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Mural-splattered walls and art galleries galore, the rhythmic beats of salsa and son cubano ringing through the streets, and some of the best restaurants and food joints in the state… Miami is often associated with its nightlife, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll get a glimpse at its eclectic multicultural heritage that’s evolved into to a rich culinary, art, and music scene.

There are many ways to uncover Miami’s authentic side, from food tours stuffed with Cuban delicacies to a stroll through butterfly gardens and public art installations in the city’s parks. It’s also America’s second sunniest city, with palm tree-lined streets and sugar-soft beaches that stretch for miles, making Miami an ideal destination to unwind and explore in equal measure.

A gateway to the rest of Florida, you could use it as a launchpad to explore the Keys, Naples, and the Everglades on a trip that combines wildlife with white-sand beaches. Or, for a feet-up Caribbean escape, Miami is just a short flight from Antigua.

Things to see and do in Miami

A local’s food tour of Little Havana

Little Havana cigar craftsmanThe many Cubans who fled their homeland in the 1960s and 1970s when Fidel Castro rose to power have made an indelible mark on the city, and particularly in the district of Little Havana. We recommend taking a food tour of the district with a local guide, who’ll lead you to the best places for trying Cuban coffee and cuisine. As you walk, you’ll pass cigar shops, art galleries, and restaurants blasting out Cuban drums, salsa, and son cubano tunes. It’s a feast for all the senses.

Along the way, you’ll get to try one of the district’s most important dishes: the cubano. This layered sandwich is stuffed with tangy mojo pork, succulent ham, Swiss cheese, and briny pickles, held together with mustard and grilled to melty perfection in soft Cuban bread. You’ll also try crispy empanadas stuffed with spiced ground meat called picadillo and sip Cuban coffee at an authentic walk-up ventanita.

In between tastings, your guide will take you to visit a cigar factory to watch the precise skill of hand rolling, executed by an experienced torcedor (cigarmaker).

Cultural tour of Wynwood Art District

You can spend a morning uncovering Miami’s art scene by joining a guided tour of the city’s Wynwood Art District. This rejuvenated area, instantly recognisable by its collection of low-rise warehouses, now provides space for art galleries, cafes, acclaimed restaurants, and craft breweries, as well as independent boutiques.

As you wander the streets, your guide will point out the large murals emblazoned across Wynwood’s once-derelict buildings, earning it the moniker of the ‘world’s largest outdoor art museum’. They’ll explain the various styles of graffiti that surround you, shedding light on tags, stencils, stickers, and blockbusters, and take you to hidden corners that you might miss on your own. You’ll also visit galleries that showcase the city’s up-and-coming artists and their works, including paintings, photography, sculptures, and street art.

The district is known for its diverse array of international street food, too, which you’ll get to taste on route. You might try spicy Mexican birria tacos, crunchy Indian samosas, or umami Japanese udon soups. Though perhaps the highlight will be sampling the state’s very own cuisine, ‘Floribbean’ food. This fusion of Caribbean, Latin American, Asian, and Floridian cuisine combines complex spice blends with fresh local produce like seafood, mango, papaya, and key lime.

Exploring Miami’s architecture

Miami Art DecoTake a drive through Miami’s various districts and you’ll notice the city’s distinct architectural styles. Beachside 1930s Art Deco hotels define Ocean Drive, while Miami Modern architecture (MiMo) is the signature of the city’s extravagant resorts, marked with bold interior flourishes, like curved sofas and animal-print decor. Mediterranean Revival architecture, on the other hand, takes influence from the Spanish colonial period with stucco walls, red roof tiles, and bell towers. You’ll see plenty of examples of this in Miami Beach, too.

If you’d like to dig deeper into each architectural movement, head to the Art Deco Museum and the Miami Center for Architecture and Design to peruse their exhibits. Or join a walking tour with the latter to admire downtown Miami’s most significant buildings with a passionate guide at your side.

Miami’s beaches & parks

Many of Miami’s hotels brush the honeyed sands of South Beach, the city’s most famous stretch of coast. If you want to be part of the action, roll out your towel here. Lummus Park stretches across the south end of the beach, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and Ocean Drive. You can join the locals as they flock here day and night to jog, skate, swim, and play volleyball. Or take a guided cycling tour to soak up more of the sights, with stops in the Art Deco quarter, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, and the Bass contemporary art museum.

For a quieter oceanside experience, head further north to Mid Beach or North Beach, where the atmosphere is much more laidback, or visit Bal Harbour for fine dining, luxury retail therapy, and a pristine stretch of sand.

If you can pry yourself away from the waterfront, we suggest taking a walk in one of Miami’s inland parks. Our top recommendation is The Underline, a new park initiative founded by resident Meg Daly with the aim of renewing the city’s unused spaces. Constructed beneath the welcome shade of Miami’s Metrorail, here, you’ll find walking trails, basketball courts, outdoor gyms, butterfly gardens, and public art displays. The Friends of the Underline volunteer group continue to expand and add to the park year on year.

Finally, March to September is baseball season in the States, when on given evenings, you could head to Marlins Park to watch the Miami Marlins play. Even if you’re not too familiar with the sport, the light-hearted atmosphere is contagious as you join up to 50,000 local fans in cheering on the city’s celebrated team.

Best time to visit Miami

Florida is generally hot and sunny year-round. Visit between March and May for warm temperatures without the humidity of July and August, which also experience afternoon downpours.

For even lower humidity, low rainfall, and mild temperatures, the winter months of December to February are also a good time to go.

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