Miami experiences by Land
Art Deco Historic District
The most popular destinations within urban Miami include Little Havana, the Art Deco district, and the Versace Mansion. The Versace Mansion represents the Mediterranean form of art deco architecture, one of 3 types of art deco styles as outlined here. A convenient way to learn more and distinguish between the different forms of Art Deco is to take one of the daily walking tours offered by the Miami Design Preservation League. The two hour tour will enable you to gain a good appreciation for the nuances of this unique architectural style and be able to distinguish between the 3 sub-themes within Art Deco that includes Classical Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo) styles found in the historic district’s hotels, restaurants and other notable buildings.
The League also runs the Art Deco Museum and Welcome Center which provides in-depth information regarding the different styles of art deco architecture. Architectural features such as symmetry, glass blocking, neon lighting, usage of curved edges and corners, round porthole windows, terrazzo floors and more.
The Art Deco Historic District is located in Miami Beach between 5th Street and 23rd Street, along Ocean Drive. This district contains over 750 buildings representing slightly different shades of the art deco style, going back to the early 30s. The Art Deco district is of course a stop for Miami Big Bus Tours. Tickets for Miami Big Bus Tours can be booked here.
The Wynwood Arts District
I would highly recommend visiting Wynwood since this gentrified neighborhood is also one of the most vibrant, artistic areas of the city. Wynwood Walls at the heart of this district is the site of a large collection of street art. It is the number 6 stop of the red loop by Miami Big Bus Tours. Tickets for Miami Big Bus Tours can be booked here. By the way, you can take the same red loop from Big Bus Tour to Little Havana, which is the number 8 stop. During my last visit, the Wynwood area reminded me a bit of Georgetown in DC with its animated young folks, except this neighborhood is more artsy. Same energetic vibes. The entire neighborhood is very walkable, so you don't need a car. It contains both art museums and street art galore.
It is also fast becoming a tech hub that is favored by young professionals and has been dubbed by some as the Silicon Valley of the South. Tons of well-reviewed, open air restaurants to choose from and the area is peppered with 70 art galleries and street art. Some of these galleries include exterior displays such as Wynwood Walls presenting the handiwork of well-known street artists. Most of the some 70 art galleries welcome visitors and also have art work for sale.
Wynwood is located, here, to the north of downtown Miami and west of Miami Beach. It was once known for large warehouses, but is now filled with shops, restaurants, upscale housing, and lots of energy. Just to the north of Wynwood is the ICA, the Institute of Contemporary Art that is mentioned here. This section of the city is also very accessible via mass transit, please check with your hotel as to specifics regarding transportation. Be sure to also ask for Miami Big Bus Tours as an option.
Little Havana is one of the largest enclaves for Cuban exiles in the world. This passionate and enterprising immigrant community longing for the American Dream has also retained the cultural charm of their former island. This is thus naturally reflected in the character of the neighborhood filled with street life, food, music and other cultural activities, small business enterprises, and a warm, welcoming attitude towards visitors.
The Calle Ocho Music Festival is a one-day festival that takes place in March in this neighborhood between 12th Avenue and 27th Avenue on 8th Street. It encompasses not just Cuban but Latin America culture as a whole and attracts over a million visitors. Little Havana is the number 8 stop of the red loop by Miami Big Bus Tours. Tickets for Miami Big Bus Tours can be booked here.
Miami experiences by Sea
Biscayne Bay is a lagoon, 35 miles in length, that abuts Greater Miami. To its south lies the less populous area around Biscayne National Park. Towards the north is the more populous areas of Miami-Dade. If you come from Northeast US like myself you will immediately appreciate the crystal clear waters of the Bay. Juxtaposed with this subtropical lagoon is a wonderful view of the Miami skyline and the Millionaire's Row of mansions - architectural wonders in their own right; and also the smattering of scenic islands.
Wildlife at Biscayne Bay includes dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and manta rays. You can view these on a boat tour of Biscayne Bay that you can book here. If you wish to focus more on the lifestyle of the rich and famous and have a peek at the celebrity mansions comprising Millionaire's Row, you can book the Miami Millionaires' Row Cruise here.
There is something special about places and activities that allow you to experience wildlife, natural beauty, and the best of human ingenuity all at once. The New York skyline for example is awesome but I doubt you can view that live from anywhere while parasailing - the facilities just don't exist. But parasailing in the Biscayne Bay provides you with such an opportunity. While soaring above the bay you can soak in the Miami skyline along with your friends if you are parasailing together. While at the same time getting a birds eye view of the turtles and dolphins swimming below in the clear waters of the bay. An absolutely thrilling experience that you can book here. Please note however of some additional fees of around $40 per person that some reviewers complained they were unaware of.