First Time in Miami? Four Places to Visit

Although I am not new to Miami, I’ve visited the destination countless times since the early 2000s, I now consider the city more of my home turf with my current relocation to Islamorada and the upper Florida Keys. My visits are now not just to escape the cold (or experience the cool). I discovered much more of a city and plenty of places worth visiting for first timers.

walking on South Beach

walking on South Beach

So select one of the many Miami hotels and make plans to experience the city and put of few of these items on your itinerary.

“SoBe It.” Visit South Beach

walking the sands of south beach miami

South Beach starts to heat up even on a cloudy day

Head to South Beach. Of course this needs to be on the list for all first time visitors. LeBron James didn’t take his talents to Miami, he said he was off to take his “talents to South Beach,” so whether NBA fans or not visitors need to experience both the day and the night.

Plan the day for the beach. Don’t be afraid to nestle up with some lounge chairs at one of the clubs and take in the swimsuit (or lack of) scenery. Then make sure you spend the evening out and about including an afternoon cocktail, dinner (I can recommend Vita) and finally  an evening out on the town. Soak in the sexy, sultry scene and lavish in its luxury. It’s a great escape.

Miami Travel Tip:  If you want to visit popular institutions as a first timer, you know the ones your friends will also be talking about, consider the Clevelander for a off the beach cocktail, the Delano Hotel for a swanky hotel and pool scene and then let your night take off. For breakfast, head back to the beachfront and attempt to get for breakfast at the News Cafe.

Visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

a view of Dale Chihuli Glass Art inside the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Dale Chihuli Glass also on display at the Botanic Garden

Miami is in the tropics; it’s really why we visit in the winter. And South Florida actually has a different eco-system and environment than the rest of the United States (continental 48). It’s warmer, wetter, and allows a different species of plants to flourish. One classy way to experience the flora is a visit to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.

Here visitors can tour the highlands and the lowlands and seem arts on display. This is a chance to support the conversation and preservation of the tropical environment and experience all its amazement. Plus the Botanical Gardens are located in Coral Gables; a drive through this neighborhood is worth the drive in Miami.

Miami Travel Tip: Look to attend a special Brunch at the Tropical Gardens. The money helps serve the mission of the gardens, “to save tropical plant diversity by exploring, explaining and conserving the world of tropical plants and also rewards you with a food, tours, and even some quality outside time.

Experience Little Havana

the Little Havana Sign by Ali Round the World Travels

Source: Ali from

The original Havana may continue to become more and more accessible in the coming years, but Little Havana is more than just a way to taste what we are missing as Americans missing out on travel to Cuba. The neighborhood famous for its food (definitely order grilled pork – Lechon Asado) and is also a neighborhood filled with a vibrant people where many left an ideology and a country behind. As time passes this might too, but there is a sadness and gladness to be understood and felt when walking streets shopping, eating and enjoying time around Calle Ocho.

Miami Travel Tip: Spend your evening at the Ball and Chain. The open-air back yard contains a stage and live music. It can make for a great evening of attempting salsa or just soaking up the sounds. It’s a great place for weekend too, when South Beach might be too overwhelming.

Visit a Florida Key

the path to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne

You need to walk the path to see the beauty

If you can’t road trip the Florida Keys and extend the trip, at least visit Key Biscayne. The island located across the bridge is easily accessible from Miami. And for those seeking calmness and a beauty of nature that South Beach doesn’t offer, spend the day at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

Miami Travel Tip: The Cape Florida Light House, the oldest standing structure in Miami Dade County (rebuilt in 1846) offers free tours at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Thursdays thru Mondays. Ascend the over 100 steps to experience views of Miami, Biscayne Bay and the beach which just happens to be one of the USA’s top 10 beaches. Nice.

Well, that’s a list of some must dos from first timers to Miami. If there is anything else you think belongs on the list, let’s add it….let me know in the comments.

Stay Adventurous, Craig

This post is in conjunction Gogobot and is the first post of a two post effort. However, all the travel, discovery and opinions are my own.




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  • Juno Kim

    I still can’t believe you moved to Miami! I should visit you sometime…

    • craig zabransky

      Miami might be my new “city,” but I actually moved a little further south… the Florida Keys. Stay Keyzy, Craig

  • Stephen Lioy

    I’m amazed there’s such a peaceful spot just across a bridge from Miami. My mental has much more to do with the South Beach and Little Havana stereotypes than anything like a natural park.

    • craig zabransky

      And that makes sense, but for those looking for a top-ten beach based on beauty, definitely head across the bridge to Key Biscayne. Stay Changing the mindset, Craig

  • Bharat Parihar

    I had forgotten about Little Havana. Thank you, Craig!

    • craig zabransky

      Oh, you must not forget about that gem of a barrio……. definitely great food and a lovely after dinner scene for sure… StayHavanaStyle, Craig

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  • Rental24H

    Thank you for this amazing!

    • craig zabransky

      thanks for commenting, glad you enjoyed it. Stay Loving Miami, Craig