The Weekend Guide: Art Deco Architecture, Cuban Food, and Manatees in Miami

What was once simple swampland is now the sprawling Miami metro area, and its growing art and design scenes are garnering nearly as much attention as its unrivaled nightlife and beaches. Attracting visitors as diverse as its residents, the Capital of Latin America is a multilingual hub of culture and, perhaps more important, food. Its near-constant restaurant openings complement its slew of new hotels, which are popping up in gleaming new-build towers and historic Art Deco gems. From street-art-filled Wynwood to glamorous South Beach, this mix of grit and glitz is uniquely Miami. 

Day 1

Wake up early at the adults-only Greystone Miami Beach hotel, which recently opened in a 1930s Art Deco building. The location, one block from the sand, feels at once hidden away from South Beach’s commotion and ideally suited for exploration. Nearby, at A Simple Eggstaurant, order one of the egg sandwiches, which feature ingredients such as Wagyu beef, crunchy caramelized leeks, and grilled pineapple. 

Drive across the scenic Venetian Causeway to mainland Miami, and then head south to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a Mediterranean Revival villa filled with centuries-old art. The real treat is the estate’s 10 acres of manicured gardens, where fig-covered gazebos and coral archways make for excellent selfie backdrops.  

Next, dig into Miami’s wild side at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne. Before setting out to explore, head to the park’s No Name Harbor for a lunch of whole red snapper or lobster in Creole sauce at Boater’s Grill. The island offers experiences for every kind of adventurer: You can hike, bike, or go off-road on rental quads; try birdwatching among the mangroves; cast your fishing line off the seawall; kayak among slow-moving manatees; or simply lie on the beach. Don’t forget to climb to the top of the 1825 lighthouse—Miami’s oldest structure—and learn about the park’s history as part of the Underground Railroad. 

Freshen up at one of the park’s shower stations and return to the mainland for laid-back dinner, drinks, and lawn games at The Wharf Miami, where food trucks and nautically inspired lounge spaces (think decorative buoys and oars) sit next to the docks on the Miami River. 

Day 2

Miami makes headlines with its celebrity-magnet Art Basel festivities, usually held in December, but its flourishing art and design scenes continue year-round. After a creative breakfast at Ocean Drive’s Front Porch Cafe—try the chicken satay omelet, made with curry and peanut sauce—stroll a few blocks south to the Art Deco Welcome Center to begin your 90-minute architecture walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League. Following that glimpse into historic Miami, send your senses into shock with a visit to Artechouse, where technology and art combine to create an immersive digital experience. 

Cruise over the MacArthur Causeway to the Wynwood Art District, the heart of the city’s contemporary art scene and home to more than 50 blocks of murals, galleries, and boutiques. Start with lunch at Kush, a Wynwood staple serving updated takes on Florida classics like crispy alligator tacos and guava-jelly-topped burgers. 

Snap photos of the district’s dozens of murals by international artists, based everywhere from Brazil to Japan, before exploring either the Museum of Graffiti, the world’s first museum dedicated solely to the history of street art, or the kitschy Miami Selfie Museum, where flower walls, fake bubble baths, and optical-illusion rooms make for an influencer’s dream. 

Top off your day by wandering among the public art installations and high-end shops of the Design District. Reserve a table at Swan, which is co-owned by Pharrell Williams and features a menu of fresh seafood, pasta, and pizza created by Top Chef Europe winner Jean Imbert.

Day 3

Spend your third day immersing yourself in the many immigrant populations that have made Miami what it is today. Begin with a Brazilian breakfast at Sagrado Cafe and stash a few brigadeiros—a traditional chocolate treat—to snack on later. 

From here it’s a short stroll to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Exhibits rotate often, but one constant is a fan-favorite installation by the late Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto: an open-air structure of suspended blue plastic noodles. Next, swing by HistoryMiami Museum, which chronicles 10,000 years of South Florida human history through artifacts such as a Seminole dugout canoe and a Cuban refugee raft. 

You can’t leave Miami without trying Cuban food. For lunch, head to Versailles in Little Havana for ham croquettes and ropa vieja—shredded beef with garlic, onions, wine, and tomato sauce. It’s a hot spot for visitors and locals alike, so if it’s too packed hit up the less touristy El Mago de Las Fritas or El Rey de Las Fritas for their namesake shoestring potato–topped Cuban burgers. 

While you’re in the area, stop by Domino Park to see the viejitos (old men) playing this classic game or sip on a cocktail at Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center as you admire the collection of 19th- and 20th-century Cuban art. Before leaving, indulge your sweet tooth at Azucar Ice Cream Company, where flavors include café con leche, caramel flan, and sweet plantain. 

In nearby Brickell, grab dinner at Est. 33 Thai Craft Brewery & Kitchen, which was opened in January by the team behind Thailand’s famed Singha beer. The menu pairs American barbecue techniques with Asian flavors, resulting in dishes like hickory-smoked char siu ribs. 

Finish your trip with a nightcap at Sugar, the garden-like rooftop bar at the EAST Miami hotel. Peeking through the oasis of flowers and trees, you’ll catch views of city lights, skyscrapers, and the waters of Biscayne Bay on one side and the Miami River on the other—one final reminder of Magic City’s enchanting appeal. 

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