With its close proximity to the Caribbean, Miami (distinct from nearby Miami Beach) stands at the crux of two separate worlds. The city – the sixth most densely populated in the U.S. – marries the frenetic energy of a thriving global metropolis with the languid pace of sun-soaked island life. A weekend in Miami means dipping into both worlds in a sometimes bewildering, but always irresistibly alluring way. After all, it’s called the 'Magic City' for a reason.
Charge through the midday slump and begin your weekend in Miami with a trip to Panther Coffee in Wynwood, the flagship location of one of the city's first small-batch coffee roasters. Order a cup of creamy cold brew nitro white and take it to the Wynwood Walls, the epicenter of Miami’s street art scene. Afterwards, weave your way in and out of the neighboring roads, taking in the colorful murals splashed across the area’s signature warehouse walls. Souvenir seekers will also find plenty of funky, independent shops scattered along 2nd Avenue and its surrounding streets.
If you have an affinity for R2-D2 and award-winning beer, a good spot to cool your feet (and palate) is the Star Wars-themed J. Wakefield, Wynwood’s only independently-owned craft brewery and taproom. But don’t get carried away with the samplers — dinner awaits at Alter, where James Beard Award finalist Brad Kilgore reigns with playful takes on global dishes. Reservations are a must, so make sure you call a few weeks ahead. Another option is 1-800-Lucky, an Asian food hall with vendors hawking freshly-rolled sushi, dumplings and IG-worthy matcha ice cream in fish cones.
Fact: Miami nightlife is a competitive sport. If you want a taste of the fist-pumping shenanigans the city has built its reputation on, take it to E11even – a multi-story club open 24 hours a day where only the most seasoned club-goers survive. A quieter version of the city’s bar scene can be found across the street at The Corner, a locals haunt for inventive cocktail combos, live jazz and intimate conversation that lasts well into the morning.
Life is all about balance, right? So after a night of Dionysian debauchery, center your chi with a free yoga class on the bay at Bayfront Park. After you’ve sweated out Friday night with a few tree poses, nourish your soul with the cultural riches at neighboring Museum Park, where the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science’s spectacular planetarium hurtles visitors through space and along the ocean floor via a 16-million-color 8K projection screen.
Directly across from Frost Science sits Perez Art Museum Miami, with some of the finest contemporary art exhibitions in the city. Don’t miss the hanging gardens and stunning water views on the patio of the museum — in fact, having lunch at the museum’s resident restaurant Verde is one of the best ways to do just that.
Make a date with the brilliant Miami sunset and a few alfresco martinis at Sugar, a verdant polynesian cocktail bar on the 40th floor of the EAST Miami hotel in Brickell. When the sun’s wrapped up its watercolor swan song, follow up the experience with a dinner party the nearby El Tucan, where an exotic jungle atmosphere accompanies plates of thinly sliced sushi, live singing, sparklers and patrons letting loose on tabletops to a DJ-spun soundtrack.
Start the last day of your weekend in Miami with a shot of Cuban coffee from the ventanita (a little window that offers Latin food to-go) at Versailles, a Miami institution for Cuban food and US politicians looking to woo the locals. The highly addictive sugar-and-caffeine combo known as 'cafecito' is a favorite local remedy for sluggish mornings and early afternoons. Give the concoction a few minutes to work its magic and take a 2.5-mile ride to the historic Venetian Pool in neighboring Coral Gables for a refreshing dip. The pool, one of the few listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is fed with water from an underground aquifer and lives up to its namesake with ornate mosaic tiles, waterfalls and a Venetian-style bridge that leads to a small, palm-lined island.
Spend the rest of your weekend in Miami eating like royalty at the Biltmore Hotel’s legendary Sunday brunch. Throw on a chic cover up (or use one of the Biltmore’s restrooms for a quick change) and prepare for hours of leisurely feasting accompanied by unlimited pours of sparkling wine, mimosas and bellinis. The lavish three-hour extravaganza takes place on a tropical terrace featuring gurgling fountains and artfully arranged stations of caviar, shellfish, carved meats, omelets and a pastel-colored dreamscape of exquisitely prepared pastries. Odds of missing your flight home: downright solid.
Where to stay
Downtown: For swanky sky-high digs, the Kimpton Epic Hotel sits on the precipice of Downtown Miami and Brickell with glittering views of the bay, modern lines and the well-appointed Exhale spa and gym facilities. Part private residential condominium, part trendsetting hotel, The Guild puts you in the center of all the Downtown action with a larger-than-life rooftop pool deck, a hip neighborhood hang in the form of Jaguar Sun and direct access to the free Metromover. Either are good home bases for your weekend in Miami.
Brickell: The city’s financial district plays a strong hand when it comes to its hotel game. The Four Seasons, SLS and Mandarin Oriental all have a location amongst the neighborhood’s high-rises, but more budget-friendly accommodations can be found at Aloft Miami - Brickell.
How to get there
Miami International Airport has direct domestic flights from most major US cities year-round. International flights are also available from London, Paris and Istanbul. Another alternative is the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (a 35-minute drive to Downtown Miami), offering non-stop direct domestic and international flights throughout the year.