Thanksgiving Week 2021 took me and Nayda to Florida, for a week of exploring Miami and the Florida Keys. It was a great vacation, while we didn’t go for the nightlife or party scene, we had a blast exploring Miami Beach, eating amazing food, and enjoying some warmth and sun. There is a lot more to Miami than just nightclubs and yacht parties – and you can see and do a lot in a short amount of time!
Must-Do Things in Miami
Anyone who loves street art must check out the Wynwood Walls while in Miami. This outdoor space of graffiti art is a fantastic spot for a quick visit while exploring Miami. Tickets are $12 for adults, making it a relatively affordable activity to enjoy while in Miami. I also really enjoyed the idea of being in an outdoor museum, and it is not a huge expansive area, so if you’re traveling with people who aren’t huge fans of museums, you won’t have to spend too long dragging them around.
Art Deco Drive
Miami has a lot of beautiful areas to explore on foot, and the Art Deco District is no exception. Located between 5th and 23rd along Ocean Drive, this area of Miami Beach has the largest concentration of art deco architecture in the United States. There are official guided tours or you can explore on your own. Walk around and admire the beautiful color palettes that make this neighborhood and area of Miami so beautiful. There is also a museum to visit that details the history of Art Deco in Miami.
A romantic walk along Española Way in South Beach will take you past dozens of restaurants – making this the place to wander if you’re not sure what you want to eat. The cuisine offerings are diverse – from Cuban to Italian, Mexican to Vietnamese, there’s something for every palate along this walk. Even if you don’t stop for food – it’s a pretty walk down the laneways, it made me feel like I was in Europe as we passed the patios filled with patrons dining and drinking.
Calle Ocho Little Havana
Little Havana was a fun area of Miami to explore. Calle Ocho is the heartbeat of the neighborhood, close to all the Cuban bars and restaurants, and it is home to Domino Park, also known as Maximo Gomez Park, where locals sit at outdoor tables and play Dominoes. It was a lovely area to check out and stop for food, to get a cultural taste of Miami’s rich history and the Cuban contributions to shaping this city into what it is today.
Even if you don’t smoke cigars or know anyone who smokes cigars, check out the cigar shops in Little Havana when in Miami. It is a great option as a gift and to see a bit of the Cuban heritage and culture of Miami. We visited the Little Havana Cigar Factory and it was a cool experience to see the huge selection of cigars and other Cuban goods – including coffee and artwork.
It’s easy to see why Miami Beach is a premiere beach destination for people from all around the world. It’s a huge beach – spanning several miles, offering beautiful white sand and blue water. The wind was a bit too strong to enjoy a relaxing swim, but I can imagine during the hot summer months, this is 100% the place to be. Kick off your shoes and enjoy the sand under your feet.
Miami Bars & Restaurants
This sassy establishment certainly lives up to its namesake. They are a good stop for breakfast, specializing in croissant sandwiches. Bacon Bitch, in my opinion is a bit overpriced and overrated, but they have a lovely patio and the service was pretty good. Nayda loved her breakfast sandwich, the one I had was a little disappointing since it said it had “avocado” on it, but they used a pre-made avocado spread from a tube instead of fresh avocado, which is pretty bad for a $20 sandwich. I would say it’s worth a visit but just order carefully and ask your server for recommendations.
Front Porch Cafe
This was a great breakfast spot in Miami Beach. Right off Ocean Drive, they have a huge open-air patio and super nice servers. The menu has a huge selection of unique breakfast offerings. I had huevos rancheros which came with a pile of cotija cheese and nice scoop of real avocado. Nayda had a basil-egg scramble that was delicious and unlike any breakfast item I’d ever tried before! The staff was lovely and service was prompt. Check out Front Porch Cafe for a relaxing breakfast while in Miami.
Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina
Experience historic Little Havana and delicious Cuban food at Old’s Havana. This restaurant was one of my favorite spots we visited in Miami. The outdoor, back garden patio was lovely, and the food was unreal. It’s the perfect spot in Little Havana for authentic Cuban cuisine. Here we shared a platter of a variety of Cuban appetizers, all of them were incredible. The “bolitos de moro” were my favorite, basically fried balls of mashed black beans and rice with seasonings.
Mofongo’s Puerto Rican Restaurant
This place is so amazing, we went twice during our short visit to Miami. If you’ve ever been to Puerto Rico and had the luxury of trying Mofongo, a dish made from fried plantains, you’ll know how amazing it is. I hadn’t had it since my visit to San Juan in 2013. Mofongo’s Restaurant is located in Little Havana and they have a great menu, with a friendly staff and live music on the weekends. Be prepared to wait a little for a table if you come on the weekend – it’s worth every minute once you get your food.
Chalan on the Beach Peruvian Restaurant
We found this gem on a list of “budget eats in Miami” and it was a fantastic casual spot for dinner. I had a fish soup with a side of rice that hit all the cravings I had been having, and Nayda had a lomo saltado. The service was friendly and the prices were a lot more affordable than a lot of the trendy spots in Miami. Chalan on the Beach isn’t actually on the beach, but it’s a short walk from Ocean Drive.
Icy n Spicy Dessert Shop
Satisfy your sweet tooth and desire for posting a VERY Instagrammable milk shake with a visit to Icy n Spicy Dessert Shop. Located within the Carlyle Cafe, they have a variety of stunning milkshake concoctions that come with all sorts of toppings and assortments. We built our own with cake batter, whipped cream, sprinkles and topped with a cupcake. If I were to go back, I’d try their Ferrero Rocher, which was listed as a top seller.
This iconic restaurant on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach is a great spot for a dinner, especially if you love the movie, “The Birdcage.” They are known for massive cocktails, margaritas that come in huge bowl-like glasses, and a varied menu. I will say the food was decent, but overpriced as one could expect right on the hot strip of Miami Beach. I wouldn’t go back to this restaurant, but it’s worth checking out if you loved the movie and want a massive cocktail. I had the fish tacos and they were pretty good! I would not say this restaurant is a “must visit” but if you’re looking to eat right in the middle of the action, it’s a decent place to stop with friendly and attentive staff.
Shepherd Artisan Coffee
This was our final breakfast in Miami, and it was a super cute spot that had a line out the door! The staff was very efficient despite the huge crowd, and they have indoor and outdoor seating. I loved my breakfast plate and coffee, Nayda had a mini shakshuka which was also delicious. They have awesome coffee drinks and a great selection of bakery items too. Check out Shepherd Artisan for a quick cup of coffee or a full-on breakfast to start your day exploring Miami Beach.
Accommodations in Miami
In Miami, we stayed at boutique hotels in South Beach. They weren’t the most luxurious but both were reasonable for the price and location. If you have the money to spend I would say go with a larger, chain hotel for better beds and quieter rooms, but they were fine to sleep in for just a few nights.
President Villa Hotel
This place had a great pool on the rooftop with cool views of South Beach. The staff was friendly and helpful, but the bed was not very comfortable and the room was pretty noisy. There is breakfast included but I would say skip it and go out instead – much better breakfast offerings are at local restaurants. The President Villa would be a good choice for a traveler on a budget who wants to be out and about for most of their stay. Grab a drink from the bar and head up to the rooftop hotel to catch some sun!
Another boutique hotel and this one was definitely a place that party people stay at – it’s quite noisy! We were only here one night though so that wasn’t too terrible. The staff is friendly and helpful, and there is a good happy hour at the bar, but I would not say it’s an amazing hotel. The Whitelaw Hotel just fine if you want to stay in Miami Beach without breaking the bank.
Overall, I enjoyed Miami and would definitely come back for a quick stay to get out of the cold. I’d love to explore more art museums and restaurants, and stay at a more upscale hotel next time, as well as do a boat/yacht day. If you have recommendations for restaurants or things to do that I missed, please leave me a comment and I will add it to a future list!