1 - Freedom Tower
Centrally located in downtown Miami, the Freedom Tower emulates the architectural style of the Cathedral of Seville, and hosts the soul of today’s Miami. Completed in 1925 the original purpose of this historic building was to house The Miami News’ headquarters and printing facility. In 1957 however, the News vacated the 17-storey building for a new home and it sat empty until 1962. It was then given a new lease of life to document and provide dental and medical care to the thousands of immigrants fleeing Cuba in the 60s, earning it the name “Freedom Tower”. Today the building stands as a monument to those countless families that fled Cuba in search of freedom. Now owned and operated by the Miami-Dade College, you can visit the first floor to learn more about the history of the Cuban exile free of charge. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-5pm. Plan for a 30-60 minute visit.
2 - Bayside Marketplace
Just across US Highway 1 (Biscayne Boulevard) from the Freedom Tower is one of Miami’s best attractions: Bayside Marketplace. Situated on the shores of Biscayne Bay, this outdoor shopping mall offers something for everyone. For those with more time, you could try something adventurous such as a trapeze lesson, or a guided boat tour of shimmering Biscayne Bay. Alternatively, grab an ice cream and bask in the sun while you wait for the next Miami Water Taxi. Departing Bayside Marketplace every 90 minutes between 11am and 6.30pm, the Miami Water Taxi is the perfect way to travel from downtown Miami to the famed South Beach. The 30-minute ride is not all commute as the captains enjoy conversing with passengers, pointing out famous homes and narrating a bit of Miami’s history. A single trip pass costs US$15.
3 - South Beach
Upon docking at Miami Beach Marina you’ll feel like you’re in a completely different city, surrounded by luxury condominium high-rises and beautiful yachts. Take a ten-minute walk south on Alton Road to one of the country’s most famous restaurants: Joe’s Stone Crab. Opened in 1913 when Miami Beach was a laid-back, sleepy town, the restaurant sealed its destiny with the discovery of the Florida Stone Crab in 1921. Since then, anyone who’s anyone has dined on the famous claws, dipping them into the signature mustard sauce, while rubbing elbows with the elite. For a more efficient experience, the Take-Away market next door offers the same menu. Take a slice of Key Lime Pie to-go (US$6.95) and head north on Washington Avenue for five blocks. Turn right on 5th Street and after two blocks you will reach the famous Ocean Drive where you can admire the Art Deco buildings in their entirety, perfect for any photographer. Stop in at the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive) where you can purchase a self-guided map (US$3) to learn more about the famous buildings such as the 20th century Clevelander, Colony and The Betsy hotels. The Art Deco Museum (free for all visitors) offers a more intimate look at the historic district’s famous architecture and culture. Time your visit to Ocean Drive during sunset (5.30pm in winter) to watch the famous marquees light up.
4 - Wynwood Art District
From Ocean Drive, take a 30-minute taxi ride to the burgeoning Wynwood Arts District (approximately US$25). Instruct your driver to take you to the Wynwood Walls located at 2516 NW 2nd Avenue and prepare to see a different side of the art world – more edgy, daring, and abstract. Artists such as Shepard Fairey, Gaia, and Ryan McGinness have adorned the many warehouse buildings with their artwork, transforming the area into an outdoor art gallery. Stop into the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (located next door to the entrance of the Wynwood Walls) where you will find more artwork on the walls, including a 20-foot painting by German artist Christian Awe. The restaurant serves contemporary American fare that pays homage to the local culture and Cuban heritage. Don’t miss the ropa vieja empanadas (US$9) or the white chocolate bread pudding (US$8).
5 - Brickell Key
Just 15 minutes south of the Wynwood Arts District is the Brickell neighbourhood. Catch a taxi from Wynwood (around US$15) and head to Mandarin Oriental, Miami, located on the prestigious island of Brickell Key, for a cocktail at the MO Bar + Lounge after a long day of exploring. Here you can admire the panoramic views of the downtown Miami skyline. With the city lit up at night, the reflections from the bay will leave you stumbling for that perfect selfie. Enjoy a French 75 cocktail (gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar; US$22) to toast the end of your adventure.