When it comes to Miami, South Beach gets most of the attention. But downtown Miami, or the central business district as its known, is a vibrant multi-cultural urban center well worth getting to know better. Sandwiched between Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, downtown is both the oldest and newest part of Miami, with some streets and buildings dating from the late 1800s and million-dollar skyscrapers rising higher each year. Explore both via accessible public transport like the free Metromover and enjoy fine dining, shopping, and magnificent architecture while you're at it.
Built in 1925, this striking Miami landmark was once the home of the Miami News. Today it houses the Miami Dade College Museum of Art + Design and exhibits spotlighting local artists, especially those of Cuban heritage. The Tower was once used to process refugees and immigrants to Florida. It's free to visit.
The sprawling American Airlines Arena dominates downtown and is the place to catch a concert by superstars like Kanye West, JLo, or Bad Bunny. Mostly though, it's the proud home to the Heat, Miami's beloved NBA franchise. Heat Nation faithfully shows up every week or so to cheer on their 3-time NBA champs so getting tickets can be tricky, but some are priced as low as $15.
Although it's not exactly the Art Deco district, downtown Miami does have its own architectural credentials, including the early 19th-century Alfred I. DuPont Building. Not surprising, the building is featured on weekly walking tours of the business district offered by the Miami Center for Architecture and Design. The tours also include stops at the 62-storey residence tower One Thousand Museum by starchitect Zaha Hadid, and the color-shifting Miami Tower.
Getting around downtown and connecting to nearby neighborhoods like Brickell is easy and free of charge on Miami's Metromover. The fully automated light rail service runs until midnight all week and stops at most major destinations and attractions downtown. Just one more reason urban Miami is looking more and more like the perfect city of the future.
According to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, the most popular attraction in downtown Miami is Bayside Marketplace on Biscayne Bay. Located next to a picturesque Marina, the market consists of over 100 retailers spread around two open-air stories and numerous kiosks and carts. When you're done with retail therapy, grab a bite on-site, or even rent a jet ski for a turn around the Bay.
The contemporary art scene is huge in Miami and ground zero would have to be PAMM, as it is affectionately known. Situated in a striking Herzog & de Meuron-designed building on the waterfront, the museum offers programs ranging from kinetic sculpture to film festivals. Be sure to take in the extensive vertical garden system designed by botanist Patrick Blanc while you're there.
Downtown's proximity to Biscayne Bay and its ongoing commitment to green spaces adds the possibility of outdoor adventure to this very urban jungle. Options range from exploring environmental sustainability on the Science Barge floating in the Bay, to kayaking and paddleboarding from the Virginia Key Outdoor Center near the Rickenbacker Causeway. Bayfront Park is a 32-acre urban playground with a trapeze school at its heart and frequent free yoga classes.
Dance is a big part of Miami's cultural scene; the city even has its own acclaimed ballet company. Fans can catch a show by the Miami Ballet or visiting contemporary companies such as Malpaso from Havana, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Or take in a show at the historic Olympia Theater, a retro-fitted twenties era movie palace that also hosts poetry slams, concerts, and live podcast recordings.
In addition to its futuristic skyline and million-dollar real estate, Miami boasts more simple pleasures, such as the Riverwalk. Lined with palm trees and public artworks, it's a little oasis for a quick stroll and commune with nature and tranquility amidst the bustle and hustle of downtown. Watch for an annual festival that animates the Walk with cultural events and activities.
It's one of the best in the world. Take in Miami's epic skyline in style from a rooftop terrace like Area 31 at the Kimpton Hotel, or Sugar on the 40th floor of the East, Miami Hotel. Better yet, hop on a helicopter or seaplane for an aerial tour and a better bird's eye view of all that great architecture. Needless to say, it's especially spectacular lit up for the night.