These Miami hot spots make your first trip a standout experience

Even if you’ve never been to Miami, you’ve sort of already been to Miami.

This South Florida city has starred countless times on the silver screen and television and is always coming up in popular music, too, with many of these Miami-centric works becoming downright iconic.

All of this has painted such a vibrant picture of the city, that whether or not you’ve ever crossed over the city limits, you have years of stored-up visions of what this city will be like when you finally get there.

Considering all of this, when you visit for the first time, there’s a bit of pressure to find the Miami you have always envisioned. I recently visited the city for the very first time and I tried to capture the essence of the city that I had dreamed of while also trying to see a couple of surprises along the way.

Sunrise start

I know you’re on vacation, but you simply have to wake up before dawn and take in a sunrise during your trip to Miami, preferably on your first morning. Darkness gives away to soft light as the sun slowly rises above the Atlantic Ocean, streaking the sky in hues of pink, gold and blue, casting a soft glow over the water and the sand below.

On your way back from the beach, make sure to grab a photo with one of the iconic neon lifeguard towers — it is the golden hour after all.

News break

Famed for its prime role in revitalizing South Beach during the heady days of the ’90s, News Cafe is open 24/7 and located at the heart of South Beach (8th & Ocean Avenue). You’re probably going to pass it anyway so you might as well pull up a chair outside and chill for a bit.

Back in the day, this cafe was frequented by the glamorous, the fabulous and everyone in between as it served up one of the first slices of European cafe culture on South Beach — and today the pulse of the neighborhood still beats strong here.

Enjoy a Cuban Club and a Paper Boy (their take on the bloody mary) as I did, or a frosty, citrusy Frozzie Rossie cocktail as the sidewalk in front of you becomes a runway full of locals on bicycles or rollerblades, wide-eyed tourists, wanna-be influencers and drivers showing off their shiny cars.

Art Deco up close

If you’re anything like me, you may know that Art Deco is synonymous with South Beach, but do you know the stories behind the style and the facades? That’s where the Miami Design Preservation League’s expert guides come in as they take travelers on daily jaunts through the Art Deco District each morning at 10:30 AM. The guides tell the stories behind each building (you’ll see Art Deco, Miami Modern and Mediterranean Revival on the tour), endearing you to their efforts to preserve these special buildings.

Eat old school

For more than a century, Joe’s Stone Crab has been drawing in crowds from far and wide for its famed crustaceans and no trip to Miami is complete without a stop here. Located in the vibrant heart of South Beach, Joe’s is famed for its succulent stone crab claws plucked from nearby waters, alongside an array of other mouthwatering dishes. Think of it this way: everybody is going to ask you if you went to Joe’s, so you might as well!

… and new

Sushi may not be the first thing that pops into your head when thinking of Miami, but why wouldn’t it be great here? Enter Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill, which is an oasis of Japanese cuisine situated within the historic Plymouth Hotel South Beach (just past the retro-cool lobby and beside the beautiful pool). The menu is overseen by sushi master Toshi Ueki and chefs Bruce and Eric Bromberg and boasts a tantalizing selection of traditional sushi and sashimi, expertly crafted to perfection. Oh, and there’s also a much-loved version of fried chicken. You’ll feel cool slinking into one of their booths, but not intimidatingly so.

Say adios to South Beach

Wynwood. Little Havana. Downtown. Little Haiti. Key Biscayne. Coconut Grove. Coral Gables. It doesn’t matter where you go, but you have to get outside of South Beach during your time in Miami because it’s only a small — albeit shiny — part of this spectacular city.

My time in South Beach was punctuated with spells in Wynwood and Little Havana, where I was able to get a taste (literally) of two entirely different sections of the city and sip (literally) up slices of its unique story.

To live up to the level of hype that has been thrust upon Miami is almost impossible, but this city made it look like a breeze.

Tribune News Service


The exterior of News Cafe in South Beach, Miami. (Scott Hartbeck/TravelPulse/TNS)
The exterior of News Cafe in South Beach, Miami. (Scott Hartbeck/TravelPulse/TNS)


Little Havana is a wonderful area to explore in Miami. (Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority/TNS)
Little Havana is a wonderful area to explore in Miami. (Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority/TNS)

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