An Insider’s Guide: Where to Eat, Shop & Explore in Miami

With international borders now open and peak tourism season upon us, it’s no wonder why Miami is experiencing a rush of visitors.

According to data from hospitality analytics firm STR, average hotel room rates in Miami are now higher than they were pre-pandemic. This surge of activity is prompting some of the most prized hotel brands in the world to plant a flag in Miami, with Aman, Bvlgari, and Waldorf Astoria developing new properties.

The residential and commercial real estate markets are benefitting as well. As new companies announce plans to relocate and expand to Miami on an almost daily basis, home sales are experiencing record-levels of activity and office space is getting snapped up faster than it can be developed.

With so many people Miami-bound, it’s easy to get caught up in the madness. But don’t fret – our team of tried-and-true locals is here to help, offering up a handy guide for unlocking the best of Miami – including hidden gems which are guaranteed to offer a break from the crowds.

CHOOSING A HOME BASE: Beyond the popular beach and party scenes, the best parts of Miami are often off the beaten path. Over the last decade or so, the mainland has seen a revitalization – especially within communities that offer history and charm. Whether in North Beach, the MiMo district, or Little River, here are the best neighborhoods to explore when visiting Miami:

  • North Beach/Normandy/North Bay Village: If you’re looking to escape the tourist traps of South Beach, head a few miles north to North Beach. This is arguably one of the best places to go to the beach in Miami, and here you can also stroll down the boardwalk or check out a show at the North Beach Bandshell amphitheater. Take a scenic drive over the bridge down 79th street causeway and you’ll find some of Miami’s best sushi at Sushi Erika, and one of the most legendary waterfront outdoor sports bars Shuckers Waterfront Grill.
  • MiMo/Upper East Side: Decades ago, the area along Biscayne Boulevard from 54th to 77th streets was lined with mid-20th-century-era motels. The area quickly developed a bad reputation but has since been revitalized thanks to developers and locals hoping to preserve the iconic Miami Modern style. Today, there’s a mix of boutiques and restaurants – and we can’t forget the iconic 35-foot Coppertone Girl sign. A few neighborhood fave’s worth checking out: Blue Collar, Andiamo, Ironside Miami, and the Legion Park Farmer’s Market.
  • Little River: This classic Miami neighborhood is well-known to older natives and has recently entered the radar of younger generations. As one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods, Little River was established as an agricultural community. A natural evolution led to its development into one of Miami’s most vibrant commercial, entertainment, and residential areas. Check out Little River Cooperative, La Natural, and The Citadel.

GET YOUR CULTURE FIX (AND BEAT THE CROWDS): Out-of-towners heading to Miami for Art Week may have visions of swanky parties, 75-degree days spent lounging on the beach, and artworks on display all over town. But for locals, Art Week means one thing: traffic in every direction. While navigating the crowds around Art Basel Miami Beach’s main fair is not for the faint of heart, there are plenty of ways to get your art fix without braving the masses.

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, tucked away in the Miami Design District, is free and open to the public every day during Art Week. On view this year is Serious Moonlight, a survey of works by American artist Betye Saar. A couple miles to the north is Fountainhead, a factory-turned-art space that is home to dozens of artists’ studios. And in Downtown Miami, the NADA Miami fair (New Art Dealers Alliance), hosted at Ice Palace Studios, is a low-key, less-trafficked alternative to nearby Art Miami and the main fair just across Biscayne Bay.

ICA Miami

MIAMI EATS: There are endless dining options in the Magic City. In Miami Beach, you won’t be disappointed with Mila, Jaya, Juvia, or Carbone; in Wynwood, you can’t go wrong with Uchi and Kyu; in Coconut Grove, must try’s include Botanico Gin & Cookhouse (Miami’s first gin-spired restaurant) and Bellini and the Mr. C Hotel; and in Brickell, you’re likely to find your new favorite spot at Sugar, Hutong, Zuma or La Mar.

A special mention goes to The Rusty Pelican on Virginia Key, where views of the Downtown Miami skyline are unmatched. For a taste (and glimpse) of Old Miami, grab a waterfront table at Garcia’s Seafood on the Miami River and watch time float by.

Photo Credit: MILA Miami Beach

SHOP TIL’ YOU DROP: Whether you want to follow the latest trends or set your own, Miami is an ultimate shopping destination known internationally for its luxury labels and one-of-a-kind boutiques. If you’re looking for unique locally made clothing and accessories, visit the Wynwood Marketplace, where you’re sure to find handmade pieces created by artists and small business owners. If you want to splurge on high fashion, treat yourself to a shopping day in the Miami Design District, a one-stop outdoor retail destination home to some of the biggest names in fashion including Hermés, Maison Margiela and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Brickell City Centre and the Lincoln Road Mall are great places to shop if you are looking for the perfect mixture of local shops, high-end designers and big-box retailers, as both locations are home to brands such as Zara, Lululemon, and Victoria’s Secret. For those in tune with their bohemian souls, head to Coconut Grove, where the new-look CocoWalk has something for everyone — from designer shades at Edward Beiner, to the latest boho styles at Late Night Gypsy.

Lincoln Road Mall

Soak Up the Sun: Whether you’re big on biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, or simply sunbathing on the beach, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Miami. If you’re looking to relax by the water or enjoy sports like paddle boarding or kayaking, we recommend Key Biscayne, Crandon Park, or South Beach. 

Virginia Key is one of the best places in the City to enjoy leisure water activities, including kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes. If you’re visiting Downtown or Brickell, you can go for a run along the water on Brickell Key, or check out The Underline, which has a trail perfect for running, biking, or rollerblading. If you’re looking to just relax and walk around other unique outdoor spots in Miami, check out Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden or the Vizcaya Museum.

Photo credit: The Underline