Miami has an intense variety of bars to pick from that range from grotty jazz and punk dives (with excellent music) to beautiful – and laid-back – lounges and nightclubs. There is a great live music scene across the city. Miami’s nightlife reputation for being all about wealth, good looks and phoniness is thankfully mostly isolated to the South Beach scene.
Art Walks: Nightlife Meets Art
Ever-flowing (not always free) wine and beer, great art, a fun crowd and no cover charge (or velvet rope): welcome to the wondrous world where art and nightlife collide. The Wynwood and Design District Art Walks are among the best ways to experience an alternative slice of Miami culture. Just be careful, as a lot of galleries in Wynwood are separated by short drives (the Design District is more walkable). Art Walks take place on the second Saturday of each month, from 7pm to 10pm (some galleries stretch to 11pm); when it’s all over, lots of folks repair to Wood Tavern or Bardot. Visit www.artofmiami.com/maps/art-walks for information on participating galleries.
Microbreweries & Beer Bars
The microbrew renaissance is underway in Miami with a growing number of craft brewers arriving on the scene. At these Miami spots, you'll find creative brews and a strong neighborhood vibe. Some stock other beers on rotating taps (with a focus on South Florida brewers) as well as their own. Most microbreweries also have food available, or work with food trucks who park outside.
Wynwood is the epicenter of the beer scene, with a handful of brewers, plus beer-focussed bars and eateries. With soaring real estate prices in the neighborhood however, more brewers are choosing to open in the western reaches of Miami.
Miami's high rises are put to fine use in the many rooftop bars you'll find scattered around the city. These are usually located in high-end hotels found in Miami Beach and in Downtown. The view is of course the big reason to come – and it can be sublime, with the sweep of Biscayne Bay or sparkling beachfront in the background. Despite being in hotels, some spots are a draw for locals, and it can be quite a scene, with DJs, a dressy crowd and a discriminating door policy at prime time on weekend nights. If you're here for the view and not the party, come early. Happy hour is fabulous – as you can catch a fine sunset, and getting in is usually not a problem. The following are some of our favorite spots:
The cocktail craze shows no signs of abating in this liquor-loving town. Well-trained bartenders (aka mixologists) are an essential part of the nightlife scene, as they stir and shake up creative decadence in the form of lovely elixirs.
The settings for a good drink range quite a fair bit, from old-fashioned wood-lined bars or dimly lit lounges set with antique furnishings to stylish, modern spots set amid tropical plants overlooking a swimming pool.
Need to Know
If you’re going out to big clubs and popular bars in Miami, you may have to deal with bouncers and the dreaded velvet rope. Here are a few tips for getting in: dress the part (no sneakers or t-shirts); get on the guest list (the concierge of your hotel might be able to help); come early to avoid the long lines.
At the bar, tip bartenders $1 a drink minimum, $2 a drink for pricier cocktails. For table service, 18% to 20% of the bill (pre-tax) is standard.
Plan on $14 and up for a craft cocktail (upwards of $20 at a pricey nightclub). A pint of draft beer generally runs $6 to $8 ($10 and up at a club). Nearly everywhere has happy hour, which typically runs from about 5pm to 7pm Monday through Friday.