It feels like it was only minutes since I got back from Miami, yet weeks have past! It seems like it’s fast forwarded from Spring to pretty much Summer and it seems everyone and their brother are zipping off on sunny holidays left right and centre. If you’re a lucky one and heading to Miami then hopefully this might come in handy as I wanted to share a few of the places I visited there that I’d definitely list on my must see Miami list.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
A gorgeous peaceful oasis that is the total opposite of anything that I suspect will spring to mind when you first think of Miami. A million miles away from the party town it’s known as, this place is just beautiful – when it’s actually only in Coral Gables, Miami. As I found for the rest of Miami – it’s filled with pieces of art. From carved hollows of trees to curling colourful glass sculptures, there’s art dotted all over in amongst all the beautiful plants and flowers.
We were taken on a tour around the gardens where we got to explore all the different areas – including going inside the butterfly enclosure and watch a butterfly release of the young butterflies being allowed to fly off for the first time. I could have spent ages in there spotting the different types in a whole array of gorgeous colours.
If you want an escape or just to see a naturally beautiful side to Miami then this is definitely a must see.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden www.fairchildgarden.org
10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, Miami, Florida
Wynwood Arts District
Not to be bias, but exploring Wynwood was definitely a highlight of all the fun things we got to do in the city. It just appealed to the side of me that just loves colour. If you like colour then Wynwood will without a doubt bring a smile to your face as the streets are awash with it. To be fair, a lot of Miami is very colourful but Wynwood takes it to the next level.
Wynwood is a neighbourhood that’s North of Downtown Miami – I guess if comparing to London areas it’s most like Shoreditch. In that it has a very cool and colourful crowd and it’s covered in all forms of street art. From murals to grafitti to rainbow painted trees… The area used to be where the Warehouse/Manufacturing hub of greater Miami was based but over time it’s transformed into and arts and cultural centre that is covered in galleries, cafes, restaurants, performing arts spaces and boutiques. Although to see the best of Wynwood I would recommend taking a tour with someone who really knows their stuff because they’re a part of it. We were shown around by Pedro AMOS – who is a grafitti writer and has been doing so across the US and well beyond for decades. He talked us through loads of the art work that covers every conceivable space in Wynwood – including the back story for a lot of them, which crews created it and some of the etiquette and unwritten rules of being a street artist.
For anyone who just thinks graffiti is vandalism, I would absolutely challenge you to still hold that opinion after seeing the art work that covers Wynwood. There really is no other way to describe what’s created here. From traditional spray painted lettering, to murals that are created using explosives (yes really) to create a relief that forms the piece of art. It comes in all shapes and sizes. From phrases sprayed on the ground to huge stories-high faces that loom down at you from buildings. It’s something you can’t leave Miami without visiting – with the added bonus that it really does make an amazing instagram and the cafe at Wynwood Walls does amazing food (the ceviche was delicious).
Pedro Amos and Ryan The Wheelbarrow (both local Miami street artists) run the official tours from Wynwood every day from 2-3pm. For details/to see a snippit of the cool Wynwood artwork then take a look at the Miami Best Graffiti Guide Instagram
Wynwood Walls, 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127
Miami Design District
If you’re maybe a little less street art and a little more designer shopping focussed, then the Miami Design District is somewhere you need to head. With every top brand name you can imagine being found here – and not just found, but having a seriously impressive, unique flagship store. Rather than putting each brand inside a cookie cutter shop front where the inside is the only area they have any creative freedom over, the exteriors of the designer stores are where they can really come to life.
Along with all the designer store, you can also find yet more art. Art being pretty much everywhere you look in Miami was probably one of the biggest surprises for me on visiting the city. There are a number of sculptures around the Design District and the one that stood out to me most was the Marc Quinn sclupture of Kate Moss in a *very* flexible yoga pose that was outside the Fendi Store in all it’s neon orange glory.
The Design District is more than just a high end shopping mecca where you head if you’re ready to splurge but it’s a district where the glamour, style and flashy side of Miami meets the creative, arty and unique side too. It’s relatively new, so expect to see lots of growth, development and change over the coming years!
Miami Design District www.miamidesigndistrict.net
Miami Design District 3841 Northeast 2nd Avenue #400, Miami, FL
Perez Art Museum Miami
You know when you think of museums and galleries? You think of whispering, stuffy, old fashioned, probably a little dull… maybe just me. Well, everything I knew about museums and galleries was challenged by the Perez Art Museum. A new location for the gallery that used to be in Downtown Miami but recently relocated to an area called Museum Park that overlooks the Biscayne Bay and is all designed to be anything but an old fashioned gallery.
The building itself is a work of art too – designed by prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron – it features glass walls so you don’t feel like you’re shut away in a box and these amazing hanging gardens. The main thing that struck me about the Art Museum is how relaxed it felt – there were guides taking groups of kids around and they were all sat cross legged on the floor and getting really interactive with the exhibits. It looked like such an engaging way to get kids to experience art without feeling bored or lectured. I remember going around museums swaying with boredom as I tried to shift weight from one foot to the other after standing all day. I can imagine that this relaxed and interative approach really makes the art come to life for them and much more memorable.
The other element that struck me is how it’s a destination beyond the museum – with a bar/restaurant that overlooks the bay and late night opening on Thursdays. Where they often feature DJs and other elements that make it so much more than just a museum.
Perez Art Museum Miami www.pamm.org
Perez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132
I might be stating the obvious here, but you can’t visit Miami without visiting Miami Beach and in particular – South Beach. It is what the icons of Miami are all about. Art Deco, long glorious beached. candy coloured lifeguard huts, supercars up and down the streets and beautiful people doing fabulous things.
We did a couple of really cool things that meant we could explore and learn a bit about the area and I would recommend either approach – we did an Art Deco walking tour and a food tour. I’d recommend doing one but maybe not both as they do cover some of the same ground (naturally) so choose based on your own interests. I felt like I enjoyed the food tour most because, you know… food… but then I felt I learnt more on the architecture tour. So it really is down to what your key interest is and what you want to experience.
Of course, the other option is take a walk and explore independently! There’s plenty to see and appreciate without needing to do a full tour but it really was amazing to hear about the history from The Tides being the favourite of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio when they used to come to Miami… or it being a favourite of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Or even the story behind the infamous Versace Mansion and the 1997 murder of Gianni Versace on the steps outside.
I’ll be covering off some more of the food sides of things in a further post – seriously, the food of Miami deserves a post all of it’s own. But however you choose to explore South Beach, make sure you do!
For information on the Art Deco Walking Tour: www.mdpl.org
For information on the South Beach Culinary Tour: www.miamiculinarytours.com
I was a guest of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has lots of useful information on places to stay and things to do in Miami. For more information, visit miamiandbeaches.com.
I was a guest of Thomas Cook Airlines, flying direct from Manchester Airport. Flights from Manchester to Miami start from £379.98 in economy and £619.98 in premium economy. Prices are subject to availability and valid for travel between May and June 2016. For further details and to book, visitthomascookairlines.com