What to Do in Miami: A Locals Guide

Claudia Uribe

From Dwayne Wade to Gloria Estefan, Brett Ratner to Andy Garcia, the city's most in-the-know residents share their favorite things to do around town.


“I love to get a mani­pedi at the Mandarin hotel and paint my toenails black. I go into the spa and turn myself off from the world.

It’s like seeing an eclipse when you see Miami at night. I’ve lived in Miami for more than a decade. I used to go out, but I don’t really anymore.

Right now I’m sitting here with paint on my legs, my face, my arms. I just got done painting something for Art Basel with Billi Kid, the street artist. It was basketball­-themed.

One of the best things about living here is the water. It’s what makes Miami Miami. You cannot live here and not be on the water. I go boating up the bay—I’m building a house on the water and like to check in on the progress— and through the downtown Brickell area. You can take a boat right to the restaurants Zuma or Seasalt and Pepper. If it’s a beach day, I like hanging out at the W or Setai hotels.

Miami sports fans have changed in the sense that the Heat fan base has really grown a lot. When I got here, sports fans were very Dolphin­ heavy. But the Heat organization has done really well, and we own the hot sports space now.

For shops, I love Del Toro Shoes. I’m very close friends with Matt, the founder. I created my own shoes with red, black, white, pony hair and leather. I also have a line of Hublot watches—I’m designing my second watch, which is coming out later this year—so I like to go into the Hublot Boutique at Bal Harbour Shops to see how my watches are selling.

I don’t get a chance to go out much. I eat at home a lot. When I do eat out, I’m in the Midtown area, which has more of the trendy shops and restaurants. I like Joey’s, which is a great Italian spot, or Pride and Joy, which is barbecue. Prime 112, in South Beach, has great people­watching.”


“I’m an island girl. I was born on one, Cuba, and we live on an island off Miami Beach. So to me, water is one of the prime reasons I love living here. The sunsets are some of the most beautiful in the world because of our subtropical climate, and every evening, the pink clouds and blue skies reflecting in our gorgeous water put on quite a show.

I love the year-round warmth, the sultry breezes and the laid-back feeling despite this being a growing and active city. If you like to party, there’s no better place, and if you like to just sit back and enjoy the boating and beaches, we have that as well.

We are expanding at the speed of light when it comes to offering incredible culinary experiences, and places like homegrown Joe’s Stone Crab and Prime 112, as well as Cipriani, Zuma and many other world­ class restaurants that make Miami their home. If you like Cuban food— shameless plug alert—there’s Larios on the Beach, owned by yours truly and my hubby, Emilio. It has a wonderful atmosphere and, in my humble opinion, the best Cuban food in town.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t actually go to the Everglades until 2004, even though I’ve lived in Miami since 1960. I finally experienced it on a field trip with my daughter, Emily, and her fifth­grade class, and I absolutely loved it. I think everyone who visits Miami should take an airboat ride in the Everglades.

The best free thing to do in Miami is the beach! You’ll get an eyeful of gorgeous beach bodies, possibly swim with dolphins and manatees and enjoy your day in a true Miami way. My favorite beach is on South Pointe Park in Miami Beach, where you can also enjoy the view of the huge, magnificent cruise ships going out to sea while you swim.”

JORGE PÉREZ, Founder, The Related Group

“The Miami artists to watch right now are José Bediaand Enrique Martinez Celaya.

BRETT RATNER, Film director

“When I land at Miami International, there’s no better feeling than driving over the Julia Tuttle Causeway, going home to Miami Beach, then driving on Collins Avenue and arriving at the best juice bar in the entire world, Athens Juice Bar. It’s been there for 60-plus years, with the freshest fruit on earth. Don’t forget to get the side of cottage cheese and top it off with the special fruit sauce.”

JOSÉ ANDRÉS, Chef, The Bazaar

“I love listening to live music at the tiny bars and clubs in Little Havana, where everyone is dancing salsa, even out on the streets! Go there on any night and just dance your way from place to place. My favorite performers are my great friends Emilio and Gloria Estefan. If you’re lucky and they have a show when you’re in town, you should definitely go. You will have one of the best nights of your life.”

TOMMY MOTTOLA, Music executive

“The best thing I’ve bought in Miami is my house that I built on Star Island, which I later sold to Diddy, P.Diddy, or Puff Daddy or Mr. Combs for departures—whatever he is going by these days.”

LOURDES LOPEZ, Artistic director, Miami City Ballet

“The Miami City Ballet rehearses in our building on the beach. It is great to watch, and, yes, free.”

RODMAN PRIMACK Executive director, Design Miami

“You know you’re a Miamian when you watch episodes of Miami Vice with a sense of longing and without a hint of irony.”

GABE ORTA, Cofounder, Bar Lab

“The best last meal I had was the tasting menu at Japanese spot NAOE.


“If I have a free day in Miami, I spend it with family and friends on the ocean fishing or at the beach. I bring all my friends who come through town out on the water. I love bonefishing in the flats between Key Biscayne and Elliott Key. For off-shore fishing, I like Cat Cay and Bimini.

The one touristy thing to do in Miami that’s actually worth it is Versailles Restaurant.

My favorite Miami sports team is the Dolphins. I went to the first game in the history of the franchise. Joe Auer took the opening kickoff all the way for a touchdown. Quite the start. I was there for the entire 1972 undefeated season of the Super Bowl champs.

Bernadette Peters is my go-to for Pilates.

My favorite Miami memory is Miami Beach in the ’60s, meeting my wife at the disco Honey for the Bears and the birth of my first daughter, Dominik (the rest of my kids were born in L.A.).

Miami’s architectural icon is the Freedom Tower. It’s where all Cuban exiles in the ’60s first received help.

The best artistic performances were concerts by bassist and mambo creator Cachao! Especially if you were performing with him. Heaven.

For seafood, I go to Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market on the river and La Camaronera in Little Havana, and also Fifi’s Place. For Cuban, Versaille Restaurant and Larios on the Beach. I also love Yoyito and Isla Canaria.

My favorite local performers are Gloria Estefan, Nil Lara, Edwin Bonilla, Federico Britosand the late Maestro Cachao.

How does Miami's cultural diversity influence the city? It permeates it.


“My aunt, who lives in Coral Gables, made the best dinner when I dropped by last winter after Art Basel calmed down.

She grilled fresh cobia—which we also use at The Dutch—that she bought right off the dock in Key Biscayne, and some pink shrimp from Casablanca and made her famous Key lime pie. It was incredible. It reminded me that Miami is a great place for home cooks, too.”


“For dermatology, Dr. Melissa Lazarus is my go-to. There is no one better to take care of your skin in a city where people tend to show a lot of it and the sun shines close to 365 days a year.”

ALBERTO PERLMAN, CEO and cofounder, Zumba

Pitbull is Miami. Simply said.”

SALAAM REMI, Music producer

Garcia’s Seafood Grille on North River Drive is my favorite restaurant. It made me want to live in Miami. Amy Winehouse and I would go there several times a week while recording her LPs. I always get the whole yellowtail snapper fried, and yellow rice and sweet plantains.”

DANIEL BOULUD, Chef, db Bistro Moderne

“I love docking a boat across the street from db Bistro Moderne, eating a burger at the restaurant and getting back on the boat and sailing away. Amazing.”


BERNARDO FORT-BRESCIA, Founding principal, Arquitectonica

“Nothing beats geography as inspiration for architecture, and there is no other place where water meets land as here. The intertwining of nature and manmade is like fingers meeting in a handshake. Islands, canals and sand banks surrounded by crystalline waters make any building look even more beautiful.”

LOUIS AGUIRRE, News anchor

“If I had a free day, I’d start my morning with breakfast at the Sense Beach House hotel’s Local House on Ocean Drive and Fourth Street. It’s charming there— very beachy—and the food is delicious.

After breakfast I’d cross the street and hit the beach (the best is between Second and Third streets). For lunch I’d walk to Smith & Wollensky at South Pointe Park and grab a table by the water overlooking Fisher Island. There, I’d nosh on a cold seafood tower of shrimp, oysters, lobster and crab, order a bottle of rose´ and watch the cruise ships go out to sea. That’s a very Miami experience.

After lunch I’d get some culture in. I’d drive over the MacArthur Causeway and spend the afternoon perusing the Pe´rez Art Museum Miami. You can see the whole place in just over an hour. I’d pop into Verde restaurant on the museum’s terrace for tea or another glass of wine and enjoy the view of Biscayne Bay.

Next I’d hit up Wynwood, the edgy arts district boasting the world’s largest street museum: roughly 30 blocks of some of the most prolific street art on the planet. I’d check out the funky boutiques and art galleries. It’s the most exciting and energetic neighborhood in the city.

I’d then hit up the Design District just blocks away. While there I’d go for an early romantic dinner at Mandolin Aegean Bistro, under the tropical canopy trees, with candlelit lanterns and delicious Greco-Turkish cuisine. This place is magical. Must-orders include the stuffed zucchini, grilled prawns, Turkish manti dumplings and whole branzino.

Then I’d head back to the beach for post-dinner cocktails at The Regent,
in the Gale South Beach hotel, and if I still had energy and wanted to dance, I’d hit Amy Sacco’s the Rec Room right downstairs.”

KARIM MASRI, Cofounder, KNR Hospitality Group

“Miami is an eclectic melting pot of mostly Latin-Americans. If it wasn’t for the spicy Latin vibe, most of us immigrants from Europe or other parts of the country wouldn’t be calling it home. Miami offers the best year-round quality of life. I mean, where else—in a major city—can you just roll out of bed and be off to the Bahamas 365 days a year?”

LARA SHRIFTMAN, Principal, Harrison & Shriftman

“Miami has incredible kids’ things to do. I love to take my son, Lucas, to the Miami Children’s Museum and Jungle Island.”


“I love the Deauville Hotel’s Napoleon Room, a swanky, beautiful and wildly huge-scaled ballroom. The four enormous, priceless 1950s chandeliers were handmade in Havana and supervised by my father, electrical engineer Len Glazer. And I saw the Beatles there live on The Ed Sullivan Show February 16, 1964.”

MATTHEW CHEVALLARD Founder, Del Toro Shoes

“My favorite Miami building is the Bacardi Building . The tiled mosaic is incredible and indicative of the Spanish-Cuban influence and heritage in the area.”

TICO TORRES, Bon Jovi drummer

“A Miami must-do is the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.”

INGRID HOFFMANN, Food Network star

OLA at Sanctuary serves fantastic ceviches. I also love the empanada made of anise dough and an almond fig cake stuffed with foie gras and duck serrano. For casual tacos, Huahua’s Taqueria, headed by one of my favorite Miami chefs, Todd Erickson, has the best shrimp tacos and a side of mac and queso. I’ve been going to the Peruvian restaurant Salmon & Salmon for at least 15 years. I love the seafood aguadito soup—with rice and a green coriander sauce.”

ANASTASIA KOUTSIOUKIS Co-owner, Mandolin Aegean Bistro

“Miami’s best-kept secret is Sushi Deli and Japanese Market on 79th Street for top- grade sushi eaten at a counter, and Marky’s, an international gourmet market, for the largest selection of caviar, smoked fish and anything truffle.”

MICHAEL MINA, Chef, Michael Mina 74

“The bar program at Bar Centro is fantastic. You can never go wrong with a caipirinha.”

SILVIA CUBINA, Executive director and chief curator, Bass Museum

“My favorite Miami artist is Christy Gast. In a very sophisticated language, her works talk about place and its history.”

SETH BROWARNIK, Founder, World Red Eye

“Being a fourth generation Miami Beacher, I’ve gotten to see the city transform a dozen times, from the hotels my great-grandpa and grandpa built and owned, like the Saxony, which will now be Faena, to the Cameo building, where I watched clubs come and go for the last two decades. It’s amazing watching the city stay on the cutting edge of cool.”


“The best place to listen to live music is Tobacco Road. The place is a legend!”

FACUNDO L. BACARDI, Chairman of the board, Bacardi

“The cocktail to order is the mojito. It originated in Cuba, and the name was inspired by the African word mojo, which approximately means ‘to cast a spell.’”

DAVID EDELSTEIN, President, TriStar Capital and owner, W South Beach

“The best Cuban coffee is at Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen.”

IRAN ISSA-KHAN, Photographer

“If I had a free day in Miami, I would go to the Wolfsonian FIU Museum, the Bass Museum, the Pe´rez Art Museum Miami and finish the day with a fabulous Miami Symphony Orchestra concert.”

MICKY WOLFSON, Founder, Wolfsonian-FIU Museum

“One thing that distinguishes a local from a tourist is that native Miamians never go outside except to eat.”


“In ten years I think Miami will be a spectacular city—soaring, modern buildings, teeming with life. Unfortunately, it’ll also be underwater, so this will be marine life.”

MYLES CHEFETZ, Owner, Myles Restaurant Group

David Grutman is the best person to know in Miami nightlife. He’s the force behind LIV and Story nightclubs.”

MITCHELL KAPLAN, Owner, Books & Books

Joe’s Stone Crab seems to be written into my DNA; not too many eight-year-olds choose a birthday meal of stone crabs, as I remember doing when asked where I wanted to go for that birthday many, many years ago.”

MARIA BAIBAKOVA, Art collector

“I just finished my MBA at Harvard Business School, and many of my classmates chose to move to Miami because they felt it was becoming a well-rounded and culturally informed city. Culture is making Miami a great place to live!”

LAUREN RESKIN, Owner, Sweat Records

O Cinema in Wynwood is a great small theater that always plays the biggest indies and other interesting films.”

JUSTIN LEVINE, Partner, The Opium Group

“At the end of the night, no matter who you are or what music you like, all roads lead to Space [a downtown warehouse nightclub].”

PAUL WILMOT, Public relations powerhouse

“Miami is really about restaurants. My favorite is the new Cipriani downtown that my company launched. The room is so beautiful with the wood paneling, and you look out at the water. The food is terrific. They do a slow-roast chicken that is just amazing. If you really want to go to hell with yourself, they make their own custard-like ice cream. You’ve never had anything like it.

Going to Miami Heat games is so much fun! The enthusiasm of the crowd is infectious. I’m friendly with the team’s president, Pat Riley, and his wife, Chris, so most times I sit with them.

A Miami stereotype is that people stay up late. You can live very much of a daytime life here.

The best cocktail in Miami is at The Setai, and it’s called The Gold Martini. It’s made with Louis XIII Cognac and vodka, and they put gold leaf in it so it sparkles in the sun.”

DR. FREDRIC BRANDT, Dermatologist

“The most requested service in my Miami office is a combination of Botox and filler injections. These have minimal downtime and restore the youthful contours and erase lines in the face. Perfect for the Miami ladies and men who want to be ageless.

Apply a sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30 twenty minutes before you go to the beach. Reapply generously every two hours. After the beach, take a cool shower and use a moisturizer with ceramides to restore your skin’s hydration and reduce inflammation. If you do get slightly burned, aspirin post–sun exposure really helps.

Alchemist is my favorite shop in Miami. The clothing is cutting-edge and hip, and the people who work there are tops. They know how to help you shop. I love their selection of Givenchy T-shirts.”


“The last great meal I had in Miami was at Blackbrick Chinese in Midtown. Richard Hales is nailing authentic Chinese flavors.

The best cocktail in the city is Saged by the Bell at Finka Table & Tap. Beverage manager Eddie Fuentes is creating some really great cocktails using herbs from its garden.

After work, all the chefs hang out at the Broken Shaker in Miami Beach for drinks, and Yakko-San Japanese restaurant for great late-night eats.

The best first stop on a night out has to be Panther Coffee, to get an amazing espresso or cold-brew coffee for the energy to get through the night. There’s no better way to end the night (if it’s from Wednesday through Saturday) than at Pincho Man. He runs a food truck I’ve been going to since I was like 16. His way or the highway.

The best person to know in Miami’s nightlife scene is DJ Oscar G. He basically pioneered the city’s deep house sound. I used to see him play every weekend. Now he’s a regular at my restaurant. Crazy how the tables turn.

The Adrienne Arsht Center is spectacular. Even though it may be relatively new, it’s already housed some great shows, including my favorite: Fuerza Bruta.

Miami’s best-kept secret is Islas Canarias. As locals, we all know how incredible its croquetas de jamo´n [ham croquettes] are, but as someone coming to visit, it may not be on your radar, as it’s far from the beach and deep into the mainland.

The best clothing store is Supply & Advise. It sells amazing American- made menswear.

The Florida Panthers are my favorite sports team. I remember their race to the Cup in ’96 like it was yesterday.”