the National Register Art Deco District architecture make equally gorgeous backdrops. Then head to the Front Porch or the News Cafe. Both are located on Ocean Drive and are as renowned for their people watching as their Eggs Benedict.
After breakfast, drive west over the Julia Tuttle Causeway and through Little Haiti, where the storefronts of Kreyol bakeries and restaurants look as if they were imported directly from the Caribbean.
Just south of Little Haiti, dozens of luxury boutiques — think Tom Ford and Marc by Marc Jacobs — await in revamped Design District buildings. Nearby is Midtown Miami, a retail complex that features markets, value outlets like Guess Factory Store and Nordstrom Rack,coffeehouses, restaurants, bars and lounges.
Beyond the central knot of Midtown, the revived warehouse district Wynwood is a funky cluster of galleries, thrift stores, late-night bars, distilleries and family friendly businesses. Culinary offerings range from local institution Panther Coffee to the highly rated restaurant Alter. For a taste of both arts and eats that folks of all ages enjoy, check out the The Wynwood Walls, a group of six former warehouses now covered in street-art style murals.
Heading further south in Downtown, you can visit the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade; the Freedom Tower, a National Historic Landmark known as the “Ellis Island of the South," and the contemporary Pérez Art Museum Miami. Park in any of the lots near the shopping-and-dining mecca Bayside Marketplace, and take the free, 7-kilometer loop Metromover to get around.
While Downtown, pop into HistoryMiami to see the Miami-centric exhibits and arrange for a guided walking tour of Little Havana, the epicenter of all things Cuban, led by the museum's resident historian, Dr. Paul George. The author and Miami Dade College professor knows the ins and outs of Cuban bakeries, shops and restaurants with live music and free salsa lessons like Ball & Chain, as well as notable sites like the reconditioned Tower Theater.
For a hearty lunch, secure a table at the venerable Versailles Restaurant for the succulentvaca frita (shredded, grilled steak topped with onions and garlicky mojo sauce) served withmoros y cristianos, black beans mixed with white rice, and sweet plantains.
Key Biscayne's combination of offshore winds and tides make every water sport — from sea kayaking to kiteboarding — easy to learn. This barrier island is also home to several pristine, white-sand beaches: Crandon Park, which also features botanical gardens, a nature center, a vintage carousel, a tennis center and a golf course, and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, where the Cape Florida Lighthouse opened in 1825.
An hour or two of beach time will require refueling with a snack of stone crabs and other seafood at Monty's Coconut Grove, near Peacock Park (where there's frequently gratis sunset yoga classes) and Dinner Key Marina. Coconut Grove is a laid-back community where the first settlement in Miami was built; today it's known for quirky shopping and a lively bar scene. As dusk hits, sip a mojito at a rooftop lounge or a craft beer at one of the rowdier sports bars.
For dinner, head west to Coral Gables, planned with a Mediterranean Revival style in line with the 1920s City Beautiful Movement. Options include the upscale Caribbean fusion establishment Ortanique on the Mile, situated on the elegant Miracle Mile, or classic French dining room Palme d'Or in the renowned Biltmore Hotel. It's the perfect way to close the circle of Miami sightseeing, along with some well-earned, weary eyes.