Best Things To Do in Miami Beach
Miami Beach caters to the moneyed crowd. At upscale shopping centers like Lincoln Road Mall and renowned spas (agua Spa at the Delano South Beach is a particular favorite), residents and visitors spend boat loads for decadent experiences and comfortable clothing. Night owls shell out hundreds on drinks at dance clubs and bars. Sophisticated types observe the art deco architecture and stop by the Ancient Spanish Monastery in the afternoons. Relaxing on the sand is truly the best "free" activity. Most cost-conscious visitors spend their days lounging on the beach or swimming, surfing and kayaking in the Atlantic Ocean. Also, don't forget to stop by the very moving Holocaust Memorial.
Updated July 29, 2020
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With nicknames like "America's Riviera" and the "Art Deco Playground," it's no wonder so many people flock to South Beach. Travelers see South Beach not only as one of the best vacation areas in Florida, but as one of the best in the country. Popular perception has somewhat pigeonholed the area as being reserved exclusively for the young and beautiful and 24-hour partiers, but that's not necessarily the case. The truth is that South Beach welcomes anyone looking for pristine sand, amazing food and yes, a buzzing nightlife.
The options are limitless: you can spend the whole day shopping at boutiques, getting pampered at an opulent spa or just strolling along Ocean Drive. Families can take the kids over to see the animals at Jungle Island or to play at the Miami Children's Museum for some educational fun. South Beach also hosts numerous festivals and events, including volleyball tournaments, Art Deco Weekend and music and art shows.
- #2View all PhotosfreeOcean Drive#2 in Miami BeachFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
One of the most famous boulevards in the city, the country, or maybe even the world, Ocean Drive is characterized by its distinct art deco buildings, its constant streams of crowds and its glittering hotel and club fronts in the nighttime. Suffice it to say that you're truly blessed if you've booked a hotel along Ocean Drive because you're guaranteed to be in the thick of things. Shopping, dining, beach activities and more are all within a comfortable walking distance.
Travelers say the best way to experience Ocean Drive is just by walking down the street, taking in the expertly decorated hotel and storefronts and snapping some photos along the way. Day or night, visitors say you'll find something to do along Ocean Drive, whether it's dining in an upscale restaurant, grabbing a cocktail at a rooftop bar or dancing the night away at one of the clubs. Though, many warn that partaking in the revelry of food and drink along Ocean Drive does come with a high price tag.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Miami BeachBeaches, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Clothing-optional Haulover has long been a favorite of laissez-faire residents and vacationers, but there's more to do here than nude sunbathing. You can fly kites, go charter fishing and even play volleyball at this shore located just north of Bal Harbour. And you don't have to strip to your birthday suit to enjoy this area, as there are also designated sections for swimsuit-clad beach bathing (the northern area of the beach is where you'll find nude sunbathers).
Most travelers said they enjoyed their time at Haulover Park, noting that it's a far more laid-back option than the busier South Beach. Some recent travelers expressed surprise at how friendly the people at the beach were, whether clothed or unclothed. If you don't bring your own gear, plan to part with at least $15 to $25 for beach and chair rental, according to past visitors.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Miami BeachShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDShoppingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located on Lincoln Road, between Alton Road and Washington Avenue, the Lincoln Road Mall is a mile-long, can't-miss pedestrian shopping area. Originally designed in the 1950s, the Lincoln Road Mall received a makeover in 1997 that lead to a resurgence in popularity. In 2011, the Lincoln Road Mall was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Shoppers can expect to find everything from Banana Republic, Gap and Macy's to Lululemon Athletica, Apple and Madewell. In addition to several stores and restaurants, the area hosts a farmers market on Sundays, morning yoga classes throughout the year and outdoor concerts.
There's pretty much something for everyone here. Grab some scrumptious sushi and cocktails at SUSHISAMBA before catching a flick at the movie theater. Afterward, drop by one of the art galleries or sample some magnifique French macarons at Ladurée. Travelers agree that a stroll through the Lincoln Road Mall is a must when visiting Miami Beach. Recent visitors were delighted with live music and the restaurants that cater to pedestrians. However, some reviewers did express disappointment in the amount of chain stores and homeless people wandering the area.
- #5View all PhotosfreeLummus Park#5 in Miami BeachBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
This is the beach and park area that fulfills all of South Beach's stereotypes. Fit sunbathers, bikini-loving celebrities, supermodels (often occupied with a photo shoot) – all of the above crash on the beige-colored sand here, which runs along Ocean Drive from about 5th Street to 15th Street. Volleyball nets, beach gear rental kiosks and restrooms dot the area as well. The grassy stretch between Ocean Drive and the beach features plenty of palm trees and a winding paved pathway that attracts runners, bikers and rollerbladers. (It's also the home of the South Beach Triathlon.) Spending some time here will put you within walking distance of Ocean Drive's many restaurants and bars and allow you to experience the Art Deco District, in addition to the sun and sand.
Recent beachgoers said this area is great for exercise and for relaxation, adding it's also a prime spot for people-watching. Visitors also reported that the beach attendants were friendly and helpful. Some do warn that parking around this area can be a pain to find, though, and suggest walking, biking or grabbing a cab to the park avoid the hassle. Others also advise arriving in the morning to stake your spot in the sand.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Miami BeachChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Set in North Miami Beach, this monastery has a storied past. Officially known as the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, construction on the structure began in A.D. 1133 in northern Spain and was completed eight years later. It was inhabited by monks for nearly 700 years but after a revolution in the 1830s, the monastery was taken over and sold. In 1925, the cloisters and the rest of the monastery were purchased by William Randolph Hearst and shipped to the U.S. After years of sitting in storage, the monastery was rebuilt over the course of 19 months and reopened to the public in 1964 as a tourist attraction. (Time magazine called it "The World's Largest and Most Expensive Jigsaw Puzzle," as it involved 35,000-some stones.) It didn't do too hot as a tourist attraction alone, so it was sold to a local diocese and was turned into a church. Today, it's an active congregation that welcomes churchgoers and also acts as an attraction highlighting the monastery's beautiful architecture and its surrounding gardens.
Travelers said it's worth escaping the hubbub of South Beach to venture north to admire this tranquil monastery. Visitors love that its grounds are historic, quiet and serene, and say when the gardens are in full bloom it's truly a sight to see.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Miami BeachTours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDTours, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Miami Beach is known for its art deco architecture, a design style of the 1920s and '30s that's characterized by bold colors and geometric shapes. It often incorporates styles of cubism, expressionism and other varying art movements. You'll spot this architectural style adorning the city's gorgeous hotels, storefronts, restaurants and buildings that line South Beach. The best way to experience all the art deco Miami Beach has to offer is on a walking tour of the South Beach neighborhood.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Miami BeachFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located at the southernmost tip of Miami Beach, South Pointe is a 17-acre park that features walking paths, grassy knolls and sweeping views of the ocean. The area also has a playground with water features, and a dog park. There's plenty of seating throughout the park and there are several art and light sculptures throughout. The South Pointe Pier juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and is a popular place to fish. After undergoing a $4.8 million renovation in 2014, the 450-foot-long pier now offers stations for cutting bait and washing fish, recycling bins for fishing line and more seating for additional vantage points of the ocean.
Overall, recent travelers said a stroll through this park and along the pier is enjoyable, with many noting they loved watching both cruise ships and smaller yachts come and go. Reviewers also commented on the stunning views and raved about the many photo ops. Visitors suggest renting bikes to get here and bike through the park, as the parking situation can be frustrating. (Visitors can pick-up and drop bikes at two-bike share locations near the park and pier.) Families also say South Pointe Park, with its grassy areas and playground, is a great spot for kids.
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Located near the intersection of Dade Boulevard and Meridian Avenue, the Holocaust Memorial in South Beach is a moving tribute to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. The idea was conceived by a small group of Holocaust survivors in 1984 and the memorial officially opened to the public in 1990. The site features a series of statues, architectural pieces, a garden of meditation and a memorial wall. The main sculpture features dozens of emaciated people reaching out for help, clinging to one another, that make up an outstretched arm reaching up to the sky.
Recent visitors echo one another, saying that Miami's Holocaust Memorial moved them deeply and caused them to remember the importance of never forgetting the tragedy. Most travelers agree that you should stop by to see the memorial while you're in the area, citing the informative photo panels as ways to learn even more about this terrible event. There is also a brochure for self-guided tours available for a suggested $2 donation.
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The Miami Children's Museum is located on a little island between downtown Miami and South Beach. Kid-friendly interactive exhibits are the focus of this museum, which caters to youths with things like a 6-foot piggy bank (to learn about financial literacy), the Castle of Dreams (a colorful sand castle designed to inspire imagination) and the Music Makers Studio (where children can learn how musical sounds are made), among several other engaging activities.
Families visiting Miami Beach say this is a great air-conditioned place to spend some time with kids, especially since many of the exhibits are so engaging. The only downsides visitors noted were the high cost of admission (and having to pay for parking, too) and the limited dining options available on-site. The museum does offer free admission every third Friday of the month, from 4 to 8 p.m., but patrons said the venue gets absolutely packed on those days.
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