Why there’s more to Miami than beaches and spring breakers

A guide to Miami’s hottest (and coolest) things to do

With its china-white sand and silver screen good looks, it’s little wonder Miami ticks all the boxes when it comes to a city break with a slice of beach bliss. But delve a little deeper and you’ll uncover a side that many travel brochures miss. With hidden bars, street art and boutique hotels right across Miami Beach, here’s just what makes the ‘Magic City’ so spellbinding.

Take to the streets

Forget stereotypical stuffy galleries. In Miami, for amazing art you need to hit the streets. The Wynwood Walls began in 2009 as a series of windowless warehouse buildings, transformed into giant canvases for urban art. Over the years, over 50 celebrated artists from more than 16 countries (and counting) have created incredible murals. And the latest Wynwood Doors project has transformed a piece of wasteland into a smaller-scale outdoor gallery exploring the street art landscape. Today, both projects have turned Wynwood into a must-visit neighbourhood – and the ‘Walls’ into a grab-your-camera fixture of the Miami art scene.

While you’re here, drop by the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar for a fusion of creative cuisine and innovative art. Wraparound murals and giant sculptures are an eye-catching accompaniment to the kitchen’s Latin infused small plates.

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Slip into a hidden bar

There’s one rule when it comes to Miami speakeasies – the harder they are to find, the better. Bodega Taqueria y Tequila might look like your run-of-the-mill taco truck, but inside it’s an off-the-wall restaurant with whimsical decor. And there’s more. Look for the port-a-loo door – it leads into a trendy cocktail bar with vintage furnishings and bartenders who love to recommend unusual flavour combinations.

Mexican food is king at Coyo Taco too – an urban chic space where fresh takes on tortillas come brimming with unexpected ingredients: seared gulf shrimp, confit duck and even grilled cactus. But what most people don’t know is that there’s a hallway past the bathrooms that leads to a small but perfectly formed cocktail bar. Best visited on weekdays when it’s much more laid back, the mescal margaritas are something special.

Or swap Mexico’s finest for the flavours of Korean BBQ and seek out much talked about Drunken Dragon. Tucked away behind an unassuming – and slightly unappealing – exterior, inside you’ll be seated in a smart, low-lit restaurant where each table comes with its own grill for roast-it-yourself dishes.  

Venture beyond the beach

The beauty of Miami lies in its landscape. This is a coastal city where beautifully designed skyscrapers and art deco architecture lead down to immaculate beaches. Just a hop, skip and jump (into a boat) from downtown, brings you to Biscayne. In this awe-inspiring National Park you can snorkel above shipwrecks and coral reefs, canoe along wildlife rich creeks and kayak past mangroves. It’s a world away from the city, but close enough to reach within the day.

 

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In Coconut Grove you can hark back to old world Florida in the Barnacle Historic State Park – a relaxing place for a picnic where you can also learn about frontier life from the preserved 1891 ‘Barnacle’ house. Or, if you’re visiting Miami with children, stop by the folly-dotted – and evocatively named – Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park. Here you can pony trek along the creek, visit the little petting zoo or simply walk through the woods and community gardens.

Where to stay

Jazz-age glamour. Menus from a celebrity chef. A glitzy rooftop pool and spa overlooking the beauty of South Beach. When it comes to Miami’s boutique hotels, The Betsy South Beach has it all. This Gatsby-era grand dame is an Ocean Drive landmark, putting you at the heart of all that’s hip and happening.

 

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