7 secrets Miami locals don’t want you to know

Jun 14, 2020

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Overflowing with natural beauty, culture and diversity, Miami attracts millions of tourists each year for its nightlife, white-sand beaches, diverse dining and unparalleled entertainment options. Yes, tourists flock to South Beach for all its famed glory and rightfully so, but some of Miami’s best-kept secrets are far away from Ocean Drive and revered by locals. Here are seven insider tips to help enhance your next visit to the Magic City and leave feeling like a native Miamian.

In This Post

Explore “Down South” by car

(Photo by Pola Damonte/Getty Images)
(Photo by Pola Damonte/Getty Images)

About 40 minutes south of Downtown Miami lies the agricultural heartland of South Florida — known as the Redlands to locals. On the weekends, these locals brave the early morning drive “down south” to Knaus Berry Farms where the cinnamon rolls have a cultlike following and are unquestionably the main attraction. Arrive early or expect to be shut out of the iconic sweet treat.

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After a visit to Knaus Berry Farms, visit Robert is Here, an iconic fruit stand and farm that produces fresh fruit milkshakes (picked from produce directly from their farm). Come for the milkshakes, stay to feed the friendly farm animals.

Before heading back home, stop for lunch alfresco-style at Black Point Ocean Grill at Black Point Marina on the water. Enjoy fresh seafood dishes and a cold beverage while watching boaters stop for lunch on their way to the Keys. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a dolphin, manatee or the resident saltwater crocodile surfacing in the water. What you won’t see much of: tourists.

Art is everywhere

The Wynwood Walls. (Photo by RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Wynwood Walls. (Photo by RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)

Beyond Miami’s impressive museum collection, the Wynwood neighbourhood art scene draws a big crowd from cultural enthusiasts and is a household name among locals. In-the-know outsiders may have heard of Wynwood but the eclectic art district has yet to become a must-visit staple for tourists. If you’re looking to be immersed in Miami’s art culture and want a break from the beaches, this fun and colourful neighbourhood is a must-stop the next time you’re in town.

This former warehouse district turned South Florida’s hippest neighbourhood offers an array of large-scale colourful murals on every block along with art galleries, craft breweries, award-winning restaurants and shops. If you’re in town the second Saturday of the month, don’t miss Wynwood’s Second Saturday Art Walk, where thousands of locals and tourists unite to enjoy generous offerings of food trucks, bar crawls and free art gallery access.

Related: A review of the newly reopened Ritz-Carlton, South Beach

Venture away from the average hotel pool

The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. (Photo by Dave G. Houser/Getty Images)
The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. (Photo by Dave G. Houser/Getty Images)

Just seven miles south of Downtown Miami lies the historic Venetian Pool. Located in the architecturally stunning suburb of Coral Gables, the Venetial Pool is no ordinary pool. Built in 1923, the 820,000-gallon pool — filled with fresh water daily from artesian wells — is the largest freshwater pool in the United States. It’s listed under the National Register of Historic Places and gets emptied and filled every night during the busy season when both residents and tourists rush to beat the Miami humidity.

This Venetian-style lagoon pool is carved out of coral rock and features caves, stone bridges, and waterfalls. When you get tired of your regular hotel pool, plan a half-day visit to the Venetian Pool.

Related: The best times to visit Miami

See the iconic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami. (Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami. (Photo by Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images)

Vizcaya is a 1916-built waterfront estate home with 34 rooms open. The home and 10 acres of majestic gardens are open to the public. The estate oozes character and is locally renowned for hosting jaw-dropping social events along with its aesthetic beauty located along picturesque Biscayne Bay. Explore the grounds of this National Historic Landmark and learn about its original owner, agricultural industrialist James Deering.

Built between 1914 and 1922, tour the Renaissance-inspired villa but plan for an early evening visit to capture the sunset and begin your exploration within the confines of the villa. Once you’re done marvelling at the brilliant architectural design, step outside unto the meticulous gardens and end your visit with striking sunset water views.

Picnic by the water

David Kennedy Park. (Photo courtesy of MiamiAndBeaches.com)
David Kennedy Park. (Photo courtesy of MiamiAndBeaches.com)

Continuing the trend of stunning views (there’s no shortage of those in this city), do as the locals do and pick up a sandwich from one of these local spots — Sanguich de Miami or La Sandwicherie — and make your way down to David Kennedy Park located just south of downtown in the Coconut Grove neighbourhood. The park offers an oasis of abundant greenery, plenty of shade and astounding waterfront and Downtown Miami vistas.

The quintessential picnic park, locals also love Kennedy Park for its outdoor exercise equipment, recreational areas and playground. It would be remiss if you skipped savouring a delicious frosted lemonade from the legendary A.C.’s Icee’s truck on your way out — it’s worth every gram of sugar.

Be a local for the day — Try an Airbnb Experience

The Little Havana area of Miami. (Photo by Carlo Allegri For The Washington Post/Getty Images)
The Little Havana area of Miami. (Photo by Carlo Allegri For The Washington Post/Getty Images)

When visiting a destination, there’s no better way to feel the heartbeat of a city than discovering it with a knowledgeable local by your side. Whether you want the focus of your trip to be on food, night life or culture, a native can enhance your visit and transform your experience with local lens.

From touring the uninhabited islands in Miami’s intracoastal waters by kayak to taking a walking tour through the Little Havana barrio while sipping a cortadito (Cuban espresso) and watching cigar rollers exhibit their craft — an Airbnb experience hosted by a local expert is a uniquely effective way to immerse yourself into the local culture and have a blast while doing so.

Eat and drink in this locals-only neighbourhood of South Beach

Biscayne Bay. (Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
Biscayne Bay. (Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Most tourists visiting South Beach are confined to their hotel area, rarely venturing west of Alton Road. The Sunset Harbour area of South Beach has become one of Miami’s most popular boutique neighbourhoods — kept widely a secret from tourists. Boasting trendy shops, highly acclaimed eateries and epic Biscayne Bay views, locals love this micro-neighbourhood, and visitors will too.

Enjoy a cup of coffee at Miami’s favourite Panther Coffee and work up your appetite before dining on delicious gastro pub grub at Pubbelly Noodle Bar. Try their signature ramen with barbecue pork belly and bean sprouts in an aromatic lemongrass broth. Walk off lunch with a stroll through Lincoln Road and don’t forget to stop for dessert at one of the many mouthwatering gelato shops on Miami Beach.

Featured photo by Buena Vista Images/Getty Images.

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