This month, we’re headed to the city where the heat is on, and that’s pretty clutch right now because we’re freezing! We’re lucky enough to escape the cold and take you to one of our favorite destinations where the sunshine, outdoor activities and high-energy vibes are all plentiful. Leave your worries (and winter coat) behind…Welcome to Miami!
Miami is often referred to as The Magic City with its distinctive blend of edginess and charm amongst the palm-lined boulevards. It’s booming with creativity that comes through in the art & culture, innovative food scene, diverse neighborhoods, and plentiful activities day & night. We’re branching out and exploring some of the best Miami has to offer, from Wynwood to Little Havana, to national parks and beyond. Get ready to cover a lot of ground in the sunshine state!
Let’s start with where to stay. As with all of our #gaanguide destinations, we’re huge fans of nontraditional lodging options, and Miami is plentiful. From chic studios to artsy lofts, you can make yourself right at home in your neighborhood of choice. One of our favorite spots is the Freehand Miami. This high-end hostel has a non-pretentious bohemian vibe and is situated one block from the beach. You can’t beat that location. It’s rather affordable and as a major bonus, it’s home to one of the best cocktail bars in the country, The Broken Shaker. You can drop your bags, change into your bathing suit & cover up and snag a seat under the trees in the herb garden to enjoy a garden-fresh cocktail.
There’s a lot happening around the neighborhood of Upper East Side of Biscayne Boulevard with the recent arrival of the Vagabond Hotel & Restaurant. This neighborhood corridor is known for its 1950’s era motels that have been restored to their original glory. The Vagabond design feels like you could bump into Judy Jetson in the lobby, and we’re here for it. The rooms are cozy and the pool is more like a private oasis that transforms into a hot social scene with DJ showcases as the sun begins to set.
As to be expected, we hope you packed your workout gear because this city is FIT with a capital F – for FREE. Incorporating any of the following suggestions into your days and nights in Miami will not only be elevating that heartbeat, but you can use the many workout options around town (zero cash required) as an excuse to explore several different neighborhoods. We’re talking calisthenics courses and volleyball courts in Lummus Park on South Beach, weight machines under the Metrorail in Brickell, and plenty of scenic runs that wind throughout the city with the most picturesque views of the ocean and inter-coastal. And in Miami, fitness also coincides with transportation if you desire, because for a mere $15, you can rent a customized, solar-powered Republic Bike for the entire day. Miami is basically one flat biking town, and there’s no better way to explore, so grab that bike by the handles and get to it! Cruise to the beach for an early morning swim before you head to Wynwood or Key Biscayne. Then bike to dinner in Little Havana for the perfect windblown look as you dine al fresco. Net net - definitely plan to break a sweat in Miami – just don’t forget to lather on the sunscreen and bring your gaan + co!
With our lodging and our workouts squared away, we’re going to kick off our Miami adventure in one of Miami’s most unique and colorful neighborhoods, Wynwood! First, swing by Panther Coffee for a smooth cold-brewed coffee that is so concentrated and delicious, you’ll feel energized for hours. Panther’s flagship location has indoor seating where you can watch sustainable green coffee beans roast behind the counter, or sit on the patio and watch the artists and passers street-side. Or, if you’re looking to jump-start the day with a sweet treat, head to the Salty Donut, another Wynwood hotspot. This artisan donut shop was recently voted amongst the best in Miami, known for their small-batch, craft donuts all made in house, and from the highest quality ingredients. They’re known for pushing the limits with their donut creations including our favorite, the Peaches & Brown Butter donut filled with cinnamon peaches in a brown butter glaze, topped with sweet brioche croutons + Greek yogurt infused whipped cream. We promise the line may look intimidating, but it’s worth it (and moves quickly)!
Next, get ready to wander. Wynwood is basically the world’s largest outdoor art museum and is also known as the capital for graffiti artists from across the globe. There is a section called Wynwood Walls where the murals are displayed similar to an actual exhibition, and while beautiful and a can’t miss, it’s just a small section of the neighborhood. We recommend doing a tour with Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide to ensure you get to explore the other murals of Wynwood, meet some of the artists and get a better understanding of how this creative magnificence came to be. Be sure to visit some of the indoor galleries in the area (if you see something that catches your eye, don’t be shy. Wynwood is known for it’s welcoming vibe and unassuming approach to art and art-lovers). There are also some really famous collections housed in mini-museums in Wynwood like the Rubell Family Collection and the Marguiles Family Collection. One could easily spend an entire day walking, eating and drinking their way throughout this vibrant neighborhood, so when you find yourself hungry again, there’s nothing more satisfying than a burger from Kush. This place is a zero-fuss, friendly burger spot with an impressive selection of craft beers. The beef is sourced from Fort McCoy Ranch in Central Florida, and ground in-house fresh every day by hand. Our go-to is the Angry Chef topped with spicy fried onions, jalapeños, wet slaw, tomato, jack cheese, and homemade BBQ sauce. Kush is open for lunch, but it’s also a great place to end your day with live music and a super lively atmosphere.
Another part of Miami that’s filled with loads of culture is Little Havana, named and fashioned after the capital of Cuba. The Miami River separates Little Havana from downtown on the northeast border, and after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many Cubans migrated to put down roots in this historic neighborhood. A great spot to get immediately immersed in Cuban culture is Versailles Bakery. Grab a cafecito and pastelito at the bakery and take in the bright colors of the buildings, street music and the patrons who’ve been coming here for nearly 50 years. You’re right off Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), which is the neighborhood’s epicenter, running between NW 22nd Avenue and SW 10th Avenue. On the third Friday of every month you can experience Viernes Culturales, where Calle Ocho comes to life with music, dancing, domino games, local arts and crafts, and cigar rollers. It’s a monthly street-fest to celebrate Little Havana’s rich Cuban roots, starting early in the day and spanning until the early hours of the morning. If you’re not in town on a Friday, another awesome way to experience Little Havana by foot (and by taste buds) is to take a walking food tour. On the Little Havana Food Tour, you can taste Cuban specialties such as guava pastries, chicken plantain cups, and flan ice cream while learning about Cuban traditions, history, and culinary practices from a local tour guide. If you don’t opt for a food tour, make sure you get yourself to Sanguich for the world’s most delicious Cuban Sandwich. There are only 25 seats, and you’ll cozy up to your neighbor to enjoy the El Cubano with spiced city ham, pork, Swiss cheese, homemade pickles and mustard on traditional house-made Cuban bread. (enter gaan + co for clean up!) Once you’re thoroughly fed, hang out into the evening at Ball & Chain. Everything about this place transports you straight to a Cuban 1940s jazz club. It’s a live music hot spot that’s more authentic than the flamenco shows that attract tourists along South Beach. They make a killer mojito and dancing is encouraged!
While our #gaanguide doesn’t take a deep dive into the trendy South Beach area, there’s plenty to do right off the beach if desired. Tucked away in the heart of SoBe, you can find Española Way, a charming little street with twinkling lights strung along Mediterranean-style facades - it couldn’t be more different than the crowded clubs & restaurants along Ocean Drive or Lincoln Street. Stroll through this Spanish village, enjoy a really delicious glass of sangria, and snag a high top for tapas from Tapas & Tintos. This spot opened in 1981, so there’s some serious history here, and you’ll see it from floor to ceiling. Everything from photographs of famous patrons over the years and Spanish novelties like Matador costumes and vintage soccer jerseys – you’ll feel transported directly to Spain. If you’re going with a group, most certainly order the Seafood Paella. It’s a signature dish and one of the best in the country.
For those of you who want to explore outside of Miami’s downtown neighborhood scene, we have a few adventures to add to your list. Start by taking a scenic drive (or Uber) down Old Cutler Road to Matheson Hammock Beach. Huge banyan trees, mangroves, and some of the largest palm trees in Florida provide just the right amount of shade over one of the most secluded, serene beaches in the city. It’s completely worth the $5 admission and makes a great place for a picnic. If you’re looking to crank the adventure up a notch or two outside downtown, don’t worry - we’ve got you covered. One of the most unique attractions in Miami is the 1.5 million acres of subtropical wetlands known as Everglades National Park. The Everglades is one of the United States’ most unique ecosystems, comprised of high grass, saltwater marshes and murky waters full of wildlife. In fact, the Everglades is the perfect environment for alligators and home to thousands. Head to Miccosukee Indian Village, Everglades Alligator Farm or Everglades Safari Park and snuggle up to a reptile using your bare hands. And remember, if there’s no picture, it didn’t happen! You can also ride an airboat through the marshes where you’ll catch an awesome breeze and get to see a totally different view of the park navigating through the canal waterways.
As a way to see the city from high above, check out Miami’s Flying Trapeze School, which offers classes to those who want to soar through the air with the greatest of ease with an ocean view to boot! Located on the waterfront in Bayfront Park, the school offers the “Try n’Fly” (one turn on the flying trapeze to give it a whirl) and the “Flying Trapeze Class” (focusing on teaching the essentials to beginners). It’s exhilarating and addicting to sail through the air with the greatest of ease, and equally addicting as a spectator sport. And lastly, calling true adrenaline junkies! This recommendation is for you. Aqua-Jet Miami will give you all the Buzz Lightyear feels as you strap on their Jetpack R200X – truly the next generation of water sports. This is literally what it sounds like – a water-powered jetpack that lets you experience what it’s like to fly above the ocean. The power of water can propel you more than 30 feet above the water and you only need a 15-minute training course before you’re ready for take off. A chartered boat will take you to secluded Jungle Island where you can launch directly off a private beach and fly over Biscayne Bay. Rentals give you about 4 hours of flying time and Aqua-Jet has plenty of other fun water toys (Hoverboards, Tubing, etc.) if you want to mix it up.
Miami, we love you and your endless sunshine, urban beaches and endless outdoor adventures, delicious cuisine and global creativity. We’ll most definitely be back, and in the meantime, thanks for keeping us warm and smiling this winter!
- Written by Rachel Levy