Roll up your sleeves and bust out those slip-on shoes because it’s time to go to Miami! Things have moved on in the Magic City since the iconic days of Miami Vice, but it’s still one of the coolest destinations in North America. It offers great nightlife, delicious Cuban-infused cuisine and fantastic beaches. Miami also has some surprisingly interesting historical sites, including some of the best Art Deco mansions anywhere in the world. Are you ready to join us for a trip to Florida’s hottest holiday spot?

Spend a day at South Beach

You’ll recognise this stretch of sand, even if you’ve never been here before. South Beach has earned the top spot in most lists of Miami city attractions, and it appears in more TV shows and movies than we can list here. No trip to Miami would be complete without spending some time on South Beach, whether you want to enjoy the warm Florida waters, rent a sunlounger and chill out, or just do some people-watching.

Visitors are often confused about the difference between South Beach and Miami Beach. Here’s the lowdown: Miami Beach covers a little less than 15 km, running up the side of the city. It is divided into sections, and South Beach is one of them (yes, the southernmost one — how did you guess?), covering around 4 km.

South Beach is an incredibly popular spot in the ‘Miami what to see list’, so come in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds. If you’re an early riser, you might also want to get there first thing in the morning. Be warned, it’s a hotspot for early-morning exercisers, so you may want to bring your jogging shoes, rollerblades or yoga kit, or you’ll risk feeling left out!

Aerial photograph of the beach and buildings in Miami.

Admire the buildings of the Art Deco District

We’re classing it up for the next item on our list of things to do in Miami. The city’s glamorous Art Deco District is right next to South Beach, but many visitors miss it in their quest to hit the waves. It’s an ideal spot for a walking tour, as this neighbourhood is much more pedestrian-friendly than most cities in the USA.

The Art Deco District is a reminder of the city’s first great heyday, during the glamorous 1920s and 30s. This was when people living in the cold northern states first started looking south for their holidays, and Miami became the destination on everyone’s lips. Today, the city boasts the world’s largest collection of Art Deco buildings, but they were almost destroyed in the 1970s when developers wanted to modernise the Magic City. Luckily, local activists stepped in, so you can still enjoy these fabulous sights today.

Some of the highlights include the Essex House Hotel, with its jaunty, nautical look, the glamorous Carlyle, which has appeared in dozens of films, and the striking Breakwater. It’s not just hotels, either — even the post office gets in on the fun with a distinctive Art Deco style. If you love scouting out picturesque spots, then wandering the Art Deco District is definitely one of the best activities in Miami.

Go for lunch in Little Havana

You’ll want to loosen your belt for this one because Miami has some of the best food in the entire United States! For foodies, a trip to Little Havana should be right at the top of the list of things to do in Miami. There are well over one million Cubans living in Miami, and they’ve left their mark on the city’s culinary scene. The best place to see that? The well-named Little Havana.

Again, this is a very walkable area — which is great because you’ll need to burn off those calories! Start with a Cuban sandwich or Cubano, which uses slow-roasted marinated pork for a deep, rich flavour. You’ll also find favourites like rice and beans, queso frito (fried cheese), carne asada (roasted meat) and more. If you’ve still got room for dessert, then try a tasty flan, which here means a delicately quivering, luscious custard — nothing to do with your gran’s pastries! Oh, and you’ll want to try the mojitos, too, which leads us nicely to the next point…

Pink concrete building with palm trees in front.

Hit the clubs

No list of the most popular things to do in Miami could miss this! Every year, thousands of visitors flock to the city for its world-famous nightlife, which even inspired a song by Will Smith! You’ll find great bars and clubs all over the city, but on top of the list is Calle Ocho in Little Havana. This is the heart of the city’s Cuban district, and it’s where you can dance the night away with some infectious Latin rhythms. Head to Ball and Chain, which has been a staple of Miami nightlife since 1935 and has seen legendary performers such as the great Billie Holiday. It’s one of the best places in town to practise your salsa dancing.

Want to see the hottest clubs of the moment? Then you’ll need to head to Ocean Drive, back in South Beach. By day, this street is a popular tourist attraction, but by night, it’s the epicentre of Miami’s party scene. Be sure to look the part — you’ll need to dress to impress if you want to join the coolest clubbers in Miami!

Check out the art museums

Museums are often overlooked, but we think they deserve a spot on this list of things to do in Miami. The first one you need to visit is the Vizcaya Museum, which contains a remarkable collection of European artwork and antiques. It’s the kind of thing that will surprise you, as it’s so rarely seen this side of the Atlantic! All the interesting exhibits are set inside an enormous villa designed in an Italian Renaissance style. It’s become pretty popular with the Instagram set in recent years, so get there early to beat the crowds of wannabe influencers.

For something more modern, go to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. This is a temple to modern art, a genre which can be divisive — but the Pérez goes out of its way to make the works more accessible. There are even family-friendly initiatives to encourage youngsters to get involved. Not keen on having your art appreciation served up with a side of school kids? Then avoid the Pérez on the second Saturday of the month, when child-friendly tours are the name of the game.

Admire some of the world’s hottest street art

In fact, you don’t even need to go into a museum to see cool art in Miami. Head to the Wynwood’s neighbourhood, where the streets themselves are a gallery. The Wynwood Walls have become known for their spectacular, colourful murals, celebrating the best of the city’s street artists. As you wander around, you’ll see all different kinds of art styles and themes, with displays that range from starkly political to purely whimsical. Spending a couple of hours here should definitely be on your list of things to do in Miami.

There are more than 50 murals on display in Wynwood, and they’re not the only attraction this neighbourhood has to offer. While you’re there, check out the local antiques shops and eateries, which are some of the coolest in town. You will have to pay to visit the Wynwood Walls, which may not exactly mesh with the theme of outdoor art, but we reckon it’s worth it! Again, this is an area that’s extremely popular with Instagrammers, so head there in the morning to see it before the crowds arrive.

Graffiti wall art in Miami.

Head out on the water

It’s time to consider one of the biggest Miami tourist attractions of them all: the sea. That’s the reason so many people come here, right? If you’re an ocean enthusiast wanting to know the best time to go to Miami, you’re in luck — the sea here is swimmable all year round, even in the dead of winter. Swimming isn’t the only draw here, though!

The nearby Florida Keys are known for their amazing water sports. Windsurfing has been popular in Key Biscayne for years, but hipsters may also want to try ultra-modern flyboarding, which will send you shooting into the air on a kind of water-powered hoverboard. You’ll also find some of the best places to go scuba diving in the States close to Miami, with sites for both total beginners and experienced divers. Paddleboarding, snorkelling and jet skiing are also all popular here.

Prefer something more sedate? Why not hop on board a catamaran for a sunset cruise or head out on the water for some deep-sea fishing? Whatever you’re into, no trip to Miami would be complete without spending some time enjoying the ocean.

Look for gators in the Everglades

There are plenty of things to do in Miami, but you’ll also want to plan a couple of day trips. If you’re a nature lover, that means spending some time in the Everglades National Park, a massive wetland system known for its wildlife. In particular, it’s home to some of the world’s biggest and meanest alligators, so keep a careful eye out, and don’t dangle your fingers in the water!

There are numerous ways to explore the Everglades, including boat trips, kayaks, cycling, hiking and even helicopters. Most famous of all are the airboats, which aren’t for the faint of heart. They move quickly, and the engines give off a tremendous roar. However you choose to get around, there are plenty of species to look out for. As well as those notorious alligators, there are flocks of bright pink flamingos, turtles, dolphins, otters, manatees, and several different kinds of snakes. You might even get really lucky and spot an elusive Florida panther hiding in the trees.

The Everglades National Park is frankly enormous, and you’ll find different activities in different areas, so plan your trip before you go. If you enjoy fishing, there are also several options here, although you’ll need to sort out some paperwork before casting your rod — only licensed fishermen can partake.

Brown crocodile swimming.

Want to spend even more time in the Everglades? You can stay here overnight, but only truly adventurous travellers should sign up for that one. The only overnight facilities in the Everglades are for campers, so be prepared to spend a night in the wilderness. If you don’t want to miss your creature comforts, there are plenty of hotels in towns that border the park, with something to suit every budget.

Climb the Cape Florida Lighthouse

This is yet another one of those places to visit in Miami that will reward keen walkers. However, this requires a little more effort since you’re not just strolling down the streets of Little Havana or the Art Deco District. Instead, you’ll be climbing 109 steps to get to the top of the oldest structure in Dade County. The Cape Florida Lighthouse is actually older than Florida itself — it was already 20 years old when the Sunshine State joined the USA.

As well as climbing the lighthouse and enjoying the beautiful views from the top, take the time to wander around the surrounding Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. You can walk around the park and rent a bike or kayak if you want something a little more exciting. Be sure to look out for the plaque commemorating the park as part of the National Underground Railroad Network. In the days of slavery, many escaped slaves fled here, paddling canoes to leave the USA and find freedom in the nearby Bahamas. The construction of the lighthouse actually made it more difficult for escaped slaves to get away, so it was attacked several times in the 19th century and heavily damaged in the American Civil War.

Today, the lighthouse and the surrounding park are both incredibly peaceful, chilled spots where you can easily spend a relaxing day. It’s hard to imagine that they once played a role in such a dark chapter of American history, but we really recommend taking the time to read up before travelling, as it’ll give you a deeper understanding of this awful period.

Sunset behind a lighthouse in Miami.

Lose yourself in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Let’s head right back into the heart of the city to round up our list of things to do in Miami. After a day of people-watching at South Beach or enjoying the glitz and glamour of Ocean Drive, you might be surprised to discover that there’s a lush green oasis right in the city centre.

The Botanic Garden is made up of different zones with flowering trees, butterflies, aquatic plants and more. There are regular events throughout the year, so check the calendar before you go. If you want a chance to spot some feathered friends, it also hosts guided early-morning bird walks on Saturdays.

A stretch of water surrounded by palm trees.

This isn’t even the only botanic garden in Miami worth checking out — there’s another one, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, that’s a little smaller but equally charming. Here, you can enjoy weekly yoga classes surrounded by the splendour of nature, so be sure to bring your mat!
There’s no shortage of activities to do in Miami, and the city offers fun in the sun all year round. That’s why it’s one of our favourite destinations — and we reckon you’ll love it just as much as we do. There’s only one way to find out: join our Miami tour to see the best of South Beach and the Everglades in seven action-packed days. Don’t forget your swimsuit!

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team