When people think of Southern Florida, they think of Miami. This hot, subtropical location is known for its heavy Cuban influence, which comes through distinctly in lots of the food, the shopping, and the nightlife. Miami is the kind of place where luxurious and bohemian cultures come together, and where every street is distinctly different from its neighbors.

Breakfast

Head to the 1 Hotel South Beach to visit Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft restaurant. This upscale breakfast buffet is worth spending a little extra. You get two buffet options, both of which include homemade pastries like croissants, a Greek yogurt station, salmon, and fresh fruit. Upgrade to add eggs, waffles, and breakfast meats to your buffet choices. While you’re there, get a Bloody Mary or a mimosa a la carte. The restaurant opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, and doesn’t close until 11:30 a.m.

On the other end of the price spectrum is S&S Diner, which recently moved to a new Miami location after almost four decades. New location aside, this diner is known to locals for cheap, good eats in the morning. Get simple fare like eggs and potatoes with a cup of coffee, or go for hearty dishes like roast turkey or steak. Find the new location at Northeast 27th St. and Biscayne Blvd.

American Riviera
The American Riviera.

Late Morning: Animal Adventures

Before things get too hot in Miami, take to the outdoor parks and have some animal fun. Miami zoological parks are great for people who want to interact with exotic and local animals. A zoological morning is perfect for families with kids, or for couples and groups of friends who want to have some well-deserved adult time.

Start at Seaquarium. This 38-acre park ocean-themed opens at 10 a.m. so you can head there right after your delicious breakfast. Some of the most popular activities at Seaquarium are the Penguin Encounter and the Dolphin Encounter. You get to learn about these majestic creatures and their natural habitats, and you’ll get some one-on-one time with a penguin or a dolphin. You should also try the 15-20 minute Seal Swim, where you get to be in the water with seals swimming around you.

Head to Jungle Island next or instead of Seaquarium, depending on your plans and your preferences. Like Seaquarium, it opens at 10 a.m., and it’s also an interactive nature park. At Jungle Island, you can visit the Petting Barn, where adorable farm animals roam around waiting for attention from visitors. Starting at 11 a.m. every day, the Manu Encounter opens. In this exhibit, you interact with squirrel monkeys, parrots, and other Manu wildlife. The Kangaroo Konnection opens at 11:30 a.m. and is your chance to meet a kangaroo!

Miami Skyline
A Skyline of Miami.

Lunch

You’ve had a busy morning; it’s time to slow down and refuel with lunch. Miami is full of lunch spots, and if you’re on a tight schedule you’re bound to have good luck popping into a local shop between your morning and afternoon destinations. If you have a little time to spare, however, sit down for a while and enjoy some unique Miami lunch places.

Kush, located at 2003 N Miami Ave., is a gastropub with an environmental vibe. American dishes with a modern twist adorn the menu, as does an extensive selection of craft beer. If you’re craving a burger, Kush is a prime spot to get it. You can even try alligator bites! The grilled cheese and tomato soup combo is comfort food to the extreme and always worth ordering. This spot opens at noon and doesn’t close until after dinner time, so you’ve got ample opportunity to make your way here.

If you want a light lunch, Crumb on Parchment is your lunch destination. This American restaurant is open until 4 p.m., and the menu is made up mostly of soups and salads. A selection of baked goods offers a great to-go option when you’re done with lunch so you have a snack later during your afternoon adventures. This eatery, located at 3930 NE 2nd Ave., has a delicious grilled chicken sandwich and an extra-gooey grilled cheese. Be sure to get some tea or a latte to perk you up, too.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Early Afternoon: Museum Amusement

Miami gets hot in the early afternoon, especially when you visit in summer. So turn your early afternoon into museum time where you can enjoy the art and the air conditioning.

The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a sprawling American villa with a luscious interior. The villa is almost 100 years old, and it boasts a unique and luxurious personality. The villa was designed as an Italian 18th century traditional home adapted for the subtropical life. As a result, the way the house and the onsite gardens complement each other is stunning. Within the house, you’ll find many art exhibits, including beautiful rooms designed to represent different Italian interiors.

Every vacation seems to involve a trip to an art museum, so stir things up a bit by heading to 1101 Biscayne Blvd. instead. There you’ll discover the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. The building contains a planetarium and an aquarium, both of which are worth a visit. Exhibitions include explorations of gravity, the history of flight, and a lab all about how the human body works. The museum is open every day of the year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; if you find your time at the museum enchanting, you can always skip your late afternoon activities and stay here until dinner.

Bayside Marketplace
Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami.

Late Afternoon: Walk and Shop

Your late afternoon Miami activity involves exploring some of the many outdoor shopping areas the city has to offer. Start at Bayside Marketplace in Downtown Miami. This is the perfect blend of commercial shopping and local color. More than 150 shops line the streets, and kiosks and carts litter the area, selling local goodies like leather goods. You’ll get great views of the water and might walk by a restaurant that strikes your fancy as a dinner destination. If you are intending to buy souvenirs, this is the spot to get them.

Miami’s Brickell neighborhood is adjacent to downtown, so you can hit the Mary Brickell Village for shopping after you finish at Bayside. The Mary Brickell Village is one of those great spots that combines drink venues, restaurants, and boutique shops. If you’re tired after a day of playing with animals and learning about science, a massage or a manicure at a local spa certainly wouldn’t go amiss. This is another shopping location where you might also discover a restaurant you want to check out for dinner.

Dinner

Le Sirenuse Miami, which is located inside the Four Seasons, is your upscale answer when you’re looking for a luxury Miami meal. Le Sirenuse Miami offers Mediterranean cuisine both inside a beautiful dining room or out on the seaside terrace. Dinner goes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and your best bet is to make a reservation, especially if you want to visit on the weekend. Try the beef or the crab, but really, you can’t make a bad choice with this menu. You’ll find the Four Seasons at 9101 Collins Ave.

For the crowd who wants something a little weird for dinner, make Federal Donuts your dinner destination. This donut counter is also something of a Korean restaurant. You can get Korean fried chicken as your entrée, then choose from the massive selection of unique donut options. The coffee is pretty good, too. The restaurant closes at 8 p.m. theoretically, but they actually serve until they run out of product. Head there early in the evening to ensure they’ve still got food left.

Jack’s Home Cooking serves simple, comforting Italian food, and is the best place for anyone exhausted from a day of sightseeing. Sit down in a casual environment and know that every taste bud you possess is about to be delighted. This restaurant is popular, so you should make a reservation before you go. It’s open until 10 p.m., so night-owls need not worry about getting fed before heading out on the town. Everything is good, but when you want comfort Italian food, pasta is your best bet. Nothing beats Spaghetti Bolognese or Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Where to Stay

In Miami, your hotel options are limitless. To truly pamper yourself, choose the Setai Miami Beach, the W South Beach, or the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort. For a mid-range hotel with lots of great amenities but prices that will fit into more budgets, the Conrad Miami or the Room Mate Lord Balfour Hotel are both great choices. To save big, try the Ramada Miami Springs or the Days Inn Miami Airport North.

Many think of hostels as a European thing. Miami, however, is full of them, and they’re a great way to save big when staying in this exciting city. A popular option is Jazz on South Beach Hostel, which has low rates and free breakfast. Another Miami hostel to consider is Bikini Hostel, which comes with dorms and an outdoor pool.

Airport Tower Miami International
The Airport Tower at Miami International Airport in Miami.

Your Guide to Miami Airports

When you fly to Miami, chances are you’ll land either at Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Both offer extensive amenities and great transportation options for travelers.

From both airports, you’ll be able to hail a taxi to take you to any Miami destination. Keep in mind, though, that a taxi ride from the Fort Lauderdale airport will be more expensive because it takes considerably longer to get to Miami from it than from the Miami International Airport.

Miami International Airport

More than 80 airlines serve 150 global destinations at Miami International Airport (MIA). Miami International is one of the major gateways between the United States and Latin America, and many international Latin American flights pass through MIA. This airport is an American Airlines hub, especially for flights that go to Latin America.

MIA Flight Information

You can get nonstop flights from Miami International to dozens of U.S. and international cities, including New York, Austin, Baltimore, Tampa, St. Louis, Denver, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Panama City, and Liberia. Major airlines serving this airport include Delta, American Airlines, American Eagle, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, Air France, and Air Berlin.

MIA Terminals

Three main terminals serve MIA: Blue, Yellow, and Red. The Blue Terminal is also known as the North Terminal. It has concourse D, with 60 gates overall. Concourse D is the only concourse in the North Terminal, and it’s one long corridor, making finding gates easy, if something of a hike.

The Central Terminal, or the Yellow Terminal, has three concourses: E, F, and G. The total number of gates in this Terminal is 52, with the gates divided relatively evenly between concourses. Central Terminal also has a few bus stops on the ground transportation level.

South Terminal, also the Red Terminal, has concourses H and J. Between the two there are 28 gates. Concourse H mainly serves Delta, while Concourse J mainly serves United.

Miami Skyline 3
An Aerial view of Miami.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

The Fort Lauderdale airport (FLL) is 21 miles north of Miami, making it another convenient option for people flying to visit Miami. Many people taking cruises or traveling to the Caribbean fly into FLL instead of MIA.

FLL Airline Information

Several popular airlines use FLL as a hub; Spirit Airlines uses FLL as its base. JetBlue, Norwegian Long Haul, Southwest, and Allegiant Air all use FLL as either a hub or a focus city. Though it isn’t quite as busy as Miami, the Fort Lauderdale airport is a favorite for travelers to this part of Florida for many reasons: typically cheaper airlines fly into FLL, and the airport is easier to navigate. MIA uses a monorail, while FLL does not due to its smaller size.

FLL Terminals

Terminal 3 is FLL’s main terminal, where you’ll find Concourses E and F. Terminal 2 is the Delta terminal, holding Concourse D. Terminal 1 is the newest terminal, and it has three concourses: A, B, and C. Terminal 4 is where you go for any international flights.

In Miami, expect Art Deco buildings, gorgeous white sand beaches, and nightlife that frequently makes worldwide headlines. Enjoy the beach, enjoy the food, and don’t forget to pack your sunscreen. Miami is quintessential Florida, and you don’t want to miss a bit of it.