What to do in Miami in one day

For decades a playground of the beautiful, famous and ludicrously wealthy, Miami has experienced a maturation in recent years as the city’s cultural credentials come into bloom. These days you’re just as likely to take in a world class museum as you are riding a jet ski in this vibrant melting pot of a city. Rest your head at one of Miami’s most famous hotels, the legendary Vagabond Motel, where the balance between kitsch and class couldn’t be better balanced. Then you’ll head to the nearby Little Haiti area to experience daily life with Miami’s sizeable Haitian community, a sharp contrast to the glitz of the nearby Biscayne Boulevard. Jump on the eat clean bandwagon and chug fresh juice at Jugofresh before enjoying what is perhaps the world’s biggest and best exhibition of street art, Wynwood Walls. By the time lunch rolls around you’ll be perfectly places to enjoy one of the city’s hippest new spots at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, a favourite with artists, creatives and bearded lovers of craft beer

Next up it’s time to hit the beach as you experience the postcard of Miami South Beach. Sip on a coffee at the adorable Café Mistral, fuelling your brain in preparation for the Wolfsonian Museum, which takes a deeper look at the city’s relationship with beauty, money and the American Dream. Unwind at the lush Bayfront Park before dinner at Zuma, the city’s original sushi joint. As the night unfolds take in a live jazz show at the historic Lyric theater before cocktails at the Ball & Chain saloon in vibrant Little Havana. Finally, you’ll end the day at Miami institution Hoy Como Ayer, a Cuban nightclub that captures the city’s lust for life like no other. Miami’s myriad of flavours, from Latin to American to Caribbean and back again, means that in just one day here you can experience the best of an entire continent. There truly is no city like Miami, the original Vice city

09:00 – Stay at the most authentic hotel in Miami: The Vagabond Motel

Formerly a favourite hangout of Frank, Sammy and the rest of the Rat Pack, this local institution has undergone a transformation that brings 1960’s style into the 21st century. Complete with gaudy exterior and flashing neon signs, this is your chance to experience the bygone golden era of Miami. Inside though, things couldn’t be more modern. Plush red velvet and dim lighting give a feel of luxury on arrival, with contemporary sculptures scattered throughout the sprawling lobby

This is America remember, and so customer service is of the utmost importance to the staff at the Vagabond, who will cater for every need with a smile on their face. Rooms combine everything that’s great about Miami with a touch modern abstract design. For starters, there’s offbeat decoration and Scandi-style furnishings that sit in large, airy rooms flooded with natural light. It’s not all style here though, the Vagabond more than delivers on substance too, with facilities like flat screen tv’s and designer toiletries ensuring that your stay will be a seriously comfortable one. The restaurant here is yet again an ode to modern Miami, with Chef Alex Chang melding flavours from the US, the Caribbean and Latin America to create unique flavours in plush surroundings

Then there’s the pool bar, a palm fringed area plucked straight out of the 60’s, featuring white deck chairs, lush gardens and even the odd beachball. Here you can take a dip and enjoy a tropical fruit punch at the same time courtesy of the sleek poolside bar. Be sure to stick around in the evening when the area transforms into one of the city’ hippest music venues featuring quality DJ’s both local and global. Dripping with colour, vibrancy and style, the Vagabond is truly the quintessential Miami hotel  // The Vagabond – 7301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami

09:30 – Get a flavour for the real Miami on the streets of Little Haiti

A quick hop across Biscayne Boulevard brings you into the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti District. Not as flashy as the Miami Beach or Little Havana areas, a visit through this quarter of the city will give you a flavour of life in one of it’s most prominent diaspora communities. The term “Little Haiti” was originally coined by local newspaper The Miami Herald in 1977 and in fact, locals once referred to this part of town as “Little Port-au-Prince”, after the Haitian capital

Bring your camera, it’s seriously colourful here, with murals on every corner and art-deco buildings adorned with yellows, oranges and blues. Wander over to the Caribbean marketplace to be transported to Haiti, listen to the chatter of locals bartering in Creole and wonder what on earth they might be saying. Maybe you’ll pick up some exotic fruits or vegetables, perhaps some authentic Haitian handicrafts, you never know in this part of town and that in itself is a major draw

There’s a burgeoning arts scene here too, with theatres and galleries beginning to pop up on Little Haiti’s sun-drenched streets as creatives come in search of refuge from the crowds and soaring rents of Downtown and Miami beach. Check out Gallery Diet, one of the best and a champion of local artists. Whilst this up and coming area might not be the Miami of the movies, it’s certainly the city at its most authentic and it’s not a place you’ll forget in a hurry. Crossing the boulevard into Little Haiti is like taking a boat to the island itself, except in Miami you don’t have to  // Little Haiti – NE 59th Street, Miami

10:30 – Taste the sun with a break at Jugofresh

After a wander around Little Haiti, what better way to take a break than with a freshly squeezed fruit juice? At Jugofresh, the hip juice chain that seems to be taking over Miami, juices are cold pressed fresh in-store, meaning you get as many vitamins as possible packed into one of their delicious bottles. It’s a youthful vibe here, with minimalist yet cheerfully decor and smily staff that clearly live on the products they sell

The warehouse location lends the place a distinctly original ambience that’s refreshingly cooler than the streets outside. The here menu is huge and each product literally comes with a list of health benefits such as “energizing”, “detoxifying” and “immune-boosting”. That’s not to say the stuff actually tastes like medicine, the juices here are out of this world. Take the verdant La Farmacia juice, a delicious melange that reads like a vegan market shopping list with apple, pineapple, cucumber, romaine, spinach, chard, dandelion, parsley, cilantro, ginger and lime. Talk about bang for your buck. If that’s not appealing then you can even create your own juice for a tailor made taste experience

Then there are the smoothies, which come with or without milk and include another dozen or so delightful creations. On top of all that, these guys do delicious, super-healthy salad bowls, granola pots and fruit salads, perfect if you’re still trying to fit into that swimsuit for the beach. There aren’t too many more authentic Miami experiences than a stop at a juice bar, with the folks down here renowned for being fitness crazy. Make like the locals and take a stop of Jugofresh  // Jugofresh – 350 NE 60th St, Miami

11:00 – Bask in the glow of world-class street art at Wynwood Walls

What is perhaps surprising in a city so renowned for its glamour is that one of Miami’s premier attractions is essentially just 80,000 square feet of disused warehouses. It’s what inside that will blow your mind however, with Wynwood Walls easily one of the world’s premier destinations for street art and graffiti. Located in the hip Wynwood neighbourhood just a short hop south from Little Haiti, this complex is packed with such an abundance of colour, life and youthful urgency that you’ll leave feeling even more revitalised than at Jugofresh, which is a tall order indeed

In 2009 local community revitaliser Tony Goldman opened the unique location with an inspiringly ambitious statement: “Wynwood’s large stock of warehouse buildings, all with no windows, would be my giant canvases to bring to them the greatest street art ever seen in one place.” Seven years later Wynwood Walls is exactly that and possibly even more. Today, over 50 artists from 16 nations have graced the walls here, and you can come to check out stunning pieces from globally renowned artists such as Shepard Fairey, Phase 2, Aiko, Os Gemeos, Invader, Kenny Scharf, FUTURA 2000, Dearraindrop, FAILE, BÄST and so many more. There’s also the Wynwood Doors area, which is Goldman’s nod to traditional portrait gallery but, as you’d expect, it’s not quite what you might expect

This place takes the idea of an art gallery to the next level, giving a classic concept the Miami treatment to produce something truly original and breathtakingly impressive. Stroll from mural to mural, taking a break from time to time on the plush leather armchairs scattered about this expansive space. Works include everything from politically motivated, thought provoking parodies to wild celebrations of colour, life and the city of Miami. Absolutely unmissable, Wynwood Walls captures the mood of Miami’s rebellious, expressive and burgeoning arts scene  // Wynwood Walls – 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami

12:30 – Taste the Latin at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar

Following on from the visual delights of Wynwood Walls, stroll down to one of the city’s best new restaurants to keep the creative energy flowing. The Wynwood Kitchen and Bar features stunning original artwork from local and global talents. Yes, it’s as achingly hip as it sounds, although don’t think that means pretentious. The staff are beautiful, bright young things who are full of tips for tackling the incredible menu here. The house style is tapas, small plates of vibrant food that draw on Miami’s Latin influences

Prices are reasonable and quality is as good as anywhere in town and with standards in Miami very high, that has to be a good thing. Highlights include the tropical salad of avocado, hearts of palm and latin-spiced balsamic reduction, and the pan-seared Florida fish with corn salsa. This place offers a real taste of Miami that’s inspired directly by the city’s melting pot demographic. What makes the Wynwood kitchen and bar all the more unique is that it doubles as an art gallery, making for a relaxed atmosphere with an energetic clientele that will leave you wanting to move to Wynwood, rent a loft apartment and get painting yourself

The decor here was curated by the Goldman’s and Miami-based decorator James Samson, a local superstar who has married the industrial with the tranquil to devastating effect at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. The bar itself, which is covered in smooth, soft leather is a piece of art in its own right and is definitely one of the visual highlights of this incredible eatery. For beer lovers feeling disillusioned by the local cocktail obsession, fear not – this place offers more than 40 handcrafted brews from across the world  // Wynwood Kitchen and Bar – 2550 NW 2nd Ave, Miami

14:00 – Strike a pose at the iconic Miami Beach

After a morning of arts and local culture, now’s the time to make a swift one-eighty and check out the other Miami, the glamorous Miami, the one from the TV. Miami Beach isn’t for everyone, it’s loud, expensive and at times downright tacky; but that’s exactly why you need to go. This island community just south-west from the mainland is unlike anywhere else in the world. Supermodel joggers flit in-between smartphone-wielding businessmen, skyscrapers loom over the crystalline waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and you stand there right in the midst of it all, open-mouthed, disbelieving. Yes, it’s that strange, but it’s not all as modern as that

The beach area is home to some of the city’s most beautiful art-deco buildings whose pastel pink and yellow facades have graced postcards for the best part of a century. Rent a bicycle or simply wander around the crowded streets to take a look at the wedding cake buildings and you might even recognise a few from the TV screen. On top of this, Miami Beach is still home to a disproportionate amount of vintage American muscle cars (think Cadillacs and Chevrolets as big as a small boat), which adds a certain old-world charm to the place

The heart of Miami Beach is of course the (in)famous South Beach, a posers paradise of six-packs, ripped abs and sculpted rear-ends. Grab a mojito and watch it all go by or strip down to your smalls and get involved with the whole perma-tanned parade, though you’ll need to bring your bravado to compete down here. One thing that can’t be denied is that the beach itself is truly spectacular and on weekdays you might just find a spot all to yourself, head right to the end of South Beach to escape the crowds and get your Robinson Crusoe thing going on – if only for a couple of hours  // South Beach – Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

16:00 – Teleport to France at Café Mistral

Miami is nothing if not bizarre and this little French style café just off South beach is no exception. Seriously, where else would you find something like this? It is however a beautiful little place, from the intricately tiled floors to the brown leather booths, this is pure Parisian chic in the heart of the city. Just when you thought there was no more room in Miami, the city yet again packs one more culture into its already plentiful tapestry

Grab a coffee and pretend you’re a philosopher in pre-war Paris as you watch the world pass by from an oak table inside or from the outdoor terrace area. The location of this café really does make it an ideal place for people watching and this is part of the charm here. If you’re peckish there are great charcuterie boards that wouldn’t like out of place in a Bordeaux brasserie whilst much of the food menu draws on Mediterranean influences, too. Think lots of fresh vegetables like aubergine, tomato, peppers and courgette; artisanal, first press olive oils and juicy black olives that, if only for a moment, can whisk you off to the rolling hills of Provence

The owner here is actually Italian, a friendly, welcoming character who can provide some much needed comfort from the madness outside and who knows, perhaps even a decent conversation, too. There’s an extensive wine list that includes some seriously robust reds, fruity whites and floral rosés from France, Italy and further afield. On top of that they have a range of various choices of coffee (dark/light/medium roasts), tea (black, ceylon, green, jasmine, camomile, oolong, chai) and sweet treats such as croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche, cupcakes, gateaux and more  // Café Mistral – 110 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

17:00 – Educate yourself at the Wolfsonian FIU Museum

This imposing, grandiose structure fits right in with the gaudy image of South Beach. It rises from the street like an enormous, white washed Aztec temple, which is really quite apt in this, a city whose central American population has been constantly rising for decades. What you might not expect from the Wolfsonian FIU Museum though, is that hidden inside is the key to understanding Miami’s deep-rooted love affair with glamour, wealth and hedonism. Take a guided tour through the city’s design history and see how it has impacted the lives of the diverse people who call this place home

A visit to the Wolfsonian means coming to terms with the power that art and design can wield over the human psyche, and what better manifestation of this than Miami itself. There are exhibitions on consumerism, industrialisation and it’s affects, advertising, furniture design, vintage posters, European culture and more that stretch all the way back to the nineteenth century and the birth of modern design. The Wolfsonian is unique not only in Miami but in the entire US, a fact that can be put down to it’s original take on the importance of objects and their fetishisation

This place began life as a small collection of rare artefacts and today it is one of the most respected museums in the US, an apt testament to the American Dream that is never more palpable than in Miami. There’s a shop with excellent souvenirs that you might actually use and a café serving great coffee and pastries. Oh, and there’s an excellent library to explore, too. This isn’t the busiest attractions in town and that adds to the allure of this place, allowing you to absorb exhibitions in an oasis // Wolfsonian FIU Museum – 1001 Washington Ave, Miami Beach

18:30 – Unwind at the gloriously perfect Bayfront Park

So all that learning has taken it out of you by now, right? Fear not, a short trip back over to the mainland and you’ll land in Miami’s best park, Bayfront. Perfect for a spot of photography, there are all kinds of monuments here that pay tribute to JFK, the tragic Apollo space mission and many more. Pick a spot under a gently waving palm tree and discover why Downtown Miami has one of the highest qualities of life anywhere in the US

Not only is there a gorgeous little beach in the park itself, complete with deckchairs and turquoise waters, but this verdant sprawl is also home to two great performance venues. The larger Klipsch Amphitheater is a perfect spot to catch a live show, whilst the smaller Tina Hills Pavilion puts on free performances in the warmer months, so make sure to head on over if the weather’s good – which is practically always here

The whole gamut of Miami society frequent this park, from napping businessmen to yoga practicing health-nuts, it’s all here and it’s all gloriously on show at Bayfront park. It’s like a microcosm of both Miami and wider American society, with seemingly everybody from a different race, nation, profession or style-set. Wander over to the Light Tower for a bizarre ode to Japanese culture that includes a 40ft spiralling slide that’s free to ride, perfect for kids or those of us who haven’t quite grown up yet. This is as zen as it gets in downtown Miami so make sure to enjoy the calm whilst you can. Maybe even bring your yoga pants and join in with one of the many free classes held here, it’s something of a local mecca for all things spiritual  // Bayfront Park – 301 Biscayne Blvd, Miami

19:30 – Take dinner at slick Downtown sushi joint Zuma

It was right here in Miami that the western world first woke up to sushi. Decades later, they’re still as obsessed with it here and this place is one of the best you’ll find anywhere in town. The ambience at Zuma is a tranquil, east-meets-west kind of vibe, think lots of glass, abstract sculpture and polished wood. It’s sheer class and you might want to slip into something that reflects this atmosphere, although it’s by no means a suit and tie affair

The terrace area is a must if you can get a table, with fabulous views across the bay onto whole downtown neighbourhood. Yes, the surroundings are beautiful, but this place really is all about the food. Their philosophy is to be authentic but not traditional, and this makes for some of the most imaginative takes on Japanese food imaginable. One of the signature dishes here is the black cod marinated in saikyo miso with homemade hajikame. Like much of the menu it’s a study in elegantly balanced flavours and perfectly cooked, fresh produce. All of the sushi and sashimi classics are available here and they do them incredibly well, with every plate served as beautiful as a Japanese cherry blossom in springtime

One tip, wash it all down with a glass of Sake, the selection here is extensive to say the least and after a couple of glasses, the stuff can become more than a little moreish. Whilst sushi may not sound like an authentic Miami meal, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Statistics show that health-conscious locals consume more of this East Asian delicacy than almost anywhere else in the country and with restaurants like Zuma, it’s really not that hard to figure out why  // Zuma – 270 Biscayne Blvd Way, Miami

21:00 – Attend a show at Miami’s Oldest theater, The Lyric

Straddling an area of Downtown Miami once known as Little Broadway the Lyric Theater is a historic place that has played host to greats such as Aretha Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr and BB King. The area was also once referred to as Little Harlem for its sizeable black community. Today the Lyric is a truly iconic manifestation of Afro-American history, formed from the era of segregation as a meeting point for black Americans in Miami who were unable to gain access to the city’s “exclusive” venues

Not so long ago there were fears that this place would be shut down as the building literally began to crumble in the 1980’s. Yet after undergoing extensive restoration at the end of the last century, the Lyric is now functioning as one of the city’s prime spots for live performances in a diverse range of genres. There’s a beautifully constructed, glass-walled atrium whilst the Lyric’s original art-deco facade is a sight in its own right, harking back to older times when life seemed to be a whole lot simpler. Definitely worth a snap for the photo album

Inside, the 400 capacity hall ensures an intimate evening and shows here range from everything from contemporary jazz and RnB to tribute acts paying homage to the greats. Every now and then there’s an appearance by a truly huge name, with Bruce Springsteen recently choosing the Lyric for a performance. Understandably, tickets are hard to get a hold of but if you happen to be in town for one of these marquee acts then you might just have luck on your side, check their website for listings. A visit to the Lyric is not just a visit to the theatre, it’s an evening spent in the company of some of America’s most talented artists from the last century  // The Lyric Theater – NW Second Avenue, Miami

22:30 – Warm up at Little Havana’s Ball and Chain

An iconic bar that’s played host to names like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, this place has been going since the thirties and today little seems to have changed. Shutting its doors in 1957, the Ball & Chain Saloon reopened again thirty years later much to the joy of Miami’s music lovers. Since then they haven’t looked back as the Ball & Chain continues to be one of Miami’s, best locations for drinks, music and a carefree ambience

The interior is a vibrant, sensual experience, with multi-colored globes hanging low from the ceiling, illuminating a sea of revellers that flock to this place nightly and let loose to the sounds of soul, funk, jazz and much, much more besides. The furniture brings to mind the kind of speakeasy that you might have found here nearly a century ago, wooden panelling and oaks chairs complimenting an impressive selection of bourbon behind the bar. Clearly, the decorators here were mindful of the history of the place, preserving much of the original character yet adding just enough flair to bring this place into the modern day

Then there are the cocktails, which this place has become famous for. Grab an Old Fashioned, a blend of sugar, bitters, whisky and citrus rind. It’s the daddy of American cocktails but be warned, it’s not to be quaffed like juice even if it tastes just as good. Once loosened up a little, spark a conversation at the bar because this place is a watering hole for writers, artists, tourists and everything in between. You never know quite who you might meet at the Ball & Chain yet delicious drinks and a riot of an evening are all but guaranteed here  // Ball & Chain – 1513 SW 8th St, Miami

23:59 – Move to the beat at Hoy Como Ayer

This is the pinnacle of Miami’s Latin music scene, a legendary nightclub that plays host to some of Cuba’s finest musicians. The drinks are strong, the dance floor packed and the clientele as diverse as any you’ll find in the whole of town. On top of that, they’re usually exceptionally beautiful people here, but there’s no need for designer threads or a ton of makeup, just slip on your dancing shoes and a sense of rhythm and you might just have the night of your life

Make sure to check the listings, some nights are calmer than others depending on who’s playing. Sometimes it’s salsa night, others nights it’s reggaeton, you really never know. Nonetheless, things always come to life after midnight as tanned shoulders brush up against one another on this iconic dance floor. If you’re not averse to the rhythm of Cuban music just watch the regulars, you’ll soon pick it up and be floating across the floor in no time, especially after a few rums – which by the way are as varied and tasty as you’d expect from a place so thoroughly Latin in character 

The decor is minimal but trendy, it’s all about the people and the music at Hoy Como Ayer so don’t expect any VIP booths or $10,000 bottles of champagne. That said it’s by no means a dive bar, things are kept super clean and the ambience is jovial, never threatening. The carnival atmosphere at Hoy Como Ayer sees Miami at it’s very best; heavy on glamour and passion, but strikingly low on any form of pretence. This is the place to come if you simply want to let loose and dance to the sound of the beating heart of Miami  // Hoy Como Ayer – 2212 SW 8th St, Miami

We mapped out your day trip in Miami

Each highlight of your day trip is numbered, simply follow the guide

What you should absolutely know about Miami

City highlights, food & drinks, expressions, weather, how to get there and how to get around

From local bars to sparkling white sandy beaches, Miami day trips are a thing to remember. Embark on a boat tour around the city, indulge your taste buds on a food tour or conduct a personal walking tour. Shop until you drop at the Bayside Market and party until the sun comes up at Miami’s many nightclubs and lounges. Lay out and tan on the glamorous South Beach. Canoe and hike at Oleta River State Park or journey back into time looking at the art deco buildings on Ocean Drive. Chill in a hipster café or people-watch from coffee shops

Rock out at a concert at the American Airlines Arena or get up close and personal with wild animals at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation. Soak up the sun and work on your tan at Lummus Park Beach or grab drinks at the Purdy Lounge

Miamians love fried plantains; try them when you’re there. Miami has great meatballs, fried chicken, and sandwiches. BBQ shrimp, oyster pan stew, and crab claws are also must-try foods. Miami is known for their drinks, especially minty mojitos

While in Miami, you’ll hear the word “bro” a lot; this is used to address people. “Chanx” is slang for flip-flops, a “Getty” is a small party, and “Casa de Yuca” to describe somewhere far away. “Ransom” is used to describe anything unexpected

Summers are hot and humid, averaging 80 to 90 degrees. Fall brings little relief with rainy days, but temperatures stay in the 70s to 80s. Winter is mild, with averages of 60 to 70 degree weather. Spring brings humidity and temperatures in the 80s

The Metro bus is a great way to get from the airport to the city and the ride costs $2.25 for a one-way ticket. Take the Metrorail into the city for less than $3.00 or jump in a taxi for $35 to $55, according to where you need to go

In North Miami, taking a taxi or renting a car is essential for traveling around, but in South Beach there are designated walking streets. Getting around Miami is easy with the bus system or rent a bike to see the city on your own terms

Feeling adventurous? Have a look at these city guides