The best 27 hours in Miami?
February 20, 2012 9:37 PM   Subscribe

On a whim, we added a 27 hour layover in Miami to our impending mid-March vacation. What should we do with our day, and where should we eat dinner?

We're an active 30-something couple on our way to the Caribbean. Neither of us have been to Miami. We've got vague notions of spending a Sunday afternoon wandering through the city (probably mostly on foot), stopping into a low key cafe or beach shack for lunch, and wrapping up with a nice dinner somewhere.

We're looking for suggestions of interesting neighborhoods to wander through, great fish shacks, sights to see, and a quintessentially Miami restaurant to end the day in.

Floridians of AskMe, can you help us out?
posted by toxic to Travel & Transportation around Miami, FL (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: People don't really do any of that in Miami, per se. It's just not a walking around kind of city. I mean, I suppose you could walk around downtown, but I don't know anyone who would.

On the other hand, Miami Beach, a short cab ride across the bay, is great for this. If you want low(ish) key, hit Lincoln Road. (Miami and the Beach, don't really do low-key real well. That's what the Keys are for. Although, I suppose you could try Little Havana. I mean, I wouldn't recommend it, but you could try it. It's the sort of neighborhood that can be great if you know what's good, but is hard to penetrate for out of towners.) If you do hit Lincoln Road you have to have a beer at the Abbey.

If you want to see what the hip crowd does hit the Design District (at night), lot's of good restaurants there, but they can come and go pretty quickly. So, it's hard to recommend a specific place.

Finally, for the quintessential Miami dining experience you have to go to Versailles. It's not the best, but it's about as Miami as you can get.

Two interesting, non-dining, and quintessential Miami experiences are Vizcaya and the Fairchild Tropical gardens (which come to think of it are both pretty relaxed places to visit).

Fair warning, it can be pretty rainy in Miami at that time of year. (If it is, go to MAM, the Miami Art Museum).

Have fun!
posted by oddman at 9:58 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, South Beach is probably where you'll wind up. Rent a bike for part of the day to ride around and look at Art Deco architectural details and find quieter parts of the beach and cheaper hotels to the north. Walk around the pedestrian mall on Lincoln Road. Etc.

Fairchild Tropical Gardens are awesome but far from anything else. Little Havana ... we drove through it because it looked so festive in my high school Spanish textbook, and I'm sure that's true for certain times or streets, but the teenager whom we encountered standing in our way in the middle of a side street with a gun in his hand did not look out of place (I thoroughly respect that he paid no attention to us and may well have been a simple businessman :).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:10 PM on February 20, 2012

World Erotic Art Museum in Miami Beach.
posted by univac at 10:19 PM on February 20, 2012

Miami proper is a lot like downtown LA- nuffin' much walkable and worth seeing except IMO the Calle Ocho (if you've been to LA this is basically equivalent to their Chinatown- only place near downtown you can walk to that is sort of quaint)

The Art Deco, Miami Vice city you're thinking of is definitely South Beach. Take a cab from the airport or rent a car (It's like 30-ish minutes from the airport, if I remember correctly) and walk down Collins between the 1200-1600 stretch (for luxury hotels such as the Delano, Shore Club and Ritz, perfect places to get a drink or eat a decent meal), and nearby Ocean Drive to get to the beach. You have to walk along the beach, at the very least. The Lincoln Road esplanade is great cafe-wise, not far away from the rest of the stuff I mentioned, either.
posted by devymetal at 11:15 PM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: Oddman nailed it.

Versailles is the Cuban restaurant for visitors to check out - its in Little Havana/Calle Ocho. It's the kind of place visiting politicians always hit, if you get the picture.

For South Beach, you could go to Joe's Stone Crab (quintessential Miami fancy restaurant) though it's quite far south so you'd want a car or bike to get from Lincoln Road and waits can be very long; Tap Tap Haitian (yummy, affordable, beach shack-y Haitian restaurant) on the "Beach" [South Beach] though not actually on the beach (water), and it is also far south; you could get Cuban at David's on the Beach if you don't want to go to Versailles; I'd probably get lunch at Books & Books on Lincoln, or maybe Icebox which is just off Lincoln; Front Porch Cafe is not bad or too expensive for dinner and is actually on the beach (Ocean Drive).

I'd probably do a self-guided Art Deco walking tour on Ocean and Collins, wander up Lincoln and get lunch, wander back to Ocean to sit on the beach for a while, and then get dinner at one of the places I suggested. Or check yelp for 33139.
posted by semacd at 1:06 AM on February 21, 2012

You probably should watch the Miami episode of The Layover.
posted by cwhitfcd at 1:11 AM on February 21, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, you will want to go to Miami Beach for sure.

Book yourself a meal at Juvia. It's gorgeous. Also while you're there, you can visit America's best parking garage. STOP LAUGHING, I know: but it's maybe the only parking garage that got a review in the New Yorker and a spread in Vanity Fair.

Alternate gorgeous places to go: the poolside back porch at the Raleigh, also the Delano. Then you can hit the beach.

If you want to go shopping, the Bal Harbour mall is insane: it's for rich people only. It's pretty epic.

If you go to Joe's Stone Crab, go to the take-out side, not the restaurant side. Avoid the stupid lines.

Go to the Wolfsonian! It's the museum dedicated to objects and propaganda from 1885 to 1945!

Everyone says to go to Versailles and Little Havana; I think Versailles is truly gross and bad and not at all interesting. I also think Calle Ocho is not that interesting, I'm sad to say. It's not a "tourist" neighborhood, which is good: it's actually a real, functioning neighborhood, which is to say, people hanging out, doing their thing. Not much to see.

If you want to keep it mellow, go to South Beach, use the Deco Bikes, have lunch at News Cafe on Ocean Boulevard, do Lincoln Road, hit the Wolfsonian, and... hmm, sadly there are no truly great fish shacks that don't possibly offer you food poisoning, except maybe Jimbo's, which is TRULY WEIRD and also truly difficult to get to without a car or pickup truck.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 4:39 AM on February 21, 2012

The Wolfsonian is indeed pretty cool. And while RJ Reynolds doesn't like Versailles, I can't stand News Cafe, everyone has their thing.
posted by oddman at 5:30 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not from Miami, but my husband is. When we visit, one of our stops is usually the beach at Crandon Park or Bill Baggs Park on Key Biscayne. There is a fish shack in Bill Baggs which my father-in-law, a trained chef, swears by. He loves the langostinos. The beach is also I think the only one in Miami proper that is not developed.

I like walking around Coconut Grove/Coral Gables. It's an older part of town, with lots of cool art deco, although with plenty of developed tourist stuff.

I also enthusiastically recommend the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades for a quick look at a truly weird ecosystem.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:43 AM on February 21, 2012

Seconding Vizcaya. They have docents that take you on a very comprehensive tour, and it's right there in the middle of Coconut Grove. I love that they point out chairs the Pope sat on when he came to Miami, but say nothing about the two tiny demi-lune tables in the same room that are worth probably $25,000 each. It's like nothing you are ever likely to see again. Ask questions!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:05 AM on February 21, 2012

When in Mid March? Miami Winter Music conference is 16-25th.

What does that mean? Literally every single one of the best DJs in the world are going to be there, the entire week, filling every single night club, and most of the hotels on south beach will have 24 hours pool parties going.

There's also Ultra Music Festival, but I'm fairly positive it's sold out by now.
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, ALSO! Depends on when you're here again, but it's TENNIS! Only every great tennis player in the world is in town from March 21 to April 3!

(Hee, I also kind of hate News Cafe, but it's a Thing.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:37 AM on February 21, 2012

Coconut grove is a lot of fun, you used to be able to get horse drawn carriage rides around the area. If you have time you might look at an airboat ride in the Everglades.
posted by punocchio at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2012

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