There was a time, and not long ago, when Miami was all about the debauchery and pastel-hued visuals of Miami Beach’s southernmost stretch. But the most seductive city in the Southeast—and the country’s definitive base for contemporary and historical Latin American and Caribbean culture—has grown into a global hub for art, creativity, and design that stretches far beyond South Beach’s sandy confines.
“Miami has finally become a city where the ideas can mature in their own neighborhoods and not everything has to gravitate to South Beach,” says Mike del Marmol of independent Miami creative studio, Sun&Sons. “People are finding their neighborhood pride and developing their own neighborhoods.” He adds that social media has helped pop-up events flourish in neighborhoods like West Kendall and Little River. “There’s the realization that something doesn’t have to be happening in Wynwood or on the beach to make it worth doing.”
Major events across the city in 2024 include Inter Miami’s (and Lionel Messi’s) 2024 Major League Soccer season, which kicks off at DRV PNK stadium in Fort Lauderdale in February (the team will move to its permanent home base, Inter Miami CF Stadium, when the 58-acre Miami Freedom Park opens sometime in 2025). The year rolls on at rapid pace, with Miami Music Week and Ultra Music Festival’s mix of electronic, house, and more in March at Bayfront Park and smaller venues across town, from beachside bars (Kill Your Idol) to downtown speakeasies (Floyd). Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix roars into town in May with watch parties galore; then comes III Points music festival in October—an indie/alternative version of Miami Music Week, with headliners like Iggy Pop and Skrillex in 2024. Art Basel Miami Beach and pop-ups and satellite art fairs (among them Design Miami/ and Untitled Art Fair) finish out the year. In short, there’s never a down time of year to be here.
In a long weekend getaway, Miami promises nightlife, wildlife, natural beauty, and creative inspiration down every palm-lined block and wraps it in a sun-splashed package. Here’s how to spend four very fine days in Miami.
Day 1: Explore the Little River neighborhood
For the city’s latest art- and culture-centric enclave with a refreshing lack of pretension and an open, welcoming vibe, try Little River, a former warehouse district just north of Wynwood and Little Haiti.
Head first to Dale Zine, which champions inclusivity and accessibility in the art world with a selection of zines and print art across genres, and contributions from people from all walks of life. Look for the independent printer’s mobile bookshop, which is housed inside a converted 1996 Honda Acty minitruck stocked with titles. The zine vendor is “the opposite of Taschen,” del Marmol says. “They’re authentic scene creators without trying to be scene creators,” adds Alex Burnard, his partner at Sun&Sons.
Continue the shopping at éliou, a ready-to-wear brand founded by childhood friends with a production and design studio in the neighborhood. Harry Styles is among the celebrities to don their jewelry. And if you’re in town on the third Saturday of the month, food and fashion market Walter’s Mercado pops up with a spread of curated vintage fashion finds, tropical plants, food trucks, and more.
Fuel a day of exploring with a variety of eats. Try La Natural, with its pretty garden, natural wines, and wood-fired sourdough pizzas, or Japanese 12-seater Ogawa, which just opened in December 2023 and has “probably the best sushi in Miami,” says Burnard.
End the day at The New Schnitzel House, where German comfort-food stars on the late-night menu include a traditional schnitzel, pounded thin and breaded and served with a lemon wedge and fries. “The food and drink are incredible,” Burnard says. “Plus it’s small, so you always feel like you are really being taken care of.” Thursday’s jazz nights at Understory, meanwhile, draw crowds to an urban garden packed with date palms, flowering vines, and tiki torches.
Day 2: Visit classic South Beach
Rise in time to catch a syrupy sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean from a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surfclub, Surfside, Florida, a family favorite thanks to the complimentary all-day kids club for ages 4 to 12.
Hop on one of the complimentary bicycles (or a Miami-Dade Transit bus) for a leisurely ride south to South Beach. Set your sights on two classic restaurants for lunch, suggests Lee Brian Schrager, founder of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Feb. 22–25, 2024). For “classic Miami,” he says Puerto Sagua is a charming Cuban restaurant whose dishes shine. “I always get some croquetas or a medianoche sandwich to start the day, with a cafecito, of course.” During stone crab season (Oct. 15–May 1 every year), Joe’s Stone Crab is “one of those restaurants where you sit down and enjoy the entire experience,” Schrager says (the stone crab and hash browns are obligatory, and the stone crab bisque is a favorite for a quick lunch).
South Pointe Park, on South Beach’s southernmost tip, is a sweet spot for an afternoon swim in the ocean. A short stroll away, in the South of Fifth neighborhood, try the Latin American and Mediterranean fusion at Abbalé Telavivian Kitchen; think Moroccan-spiced black grouper, shakshuka, and shawarma-spiced wagyu picanha steak.
The Four Seasons’ concierge, Brian Bean, also suggests an outing to Palomino Ranch 20 miles south in Key Biscayne for an unexpected eco-tour—it plays out on horseback, just minutes from downtown’s high-rises, and wraps in history and nature during a visit to the gorgeous coastal hammock trails maintained by volunteers at Virginia Key Beach Park. “You start the tour through beautiful scenery and then finish trotting on these gentle horses through warm waters. It’s not crowded and is really quite fun, peaceful, and memorable,” says Bean.
Day 3: Little Havana, downtown Miami, and Brickell
Start day three with a trip to Little Havana, where tourists still throng Versailles Restaurant and salsa-dancing hot spot Ball & Chain, made famous by the Cuban diaspora. Mandarin Oriental Miami’s concierge, Carlos Ayala, points to Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina as his favorite restaurant for authentic Cuban cuisine, with dishes like fricasé de pollo (chicken fricassee), picadillo, and vaca frita (crispy shredded beef) on the menu, and a courtyard filled with tropical plants and island memorabilia. Alternatively, hit the walk-up window at Sanguich de Miami a few blocks west, where husband-and-wife team Daniel Figueredo and Rosa Romero serve a gourmet spin on the classic Cuban sandwich, layered with house-fermented mustard, homemade pickles, and ham brined in house.
In downtown Miami, the Underline is due for completion in 2025. Opening in phases, the city’s 10-mile linear park and public outdoor art trail continues to transform 120 acres of land downtown into recreation space. Ayala recommends the Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science for family travelers who want “an experience that is immersive and engaging for parents and children alike.” Between the 250-seat planetarium, the rooftop observation deck’s native vegetation exhibits, and aquarium habitats dedicated to Gulf Stream, mangrove, and Everglades environments, you can easily spend hours exploring. The Herzog & de Meuron–designed Pérez Art Museum Miami, nearby and right on the bay, features hanging gardens and incredible works by Cuban artists José Bedia Valdés and Wifredo Lam, among many other Latin American artists, including Colombian painter and sculptor Beatriz González and Mexican painter Diego Rivera.
End the day with a sunset walk around Brickell Key, which Nichole Walz of social group and community resource Brickell Women says is the finest walking loop in the city. “You can stroll right next to the water while spotting dolphins and manatees, all with an incredible Brickell skyline in view,” she says. Reward yourself at new Brickell bar P.N.O., which has great cocktails, live piano music, and plush couches.
Day 4: Head to Coconut Grove, two national parks, and a secret spot for sunset
Nature creeps in everywhere in these subtropical parts. Start your day in Coconut Grove, about four miles south of downtown Miami and Brickell, with breakfast at Chug’s, an upscale Cuban diner serving plates including cast-iron pancakes and short rib boliche (pot roast). Right across the street, Barracuda Taphouse & Grill is “one of the last remaining places to go to feel like you’re in a nautical weirdo Florida zone,” says Burnard, who swears by the snapper or mahi sandwich. Get out on the water during tours with Biscayne National Park Institute, which runs boat trips from Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove to tour historic Biscayne National Park sites like the lighthouse at Boca Chita Key and Stiltsville, where a collection of wooden shacks originally built in the 1930s hover above crystal-clear waters you can kayak through.
Alternatively, take an easy day trip into Everglades National Park by approaching it from the Homestead entrance, located past the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, and strolling the boardwalk at the Anhinga Trail, where you’ll likely see alligators and all manner of wading birds. Ayala recommends guests make the most of a visit to the park by booking a private tour guide from Magic City Adventures, who can lead you on hikes into the Everglades’ diverse ecosystems and organize private airboat tours.
For beach time at the end of your final day, Burnard and del Marmol both suggest laid-back Matheson Hammock Park, just south of Coral Gables, or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, with its historic lighthouse and 1.25 miles of undeveloped beachfront on the southern tip of Key Biscayne.
Finish your trip by enjoying what’s easily the best sunset in Miami at The Cleat, a beautiful bar secreted away inside Bill Baggs state park on No Name Harbour.
“It’s almost got a Key West vibe to it,” says del Marmol about the watering hole. “There’s a tiki bar where bands play, and you can see all the way out to Stiltsville.”
Where to stay in Miami
For lavish oceanfront accommodations north of the South Beach fray, book a suite or ocean bungalow at Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, Surfside, Florida. It’s a perfect base for the first two days of this itinerary.
The Mandarin Oriental Miami on the southern tip of Brickell Key has an outdoor infinity pool with incredible Biscayne Bay views and one of Miami’s best spas, which offers Ayurvedic facials, massages, and body treatments.