Adventurous Art and Culture in Miami

Eden Roc Miami Beach
Eden Roc Miami Beach

Editorial Manager

Known for its sandy beaches, vibrant nightlife and stimulating period architecture, Miami is a must on many people’s travel bucket lists. For a first time visit, I wanted to experience a little bit of everything through the lens of art and culture and see if I could still get the ‘full’ Miami experience.

Classic views of Miami Beach

It’s hard to know what to do in a big city like Miami on your first visit. There are countless films, TV shows and even video games that have captured the essence of every neighbourhood here, but there’s still something a little daunting about arriving here as I did on the flight from London. It takes a shade under 10 hours, and flying in with Virgin Atlantic I had a comfortable journey which I used to plan a few things I wanted to do. As I arrived in the run up to Miami Art Basel I knew I would get to sample some of the best art and culture the city has to offer, so eventually I threw caution to the wind and went with the flow.

Luckily Miami is a city primed for an easy-going approach, and I would soon be in my pressed Guayabera shirt enjoying some of the finest art, food, culture and drinks the US has to offer.

Why Miami is a must for art lovers and culture vultures

With a combination of galleries, museums, theatres and public art spaces, Miami has a great mix of things to do to satisfy every interest. The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Maurice A. Ferré Park includes a world-class planetarium and aquarium, and is situated on four acres of beautiful bayfront land. One of the newest exhibitions at Frost Science is Sharks. Guests can learn more about the genetic features, history, territories and significance of these ancient fishes and the role they play in our ocean ecosystem. The aquarium has some breathtaking viewing spots, so be sure to look up just in case…

Miami City Ballet dancers in Serenade. Choreography by George Balanchine

The Miami City Ballet is regarded as one of the best performance troupes in North America. The headquarters are in the Ophelia & Juan Js. Roca Center, a space where dancers can study and train in a purpose-built environment. Some of the studios have large windows allowing anyone walking by a glimpse at a rehearsal, which is a great touch to include the wider community in what is sometimes perceived as an elitist activity.

The Bass is Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum. Focusing on exhibitions of international contemporary art, the gallery and museum captures the essence and character of the immediate area thanks great works by local creatives. You’ll notice the difference from other contemporary galleries in other parts of the city as it had a straightforward approach to lateral planning. The Bass is easy to navigate and the perfect place for anyone not too comfortable in more formal art settings.

The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) boasts great outdoor spaces which draw you in for a smartly curated experience. It houses an impressive collection of 20th and 21st century art with an emphasis on works that relate to Miami’s ethnically rich community as well as Latin America, the Caribbean and the African diaspora.

For something completely different, and my personal favourite, the Wynwood Walls serve as an outdoor museum with stunning murals of differing styles from some of the best street artists in the world. Isometric art plays tricks with your mind and there’s a rotation of work that means repeat visits are essential whenever you are in town. I’ll certainly be back!

Where to stay in Miami

Centrally located on Miami Beach (no, seriously this property is in an area known as Mid-beach), Eden Roc Miami Beach is an icon of this part of the city. There’s a sense of Old Hollywood glamour as soon as you step through the lobby and you’ll notice the attached Nobu hotel is also situated here for that added sense of exclusivity. There are a multitude of facilities shared by the two distinct hotels and you’ll get to sample a bit of everything on your stay here. The beachfront restaurant is an essential stop and make sure you try to get some pool time too, although the beach is literally on your doorstep.

Ocean views and spectacular sunsets

The centrally-located Elser Hotel & Residences offers a different experience in the heart of Miami’s downtown area. The 49 floors of the tower give excellent views in all directions and the outdoor pool is an outstanding feature that makes the most of the location. Get up early and catch the sunset whilst having a dip before heading off for a day of art and entertainment.

Views of downtown Miami

From here we had a short walk to the Opening Season Performance by the Miami City Ballet at the Sanford And Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. The preconceptions of a stuffy audience were blown away with no formal requirements on attire. Just no flip-flops or shorts… which is more of a general recommendation for life, not just the ballet.

Things to do in Miami

Getting around Miami is relatively easy with cheap taxis everywhere. In Downtown you’ll see a network of Metro lines running on elevated tracks.

Brightline’s Orlando Station opened in September as their newest South Florida Stop. One-way fares between Miami and Orlando started at $79, with Premium seating beginning at $149. Premium tickets come with complimentary meals, a dedicated first-class lounge, priority boarding, and other features. Families of four have an option of less than $199 one-way tickets. This new station expands the Florida Brightline system, adding to the services already running between Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. This is a great option if you want to explore the wider area, but of course Miami itself is full on unique attractions.

Downtown Miami come alive at night

Even though I was on an arts focussed trip, there was no way I was leaving Miami without visiting Little Havana. The food here is known for its authenticity, which applies the the drinks, restaurants and even the clothes. The best way to experience this is with a local on a Miami Culinary Tour which explores the area, tells you the history of the Cuban influences on Miami and best of all lets you taste all the dishes you’ve heard so much about.

Miami is a foodie city, with many great options everywhere. Street food and hole-in-the-wall quick bites are plentiful but if you want to push the boat our there are some remarkable places that manage to combine art and sublime dishes.

Gone but not Forgotten by Damien Hirst

Pao by Paul Qui at Faena Hotel Miami Beach is a great spot which has a couple of unique options you won’t find anywhere else. The lobby of the hotel, covered in extensive artwork, leads into an outdoor space where a Damien Hirst piece instantly draws your attention. The gold-plated mammoth skeleton is eye-catching, but so is the adult performance at ALLURA Cabaret which completes a perfect evening and captures the spirit of Miami.

Pao in The Faena Hotel is a heady mix of divine cuisine and modernist art

Miami exceeded all my expectations and is high on the list of places I want to visit again. The general ambience is relaxed in a way that doesn’t feel like the rest of America, but there are many things to explore and experience. If you want to see incredible art that is celebrated and treated as an inclusive activity for everyone, this is the place to be.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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