Where to go and what to see in Miami: A beginner's guide

Pastel-hued, art deco-themed Miami is Florida's undisputed capital of cool and high on most travellers' wish lists when it comes to stateside holidays. To make sure you get the most of your time there, follow our beginner's guide for the best hints of where to go and what to see in Miami.

Miami Art Deco, South Beach Florida
Miami Art Deco, South Beach Florida © Reinhard Jahn - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Miami Dolphins

When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so the saying goes. So when thinking about where to go and what to see in Miami it makes sense to catch an American football game and cheer on local team the Miami Dolphins at the Sun Life Stadium.

Miami Dolphins at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami
Miami Dolphins at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami © Alan Kotok - Flickr CC BY 2.0

The NFL season runs from September to February and you'll need your own car to get to the Miami team's stadium as there's no direct public transport - another option is to use a special coach company like Bowlbus to get to and from the downtown or beach areas. Tickets for the games can be bought online through the Dolphins' website or Ticketmaster.

Cuban food

Cubans make up such a large proportion of the Miami population that there's an entire neighbourhood to the west of downtown Miami named Little Havana - or La Pequeña Habana to use its proper Spanish name.

You can reach the area by bus, car or taxi, and as well as shopping for Cuban cigars here you can also taste some authentic Cuban cuisine in the area - as well as in other parts of Miami.

Head to Versailles on 8th Street (Calle Ocho) in Little Havana, which despite the distinctly French-sounding name is a Miami legend, billing itself as the most famous Cuban restaurant in the world.

Versailles Restaurant, Miami, Florida
Versailles Restaurant, Miami, Florida © Phillip Pessar - Flickr CC BY 2.0

Versailles serves Cuban coffees or cortaditos and take-away Cubano sandwiches by day then transforms into a hot-bed of Cuban culture come evening dishing out daily specials like Cuban style macaroni and plantain pie alongside plenty of rice and beans to late night diners.

Outside Little Havana you can always pop into a branch of Don Pan which has nine stores in and around Miami and specialises in Latin American pastries and cakes.

Outlet shopping

America is synonymous with shopping and it's not just New York that can make a serious dent in your wallet - the shopping in downtown Miami is tempting and the discount outlet stores just outside town will really get your shopping pulse racing. The pick of these is Dolphin Mall which has 240 stores making it the largest discounted shopping centre in the entire state.

The Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater, Florida
The Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater, Florida - photo courtesy of Miami Convention & Visitor Centre

You'll find plenty of classic American brand names including Bloomingdale's, Gap, American Eagle and Calvin Klein, plus a great selection of international brands with massive discounts, especially come sale time when the prices are slashed even further.

If you're a keen designer shopper you can also venture outside Miami itself to Orlando's Vineland Avenue Mall which has more luxury brands such as Coach and Fendi.

Burger and fries at Five Guys

It wouldn't be a trip to the USA without some good old fashioned comfort food in the shape of burgers, shakes and fries. GQ Magazine called the Five Guys burger 'The Best $5 Burger A Man Can Eat' and this chain has a host of other awards too - you can snag a cheap dinner and try out the famously tasty treats for yourself on Washington Ave, Miami Beach.

Coral Gables

Coral Gables, dubbed 'The City Beautiful', is an elegant tree-lined satellite city just outside Miami proper and makes an easy day trip from downtown for those in search of a more peaceful and refined neighbourhood in which to shop, eat and explore.

Conceived in 1925 as a purpose-built area featuring grand residential homes and public spaces this is best-known as the fine dining capital of South Florida, so it's a great place to dine out, or simply ride the old fashioned trolley bus along Miracle Mile, Coral Gables' main street.

The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida
The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida © Jorge Royan - Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

If you're on a short layover at Miami Airport Coral Gables is also the perfect neighbourhood to pop into if you don't have time to venture to the Miami Beach or downtown areas. A cab will cost around $15 which is half the price of a taxi to the beaches, or you can even pick up an airport shuttle, meaning that those short on time can check out Coral Gables on even the shortest stopover.

In such a vibrant city it's hard to condense what to do and what to see in Miami, but hopefully this guide has given you some inspiration. Have you been to Miami? Tell us about your favourite bits below.

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Jaillan Yehia

Jaillan Yehia

Posted on Friday 15th November 2013 in: City Culture Food & drink North America

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