Miami, the bling bling bling from the East Coast of the United States has so much more to offer than her redesigned and retired botoxed body shots on vacation in South Beach… We were able to spend 3 days in Miami to discover the city with its key districts. It was an opportunity for us to see the city from a different perspective since we had made a brief visit during our three-month road trip to the USA!
Miami is a city we already knew from a quick detour in 2016. But here’s the problem: we had really gone through it in a hurry! We had barely been able to take a few steps in Little Havana and South Beach. And I must admit that we had remained hungry, like a feeling of unfinished business sprinkled with a hint of regret. So when Voyage en français and XL Airways offered us to come and discover the city, we didn’t think very long! We saw there the opportunity to make up for this first botched meeting by leaving for 3 days in Miami.
Travel with XL Airways, the distant at a low price
XL Airways is a company I only knew by name! I knew they were offering flights to the USA at attractive prices but we had never gone with them. This 3-day trip to Miami followed by 4 days in the Keys was therefore a great opportunity to test the XL Airways fleet! And I must say that we were pleasantly surprised. The entertainment is still there, the classic meal trays are rather light but you can order a special meal before for an extra charge, and then you can see the difference! The flight crew is very friendly and despite the 9 hours of flight I didn’t see the time pass.
Trip to Miami on the advice of an expat
For this city trip to Miami we took in our bag the little guide “Miami the essential” from Editions Nomades. Created in 2010 by Florie & Lucille, the leitmotif of this publishing house is to “give a voice to the inhabitants so that the travel guide is more authentic, close to a daily reality”. We like the practical and pocket size that fits in the bag but without neglecting the good tips and addresses. Inside we discover several portraits of expatriates who share with us a small part of their daily life.
The book on the city of Miami was written by the sparkling Stéphanie Smadja whom we were able to meet during our visit to the city. Expatriated for almost 3 years, she shares her daily life in Miami on her Smadjita blog but also on her Instagram account. If you ever go to Florida or the USA, that’s the count to follow since Stephanie and her little family often go on the road to discover the rest of the country.
If you are looking for a guide that gives you recommendations for shopping, food, bars, with original addresses and always with a little advice, then Editions Nomades is for you!
Visit Miami, practical tips
– Is three days in Miami enough?
2 or 3 days in Miami will allow you to take the pulse of the city and see the main districts. I personally found the city perhaps more “richer” than San Francisco. Clearly we could easily spend a week there without getting bored (like in San Francisco, the beach is still less!) Ideally, I advise you to spend at least 4 or 5 days in Miami. This will allow you to alternate between visiting the neighbourhood in the morning and relaxing or visiting the museum in the afternoon. If you are going with children it is better not to combine the guided tours on the same day because some are quite long (especially in Wynwood & Miami Design District).
– How to get around Miami?
Unlike San Francisco or New York, Miami is a city where you don’t necessarily have to walk. We do it when we are in a neighbourhood but to go from one to the other, unless they are juxtaposed, it is generally necessary to walk for a long time! And if you go to Miami with your children during the summer season, expect it to be hot! The best way to get around Miami is therefore Uber or its more economical version Lyft. I advise you to upload and create your Lyft profile before you leave. Payments are made directly to your credit card, which is really convenient. All you have to do is enter your starting and ending point and wait for a driver. Generally they all speak Spanish and English.
Travel for two generally costs $10, so I advise you to group your visits by neighbourhood to avoid unnecessary trips back and forth. For 3 days in Miami we had about 250$ of transportation but we moved a lot especially with the hotel changes. If there are more of you, you will have to take “private” and not shared cars, so the race will be more expensive. Count $200 to $300 of travel if you are a family of 4.
– When to go to Miami?
The best period is undoubtedly from November to May, these are the coolest and least rainy months. July & August are much warmer but it is also a tourist period because of the school holidays.
– To be taken in your suitcase
Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat are essential because it can be very sunny and hot in Miami! If you go there in the summer season don’t forget to take a small kaway or an umbrella as you won’t be able to get through a few showers. The swimsuit is clearly the essential accessory for this trip, with its extensive beaches and swimming pools, it is certain that you will go swimming at least once!
– Cheap flight tickets to Miami
To go to the USA one of the most important expense items will probably be your flight ticket. For this trip we left with XL Airways and you can find flights at about 400€ A/R from Paris. Who said travelling far is expensive?! This is almost the same price we paid to travel to Iceland in June 2017….
– What is the budget for a stay in Miami?
As for New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, Miami does not deviate from the rule of American cities and remains a fairly expensive destination. The average budget for a night in a hotel is more like $120, although you can find good addresses around $80. For meals, there is a minimum of $20 to $30 per person if you plan to eat in a restaurant, much more if you have drinks and dessert (not to mention meals on the run or in fast food).
So as not to deprive yourself of a budget of $250 for two per day does not seem at all exaggerated to me, when travelling in a Lyft for example. Especially if you want to stay in beautiful addresses, want to eat in restaurants from time to time and make some visits. Depending on the visits you want to make, do not hesitate to set budgets aside directly. A helicopter flight in the Keys is not the same price as a bike tour of South Beach!
– What language do we speak?
For those who have done Spanish in LV1 this will be the time to shine and not to regret your choice! Because yes, even if we are in the USA, 70% of the population of Miami speaks Spanish! We have been able to experience this in the Lyft or in many restaurants and cafés. English is spoken but sometimes they speak better Spanish than English.
3 days in Miami, what to see, what to do?
If you have only a short time to devote to Miami, I strongly advise you to choose the Lyft to get around, to make a few neighbourhood visits to get to the essentials and not miss the essentials, to try some public transport and finally to group your visits by neighbourhood and by day. The distances can be long and even if I found that we walk less than in New York or San Francisco, you will still walk! Try to spend at least 3 days in Miami, it’s really a minimum if you want to see the city’s main districts.
1 | Discovery of South Beach
Whether you like it or not, South Beach is a city that will leave no one indifferent. Yes, because South Beach is a city in its own right and not a district of Miami! Walking on the boardwalk, this lane that runs along the beach and stretches from Indian Beach Park to Mid-Beach to the south of South Beach at South Point Park Pier, is a must. The Art Deco architecture that has made South Beach world famous is well known. And if you have images in your head from Miami, they have to come from South Beach! We find there a little bit all the clichés that we can have of Florida, namely bling bling bling at all times, body built bodies (but that’s the same in Los Angeles, we’ll say) the whole sprinkled with a few retirees and quite a few tourists.
South Beach is huge and it is better to avoid going there by car because the traffic is infernal. Prefer the Lyft or Uber option to reach the city from Maimi if you do not live directly on South Beach. Once there you can choose to walk around as you please or take a guided tour. We have chosen to discover a part of South Beach by bike. Faster, it gives you a real insight into the city by taking advantage of the breeze that this activity offers because the heat can quickly be stifling! It was with Alexandre, guide for Voyage en français and expatriate in Miami for almost 2 years that we were able to discover South Beach, from Espanola Way to Ocean drive via South Point, this visit allows us to learn more about South Beach and its Art Deco facades.
Lincoln Road is the artery not to be missed if you want to go shopping, be careful here all the shops open around 11am. If you’re going to enjoy the beach don’t miss taking a look at the different lifeguard huts, they all have different shapes and colours (for the moment we’ve seen that those that look like Lisa Simpson’s hairdo)! Parking lots are generally out of price ($4 an hour or more) but if you come anyway with your car, the parking lot on Lincoln Avenue is one of the cheapest at only $2 an hour, thanks Smadjita for the tip (I recommend her blog if you go to Miami, she has been expat there for 3 years and has good tips to go on and on).
To see a majority of Art Deco buildings go to Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. If you have the opportunity, go for a walk on Ocean Drive at night. We could see pictures and the atmosphere is quite different with the neon lights of hotels and restaurants on! Unfortunately we ran out of time but it’s only a matter of time.
Practical information | To book a bike tour of South Beachvisit the official Travel website in French. Count 65€ per person for adults (55€ child rate) for 3h30 of visit. The price includes the rental of the bicycles as well as the insurance for the activity.
2 | Photo Shooting in South Beach
Whether you are with family, friends or for a special occasion (or not) a photo shoot is a good idea to capture these beautiful memories with beautiful photos. The ones where we’re all on it (even the family photographer… there’s always one!) and that we can have shot and framed. Moreover South Beach lends itself very well as a setting for a photo shoot, there are many photogenic backgrounds in this area. During our stay we were able to do these different activities with a great group that Nathalie, the photographer, was able to put at ease! Because it’s not always easy to pose and I have to say that for the moment everyone has played the game.
Practical information | For a one-hour photo shoot, prices start at 139€, 21€ for two hours. The rate increases according to the number of people to be photographed. For more information on photo shoots in Miami, visit the Miami website in French.
3 | Take a boat trip in Biscayne Bay
I would like to say that this is my favorite activity during these 3 days in Miami but in fact there are too many! It certainly deserves a little top 10 this story… But otherwise I think, as you can see, that boat rides allow us to understand our environment in a different way. We start the tour by passing in front of Star Island where the houses of billionaire entrepreneurs rub shoulders with those of celebrities (Al Capone or Puff Daddy, the largest house being that of the creator of Viagra!). This is followed by a discovery of Downtown but on the water this time, a visit that echoes the one we will make the next day on foot. Moreover, the small group makes it possible to really enjoy the walk.
Forget the big boats from Biscayne Marketplace, this private cruise with Thomas may be the opportunity to enjoy a sunset (a little shy for us, thanks to the clouds!) on the Miami Skyline. You can choose between 6 different cruises always in small groups (8 people maximum and always in private mode). I really recommend this visit because Thomas knows Biscayne Bay like the back of his hand, he has been living in Florida for 10 years now! And the fact that he speaks French will save you a lot of brain tangles.
4| Seeing Miami from the sky
Unfortunately, we were both unable to enjoy this great activity! It was Luc who had the chance to observe Miami from the sky in a small 4-seater plane (pilot included). It’s really something to do if you want to capture the full scope and beauty of the Miami area. In particular its translucent and turquoise water as well as its stretches of beach as far as the eye can see! I leave this activity on my to-do list since I plan to come back one day and maybe even spend more than 3 days in Miami! There is so much to do that in the end we have to make choices….
We advise you to choose where to fly in the morning or at the end of the day to enjoy the milder lights of sunset. The best is to avoid the afternoon for the heat and brightness more difficult to work with photos.
5 | Discover the Wynwood district & Miami design district
A visit, two districts, two universes! a pretty promise that this discovery of Wynwood and Miami Design District with Alexandre. For the first, street art works are honoured. The opening of art galleries a few years ago gradually transformed this ill-famed district into a trendy place. Today Wynwood is the place to be and its expansion has only just begun. At the moment, major real estate projects are under construction and will further change Wynwood’s image and attendance. The only thing we hope is that his soul will remain intact!
Wynwood is a real open-air museum where street art works, sometimes monumental, are displayed alongside trendy bars and restaurants. Over 3 days in Miami you will have plenty of time to plan a visit here, especially for those who like to walk and admire works of art! This is the cool neighborhood not to be missed when visiting Miami, whether you are a Street-art enthusiast or not! The biggest names in the scene of this art are to be found in Wynwood such as Sipros, Vhils, Cloe Hakakian and many others. The Wynwood Wall will be one of the highlights of a walk in the neighbourhood. If you have the opportunity, come and visit the neighbourhood during the first week of December, it is the time when most of the frescoes in the neighbourhood are painted white to welcome new ones. You will then have the opportunity to see the artists in action.
Also on the program during a visit to Wynwood to discover the best bakery in town (Zak the Baker) or a shop where you can leave with a classic car or a guitar, or both if you have the budget (Walt Grace Vintage)!
Wynwood and its phenomenal murals… A visit not to be missed during
of a stay in Miami….
After Wynwood, we headed to the Miami Design District, a district dedicated to fashion and design. Architecture lovers will be delighted here because everything is absolutely design. From parking to shops. The various luxury brand names that make up the 3 blocks of the district compete in ingenuity to offer shops that are both architecturally original and innovative in design, sometimes using natural materials.
6 | Visit Little Havana & Downtown
Colourful, vibrant and caliente, that’s how I imagined the Little Havana district. We had already visited it during our three-month road trip to the USA but really stealthily. We didn’t really know where to go and our photographic and discovery ambitions were more on the natural side at the time. Little Havana is really the neighborhood not to be missed whether you stay 1, 2 or 3 days in Miami, this discovery must be on your list!
It was with our guide Alexandre that we were able to discover the colorful Little Havana and the impressive Downtown with its huge skyscrapers! Manhattan light airs in palm and sunshine mode. I think it was one of my favorite visits because it is multiple. This visit has the merit of taking you through two of Miami’s iconic neighbourhoods, from Little Havana to Bayside Marketplace in Downtown. There are many different places to visit in Little Havana from visiting a cigar factory, to the famous Dominos Park or the Cubaocho museum & Performing Art Center, a bar/museum where you can come and dance, drink rum, admire furniture and other supplies that once belonged to Sinatra and talk to the bartender who is most adorable! The atmosphere of the district and especially of Calle Ocho contrasts perfectly with that of Downtown. The best thing is to take the old Trolley and the Metromover (it’s free) during the visit. We then discover two original means of transportation to travel in certain areas of Miami.
I enjoyed discovering Downtown because we were able to learn more about the creation of the city of Miami. If Miami is what it is today, it’s because of a woman: Julia Tuttle. She was the owner of land on which Miami currently rests and it was she who convinced Henry Flagler to continue his railway line to southern Florida. If you are fond of history (or just curious) I really recommend this visit. It will please the greatest number of people, young and old alike. I enjoyed the ride on the Riverwalk, which allows you to enjoy Downtown while having a view of the water.
When visiting Downtown, be sure to use the Metromover and take a walk on the Riverwalk.
Practical information | Allow 3h30 of visit for 45€ per person for adults (35€ for children under 12 years old). For more information on the visit of Little Havana & Downtown in French, do not hesitate to visit the official Voyage en français website.
7 | A tour of Little Haiti
What I really liked about Miami was that for 3 days we saw a multitude of different atmospheres! Clearly in Little Haiti we are being transported elsewhere. I had the impression that I sometimes found myself a little bit in South Louisiana. As if the atmosphere of the bayous were palpable. The small churches, the colorful frescoes that trace the history of Haiti but also the Little Haiti district. Just a few years ago, the neighborhood still had a very bad reputation, but things are moving fast in Miami and the great transformation that Wynwood is undergoing can only be beneficial to improving the quality of life in Little Haiti. Developers are not afraid to invest and this brings a new breath of fresh air, a new economic dynamic to neighbourhoods.
To see in the district, the Caribbean marketplace, which unfortunately was closed during our visit, where you can buy local crafts or many fresh products. From the small church to a very eclectic shop where you can buy love filters in the form of cologne or candles, our steps led us through the streets of Little Haiti where we could appreciate the different colorful frescoes that make this district famous. For music lovers, don’t miss the Sweet Records record shop and the Churchill Pub next door. The Little Haiti Cultural Complex, where you can see various exhibitions and concerts every month, is one of the levers that have allowed the district to transform itself and gradually lose its image as a “neighbourhood where you shouldn’t go”! However, walking in some streets at nightfall is still avoided.
Do you want to fall in love, get out of prison or no longer have a stomachache?
Little Haiti’s colognes and magic candles are for you!
A visit that is recommended for all lovers of confidential and authentic places. You will also be able to enter one of the most haunted houses in the USA with this visit, unfortunately we were unable to go there that day.
The discovery of Little Haiti is completed by the Upper Buena Vista shopping complex. As its name suggests, this complex is located on the border between Little Haiti and the Buena Vista district. Here you can find restaurants as well as bars and shops of local designers. The place is really beautiful and deserves a stop! A change of atmosphere is guaranteed within hundreds of metres.
8 | Visit the Science Museum, the Frost Museum
I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to visit this museum, except that science would be honored! Well in the end it was a pleasant (cool) walk that we were able to do during one morning. Special mention here for the giant bay window of the aquarium and the jellyfish that were simply beautiful! I am generally not a fan of aquariums and others, but here the educational/scientific aspect takes precedence over the “recreational” aspect. Here it is the Florida ecosystem and depths that are highlighted. Much more often imaged than shown in captivity. The goal is to encourage children to understand the oceans and the environment around them rather than distract them.
It is a place that I recommend to families with children under 15 years old because many of the activities are for the youngest. Part of the museum is intended for children under 6 years of age. Don’t miss the top floor of the museum, which offers a breathtaking view of Miami City. In 3 days in Miami you probably won’t have time to visit museums, I think it’s more for people who stay at least 4 days in Miami or who don’t necessarily want to visit only neighbourhoods.
Our good addresses in Miami
– Where to sleep in Miami?
We found you some real nuggets during this 3-day trip to Miami! We were able to test three hotels during this stay and we also looked for other beautiful addresses that you might like. There is something for every taste and every budget. To find a hotel in Miami before you leave, I highly recommend Findhotel!
– TheVagabond Hotel| 7301 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida 33138 – Double room starting at $169
Behind the name Vagabond is a completely renovated motel from the 1950s! The illuminated sign and the swimming pool are original. There is a typically American atmosphere, except that Dexter seems to have invited himself to the party. The central pool, palm trees, and Miami atmosphere make it clear to us that we are in Florida. The location is ideal if you are in a car as the hotel has free parking. The rooms are spacious and the decoration is electric and colourful! An atmosphere that we really liked, we find there all the images we make of American motels, all revisited in a chic version. It should be noted that breakfast is offered every morning (bagels, cereals, orange juice, yoghurt…).
—Life House Little Havana| 528 SW 9th Avenue, Miami, Florida 33130 – Double room from $100
The Life House is a hotel line that is in full expansion! After South Beach Miami, it is in the Little Havana district that the brand decided to set up shop. Will follow the Bushwick district of New York and the city of Denver. Life House always chooses neighbourhoods in the midst of renewal and knows how to blend in with the surroundings. The idea is to stay in the atmosphere that the chosen neighbourhood offers. Here in Little Havana, the colours are warm, salmon pink predominates, the Parcela café allows you to enjoy the shaded terrace in a pleasant way. The rooms are tastefully decorated, the whole is sober, minimal, the colours and materials used match, nothing is left to chance. A beautiful address, perfect for modern travellers who love beautiful spaces in the spirit of the times, and a rooftop bar will open its doors in the fall of 2019.
—El Paseo in South Beach| 405 Espanola Way, Miami Beach, Florida 33139 – Double room starting at $130
I really had a little crush on El Paseo! In the heart of Miami Beach it is the ideal place for those who want to explore the city of South Beach on foot. There are different types of rooms, from double to royal suite. Some rooms even have a kitchenette! We were able to try the Junior Suite and I really loved the exposure of the room, the light was omnipresent! The decoration is simple but chic, with a touch of colour. Just what it takes. Breakfast included is served at the restaurant at the corner of Espanola Way. The hotel’s central location will delight those who want to discover Miami, all punctuated by a moment of idleness. Please note that the hotel has a private beach. Thanks to a card given on arrival, you can benefit from discounts at certain shops and restaurants on Espanola Way.
– Elsewhere in South Beach | If you are looking for hotels with dream pools, the Nautilus by Arlo has a cannon pool and access to a private beach, while theCatalina Hotel & Beach Clubhas two swimming pools. For a more cosy atmosphere and a swimming pool on the roof, you can find the Sense Beach House a little further south. 1 Hotel South Beach offers very spacious rooms, some of them fully equipped, real apartments! The swimming pool with sea view is a plus! Finally, if you want to stay in a Hispanic house, Casa Tua Hotel is the place for you.
– For small budgets | If you are not afraid of the road, don’t hesitate to sleep on the outskirts of Miami. Of course for that I advise you to have your own rental car. During our first road trip we stopped at the Fairway Inn in Florida City (room starting at $50) before going to the Keys. It’s not bad if you ever leave Miami in the evening and don’t want to drive too far to get to the Keys. It also allows you to save a little on the night budget because you won’t find hotels in the Keys below $100 a night!
– Where to eat in Miami?
Eating on the go is not that complicated in Miami. You will find a lot of good little addresses in the Miami Guide the essentials, Stéphanie advised us to eat in the Rosetta Bakery which offers good sandwiches at reasonable prices. On the other hand, if you want to settle in a restaurant, know that the bill can rise very quickly! Do not count under $20 per person per meal. Afterwards, the portions are usually quite generous, which will save you from having an extra starter and dessert! I still advise you to make at least one restaurant out of the 2 or 3 days you will spend in Miami.
—The Zoo| 9700 Collins Ave #135, Miami Beach, FL 33154, United States
This address located in the Bal Harbour area north of South Beach is renowned for its brunch services every day of the week. For the most hungry burgers and pasta will be served. I personally opted for toast avocado and pancakes (a massacre but you have to be hungry). Not to be missed are the breaded squids, which are just seized and therefore not fat at all!
—Le Leynia at Hotel Delano| 1685 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139, United States (open only in the evening)
But what a treat! Really a beautiful address. Already when you enter Hotel Delano, the central alley with its vertiginous white columns sets the scene. It is outside, on a terrace opening onto a garden that the Leynia is located. We like beautiful tables and I must say that this restaurant is one of the best we have tried in the USA! leynia is a fusion between Japanese and Argentine cuisine, the chef, Jose Icardi has created an original, tasty and minimal menu. The starters and snacks will be ideal to share in a tapas spirit, a certain refinement in addition. Our favorites are the Tuna Pizzetta, Delano Rolls and Gyoza Saltena. If you are not too hungry for a dish, we recommend the Ravioli Short Rib, otherwise for the hungry, a steak to share with some side dishes such as grilled asparagus or Provençal potatoes. As for dessert, we opted for a lemon/champagne sorbet whipped with nitrogen before our eyes! The cocktails are divine and I recommend that you start with a Panamerica (Childhood Memories was also very good). If your budget allows it, I highly recommend that you stay at Hotel Delano, the pool is sumptuous and it is located right on the beach.
– Azucar Ice Cream Company | 1503 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135, United States
To taste ice creams with unique flavours, go to Azucar in the Little Havana district. When we were there the shop was closed (it opened at 11am) but the perfumes look crazy! All prepared by a local craftsman, of course.
– The Standard offers a beautiful view of Miami, which will be perfect for sunset! Feel free to come and have a drink or go to the spa. The hotel also has several luxury rooms, from double to suite with terrace.
– Le Verde at the Perez Museum | A pretty nice address, not bad between two museum visits for example. The Frost Museum is just next door as well as the Perez Art Museum.