Last week I was lucky enough to spend five days in Miami thanks to Wow Air and Visit Miami. With its warm sunny days, glamorous beach clubs and Cuban vibes Miami was the perfect place for a long weekend getaway, especially when back home in England and Italy the weather is freezing. Find out all the best things to do when visiting Miami on a long weekend.
- 1 Flying to Miami with Wow Air
- 2 What to see in Miami in 4 days
- 3 Where to stay in Miami
- 4 Where to eat
Flying to Miami with Wow Air
We flew to Miami from London with Wow Air, with a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland. If you’re looking for a bargain flight from London to Miami, this is the one. Flying from London to Miami via Reykjavik can cost you as little as 139 GBP one way on the basic Wow Air package. Flight time including the stopover is around 12 to 13 hours. With flights that cheap, Miami really becomes the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway to escape the cold European winter!
What to see in Miami in 4 days
Miami is an exciting and vibrant city in Florida with so many different things to do and see. However if you’re only visiting for a short trip like a long weekend, some of the places we visited that I personally loved and recommend are the following.
Do a cycling tour of the Wynwood murals
During the trip my friend Em described Wynwood as the Shoreditch of London but on steroids. The definition couldn’t have been more accurate. As we started approaching Wynwood murals started appearing on every wall, timidly at first until we reached the centre of Wynwood and every available inch of wall was covered in street art. Wynwood can be seen as the world’s largest outdoor art museum and is also known as the graffiti mecca of the world. There is a section called Wynwood Walls where the murals are displayed like in an actual exhibition. Wynwood Walls is beautiful but is just a small section of this neighbourhood; we did a tour with Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide that took us off the beaten track and to explore the other murals of Wynwood.
We got bikes from Citi Bike Miami, a bike sharing and rental system that provides both tourists and locals with bikes to explore the city, and ventured into the less touristy areas of Wynwood. What originally used to be a warehouse district got completely transformed by Tony Goldman in 2009, who wanted to develop the area’s pedestrian potential by exposing the public to a type of art they wouldn’t have seen before. Given the nature of warehouse buildings, without windows, it made them the perfect canvases for these street artists. What struck me particularly was the idea that “nothing is sacred” in the world of street art. No matter how famous of a street artist you are, your pieces aren’t going to be there forever, anyone could come along and paint over it. This was clearly visible around the neighbourhood where huge graffiti often had smaller ones being painted on the side and slowly taking over.
Do an Art Deco Walking tour in South Beach
We spent two nights at the Loews Miami in South Beach, so naturally we couldn’t help but exploring this trendy neighbourhood of Miami. Just a short walk away from our hotel was Lincoln Road, a must-visit on any trip to South Beach. This promenade is lively and bustling at any time of day, with all the coolest shops, restaurants and bars in the area. As you may have guessed by the name, South Beach also has a stunning white sand beach. Walking along the beach watching on one side the turquoise ocean water, and on the other the colourful lifeguard huts made me feel like I was in an American movie.
In South Beach we also did an Art Deco Walking Tour with the Miami Design Preservation League. This was a 90-minute walking tour where they explained to us the history and architecture of the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo) styles of the buildings in South Beach. The tours are conducted by local historian and architects, meaning that their knowledge and passion for the subject really shines through during the tour. Walking up and down Ocean Drive and listening to the history of these buildings from someone so passionate on the matter was really interesting. A fun fact that stuck with me was the fact that there is a protection act in place and none of the buildings can get knocked down or modified, since they were built before the 1960s. I found this amusing as we have the same kind of protection acts in Italy for buildings dating back to the Roman Empire; this is just somewhat more recent. Welcome to America.
Explore Little Havana
One of my favourite parts of my Miami trip was exploring Little Havana, the Cuban neighbourhood of Miami, named after Havana, the capital of Cuba. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959 lots of Cubans left the Caribbean island, with many of them coming to Miami. Little Havana is where most of them gather, together with many other immigrants from Central and South America. It is a centre of social, cultural and political activity in Miami.
We did a tour with Urban Adventures and a Cuban guide that has been living in Miami for a few years. This was a great way to really experience Little Havana and connect with the locals. It was especially interesting to hear stories and opinions about Cuba and moving to Miami. We visited a number of local shops and restaurants in Little Havana, absorbing as much as we could of the local atmosphere and enjoying a taste of Cuban food and drink throughout the tour. We also got to visit a cigar factory in Little Havana. While being very different from the tobacco plantations I’d seen in Viñales, it had a similar atmosphere and the cigar rolling process was also the same.
Visit the art and science museums at Museum Park
A focal point of Downtown Miami is the Museum Park, where you can visit the Frost Science Museum (Philipp and Patricia Frost Museum of Science) and the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). The PAMM is a modern and contemporary art museum, which displays international art of the 20th and 21st centuries. However the influence of the museum goes beyond the walls of the art exhibition, with sculpture installations in the public gardens in Museum Park. The vibrant green space and architectural garden has been key in transforming this district, and turning into a central destination of Miami’s cultural map. For the children at heart like me there are also some awesome swing chairs that I probably spent too much time on.
My personal favourite was the Frost Science Museum, mainly because I have more of an interest in science than art. We saw the show at the Frost Planetarium, which despite looking like an advert from NASA to recruit young astronauts, was really fascinating and a really immersive experience. After the planetarium show we explored the Aquarium, North and West Wings of the museum. From the top roof of the Museum there are also beautiful views of waterfront and harbour of Miami. I especially enjoyed the interactive games, even if they may be targeted at people slightly younger than me, they were fun and succeeded in their aim of sparking interest in science. It reminded me a bit of the ArtScience museum in Singapore. The aquarium at the Frost Science museum was also really interesting since it’s very different from conventional aquariums filled with fish of all kinds. Here there aren’t as many fish in the tanks to resemble more accurately what the ocean actually looks like, with occasional fish or sharks swimming past a large space, not the high concentration you normally see in aquariums.
Explore Española Way
Tucked away in a pedestrian street in South Beach you can find Española Way, a charming little street that with its twinkling lights overhead and bougainvillea covered facades it couldn’t be more different from the busy atmosphere of the neighbouring Ocean Drive or Lincoln Street. Española Way is designed to resemble a Spanish village, so step away from the fast-paced American way of life and embrace the leisurely Mediterranean vibes. Walk along this pedestrian street and enjoy a good glass of sangria, some tapas and maybe even a flamenco show!
Where to stay in Miami
There are a vast number of amazing hotels in Miami, the two I personally stayed at and loved are:
The Loews Miami is in a prime location in South Beach. A short 5-minute walk away from Lincoln Road and right on the beach. It’s in the perfect position both if you’re looking to hit the beach or explore the shopping avenues. My room had a lovely balcony with view over the pool and beach, for our first night when the jetlag had me up at 5:30am it was a great spot to enjoy the sunrise over the ocean! The Loews also has an amazing restaurant called Lure Fishbar, where we had an incredible dinner all composed of fresh seafood dishes. The cabanas on poolside are the perfect spot to relax in the sun, and no need to worry if you forget your sunscreen, there is a fun machine on poolside that will spray it on for you!
We also spent two nights at the Mandarin Oriental in downtown Miami. Its central location in downtown means that all the rooms have sweeping views over the sea and skyline of Miami. The Mandarin Oriental has both a pool and a beach where you can relax, right next to the hotel spa. Walking out of my massage to then directly jump in a pool and lie on a sun-bed really made for a great start to the day. The Mandarin Oriental also has an amazing restaurant called La Mar by Gaston Acurio. Here you can appreciate the diverse flavours of Peruvian cuisine such as cebiches, grilled anticuchos and specialty cocktails, while enjoying views over Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline.
Where to eat
Being a bit of a foodie, exploring the restaurants of Miami was undoubtedly one of my favourite parts of the entire trip. With a strong Cuban and Latin American influence the cuisine in Miami displays all sorts of classic Western and Latin fusions. We tried a number of different restaurants, all of which didn’t disappoint.
If I lived in Miami, Nikki Beach is where I’d want to spend my Fridays. We were there for lunch but it was clear from the vast number of chairs, the stage and live music that it is also a prime venue for dinner and evening drinks on the beach. The London Observer called it “The Sexiest Place on Earth” and it’s easy to see why. Being there in the middle of the day didn’t stop us from indulging in their tasty cocktails, which we enjoyed while lounging on their cabanas and sunbeds. The food is a mixture of European (pizza, bruschetta etc), Mexican (tacos) and American (burgers) cuisines, which perfectly captures the international vibe that Miami has. We had our first lunch in Miami here and it perfectly kick-started out weekend.
Tapas y Tintos
On our visit to Española Way we had dinner at Tapas y Tintos, where we also go too to enjoy a lovely flamenco show. The flamenco and live music show is on at 9pm on weekends, so make sure to grab an outdoor table to see the show while enjoying your tapas. In true Spanish tradition Tapas y Tintos serves a wide variety of traditional tapas, such as paellas, boards of jamon Iberico and manchego cheese, tortilla and octopus. Paired with a nice glass of sangria it’s the perfect venue for a relaxing Spanish evening in Miami.
Estefan Kitchen, in the Design District of Downtowm Miami, is the restaurant of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. This is a fine-dining Cuban restaurant that combines traditional Cuban family recipes with an alternative twist. Located in the heart of the Design District Estefan Kitchen is surrounded by a trendy environment and high-end fashion shops. The food was very different from what I ate in Cuba, since even if based on traditional family recipes it had a strong Western influence. We sat outside and enjoyed some amazing Cuban mojitos (turns out lunch cocktails are totally acceptable in America) alongside revisited Cuban classic such as vaca frita, lechòn flatbread, lechòn crispy moros and paella.
Verde at the PAMM
Located in the PAMM with beautiful views over Biscayne Bay, Verde is a modern restaurant that serves a locally inspired cuisine. There is also a coffee bar that serves on the go pastries, sandwiches, coffees and salads. We ate here just before exploring the PAMM and Frost Science museums, which gave us a great opportunity to experience the vibe of the Museum Park besides just seen the actual museums. The food was amazing, I can highly recommend the butternut squash and fig pizza!
Advertised as a dinner show, I wasn’t quite ready for the unconventional meal we had at El Tucàn. With a modern day cabaret show El Tucàn entertains the spectators with a glamorous performance that combines jazz vibes with modern DJs. We chose the set menu so that good just kept coming at our table while we enjoyed the show. A tough moment for me was having to decide between eating a mouth-watering steak that had just been served at our table or dancing on the couches with the rest of the room as the show ended. I chose the steak. Like all the rest of the food it was amazing and I don’t regret my choice.
Have you been to Miami? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! This is how we spent our long weekend (4 days) in Miami, being such a big and international city there is obviously much more of Miami to see, however I feel like we were able to cover all the main tourist attractions and points of interest in this long weekend trip. If you want to get out of the city, check out this article about doing a Miami to Key West road trip.