“Miami is a melting pot in which none of the stones melt.
~ Tom Wolfe
This past week, I had the wonderful chance to visit Miami for a concert with the New World Symphony. It was an enlightening experience, both for my violin-playing and future-decision-making, but I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Miami, and I couldn’t quite believe that I was able to spend time with an incredible orchestra and conductor.
Parts of Miami South Beach felt like a different country to me. There is a distinctive blend of rich Cuban and Spanish culture mixed in with notes of rougher American street life. The entire city is set against a vivid and altogether too bright Florida beach that in parts feels a shimmer of artificiality. Gone are the endless stretches of empty beach and sky; now the shorefront boasts large, sky-scraping hotels, fast-driving cars, and the busiest beach I have ever seen on a Saturday. In the city, the wealth gap is highly prevalent, and homeless people linger in the shadows admiring a silver Maserati parked next to a stunning beachfront home.
Still, the constant blue sky and the hum of tourists from all different walks of life – coupled with sunrises and sunsets that cannot be beat and a lively appreciation for art, music, and culture – make Miami (and Miami South Beach) a vibrant place for a visit.
Here are 5 Favourites from my time there:
1. Wynwood Walls
The Wynwood Art District, fully owning to its name, boasts an amazing display of murals, sculptures, and art galleries. Even the fronts of shops offer artistic facades and the sidewalks are covered in poetry and various sketches.
Zak & the Baker // a little off of the main stretch, this café serves breakfast and lunch, and offers a large selection of all-natural baked goods.
Coyo Taco// directly beside Panther coffee, this smaller restaurant has a unique menu selection. Order a margarita and the tacos with grilled cactus, and share a table with some new friends in their lovely, friendly, outdoor patio.
Wynwood Walls// be sure to duck inside the artist gallery once you reach the end of the outdoor exhibit. Inside, you can read all about the artists, their inspirations, and the history of Wynwood Walls.
Frangipani// the perfect place to find a gift, this store is right around the corner from Wynwood Walls and Joey’s Café.
Nomad Tribe// I loved this concept store hugging the corner across the street from Coyo Taco. The products in the store revolve around social impact, selling everything from bags of coffee to fair-trade clothing and hand-crafted jewelry.
Joey’s Café and Ristorante// the courtyard of this restaurant is directly beside the entrance to Wynwood Walls and the happy hour specials include a $5 glass of wine and bruschetta. I loved the little lights that were strung over the courtyard and the candles on every table.
2. Pérez Art Museum
The current Julian Le Parc exhibit at the museum is a wonderful display of light, colour, and shape. I thought it was a beautiful representation of the art scene in Miami as a whole, artistically blending the idea of space and perception.
The building itself is worth a visit alone. Designed by Hertzog and de Meuron, the brilliant structure managed to incorporate elements of natural light and greenery while highlighting the surrounding water and Miami landscape.
Perks: free on the first Thursday of every month!
Museum Park// the waterfront of this newly completed park is absolutely gorgeous. After looking around the museum and stopping in Verde for a glance at the menu, I took a walk along the waterfront and watched some of the cruise ships take off into the darkening sky.
Verde// I am convinced that this is one of the best restaurant spaces ever. Nestled underneath the incredible hanging structures that are the symbol of PAMM, the outdoor eating space has wide rafters and a sunlight-speckled outdoor courtyard overlooking the water. I’m pretty sure that almost any food would taste incredible in that space.
3. Lincoln Road Mall
While mainly a large outdoor shopping strip, this street is worth a stroll to get a sense of the Miami South Beach culture. Large outdoor cafés line the street, with hostesses and servers attempting to rope you in for dinner or lunch (often pretty aggressively) by calling out menu options and waving hand-outs in your face. It reminded me distinctly of certain main streets in Barcelona, where the servers would sometimes even put their arms around your shoulders in efforts to get you to sit down.
Despite the tourist hubbub, there are some hidden gems that are well-worth a visit:
Books & Books// beautifully and thoughtfully designed, I could spend hours in this local treasure of a bookstore. The outdoor café and restaurant is the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and read for an afternoon.
Huahua’s Taqueria// slightly off-the-beaten-path, a street over from the main hubbub of Lincoln Rd. mall, this relatively inexpensive taco joint offers an inventive and delicious selection of tacos, burritos, and nachos.
New World Symphony Center// designed by Frank-Gehry, I had the privilege of spending a portion of my morning every day in this beautiful concert hall. It is every bit as stunning inside as the outer façade and surrounding Soundscape Park. During the season, certain concerts are Wallcast outside on the 7,000-square-foot wall, and after the concert finished, the orchestra was treated to a view of the audience outside (one of my very favorite memories from the concert).
4. Sunset on the Venetian Causeway
Surprisingly, the Venetian became my favourite place to run while in Miami. The boardwalk at the beach, and even the beach itself, was often too crowded and hot for a run. The Venetian, with its fanciful bridges, lamp-posts, and gorgeous waterfront views provided the perfect amount of breeze, sunshine, and palm-tree shade. I loved running during the Golden Hour, when all of the bridges would be cast in sunset light.
Panther Coffee// slightly hidden on Purdy avenue, this unique coffee shop (with other locations scattered across Miami) has a wonderful selection of coffee and a breezy, shaded area right outside of the shop.
Ice Box Café// directly across from Panther Coffee, this café offers everything from salads to beautiful cakes and desserts.
True Loaf Bakery// a relatively new addition to Purdy Ave. and the beautiful shops that line the waterfront near Maurice Gibb memorial park, everything in this bakery looked mouthwatering. Order the cornmeal cookie with lime zest and hop around the corner for an iced Cortado at Panther Coffee.
5. Española Way
La Sandwicherie// this little sandwich shop, just a block over from the beach boardwalk, often has a line extending onto the sidewalk. Run by a distinctly French man, La Sandwicherie offers a wide selection of smoothies and sandwiches. Order The Tropical sandwich, with fresh mozzarella, avocado, and papaya, and The Deco smoothie.
Other Fun Links:
- For the majority of my time in Miami, I followed this awesome guide, and she was right on the money.
- Found these guides on Suitcase Magazine: Where to Eat, Where to Drink, What to Do
- Apart from the “Miami has GREAT transportation” statement that was not entirely true, I loved reading this guide on Miami downtown and this one on Miami South Beach.
- While not in Miami, this gorgeous feature on The Everglades made me anxious to see it.