Visitors taking pictures at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove, Florida. (©Alice Crain/Flickr, Creative Commons)
Officially there are 36 cities, villages and towns that make up Greater Miami and the beaches, each with its own unique identity. From rural to suburban and citified areas, Miami has something for everyone. Here's a handy guide to 15 of the most charming, historic and recognizable neighborhoods to explore.
This enclave of sleek high-rises, tropical landscaping and waterways is a major fashion and golfing destination for both locals and international visitors. Home to Aventura Mall and Turnberry Isle, the mall offers an eclectic mix of retailers, ranging from high-end to the most popular recognized brands. The award-winning resort, Turnberry Isle boasts two championship golf courses, three celebrated restaurants (Corsair, Bourbon Steak and Laguna Grill) and a Forbes Four Star Spa and Fitness Center.
Against a backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, you'll find Bal Harbour Village's luxury resorts and gleaming condominium towers. Just north of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour features the Bal Harbour Shops, where you can browse internationally renowned, fashion-forward boutiques in a lush tropical garden-setting, top-notch restaurants and first-rate beaches and oceanfront views.
Nestled between Downtown Miami and Coconut Grove is the city's Financial District. This residentially developed area dubbed the "Manhattan of the South" is home to Brickell City Centre, a luxury mall with retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, The Apple Store, Intermix, Kendra Scott, and other luxury and international brands. For those in search of Miami's quintessential nightlife, Brickell offers some of the best rooftop bars anywhere. W Miami's Whisper Cocktail Lounge and East, Miami's Sugar are but a few of the top spots serving creative cocktails with killer views.
"The Grove" as the locals call the area, is known for tree-lined streets where peacocks roam freely and architectural points of interest, from timeless houses built of coral rock to gracious homes, cottages and historic churches. Visitors come from all over to dine at the neighborhood restaurants—Greenstreet Cafe, Jaguar Ceviche, Ariete and LoKal are but a few. Drop by CocoWalk, just to find out what the street entertainers are up to or take in a movie at the Cinépolis Coconut Grove. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, the European-inspired estate of agricultural industrialist James Deering, is located here.
Appropriately named "The City Beautiful" by its designer, George Merrick, Coral Gables is a charming community of gracious Mediterranean architecture, monumental gateways, fountains, streets shaded by huge banyans and miles of waterways. One of the grander attractions is the Venetian Pool, built from coral rock quarry in 1923. The huge public pool is a fantasy of caves, waterfalls, bridges and Mediterranean-style buildings. Downtown Coral Gables is a thriving business district with bridal shops, trendy boutiques, casual and fine-dining restaurants and all kinds of bars along Miracle Mile. Drop by City Hall—it's the imposing Spanish Colonial building complete with a tower and colonnade.
Home to the AmericanAirlines Arena, Bayside Marketplace, Bayfront Park and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami's downtown area along Biscayne Boulevard, is a hotbed of daytime and nighttime activities. Flagler Street, downtown Miami's main east-west thoroughfare runs along the most historic part of the city. Gaze at the Olympia Theater, Dade County Courthouse, Alfred I. DuPont Building—historic gems of a bygone era.
This seven-mile-long and two-mile-wide barrier island is known for its pristine beaches, outdoor activities and relaxed, small-town lifestyle. The island town includes 1,800 acres of natural parkland. On the southernmost tip of Key Biscayne is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, home to the 95-foot-tall Cape Florida Lighthouse. Its beach has been rated one of the 10 most beautiful in the United States. The island is a water lovers paradise with the wide array of activities including windsurfing, kayak, sport fishing, paddle boarding and sailing.
Historic Lemon City, named after the prevalence of lemon trees that grew in the area, was one of the earliest settlements in Miami. Now known as Little Haiti, it loosely spans NE Second Avenue between 52nd and 71st Streets and Interstate 95 and Biscayne Boulevard. Regardless of the name and geography, one thing is clear, Little Haiti has emerged as an influential part of Miami, brimming with Caribbean culture. From cultural exhibits at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and nearby galleries to traditional wares found at the Caribbean Marketplace or vintage records from Sweat Records, there's lots to see and do here. If you are lucky to visit during the third Friday of the month, you are in for a treat with the art, music and food community festival known as Big Night in Little Haiti.
This vibrant area is considered the epicenter of Cuban culture and heritage. The famed street is well-known for its old-world cigar shops were cigars are hand-rolled onsite, dozens of restaurants where the aroma of Cuban coffee permeates, as well as quaint shops and folk medicine stores called "botanicas." At Maximo Gomez Park (Domino Park) on 15th Avenue, you can join in a game of dominoes or chess. If you happen to visit the last Friday of the month you can partake in the Cultural Fridays free festival along Calle Ocho (Eight Street).
Miami Design District
Travel north from Wynwood Miami to the fast-growing, dynamic community of the Miami Design District. Located at the crossroads of downtown Miami, the revitalized Biscayne Boulevard corridor and Miami Beach, the 18-square-block center houses virtually every top luxury brand. The District is also home to art galleries, design installations, fine dining restaurants and cafes.
Count Basie, Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker all played at nightclubs throughout this historic neighborhood, once a thriving entertainment hotspot for the city's black community. One of Miami's oldest neighborhood, you'll find it from NW Fifth Street to 20th Street and west of the Miami River and the highway, State Road 836. The area is home to historic churches, down-home soul food restaurants and the restored Lyric Theater.
Occupying fewer than two square miles on the tip of Miami Beach, South Beach enjoys its own claim to fame. Life is celebrated here as one big ultra-hip, 24/7 party with a Technicolor back-drop. South Beach's Art Deco District is globally recognized as one of Miami's unique attractions. The beaches are thronged with sexy, beautiful people. The chic outdoor cafes along Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road, which was redesigned in the 1960s by MiMo pioneer Morris Lapidus as the country's first pedestrian mall, is a favorite among locals and visitors looking for a leisurely dining experience. Don't forget to look for other South Beach attractions, including the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, the New World Center, SoundScape Park and The Wolfsonian-FIU museum.
Sunny Isles Beach
The City of Sunny Isles Beach lies between the flowing Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, east of Aventura and north of Bal Harbour Village. It offers world-class beaches at which to enjoy a day on the sand and the ultimate Miami experience. In the center of it all, yet a world away, this tropical barrier island offers five-star spa experiences at Acqualina Resort, outdoor adventures at Oleta River State Park and breathtaking sunsets from the Newport Pier.
South of Bal Harbour Village, discover the charm of Surfside, a seaside family-friendly community featuring beachfront hotels and more than 100 restaurants and cozy boutiques in a two-block strip.
Step inside Wynwood, just west of Midtown, and immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of color. This vibrant neighborhood is filled with esteemed collections and contemporary art galleries, bustling bars and restaurants, indie shops and enormous art murals at the Wynwood Walls, all of which are a must-visit.