A Visitor’s Guide to Miami Neighborhoods
Downtown – The business heart of Miami holds the same skyscrapers and office workers as other downtowns, but it also comes with beautiful views of Biscayne Bay. There area growing number of extracurricular activities available here, such as Miami Heat games at AmericanAirlines Arena, shopping on Flagler Street, the museums at the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, Bayfront and Bicentennial Parks, the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, and boat charters. There’s also a good selection of restaurants and shopping in the Flagler Street area.
Coconut Grove – this historic and largely residential neighborhood was once home to many artists, writers, and intellectuals. The unpretentious houses are still there, and the streets are shaded by tropical trees. Some commercial development and gentrification has taken place in recent years, but the area still retains much of its former bohemian charm and is great for walking. With its proximity to the University of Miami, there is shopping, restaurants, theatres, and laid-back nightlife. The Vizcaya Museum is here, and the Barnacle Historic State Park is nearby.
Coral Gables – an established neighborhood with manicured lawns, lush gardens and Mediterranean-style homes – many of them built with the local coral limestone. Highlights of the area include the University of Miami, the Venetian Pool, and the Biltmore Hotel. Well-designed and pedestrian-friendly. For high-end shopping and upscale restaurants, head to the Miracle Mile.
Little Havana – like Epcot, Little Havana allows visitors to experience another country without the inconvenience of travelling. The heart of Little Havana runs along Southwest Eighth Street, or Calle Ocho. There, one can find hand-rolled cigars, café con leche, guayabera shirts, and guanabana ice cream. Spanish is the main language spoken here. Be sure to plan on eating while in this colorful neighborhood.
Wynwood – this formerly downtrodden warehouse district has seen an influx of artists in recent years. The Wynwood Art District contains over 70 galleries and private museums, and performance spaces, plus the famed Wynwood Walls outdoor murals painted by renowned street artists. museums. Drop by on the second Saturday of every month for opening nights at the area galleries. There’s also clothing shopping in the a Wynwood Fashion District along West 5th Avenue.
Design District – this area about 2 miles north of downtown lives up to its name by offering an eclectic mix of furniture showrooms, art galleries, and boutiques, plus a good mix of hip restaurants and lounges. The shopping veers toward high end, but not as hgh as South Beach. Be on your guard at night.
Little Haiti – the traditional home of Haitian Creole and Francophone culture was one of the poorest areas in Miami in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In the last few years, the area has begun the slow transformation to becoming a trendy neighborhood as low property values attract the first wave of new businesses and pioneer residents. There are some restaurants and clubs worth investigating here. Little Haiti does still retain it Haitian flavor, and there are efforts by Haitian leaders to rename the area Lemon City, it’s original name. It may be too edgy for some.
South Beach – Miami Beach is comprised of a series of island located across the Biscayne Bay from Miami, and South Beach sits at the lower of of the main island. After decades of decline, South Beach experienced a resurgence in the 1980’s due to the popularity of the movie Scarface, which was set in South Beach, and from an influx of gays and lesbians to the area. South Beach’s Art Deco Historic District holds the world’s largest collection of modern Art Deco architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guided walking tours of the district are available. There’s excellent lodging in South Beach, as well as great restaurants, clubs, cultural offerings, and shopping, and don’t forget about the kosher restaurants along 41st Street.
Key Biscayne – it would be hard to come up with a reason just to visit this 4-mile long subtropical island just off the mainland. The drive is fun and the beaches on the island are world-class. Crandon Park occupies the northern part and a long beach, bike paths, a golf course, tennis courts, and a playground. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Recreation Area occupies the southern end is a bit more natural and protected, and, in addition to more beaches, has boat rentals, diving excursions, and a historic lighthouse. its beach both Set in the waters off downtown Miami, this island has the city’s best beaches and an old-school vibe that recalls the golden era of the Sunshine State. In between the two parks is the village of Key Biscayne, which offers shopping, restaurants and lodging.