Explore the vibrant heart of Southeast Florida with these top things to do in Downtown Miami. From strolling along the scenic waterfront to immersing yourself in the city’s rich arts scene, Downtown Miami offers an array of activities for every kind of explorer.
Whether you’re a culture enthusiast, a food lover like us, or an architecture aficionado, here are the best things to do in Downtown Miami that make it a captivating destination to explore and savor.
How Long To Stay In Downtown Miami?
While some people may only experience Miami for one night before going to the nearby cruise port for a Caribbean cruise, it is definitely worth 2-3 days to explore the city and visit all the best attractions in Downtown Miami.
Where is Downtown Miami?
Downtown Miami is located in the southeastern part of Miami. It is located about 8 miles from the airport which is about a 15-minute drive.
Downtown Miami Neighborhoods
When people think about Miami, the first thing that comes to mind is the Miami beach area with its art deco buildings, vibrant restaurants, and beachfront resorts. The kind of Miami Will Smith would sing about. This is not what you will find in Downtown Miami. Instead, you will encounter the business district with modern high rises and areas you can walk by Biscayne Bay to see the water. Downtown Miami is about a 15-minute drive or a 30-40 minute bus ride from Downtown Miami.
Within the Downtown area, you will find a few different areas including Brickell with upscale condos, offices, a few shopping centers, and plenty of dining options. The Central Business District is at the heart of Miami with office buildings, government institutions, cultural centers, and entertainment venues. The historic district includes Miami’s oldest buildings and landmarks, including historic neighborhoods like Spring Garden and Lummus Park.
Just north is the Arts & Entertainment district with the Perez Art Museum and the Omni area known for the American Airlines Arena and the Seaquarium. These neighborhoods as well as Park West and Miami Worldcenter collectively are known as the broader downtown Miami area.
Best time to visit Downtown Miami
When looking at when to visit Downtown Miami you want to think about what things you want to do first to help you decide.
In general, you likely want to avoid Downtown Miami in the summer because of the heat. It simply gets too hot to really enjoy the area. For this time of year, Miami Beach would be a better option.
The peak tourism season for Downtown Miami is the winter due to the weather, making Miami a perfect getaway from colder areas. During this time Miami sees temperatures from the mid-70s to the low 80s. Unfortunately, this is the most crowded time in Miami which means you may need to plan further in advance and be prepared for accommodations to be at their highest cost.
For us, Spring is the best time to visit. The weather is still very mild with temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s. Things can get busy with Spring Break but after mid-April, the crowds start to thin out.
Fall is a great time to go to Miami and is considered shoulder season. The weather starts to cool down from the summer highs with temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s.
If your schedule only allows for you to go in the summer, just be prepared for the heat and humidity. During the summer, the temperatures will be in the upper 80s and 90s. It is normal to have thunderstorms or rain during the day.
Keep in mind that hurricane season is from June to November. The chance that your trip will be impacted by a hurricane is very small so I would not allow this to affect how when you plan your trip.
Best Things to Do in Downtown Miami
One of the first things you should do is visit Bayfront Park. The park runs along the shores of Biscayne Bay and covers 32 acres in Downtown Miami. It is a perfect place to relax, exercise, go for a long walk, or enjoy one of the attractions in the park including the sandy beach area, a beautiful fountain, a waterfall, performance venues where you might catch a show, and much more.
Adjacent to the Bayfront Park is the marketplace, an outdoor mall with plenty of shopping, food, and bars. The Bayside Marketplace also has a playground for the kids and a variety of memorial sculptures.
Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel
Towering over the Bayside Marketplace is the Skyviews Miami. The Ferris wheel ride offers unparalleled views of the surrounding area with one ride lasting around 12 minutes.
Kaseya Center (formerly American Airlines Arena)
Just North of the Bayfront Park area is the arena where you can catch several events during your stay in Miami. This is the home of the Miami Heat and is a stop for almost every major US concert tour. Take a look at the upcoming shows to see if there is something coming that interest you enough to schedule your trip around.
Maurice A. Ferré Park
This 21-acre park features the longest waterfront in Miami. If you are going to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science or the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) you will find yourself in Maurice A. Ferré Park. It is a great place to rest between visiting other attractions and is also where the Plaza of the Spanish Navy is located honoring the Spanish Navy which arrived in the Americans on Oct 12, 1492.
Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
This is a museum of modern and contemporary art with both permanent and temporary collections as well as educational programs, and artistic experiences.
Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
A perfect place to visit as a family is the science museum. The museum includes an Aquarium with a unique viewing area from below, a Planetarium, and multiple other science exhibits.
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
If you are interested in seeing a Broadway tour or other performance, this is the place to go. One of the largest performing arts centers in the US, it includes an opera house, a concert hall, a studio theater, and additional venues. Even if you do not enjoy a show here, there are free tours available twice a week where you can learn more about the architecture, history, and performances that have been held there.
So this is not technically in the Downtown area but is a few blocks Northwest and worth a visit. The unique destination has become one of the best places in the world to see the work of street artists. You’ll find international artists you may recognize to newer or local artists as well.
Take a Miami Boat Tour
An ideal way to explore the area is a boat tour. You can choose from several options like a thrilling speedboat sightseeing tour, a Millionaire homes tour, or an evening skyline tour.
Freedom Tower (temporarily closed for renovations)
The Freedom Tower is currently home to the Museum of Art and Design and MDC Special Collections but is also a National Historic Landmark. It is considered the Elis Island of the south, having served as the Cuban Assistance Center when hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees came into America fleeing communism and political persecution. Today you can still see the tower from the outside and it will open again in 2025 after renovations.
Visit Jungle Island
Located on Watson Island, between downtown Miami and South Beach, Jungle Island is home to thousands of animals. There are encounters with sloths, lemurs, bunnies, capybara, and more. Guests can also have fun on the treetop ropes course.
Miami Children’s Museum
Also on Watson Island is the Miami Children’s Museum which includes interactive exhibits for children and programming around performing arts, health, and wellness, and other subjects for children.
Visit the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame and Explore Little Havana
Located just west of Downtown Miami, Little Havana and the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame let you get a taste of the Miami culture. 8th Street, known as Calle Ocho is the heart of the neighborhood where you will find a walk of fame paying tribute to Latin and Cuban cultural figures.
The HistoryMiami Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate located in downtown Miami which shares the story of the communities, individuals, places, and events of the area. You’ll find exhibitions, city tours, collections, and more.
Enjoy the nightlife
Miami is known for its vibrant and diverse nightlife scene that caters to a wide range of tastes and preferences. Whether you’re into venues with amazing views, upscale lounges, live music venues, or dance clubs, Miami has something for everyone at night.
Go Shopping at Brickell City Centre
Brickell City Centre is in the heart of downtown and has a mix of restaurants, shopping, a cinema, and even a hotel you might stay at. If you are looking to do some shopping during your trip this is the top spot for you in downtown Miami. You may also find yourself here in the morning to get your cup of coffee or in the evening to try out one of the restaurants.
Mary Brickell Village
Just down the street from Brickell City Centre, this area includes a grocery store, restaurants, and plenty of shops. These shops are better for everyday shopping and needs. The restaurants range from casual stops like Shake Shake to fine dining.
Best day trips/tours from Downtown Miami
A Day Trip to Miami Beach
An essential trip from Downtown Miami is spending a day at Miami Beach. After a short drive, you can take in the South Beach vibes strolling down Ocean Drive with its iconic Art Deco buildings. You can relax on the beach, eat some amazing food, and enjoy the nightlife in the evening.
Visit Everglades National Park
Located an approximately 1.5 to 2-hour drive from downtown, the Everglades National Park makes for a perfect day trip. You can take a hike through one of the trails where you can see different wildlife, especially alligators.
To see more of the area, schedule an airboat tour to give you a thrilling ride and take you to see more wildlife and learn more about the national park.
Visit Key Largo
Get a taste of the Florida Keys by visiting Key Largo. From downtown Miami, it will take around 90 minutes to 2 hours to arrive. Head to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a popular destination for snorkeling, diving, and exploring the underwater world.
Another great place to go is Harry Harris Park & Beach where you can bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the calm water while snorkeling, fishing, or swimming.
Where to stay in Downtown Miami
When it comes to deciding where to stay in Downtown Miami, you have to first narrow down the neighborhoods. We recommend sticking to Brickell and Business District. This will keep you centrally located and give you plenty of options to choose from.
If budget is not an issue, go for one of the luxury high-rise hotels to give you a breathtaking view of the ocean and surrounding areas.
The InterContinental Miami is located along the waterfront less than a mile from most of the attractions on this list of things to do. It was recently renovated and has rooms with waterfront views, modern amenities, restaurants, and a rooftop pool.
The Kimpton EPIC Hotel is slightly more affordable than the InterContinental and is located along the riverfront with two rooftop pools. All accommodations have private balconies and most have water views of some type.
If you are looking to save money on accommodations, check out CitizenM. There are two downtown locations, one in Brickell with a rooftop bar and pool and one in the Worldcenter area.
Rooms at CitizenM are all the same. They fit two people and include an XL bed without much room to spare. These are usually the least expensive rooms in the area where you are not sacrificing quality and you can expect a great staff as well.
Is it worth visiting Downtown Miami?
Visiting Downtown Miami is definitely worth a visit. As you can see, there are so many things to do in Downtown Miami that make it worth a trip.
The area has its own culture and vibrancy you won’t find anywhere else and there are attractions that will keep you entertained while making lasting memories. Beyond all of that, the amazing food is something that can not be missed.
Can you walk around Downtown Miami?
Downtown Miami is definitely walkable. If you stay in the Business District or Brickel you will be centrally located making it easy to get around to the attractions in the area. If you want to get from one side of downtown to the other you may want to get a taxi, Uber or take the bus.
From a safety perspective, most areas of Downtown are pretty to walk in the daytime. At nighttime, most places are still safe, but for your safety, I would avoid any place that does not have people around. For example, walking a few blocks from Brickell City Centre to your hotel a few blocks away should be fine, but walking from Little Havanna to Brickell might feel a little unsafe.
About the Author
Dan Bagby is an avid traveler, currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. Along with his wife Michelle, Dan shares travel advice for couples at HoneymoonAlways.com.