On January 7 the University of Alabama and Notre Dame will face off in Miami for BCS National Championship. It might be the game, or just the weather, that takes you to South Florida, but if you’re going to be in one of the hottest travel destinations in the world you don’t want to miss the rest of the action.
I spent the last couple weeks exploring every square inch of my sunny hometown to come up with the top 10 oh-so-Miami experiences to help you get the most out of your visit.
1. Sip a fruity cocktail by the pool. Hotel bars are a big deal in Miami Beach, and none is complete without a great pool. Don’t worry about donning a bikini–most Miami pool parties don’t involve actually going in the water. You’ll be there to lounge and mingle with Miami’s glitterati. Opt for one of the newest hotels on the scene such as SLS South Beach or The Gale, or go classic with an evening at The Standard or at the Mondrian’s Sunset Lounge overlooking the water and downtown’s skyline.
2. Have dinner at Michael’s Genuine. James Beard-winning chef Michael Schwartz’s emphasis on locally procured, globally inspired dishes have made Michael’s Genuine
an institution in Miami since opening in 2007. And the menu doesn’t skimp on South Florida’s Latin flair—think chargrilled octopus and wood-oven pizzas topped with lamb and cilantro.
3. Go salsa dancing. Queen of Latin beats Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, own Bayside hotspot Bongos Cuban Cafe. The mojitos are served up minty and icy, and most days there is a DJ or salsa band playing on the terrace so you can dance under the stars while gazing at the breathtaking view of the bay.
4. People watch on Lincoln Road. It’s busy and touristy, but people watching doesn’t get much better than at this shopping strip where tourists converge with local models and power players all decked out in stylish garb.
5. Go to the beach. You didn’t come all this way to miss out on the sun and surf. Skip the South Beach crowds and head to Key Biscayne, a barrier island just South of Miami known for its lavish homes and pristine, tranquil beaches. Kids will love the island’s Miami Seaquarium, Miami’s only aquarium and home to killer whale shows and playtime with dolphins.
6. Window shop in Bal Habour. Don’t be surprised if you see J. Lo. or Katie Holmes stocking up at Bal Harbour’s luxe shops such as Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, and Prada. The shopping center is a retail playground for the rich and famous.
7. Catch a free outdoor concert. Only in Florida can you comfortably enjoy an outdoor show this time of year. The New World Symphony hosts free screenings of its concerts on the side of its Frank Gehry designed building twice a month. Grab pressed sandwiches from the new Cooper Avenue restaurant that opened at the New World Center this fall, and spread out a picnic blanket for a night of free world-class entertainment.
8. Spend an afternoon in Wynwood. Well-positioned art aficionados turned this once-blithed neighborhood into the city’s most promising destination for enjoying a day of art, food, and culture. In this area, run-down factories have made way to more than 70 art galleries, restaurants, and shops dressed up by the colorful murals that cover all the walls. Before heading over, check out our five-stop guide to the ‘hood.
9. Have a Cuban sandwich. It’s debated whether the Cuban sandwich truly originated in Miami or Tampa, but there’s no contesting the Magic City packs some of the best ham sandwiches between two sweet buns. The local’s choice is at Versailles, a mainstay in Little Havana since 1971. While there, try a cortadito—a shot of espresso cut with steamed milk. Coffee will never be the same.
10. Get a taste of Miami’s Southern takeover. Yardbird Southern Table introduced the area to the comforts of Southern food and hospitality, and Miamians can’t get enough of it. Now it’s no longer uncommon to hear the sounds of classic country twanging out of a bar or menus heavy on bourbon and biscuits. Some of our new favorites: Pride & Joy BBQ and Gramps bar in Wynwood and South Street in the Design District.