There’s a lot to do in Miami besides hitting clubs and sceney parties. Some are obvious, and others are a little off the beaten path. With just three days to take in the city, I recently set about investigating all the options to figure out what would be the most memorable, fun, and relaxing trip for me and my cousin Kim.
This post is the result of my careful research. Though I’m a bit of a NYC snob at heart, Miami is a great destination for a quick vacation, and it won me over more than I ever imagined. It’s warm and breezy, with lots of good food, art, and culture. What more could you ask for?
Why party when you can eat?
Anyone going to Miami knows there’s a balance to account for: specifically, how much you’ll party, if at all. While parties and clubs seem to be de rigueur in this city, there are a multitude of ways to enjoy Miami without ever setting foot into a club.
For one, there’s so much good food in Miami and too little time to eat it! Are you really going to squeeze yourself into skinny jeans, tube tops, and tight dresses after you’ve finished a three-course gourmet meal and/or dismantled a large crab earlier in the evening? We certainly didn’t think so.
Plus, we found plenty of art and culture to keep us stimulated, and by the end of the day, we were so tired from touristing, our crazy-gals-in-Miami trip turned into a more relaxing epicurean venture.
Kim and I are known in our family for our patented approach to vacationing: two parts art scene and/or nature + three parts food + two parts shopping! All I can say is, our dreams of a few great days in Miami were spectacularly met.
Flying Into Miami
There are two airports you can fly into. Miami International is the standard choice, but I flew into Fort Lauderdale to save a bit on airfare.
The car ride to the hotel ended up being about 40 minutes, which was a pretty economical choice. Take a look at both options and determine what balance of airfare/travel distance is optimal for you.
Getting Around Miami
We depended on Lyfts and Ubers exclusively, and split between two people, it was the most convenient way to get around. Miami is pretty spread out, though, so we did pause periodically to make sure we were planning our days and routes to optimize for travel time and avoid too much criss-crossing and back-tracking.
One important tip: if you’re planning to go to Miami Beach, reduce the number of times you travel back and forth from there, and avoid rush hour times, as traffic on the bridge can get congested.
10 Things to Do in Miami in 3 Days
Three days doesn’t sound like a lot, but we packed in a lot of sights, art, food, and relaxation! Here are our recommendations:
1. Indulge In Your Hotel
There’s no doubt that Miami is the place to go all out and enjoy the finer things in life. Everything in Miami calls for that little extra something. Kim and I happily ended up at the Four Seasons Hotel with absolutely zero buyer’s remorse.
I got in late at night, and was able to immediately hail one of the most delicious plates of spaghetti Bolognese I’ve ever eaten, along with a side of fries, and a salad—because, y’know, I’m healthy—all whilst wearing the fluffiest bathrobe known to man.
The pool was a huge highlight of our stay. There were in-pool hammocks under dreamy palm trees, perfect for a trashy magazine or two and the most delightful poolside service where they lay down not one but TWO towels to ensure maximum comfort. Plus, in the blazing Miami heat, having a pool to always go back to was an incredible luxury.
Sometimes, you just have to go the pampering route, and if you can manage it, we say go for it! Here’s where there’s a major perk of taking a brief trip to Miami; you’re only there for so long, every bit of it should be great, down to where you’re resting your head at night.
2. Explore Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the storied Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was about 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel. It was the former estate of businessman James Deering, and is now a museum open to the public.
I had an odd few hours before dinner while Kim was getting some work done, and decided to explore last-minute, but the timing worked out great.
Lots of people were taking Ubers and Lyfts right to the ticket window. Armed with a map of the house and gardens, I was all set.
The space was beautiful, and the house itself is manageable to see in just 1-2 hours, depending on how long you like to linger over antique furniture.
Half of the attraction, though, is in the grounds and the garden.
There’s an amazing boat dock, with a grand staircase that goes straight to the water.
There are also endless hedged paths, topiaries, flowers, and hidden nooks to explore.
I saw this little guy bathing in the sun, but sadly I had no other companion. Pro-tip: bring a photog buddy, as the grounds were beautiful and you’ll want a shot to remember!
In fact, the grounds were so impressive that I ran into a handful of our Instagram blogging counterparts: the lifestyle bloggers, armed with giant DSLRs and multiple outfits. Needless to say, I really missed Kim on this visit! Bring a friend—’nuff said.
3. Stroll through Little Havana and Eat Cuban Food
Cuban food and culture is vital to Miami’s history and scene today. Much to my delight, the driver that brought me to Vizcaya happened to be Cuban! I immediately went about asking him about his favorite spots to eat, and he recommended La Carreta first and foremost for tasty, cheap eats and Ball & Chain for good food and a great scene.
We ended up hitting Ball & Chain…
Where we had wonderfully fried snacks—chicharrones, corn, the crispiest plantain chips sprinkled with salt, and fish tacos.
A band was playing the whole time, and the seating was out of the sun but in open air so you could catch the breeze while listening to the music.
It was situated right in the middle of Little Havana, so we took a chance to stroll through town looking at guayabera shirts and cigars, peering into Cuban restaurants along the way.
It’s important to note that I have big regrets about not having enough time to hit La Carreta. My driver noted that it’s where he goes on the regular, but it was a little bit further out of the way.
If you end up in a similar predicament, there’s one outpost in Miami International Airport where Kim got to eat before her flight. I had no such luck and ended up with Subway. Alas, sometimes that’s just how the empanada crumbles.
4. Walk Lincoln Road and Work Up An Appetite for Dinner
Lincoln Road was the most enticing option for some leisurely shopping without needing to go too far north. Though I will say there are great shops (with some elevated price tags) in the Design District as well.
Long story short, you stroll along the seemingly never-ending road, and buy things you probably don’t need. It’s not for everyone (Sarah hates shopping!), but if you enjoy a little retail therapy, you’ll love Lincoln Road.
5. Grab a Beach Read
One of our stops off of Lincoln Road was Books and Books. We paused to grab a couple of good beach reads and peruse the stacks of art books.
It’s a great local bookstore with a friendly staff, perfect for picking up a good book for the beach in case you forgot one.
6. Lay Out On the Beach
Of course, it goes without saying that the beach is a must-do.
There are a bunch of beach-side lounges where you can grab a drink and hit a scene, but we opted for a more casual spot near the water, where families lounged the Saturday away.
7. Plan Ahead for Joe’s Stone Crab (Plus Our Tips for a Crab Feast Done Right)
When I mentioned to my dad that I was headed to Miami for a few days, he immediately notified me that Joe’s Stone Crab should be at the top of my list! Being a dutiful daughter and having learned most of what I know about food from pops, I immediately looked into it, and like an intricate dance, there are some STEPS to eating a meal at Joe’s Stone Crab. In fact there’s a whole guide. But here are the highlights.
First, they’re only open for part of the year. They’re closed May 15-October 15, as it’s not the season for crab. I’m saving you the heartbreak by letting you know now.
There’s a dress code. I was pretty paranoid about this, but basically don’t look like a slob and no beach attire. I got mistaken for a teenager in my tevas and khaki shorts, but they still served me (and carded me)!
Stick to your wait time! They don’t take reservations in advance, but after you put your name in, there’s a maitre’d who makes a big to-do about calling you up for your table with a microphone. He’s dressed very nicely, and you should make sure you’re there when he calls your name. Wouldn’t be uncalled for to run to him in slow-motion while an 80s song plays, given the circumstances.
There are different sized crabs and portions that you can get, but the stone crab is only prepared in one way: chilled. We got a fast-talking waiter, and he successfully upsold us without us really even knowing what we were doing! Soon, we had a plate of JUMBO stone crab claws and king crab claws, along with a side of cheesy stuffed tomatoes, potatoes, and a caesar salad.
With the bread basket, IT WAS A TON OF FOOD. So beware the fast-talking waiters and make sure you know what you’re ordering. By crab claw number two, I was weak in the knees and tempted to throw in the towel.
A few important observations I had:
- Chilled crab is not NEARLY as good as hot crab.
- Stone crabs are not nearly as good as king crabs.
- Jumbo stone crab claws (pictured below) are not as tender as the smaller stone crab claws.
I consider these to be vital life lessons, and most of you agreed with me on my live Instagram poll!
The king crab was served with hot herbed butter and was so much more delicious than the stone crab. I had no trouble taking down two claws, even whilst eating through the pain and fullness. It was that good and that tender.
Which brings me to my next important point—you’ve got limited stomach space, but there are some key highlights on the menu you’ll want to be sure to hit in addition to the crab itself: namely the stone crab bisque and the key lime pie.
Conveniently, you can grab food at the cafe they have next door in a much more casual atmosphere and do takeout if you want. We’d stopped by earlier in the day for a light late lunch of soup and pie. No pie pictured because it was so good we very nearly inhaled it. Get. The. Pie.
Needless to say, we rolled ourselves back to the hotel that night.
8. Check Out Some Art Deco Architecture
When you’re not stuffing your face with crab, you can stroll through Miami Beach and take in the great art deco architecture.
The best examples of it are located on Ocean Drive, which we didn’t have a chance to hit, but we did end up seeing some great buildings even so.
9. Splurge On a Swanky Miami Beach Dinner
We had a decadent dinner at Byblos, a trendy Mediterranean spot that was full of young beautiful people, with a hostess that made you question every fashion choice you’ve ever made.
We had delicious rosé cocktails while soaking up the “beautiful people” ambiance and ate a ton of great food.
There was wagyu beef hummus, turkish sausage pide with cheese, and a lamb and lavash spread with lentils and rice that was incredibly tender (though a little bit gut-busting). We took the leftovers with us back to the hotel.
10. Wynwood Walls
On our last morning in Miami, we were deciding between Wynwood Walls and the Design District. We opted for Wynwood Walls to catch the incredible street art, and in general enjoy a more relaxed scene—with closer proximity to the airport!
Wynwood is an incredible neighborhood with lots of interesting shops, plenty of information on the local artists featured, and some solid food options. We devoured some delicious Coyo Tacos before heading to look at the art.
As for the murals, here are some of our favorites:
It was the perfect relaxing day to close out three perfect days in Miami!