17 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Miami
Miami lies on the southeast side of the Florida Peninsula, separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Biscayne Bay lagoon and Miami Beach. The city's pleasant winter climate makes it a very popular holiday destination, particularly for those in the northern regions of the country. The beaches of Greater Miami are a major highlight, as is the Art Deco architecture of Miami Beach. Outside the city but nearby is Everglades National Park, known for its unique ecosystem and wildlife.
See also: Where to Stay in Miami
1 Miami Beach
Miami Beach is actually a separate municipality from Miami. It is located on an island, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. The area is known for its popular beaches and the Art Deco District, with pastel buildings from the 1930s sporting classic neon signs. An expensive tourist district, this area features numerous beachfront restaurants, shops, hotels, and plenty of sunbathing opportunities. The most popular street in the area is Ocean Drive, a section of road located along the oceanfront and home to some beautiful Art Deco buildings. One block inland and paralleling Ocean Drive is Collins Avenue. Collins Avenue is actually State Road A1A, and is the main oceanfront street in Miami Beach, joining numerous neighborhoods. Here visitors will find trendy and upper end restaurants, shopping, and hotels.
2 Art Deco District
The Art Deco District in Miami Beach brings back memories of an earlier time in Florida with its wonderfully restored 1930s Art Deco buildings. These pastel colored historic structures display neon signs and awnings that cover outdoor dining areas. Many of them front Ocean Drive, overlooking the beach and ocean.
3 South Beach
Located at the southern end of Miami Beach where the Art Deco buildings line the waterfront road, this is the most famous and popular section of Miami Beach. In summer the beach is a popular draw for locals and tourists and in winter the area is simply a popular place to stroll around.
4 Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive runs along the oceanfront in Miami Beach, passing the historic Art Deco buildings and the famous strip of sand known as South Beach. It is a popular place both day and night for a slow cruise and some drive by sightseeing.
For those with a special interest in these lovely pastel colored, 1920s and 1930s Art Deco buildings, some of the most notable structures are the Beacon (732 Ocean Drive; by Henry O. Nelson, 1926), the Colony Hotel (736 Ocean Drive; by Henry Hohauser, 1936), Waldorf Towers (860 Ocean Drive; by Albert Anis, 1937), the Breakwater (940 Ocean Drive; by Anton Skislewicz, 1939), the Cardozo (1300 Ocean Drive; by Henry Hohauser, 1939), which is busy night and day, and the Cavalier (1320 Ocean Drive; by Roy F. France, 1936).
5 Bayside Marketplace
Bayside Marketplace is a large outdoor style mall with more than 150 specialty and tourist shops, numerous cafes and restaurants, and daily live entertainment. Visitors will find some well known chain stores as well as many unique, one of a kind places. The marketplace draws locals as well as tourists.
As may be evident in the name, the mall is located along Miami's waterfront, looking out over docks and boats. Many people come here simply to soak up the atmosphere. Tour boats leave from here, visiting locations around Biscayne Bay. As well, there is a water taxi service to Miami Beach and downtown hotels located in the area.
Address: 401 Biscayne Blvd
6 Bayfront Park
Bayfront Park, on the east side of Biscayne Boulevard, was redesigned in the 1980s. An attractive feature is the electronically controlled Pepper Fountain. Other highlights include an amphitheatre used for musical performances of all kinds, a tower for laser illuminations, and three important monuments: the Torch of Friendship, symbolising Miami's relationships with the countries of Central and South America; the World War II Memorial; and the Challenger Memorial, commemorating the crew of the Challenger spacecraft which exploded in 1986.
Address: 301 North Biscayne Blvd
7 Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of Miami's greatest treasures. The architecture, the grounds, and the artwork it contains are all worth the trip to visit this beautiful place. This estate was the former winter home of early 20th century industrialist, James Deering. Built in 1916, the mansion features 34 rooms arranged around a central courtyard. This 28-acre estate and Italian Renaissance-style villa is filled with European furniture and decorative arts from the 15th to 19th century. It took more than 1,100 workers and craftsmen to complete the Vizcaya project, many of whom were brought over from Europe to ensure authenticity in design.
The gardens contain a number of Italian and French fountains, pools and sculptures. A breakwater at the base of the steps leading into Biscayne Bay is carved into the form of female figures. The name "Vizcaya" is a Basque word meaning "an elevated place."
The estate has hosted a number of world leaders and important historical events including the meeting between Pope John Paul II and the former president Reagan in 1987 as well as Queen Elizabeth II during her 1991 tour of America.
Address: 3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami, FL 33129-2831, United States
8 Little Havana and Calle Ocho
Little Havana, the Cuban district of Miami, isn't known for its wealth of tourist attractions but more for its distinctive cultural flavor. There are restaurants, specialty food shops, and Latin music drifting through the air. Calle Ocho is the main thoroughfare running through the district and home to much of the activity, but the district spreads well beyond into the surrounding streets and avenues
For people watching, the area offers a great deal of entertainment. There are many open air areas where people gather to socialize. Murals on the sides of walls show important Cuban figures and scenes of daily life. And of course, this is the place in Miami to come for Cuban cuisine.
9 American Airlines Arena
The American Airlines Arena is the home of the NBA's Miami Heat. It is also the main venue for large concerts and other special events, including top name singers and performers. It can hold more than 19,000 people. The structure itself, opened in 1999 has been awarded the Leed Green Building Certification for being an energy efficient building. It stands out prominently on the waterfront in a modern and developing area of downtown.
Address: 601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132, United States
10 Zoo Miami
Zoo Miami houses more than 2,000 wild animals in a cageless environment that gives the animals' similar settings to their natural habitats, and visitors get the feeling of embarking on an safari. Large, open-air exhibits allow visitors to enjoy endangered wildlife at a safe yet close range. This is the only zoo in the continental United States located in a subtropical climate. Although this is not a huge zoo, it often appeals to families, with lots of interaction available with the animals. There is a children's zoo with all kinds of attractions, including camel rides.
In addition to the animals the zoo also contains many tropical plants and trees, and a large collection of orchids.
Address: 1 Zoo Blvd, 12400 SW 152nd Street, Miami, FL 33177-1402, United States
11 Jungle Island
Jungle Island is a bird sanctuary, wildlife habitat, and botanical garden. There are over 1,100 birds presented in a tropical forest setting, some of which take part in daily shows. The gardens contain around 2,000 varieties of exotic plants including Heliconias, bananas, orchids and bromeliads. The site is also home to a variety of other animals including tigers, baboons, alligators, tortoises, monkeys, orangutans and flamingoes. Some of the other shows presented at the Parrot Jungle include a nocturnal creature presentation and the reptile encounter that highlights a rare white alligator.
Address: 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL 33132, United States
12 Deering Estate at Cutler
The 440 acre Deering Estate at Cutler property encompasses globally endangered pine rockland habitat, as well as coastal tropical hardwood rockland hammocks, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and a coastal dune island. The Deering Estate is home to the c1900 Richmond Cottage, which served as a hotel. Other historical buildings date from 1896 to 1922 and an American Indian burial ground dating from 1500.
The estate is named for Charles Deering, who owned the home. He, along with his brother James, was an art collector and accumulated a great number of works by the Old Masters. Deering himself also painted. On site at the estate is the Artist Village which has become an important cultural center, featuring art and artists programs.
Visitors can stroll through the beautiful grounds, tour the houses, or simply enjoy the view.
Address: 16701 SW 72nd Avenue, Miami, FL 33157, United States
13 Miami Seaquarium
The Miami Seaquarium has long been a favorite family attraction on Florida holidays.The most notable features are the daily shows featuring dolphins, killer whales, seals and other ocean inhabitants. Observation tanks contain alligators, sharks and tropical fish. The Seaquarium is actively involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida's endangered manatees, and there are normally at least a few of these gentle giants housed here. Some of the dolphins that take part in the shows are direct descendants of the original stars of the 60's television program "Flipper." The facility also offers a "swim with dolphins" program that promises to teach about the physiology, behavior and natural history of dolphins.
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway
14 Freedom Tower
One of the most striking buildings on Biscayne Boulevard, Freedom Tower displays a "wedding-cake" style. Built in 1925, it is one of the oldest skyscrapers in the southeastern United States, and served for many years as the headquarters of the Miami Daily News.
Its name comes from its role as the immigration-processing center for hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees who arrived in the 1960's. Today it stands as a tribute to Cuban immigration
Address: 600 North Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132-1802, United States
15 Miami Children's Museum
The Miami Children's Museum was founded in 1983 and moved to its latest location in 2003. It later built on an addition. Educational and entertaining exhibits are designed to appeal to children's curiosity and creativity. Interactive displays at the Miami Children's Museum include a variety of themed galleries that revolve around arts, culture, community, and communication.
The museum is located in a 56,500 square-foot facility with galleries, a 200 seat auditorium, restaurant, and gift shop.
Address: 980 Macarthur Causeway
16 Miami Science Museum
The Miami Science Museum presents a large number of hands-on and interactive exhibits covering a variety of scientific fields including physics, biology and chemistry. Exhibits change, offering new displays with new themes. The museum is also well known for its children's summer science camp.
Since the museum was first established in 1950 it has grown considerably, and been forced to expand its space throughout the years. Once again the museum has found itself in need of more space. As a result the museum is once again going through some major changes as it evolves and moves to a larger, more modern facility.
17 Gold Coast Railroad Museum
Founded in the 1950's by the Miami Railroad Historical Society, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum has more than 30 antique railway cars. It features the "Ferdinand Magellan", the presidential railcar used by Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Truman and Reagan. Visitors can see the California Zephyr cars, "Silver Crescent" and "Silver Stag".
The museum also houses an extensive model railroad section. Wooden train sets are on display for children to play with and enjoy.
Address: 12450 SW 152nd Street, Miami, FL 33177-1402, United States
Day Trips from Miami
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park, just a short drive from Miami, protects to one of Florida's most unique natural features. These swamp lands, covering about 1.5 million acres, are home to alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and all kinds of birds. This whole area is essentially a shallow river flowing out to the ocean. Within the park is an informative Visitors Center as well as walking trails and boardwalks for wildlife viewing. One of the most enjoyable ways for tourists to experience the Everglades is on an airboat tour. These high speed boat trips take visitors out into the marshes and streams to see alligators and other wildlife. There are several operators in the area, but outside the park, that offer tours of the Everglades.
A convenient and fun way to see the park is on a Miami Everglades Airboat Adventure with Transport. This half-day tour provides transport from your hotel to the park, includes a 30-minute airboat ride, a live alligator show at the Everglades Alligator Farm, and transport back to your hotel.
One of the most popular walking trails in the park is the Anhinga Trail, which leaves from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. This trail is less than a mile long but leads through terrain where visitors are likely to see alligators and other animals. This trail is wheelchair accessible and non-strenuous.
Everglades Alligator Farm
The Everglades Alligator Farm, in operation since the early 1980s, offers a sure fire way to see alligators up close. This farm has more than 2,000 alligators, along with snakes and other wildlife. The facility offers airboat tours, wildlife shows, and all kinds of viewing opportunities. The alligator show are the main attraction, along with a chance to have your photo taken with a baby alligator.
Key Biscayne and Crandon Park
South, beyond Miami Beach and over the Rickenbacker Causeway, is Key Biscayne, a small community with lovely beaches and beautiful parks. Of particular note is Crandon Park with an offshore reef that leaves the shoreline protected from big waves and perfect for swimming. The park has a Family Amusement Center, making it particularly popular with families, and a Nature Center. There is generally ample parking, good facilities, chair rentals available, and lifeguards on duty.
Where to Stay in Miami for Sightseeing
Miami's main tourist area is Miami Beach, with its lovely soft sand beaches, Art Deco buildings, and vibrant atmosphere. There are all kinds of hotels here, from small, quaint boutique hotels in landmark buildings to the large chain hotels. Most of the hotels have pools and are within easy walking distance of the ocean and a variety of great restaurants.
- Luxury Hotels. Many of the small, luxury hotels in Miami Beach are in classic, three- to six-story Art Deco buildings. For a high-end, relaxing, boutique hotel try the Metropolitan by Como, one of the most popular hotels in Miami Beach. Another upscale choice is the Soho Beach House, with a variety of accommodation options. Both of these are modest-sized properties and have spectacular ocean views. Another favorite in the area, and popular with families, is the larger W South Beach. All of these hotels have pools and easy ocean access.
- Mid-Range Hotels. Some great mid-range, family oriented hotel options in Miami Beach, with large pools and easy beach access, include the Courtyard Miami Beach and the Holiday Inn Miami Beach.
- Budget Hotels. In the budget range is the Spanish-style Clay Hotel, the contemporary-style Hotel Shelly, and the Baltic Hotel. All of these are just a couple blocks off the beach but all within easy walking distance.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Miami
- Sightseeing: If you really want to make the most of your time in Miami, the most comprehensive and convenient way to see and experience the highlights is on a Miami Combo Tour: City Sightseeing, Biscayne Bay Cruise, and Everglades Airboat Ride. This tour checks off everything but the beach, and it's all wrapped up in a one-day tour. The trip includes a narrated coach tour through the city; a cruise on the beautiful, clear waters of Biscayne Bay; and an airboat ride through the Florida Everglades.