If you were to visit Miami but you only had 72 hours to see the best of everything, what would you see? For starters, you’ll want to spend some time at the world-famous Miami Beach with its spectacular views and aquamarine waters. But if you still had 48 hours left to take in the sights, where else would you go? Here are a few recommendations on where to stay, where to eat and what to see if you’re in the Miami area with a limited amount of time.
Where To Stay
Miami offers hundreds of hotels, with the largest concentration located in the downtown section. Although there are several great places to stay in the city, such as the Four Seasons Miami, Mandarin Oriental Miami and the historic Biltmore Hotel, the more popular spot to stay is across the Interstate 195 bridge in the city of Miami Beach. Among the best places to stay are the hotels located right along one of the world’s most famous beaches, including The Setai, Acqualina Resort and Spa, Lowes Miami Beach and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Other, more affordable choices to stay include Angler’s Miami Beach, Jefferson Suites and the Clevelander.
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Where To Eat
Miami offers more than 6,000 restaurants for visitors to choose from, with great spots in both Miami and in the South Beach section of Miami Beach. Some recommendations in downtown Miami are Toro Toro, Zuma, Truluck’s and La Camaronera in Little Havana but visitors will discover most of the dining action really is across Biscayne Bay and onto the barrier islands that comprise Miami Beach. It’s practically impossible to miss a spot with outstanding cuisine, but some spots might be missing great service. To avoid a less than desirable dining experience, visitors might want to make reservations at places known for superior service, such as Joe’s Stone Crab, Ola at the Sanctuary, Red the Steakhouse and The Bazaar by the celebrated chef Jose Andres. For more affordable fare, top choices include Cafe Prima Pasta, Pizza Rustica, Mango’s Tropical Cafe and Gloria Estefan’s Larios on the Beach, with the latter two among the best for authentic Cuban cuisine.
Miami is internationally famous for its incredible dance clubs and nightlife. The hottest and most famous spots are celebrity hangouts like LIV and Story, but both also have the longest lines to get in. Fortunately, there are many other places that help affirm South Beach’s reputation as one of the world’s premier destinations for nightlife. Among these are Treehouse, the Clevelander, Mango’s Tropical Cafe, Nikki Beach and the Wall Lounge. For live music, visitors should check out the music calendar at places like Churchill’s, Ball and Chain and the Fillmore Miami Beach at the legendary Jackie Gleason Theater, formerly known as the Miami Beach Auditorium. For larger events, the American Airlines Arena showcases the biggest names in the entertainment world, with upcoming performances from Rihanna, Ellie Goulding and Selena Gomez.
How To Get Around
Miami’s public transportation system consists of buses, trains and movers. However, only bus service is available into Miami Beach. While the more reliable trains and movers can be convenient at times, as well as the South Beach Local bus, the most practical way to get around Miami and Miami Beach is by rental car, taxi or ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
What To See
South Beach Miami
For most visitors, the top attraction is Miami Beach and, more specifically, the South Beach portion. While Miami Beach extends nine spectacular miles, most of the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife are found in this southern portion. The water temperatures in South Beach range from an average low of 71 degrees to an average high of 83 degrees, making it suitable year ’round for a dip or a swim. Other must-see attractions in South Beach are the Art Deco Historic District and the Miami Beach Boardwalk, a very popular spot for walking, jogging, cycling and sightseeing.
It’s not in Miami, but the Everglades is a must-see attraction, especially for the first-time visitor with 72 hours to spare. The largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America, the Everglades encompasses more than eight million acres and is home to nearly 70 endangered species. For visitors driving to the Everglades, the main entrance is located about 40 miles south of Miami, just outside the city of Homestead. Another, perhaps more practical, way to visit this World Heritage Site is with a tour operator such as Miami Tour Company, which offers a combined Miami/Everglades tour or Island Queen Cruises. Both tour operators offer packages which include roundtrip transportation and an opportunity to ride one of the famous airboats through a portion of the vast wetlands.
American Airlines Arena
Located in downtown Miami, American Airlines Arena is the home to the NBA’s Miami Heat. The 20,000 seat arena also hosts a number of special events and concerts throughout the year. Upcoming events include the Harlem Globetrotters, Toruk The First Flight and Disney On Ice presents Frozen. Depending on the time of year, visitors may also want to visit Marlins Park, home of the Miami Marlins during the baseball season, and Sun Life Stadium to see the Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes or other major events such as soccer, Monster Jam or music concerts.
Art Deco Historic District
Another South Beach attraction that deserves more attention is the Art Deco Historic District. Covering a large portion of South Beach, it features more than 800 Art Deco structures that are representative of a glorious past in Miami Beach’s Old City. Built primarily over a 20 year period beginning in 1923, this historic neighborhood has one of the world’s largest collections of Art Deco architecture, whose familiar design typified modern glamour and inventiveness. Many fine examples can be found right along the famed Ocean Drive, including the Avalon Hotel, Hotel Breakwater, Colony Hotel and the Park Central Hotel. Visitors interested in a walking tour can meet at the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive.
Lincoln Road Mall
Located in the Art Deco district, Lincoln Road Mall is a must-see for any first-time visitor. Quite possibly the finest shopping area in all of Miami, this stylish pedestrian mall is filled with upscale stores, outstanding restaurants and a few art galleries. In all, there are more than 100 stores and over 50 restaurants, along with several nightclubs and bars. Among the leading retailers are Armani Jeans, Lacoste, J Crew and an Apple Store. For dining, visitors might enjoy places like Baires Grille, Havana 1957, Collette French Bistro and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. Lincoln Road is just a short walk from the Miami Convention Center, Miami Beach City Hall and the Fillmore Miami Beach.
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Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com