So lets be real- there’s about a million things to do in Miami and most of them are amazingly enjoyable. If you guys follow me along my Toast and Travel adventures, then you know that I’m that type of traveler who will do all million things when on a trip and then post about it in a super long blog post. But, this post isn’t going to be like those because this time I’m only going to pick out my top 5 favorite things to do in Miami. To say I had the hardest time doing that is putting it lightly. I was in Miami visiting a friend for 5 days and packed so many activities into each day, but in an attempt to be a minimalist, I’ve chosen the top 5 things I loved about Miami. Enjoy!
I purposely didn’t include South Beach or any other beaches on my list because to be honest, beaches aren’t really my thing. I find it quite boring to lie around somewhere for hours under the hot and unforgiving sun. Especially since I live around 40 minutes from Galveston Beach and can lie there any time I want. But also, no matter what people will always stop by a beach in Miami anyways so I felt it was kind of redundant to list it here.
Art Deco District
If you love beautiful and unique architecture, then the Art Deco district is perfect for you. After experiencing Open House New York for 3 years in New York and learning about all the interesting buildings in the city, I knew I would be interested in walking around the district and viewing that colorful buildings that line Miami’s beach front. Spanning from Ocean Drive to Washington Street and from 5th street to 10th street, the Art Deco district includes about 200 buildings that have their own stories to tell and now house everything from hotels to restaurants to even a Sephora. Art Deco refers to a visual style that includes bold geometric shapes and bright colors. Its pretty relaxing to stroll around downtown Miami, occasionally popping into stores to escape the heat and humidity, while looking at buildings that were originally built in the mid 1900s.
Gianni’s at the Former Versace Mansion
A friend told me about the famous mansion where the fashion designer, Gianni Versace, was brutally murdered in 1997. The mansion is now a hotel and restaurant and although it does not hold public tours, there is an opportunity to dine right on the courtyard where Versace passed away. I felt like it was slightly morbid to be laughing and eating where someone took his last breath, so I chose to sit inside (bonus- there’s also air conditioning inside) instead. Thanks to the recent FX biopic The Assassination of Gianni Versace- An American Crime Story, interest in the mansion has renewed (some scenes from the biopic were actually filmed here!) and it can get pretty packed so make sure to make a reservation before arriving. The menu prices are relatively high, so I suggest coming for lunch and ordering off their pre fixe lunch menu, which includes an appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $29. For a touristy hotel, the food was surprisingly delicious! I especially loved my fried zucchini stuffed with cheese.
POC Sushi Buffet
I know there are two restaurants on my top 5 list, but I can’t help it! I have a definite talent for finding yummy places to eat while on vacation because food is such an important part of traveling! One of my food goals on this trip was to eat seafood and sushi while in Miami since it’s a seaside town, but all the sushi restaurants I looked at on Yelp had a higher prices than I was willing to shell out (remember I’m still funemployed). I was also hesitant to eat sushi at a buffet because usually the fish is lower quality. However I was still drawn to POC because all the photos looked amazing and there were several stellar reviews about the restaurant so I decided to give it a chance. POC blew away all my expectations. The sushi was fresh and there was a huge variety of rolls right there for the taking! I had never seen so many delicious sushi rolls laying out and all for only $15 (lunch price) too! There is also an extensive dessert bar that is topped off with 6 different flavors of ice cream so saving room for dessert is a must. No reservations are needed- although the place is crowded, there are always tables available.
The Lincoln Road mall is an outdoor pedestrian street that is lined with cute cafes and restaurants as well as a variety of stores in all budget ranges. The Road begins at South Beach and goes on for several blocks so after a few hours at the beach I headed here. While I didn’t end up buying anything, I did enjoy the stroll along a pedestrian only street and drinking my favorite bubble tea drink (which can be found at Miu Tea by the way). Maybe its because I’m a previous New Yorker, but I love the concept of walking under the sun (or stars) and enjoying the sights of people bustling around running errands while doing some window shopping and cafe hopping myself.
Key West and the Everglades
I know both these areas are outside of Miami, but I had to include them as one of my top 5 because they were both so memorable. We spent two days/one night exploring Key West and on our way back into Miami, stopped briefly at the Everglades Safari Park for a very fast and loud airboat tour and the chance to see some famous Florida gators up close. One of the highlights of my trip was having the opportunity to tour Ernest Hemingway’s House with the most informational guide ever. He shared hilarious stories about Hemingway’s 4 wives (especially the one who replaced Hemingway’s outdoor boxing ring for a giant swimming pool once she found out he had cheated on her) and introduced us to the many polydactyl (6 fingered) cats that called the House home. The cats are actually direct descendants of the original white polydactyl cat, Snow White, that Hemingway and his sons owned. They are selectively bred once a year so that the 6 finger trait can be passed on and they even have their own private vet on the premises for specialized care. All the cats are uniquely named after famous people in history and are so friendly and ready for cuddles (you are allowed to pet any cats you see!). So many of Hemingway’s literary masterpieces, including The Old Man and the Sea, was written on this property in his private writing studio and it was so amazing to learn more about his adventurous life. The home costs $14 (cash only!) to visit, but it was worth every penny. I highly recommend coming at a time when a tour guide is giving a tour because that’s the best way to dig deeper beyond just a few placards placed around the house.
Miami was a weird mix of the beach life plus a more cosmopolitan scene and I think that was why I was so drawn to it. I loved the energy the city had, but also loved the dreaminess of the salty air.