Miami is one of my favorite cities but it can be overwhelming if you’re visiting and have limited time. For my out of town visitors, I have set up a what I call: “Miami in One Day”.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens is first on the itinerary. Located just outside Miami’s downtown district, Villa Vizcaya will transport you to a different time and place entirely. Described as “the finest private house ever built in America,” the “Deering Estate” is an ornate mansion built on the Bay with elaborate classical gardens. Plan to arrive early, just as they are opening. You will need 2-3 hours to see everything but you can easily spend a day there. If you want an in depth explanation, the “audio tour” is useful. You can simply punch a number of the place you are and hear interesting tidbits, like the fact the gorgeous pool was used by the owner only once.
The early 1900s Italian-style home was designed to emulate centuries’ old French, Italian, and Roman architecture, with furnishings to match. You are able to tour the grand house at your own pace; audio tour devices are available for an additional fee. Upon exiting the house, be sure to walk around to the back, which overlooks Biscayne Bay and offers sweeping views of the Miami and South Beach skylines.
From there, explore Vizcaya’s expansive and exquisite gardens, where you are sure to run into lizards, iguanas, and a photo shoot or two. Vizcaya’s gardens are used for weddings and quinceanera photo shoots. The gardens are a very magical place. This past summer when we visited Vizcaya with my cousin Juanjo from Spain, he proposed to his girlfriend Vicky in the garden. It couldn’t have been a more perfect and romantic location. She of course said “Yes”. And the gardens chalked about probably their millionth successful romance.
At $18 for adults, the entry fee may seem a bit pricey; but, exploring this unique historic landmark is well worth the cost. Vizcaya is a fantastic way to start the trip, filled with history, education, and an eerie feeling that only aged, faded neo-classical artwork can induce.
2. Bayside Marketplace
A ten minute car ride from Vizcaya in the heart of downtown Miami is Bayside Marketplace. It’s a two story open air mall right off biscayne bay. Bayside offers lots of restaurants along the water including Hooters and the Hard Rock Cafe. From party boats to brand name stores you can sure accomodate a family day at this place. The best part, there is parking space within the facility, of course you pay for it, but it is a plus in this Miami area.
Bayside Marketplace is a nice place to get a drink and a bite to eat. The shopping is geared to tourists selling typical beachy and souvenir type items along with a number of chain stores thrown into the mix.
When I visited recently with my cousin, we decided to have lunch next to the water in one of the restaurants. After lunch we took one of the Island Queen Cruises. They depart almost very hour on the hour. The sight seeing cruise runs around $24 for adults. It takes you on 90 minute sightseeing cruise around Biscayne Bay where you have the best views to see the Downtown Miami skyline, the Port of Miami, Fisher Island, Miami Beach and Millionaire’s Row – the homes of the rich and famous.
3. South Beach
From Bayside head towards the beach and in another 15 minutes we arrive in South Beach.
South Beach, also nicknamed Sobe is world renowned for it’s Art Deco architecture. South Beach has more than fine white beaches and colorful buildings. It offers an eclectic mix of world class boutiques, galleries, hotels, restaurants and stores. It’s also a culinary hot spot for everything from gourmet to casual beachside cuisine. At night, South Beach comes alive with crowds ready to go out and have a world-class evening out on the town.
Parking can be a little tricky by if you get lucky you might find a spot right on Ocean Drive like we did. Some of the restaurants offer valet parking for a hefty fee. There’s plenty of entertainment as you walk along Ocean Drive. Be prepare to see it all.
After parking we started walking down the strip. Every restaurant along the way was inviting us to sit and eat. We finally picked one and ordered some drinks. South Beach is great for people watching. You never know who you might run into. After a refreshing drink we continued to walk down the strip and crossed the street to check out the beach.
South Beach is a beautiful white powdery sand beach with warm blue crystal clear water. You can rent a chair or umbrella on the beach but it can be pricey, around $20 each. Nevertheless, the beach was filled with sunbathers enjoying fun in the sun. The beach is so wide that from the street, it’s quite a long walk to get to the water. We took our shoes off and got our feet wet. The water was nice and warm. Visitors from up north or the West Coast of the US cannot believe the warmth of our local waters.
The buildings in the evening looked amazing with all the bright colors. South Beach is great for people watching, shopping (if you don’t mind premium premium prices), eating, and obviously, hitting the beach.
4. Lincoln Road
Only a few blocks away from South Beach is Lincoln Road. It’s an outdoor pedestrian mall with nice shopping and restaurants with outdoor tables/seating set up along the center of the street. It’s approximately 8 blocks of non-stop cafes and shops. You can find almost any kind of food from Sushi to Cuban. Like any mall there’s great shopping opportunities. Some of my favorite stores H&M, ZARA, Victoria’s Secret and the Apple Store can be found.
If you’re into people watching, just stop at one of the cafes and you’ll be entertained. One of the great treats that many people overlook are the wonderful Art Deco buildings on Lincoln Road. The Banana Republic is in an old Art Deco bank and has the original counter and iron work inside. The changing room is in the vault in the back. My cousins loved the outside seating area and shops.
In the evening, Lincoln Road is a great place to enjoy the energy of Miami. It is well suited for families, couples, and just about anybody who wants to be outside on a nice night.
My out of town guests really enjoyed their day out in Miami. There’s so much to see in such little time, but it’s a great way to spend the day and see most of the sites.
What’s your favorite location in Miami?