17 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Miami
The city of Miami lies on the southeast side of the Florida Peninsula, separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Biscayne Bay lagoon and Miami Beach with its huge hotels and apartment blocks. Miami's pleasant winter climate has led to its mushroom growth into a vastly popular holiday destination that draws millions of visitors every year.
The beaches of Greater Miami are a major highlight, drawing visitors from around the world. Miami is also home to two nearby national parks, the Everglades and Biscayne. Biscayne National Park has the only living tropical reef in the continental United States.
Miami is an important and influential cultural centre with linguistic ties to North American, South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. The city has three official languages; English, Spanish, and French Creole.
The first European to sail into Biscayne Bay was the Spanish navigator Ponce de Leon in 1513. In 1567 Spanish Jesuits established the mission station of Tequesta, on the site of Miami, and the settlement which grew up round it became a base for the Spanish silver fleet on its voyage to Europe. After the Spanish withdrawal in 1821 the first American settlers came here to grow cotton and tropical crops. In 1871 William Brickell established a trading post on the estuary of the Miami River (the Indian name Mayami means "Great Water"). Five years later Julia Tuttle, an incomer from the North, acquired a considerable area of land to the north of the river, and on her initiative Henry M. Flagler extended his East Coast Railroad to Miami in 1895-96. The Royal Palm Hotel was then built at the rail terminus. The Spanish-American War of 1898 brought great profits to Miami. The development of the offshore island of Miami Beach now began. During the Second World War Miami was a hospital and recreation center. A building boom began after the war.
Fidel Castro's revolution in Cuba led many Cubans to leave home and settle in the Miami area, and Cuban refugees played a considerable part in the development of the Miami area. In the early eighties there was another migration from Cuba. This period also saw an influx of refugees from Haiti.
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.
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
As the name suggests, 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.
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.
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.
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.
8 Little Havana and Calle Ocho
Little Havana is the Cuban district of Miami. The culture can be seen and experienced in the restaurants, shops, and on the street where the traditional music completes the scene. The main street is Calle Ocho, 8th street, but the district spreads well beyond into the surrounding streets and avenues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.