For residents of Miami, life must sometimes feel like a full-time vacation. Along Ocean Drive, bright pink and yellow Art Deco buildings pop against the blue backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. On Calle Ocho, the smell of freshly baked croquetas wafts through the air. Walk past any bar or nightclub and the sound of Latin music blasts onto the streets, turning even an empty parking lot into a salsa dance floor. A destination for culture, art, food and yes, its world-renowned nightlife, there are countless reasons to visit Miami.
When you’re in Miami, you’re in the tropics. While that often means heat and humidity, it also means that temperatures rarely drop below 75F (24C). South Florida does experience occasional cold fronts in January and February, but winters are generally mild. (How else would those palm trees and other tropical plants grow all year round?) A popular time to visit Florida is in the winter months, when humidity is low. Miami is a very popular destination in February, as people escape from the cold East Coast climates, so mark your calendars accordingly.
Miami is a city that never needs sleep, mostly because it’s too busy partying. While it’s also a destination for award-winning restaurants, international art and sports (let’s not forget the Miami Heat and David Beckham’s Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami), Miami’s nightlife scene is renowned, and for good reason. Celebrities often let loose at nightclubs such as LIV, Mynt, STORY and Bâoli. On Saturdays, Delano South Beach, Hyde Beach and Nikki Beach throw DJ pool parties that are packed with Miami’s beautiful people. Both Miami Beach’s Sweet Liberty and Brickell’s Better Days stay raging until 5am, while rooftop bars Sugar, Astra, The Rooftop at 1 Hotel and No 3 Social combine well-made cocktails with views of the sun setting over Biscayne Bay.
Between Miami Beach’s annual Art Basel fair, destination museums such as the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the Instagram-famous Wynwood Walls, the Magic City is a fabulous place to appreciate the arts. Both the Wynwood and Design District areas were once dilapidated neighborhoods that have now been transformed into hubs of local art and design, covered in installations and murals. See first-class art at the Lowe Art Museum, the Wolfsonian and the Freedom Tower; check out a New World Symphony performance at the outdoor Soundscape Park; or head to the Adrienne Arsht Center for Tony-nominated performances. During the first week of December, Art Basel takes over Miami Beach, bringing with it the world’s best artists and performers, as well as billions of dollars worth of art and pop-up parties like only Miami can throw.
With Cuba just 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the tip of South Florida, its influence stretches across Miami. While Little Havana is irrefutably the heart of Cuban culture in Miami, good Cuban food can be found all over the city. Find the nearest ventanita (literally, ‘little window’) on Calle Ocho for a guava pastry or a Cuban coffee, or drink mojitos at Ball & Chain. If you’re craving a medianoche (Cuban sandwich), stop by Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Wynwood or head to Tamiami’s legendary Islas Canarias for ham, bacalao (dried codfish) or chicken croquetas. For a modern take on Cuban cuisine, try Cafe la Trova, where James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein serves up a variety of dishes in a 1980s-style Cuban restaurant with live music. For Cuban fine dining with a Miami-party feel, try the Design District’s Estefan Kitchen. It’s owned by musical power couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and combines their own childhood recipes with an array of costumed dancers, pianists and singers.
Spend a day on Miami Beach and you’ll see the city’s Art Deco influence everywhere. In fact, Miami Beach is home to the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, so Art Deco draws in a lot of tourism to Miami. This form of architecture, which dates back to the early ’20s and ’30s, is an eye-catching mix of modern, Neoclassical and retro styles. For a good look at it, check out the hotels on Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive; they’re in bright or pastel shades, have garish floral designs and abstract structures and often feature facades with geometrically shaped windows. The official Art Deco Historic District lies between Fifth Street and 23rd Street, and Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Visit the Art Deco Welcome Center for free tours of this district, which altogether has over 800 Art Deco buildings and installations built between 1923 and 1943.
In Miami, there is no shortage of beaches, and each one is known for something special. Head to Crandon Park in Key Biscayne and amp up your family beach day by renting paddleboards, kayaks and snorkeling equipment. For the party beach you see on MTV, grab your beer cooler and go to Ocean Drive and Seventh Street on Miami Beach. Just five blocks north, there’s a gay beach on Ocean Drive and 12th Street. Haulover Beach Park has Miami’s only nude beach, and at South of Fifth’s South Pointe Park, views of the Miami Beach skyline and Atlantic Ocean regularly attract TV crews and photographers.
Today’s Miami is a veritable dining destination. Celebrity chefs such as Michael Schwartz, Jean-George Vongerichten, Thomas Keller and Salt Bae are all flocking to the city to open their next great restaurant, and local talent has found a way to bring Miami’s multicultural influences into the kitchen. Joe’s Stone Crab is world-renowned, while Frankie’s Pizza, Arbetter’s Hot Dogs and Golden Rule Seafood are age-old local favorites for casual fare. The international food scene is growing, too, with Ghee, Bombay Darbar and Maska bringing solid Indian food options to Miami, and Azabu, Sushi by Bou and Itamae serving up sushi that rivals Japan’s very best. For a taste of everything, go to one of Miami’s many food halls. The much-anticipated Time Out Market Miami on Lincoln Road has 18 of the city’s best chefs, three bars and a market under one roof. In the Miami Design District, St Roch Market has hyper-niche concepts that include everything from Jaffa’s Israeli falafel to vegan cupcakes from Chloe Coscarelli, the first vegan chef to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
Miami puts you in close proximity to Florida’s stunning ecosystems. Take a day trip to the Everglades, where airboat rides go right through mangroves and bring tourists close to Florida’s famous alligators. Drive through the Florida Keys, which starts just 30 minutes from the southernmost point of Miami and is home to 15 protected marine sanctuaries. In less than two hours you can be on the west coast of Florida, where Lee County Manatee Park has one of the largest concentrations of endangered Florida manatees. Stay on the west coast to paddleboard through the Gulf of Mexico’s calm and clear waters, or head back east to snorkel through Biscayne National Park. A picture of South Florida’s stunning underwater ecosystems, Biscayne National Park protects over 500 species of reef fish, Neotropical water birds, endangered species and coral reefs.