Things to Do in Miami If You Just Have a Day to Explore

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Departures plans the perfect day of sun, fun, and culture in Magic City.

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Miami is filled with world-class food, shopping, culture, and relaxing, golden beaches. Visitors can easily take advantage of the real Miami art scene, from the colorful street art and artisan breweries of Wynwood to the sleek architecture and luxury shopping of the Miami Design District, to Little Haiti’s up-and-coming gallery scene. With so much to do, the “305” also makes for the perfect long weekend or a quick getaway, year-round.

Here, Departures plans the perfect day in this jewel of a city.

RELATED: Idyllic Weekend Getaways From Miami

Faena Miami Beach Luxury Hotel Pool Florida
Courtesy Faena Miami Beach

9 a.m.: Book a room by the ocean so you can wake up to waves and a quick morning swim. If you’re planning a romantic weekend, or simply want something chic and understated, stay at the Delano. Traveling with family and friends? The Surfcomber has a Tropicália-themed pool area offering palms and light bites at The High Tide Bar, and in the morning serves a luxurious breakfast at The Social Club. For sheer grandiosity, book the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, designed by film director Baz Luhrmann and his costume designer wife. The hotel is built inside a large complex that encompasses a full six blocks along Collins Avenue and contains both residential towers and a Rem Koolhaas-design cultural center called the Faena Forum.

10 a.m.: Rent a bike and cycle jaunt down to South Pointe Park at the southernmost point of Miami’s South of Fifth district to get a sense of true Miami style. Ride past art deco buildings, impressive sculptures, and 360-degree ocean views, while taking in a true Miami slice of life.

Wynwood Walls Street Art Miami Florida Design District
Rebecca Smeyne/Getty Images

11 a.m.: Grab a Lyft or Uber and head to Wynwood, a former industrial hub that today contains the city’s trendiest galleries, bars, restaurants, and one-of-a-kind boutique shops. Scope out the larger-than-life graffiti murals of Wynwood Walls before the afternoon’s throngs, stopping at the bold black and white stripes of The Wynwood Building and the technicolor geometry of Maya Hayuk. Consider spending the day in the area and grabbing an early afternoon indie flick at O Cinema Wynwood, the city’s most beloved art-house theater.

11:30 a.m.: Turn yourself into a work of art with a visit to the artisan nail salon, Vanity Projects. Founded by curator Rita de Alencar Pinto in 2008, the salon, which offers one-of-a-kind, outrageous designs, began as a pop-up art project involving local visual artists, allies, and aficionados, before quickly gaining popularity at art fairs and fashion events. Be sure to book an appointment with their artist in residence and follow on Instagram for year-round nail art ideas. Afterward, take your emerging works of nail art to the National YoungArts Foundation, which highlights some of the most accomplished young artists in the world from a range of mediums.

12:30 p.m.: Get a taste of the posher side of the city with a visit to the Miami Design District, known for its upscale design stores, galleries, luxury fashion houses like Dior and Rick Owens, and public art, including a geodesic dome designed by inventor Buckminster Fuller.

RELATED: Perez Art Museum Miami

New Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) Herzog and de Meuron Florida
Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

1 p.m.: Head to downtown Miami to visit the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), one of the city’s most exciting arts institutions. If you’re starting to feel a little peckish, stop by the Museum’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed restaurant, Verde, for lunch. Afterward, take a walk in the surrounding hanging gardens created by French botanist Patrick Blanc, or grab a coffee to go and stroll down to Museum Park for a bit of greenery and ocean views.

2 p.m.:  No trip to Miami is complete without a visit to Little Havana and a walk down the Calle Ocho strip. Home to the lifeblood of the city, duck into shops selling guava pastries and flan ice cream, smell fresh tobacco as it’s rolled into plump cigars, or stop by the Ball & Chain to hear jazz and salsa bands, as well as local indie acts. Before you leave, grab one more cup of coffee at Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen or the legendary Versailles.

Aerial South Beach Miami Florida
Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

3 p.m.: You’re in the heat of the afternoon, so now is the perfect time to wander through one of the city’s many lush gardens and parks. Swing by the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, a historic estate overflowing with verdant gardens and sculptures, all in the shade of the turn-of-the-century mansion turned museum. If exotic plant life is what you’re looking for, stop by the Fairchild Tropic Garden or The Kampong, National Tropical Botanical Garden.

4 p.m.: If it’s late afternoon and you’re not somewhere near a pool, you’re not in Miami. Taking a dip in the Mediterranean-inspired caves of the Venetian Pool at Coral Gables, a legendary structure carved out of coral rock formations and filled daily with fresh spring water.

Interior of Carbone Miami
Seth Browarnik/WorldRedEye.com

7 p.m.: The beauty of the Miami restaurant scene is that the most opulent restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles love to set up shop down in South Beach. So, for dinner, try Mario Carbone’s latest venture: Carbone Miami. Here, you’ll find the chef’s signature decadent pastas and a revelatory wine program, all with the unbeatable Miami Beach atmosphere.

1111 Lincoln Road Garage Art Miami Florida
Juan Silva/Getty Images

8:30 p.m.: Go for an after-dinner stroll along 1111 Lincoln Road, an open-air structure that features bold concrete columns outlining luxe retail spaces and hip outdoor eateries. Once you reach the end, stop in at New World Symphony, an impressive Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. In the winter, the outdoor picnic space hosts live screenings and performances. If you’re in the mood for something on a grand scale, check out the schedule at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts to see visiting acts and arena-worthy performances.

10 p.m.: Grab a decadent nightcap at Villa Casa Casuarina, aka the Versace Mansion, which today is also a hotel, gallery, and restaurant.

11 p.m.: End the evening with one last walk along the South Beach boardwalk.

Ocean View King at Kimpton EPIC Hotel
Cris Molina/Courtesy Kimpton EPIC Hotel

Where to Stay

As we discussed earlier, you may have already checked in to The Surfcomber for a South Beach stint or the opulent Faena Hotel Miami Beach. But if you’re looking for a posh Brickell stay, reserve a room at the Kimpton EPIC29 Miami, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. A particularly over-the-top Kimpton, the EPIC has an on-site Zuma restaurant right on the water, a private marina where you can dock your yacht, an exquisite watch shop turned rare spirits bar, Bar Journe, and two gorgeous, 16th-floor pools.