Miami Beach caters to the moneyed crowd. At upscale shopping centers like Lincoln Road Mall and renowned spas (Agua Spa at the Delano 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 Bass Museum of Art 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
1.Get blown away at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
True to its mission, the new 250,000-square-foot museum connects people of all ages with science through a range of inspiring programming—some of which is even bilingual. The new Frost Science (an upgrade from its previous Coconut Grove location) occupies four buildings—the Aquarium, the Frost Planetarium and the North and West Wings—features year-round exhibits such as “Feathers to the Stars,” “River of Grass” and “MeLab,” an interactive exhibit that lets kids learn about health by using their own bodies to conduct experiments (think hands-on simulations).
2.Stroll down Calle Ocho in Little Havana
Obama may have relaxed restrictions regarding travel to Cuba, but it’s still a lot easier to get a heady flavor of the Vedado and Miramar neighborhoods in Miami’s Little Havana. After Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled to Miami and, while many moved to other areas of the city, their legacy survives on Calle Ocho (SW 8th St).
3.Salsa dance at Ball & Chain
Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage. Expect live jazz at 6pm sharp Thursday through Saturday. On Saturdays, a wild Cuban fiesta, La Pachanga, kicks off around 9pm when salsa dancers take to the bar.
4.Eat Cuban food at Versailles restaurant
Almost as famous locally as its palatial namesake is in France, Versailles is a kitschy Cuban diner with wall-to-wall mirrors, a constant buzz and an unabridged menu featuring every dish ever cataloged as Cuban. The Cubano might be the most popular thing on the menu: toasted, filled slices of ham, roasted pork and swiss cheese and cut perfectly in half. The Little Havana institution is also the unofficial meeting place for the city’s Cuban community during times of political unrest.
5.Indulge at Azucar Ice Cream Company
Azucar owner Suzy Batlle takes the best flavor combinations from her childhood and churns them into delicious “Cuban” ice cream, including the wildly popular Abuela Maria—vanilla ice cream, Maria crackers, guava and cream cheese. The dairy queen can often be found concocting new flavors from local ingredients, such as her recent creation with Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon buns soaked in bourbon.
6.Drink craft beers in Wynwood
Swap the ubiquitous Miami martini for a pint at one of Wynwood Arts District’s craft breweries and biergartens. Feast on house-made sausages and a rotating selection of beers, from IPAs to porters and beyond, at the Butcher Shop, a spacious beer garden and restaurant.
7.Discover the Deering Estate
No, not the same Deering who built Vizcaya, but close. The Deering Estate was, in fact, set up and built by James’s similarly well-off brother Charles, who erected his own winter retreat at about the same time that Vizcaya was constructed. The main building, the Stone House, takes a similarly revivalist tack to Vizcaya: Deering built it to remind himself of his properties in Spain. It’s not as grand as his brother’s digs, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Other buildings on the site include the Richmond Cottage, built at the turn of the 19th century, and three small but delightful utilitarian buildings from 1918.
8.Shop on Lincoln Road
Designed by iconic architectural guru Morris Lapidus in the 1950s, Lincoln Road Mall was once dubbed the “Fifth Avenue of the South,” though it’s now commonly referred to as “Lincoln.” Endless sidewalk coffee shops, lounges and cultural venues—such as the Colony Theatre—and stretch along its length from Washington Avenue to Alton Road. Got money to burn? The Herzog & de Meuron–designed 1111 Lincoln Road.
Escape to tranquil Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne (locally known as “the Key”) may not have much in the way of nightlife or shopping, but what it lacks in consumer attractions, it makes up for in serenity and seclusion. The northernmost island in the Florida Keys offers pristine beaches, two waterfront parks, a cycling path and gorgeous views of Miami.