I'll admit it.. When my husband and I booked our Valentine's getaway to Miami, I had semi-low expectations. I just wanted to go somewhere.. anywhere.. warmer. I was picturing a super dirty disco city with half naked crazy people everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, I'd find quiet beach corner where I could sit and enjoy a cold margarita with a good book in my hands (like Mindy's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? <which was excellent, btw>). In my head, the best I could hope for was a sunny, trashy good time.
I was wrong. Aside from the disco part (no joke, you can see the disco lights from the plane), Miami is beautiful, clean, inspiring, and so much more. We loved every single second of it, so I've put together a trip guide for all you other fellow skeptics out there.
Three and a Half Day Guide to Miami:
This is your day to explore Miami Beach by foot and take pictures of all the Art Deco you can find! Soak it in, get inspired, and take some of that bright pastel and crisp typography home with you.
Have brunch at A la Folie. It sits on Española Way, which is a charming little street modeled after romantic Mediterranean villages found in France and Spain. We got the madame croquet, an almond croissant, and $4 latte bowls. You read that correctly.. BOWLS OF DELICIOUS COFFEE for just $4. Great value for your morning caffeine fix.
After brunch.. walk down Ocean Drive. This is where you'll see tons and tons of that inspiring Art Deco I was talking about. There are 960 super cute historic buildings in Miami's Art Deco district, and Ocean Drive sports some of the best of em.
Cross the street to the east and walk through Lummus Park. Here you'll find swaying palm trees, volleyball courts, and shirtless too-tan dudes doing pushups. The majority of your most essential and memorable Miami people-watching will be found here, so take your time.
After your afternoon walk.. Go back to your room, put your swim suit on, grab a bottle of wine (or, if you want to embrace your inner Miami spirit, maybe grab a carton of some cheap Bacardi coconut rum from the nearest convenient store like we did), and head to the beach to catch some rays and relax until the sun goes down. The water is beautiful and refreshingly cool, a perfect compliment to that bright Miami sunshine.
Finish day one.. with dinner at Burger and Beer Joint. We ended up here because we were craving burgers + it was open late. The burgers were good, but the true star here is the side offering: A giant portobello mushroom fried up and sliced into wedges like french fries. My mouth is watering just typing this. They are oh-so-good.
First things first.. Rent a scooter. This really is a must do. Miami is the first place we've been to where we've been able to rent mopeds without a motorcycle license and it was SO much fun. Like, I can't even tell you how much fun we had. (Though I will say, I was pretttyy scared at first. And rightfully so. We almost fell over twice in our practice ride around the block.. In fact, I'll use this as an opportunity to caution you: BE CAREFUL. And don't decline the helmets, obviously.)
Scoot on over.. to News Cafe on Ocean Drive for breakfast. The food wasn't that great, but it's an iconic place and it's by the beach on scenic Ocean Drive, so that's enough for me. Also, little fact for the trivia enthusiasts out there: It's where Gianni Versace had his last meal before he was murdered in front of his house shortly after.. Not sure if he had a meal actually, but he definitely bought some magazines! Anyhow..
Go over the Venetian Causeway to Wynwood Art District. It's a beautiful ride, and Wynwood is a perfect place to acquaint yourself with the Miami hipster scene (if that's the sort of thing you're into).
Once you're in Wynwood.. park by Panther coffee, grab a latte, and walk north on 2nd. Along the way you'll run into several interesting galleries and tons of amazing street art. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Wynwood Walls on 26th(ish) St. Some 30 artists came from around the world to create this unique little street art Mecca.
After you've wandered around long enough.. to work up an appetite, hop back on your scooter and take it to Enriqueta's Cafe for an amazing Cuban meal, another essential Miami experience. We ordered cafe con leche (which is basically a latte, but a little sweeter and a little more delicious), soupa de pollo, chicken empanadas, and a classic Cuban sandwich. ALL of it was incredibly delicious + eating here seems like something Anthony Bourdain would do, which is a nice legitimizing feeling.
Enjoy the long ride back to South Pointe Park.. to watch the sunset. There are several well-respected seafood restaurants on the water here, but we were still full from stuffing our faces at lunch so we just had drinks and sat on the rocks by the water.
Cruise down Ocean Drive.. to see the neon lights and all of the wild craziness that is South Beach after dark.
Walk down Lincoln Road Mall.. This wasn't our favorite thing, but I suppose it's worth it if you want to be apart of the hustle and bustle and shop at the biggest Forever21 you've ever seen ;)
After two full days of Miami exploration, it's time for a day trip. (+ some more quality beach time, of course.)
Cry.. because you have to return your beloved moped in the morning. (or keep it a day longer! Hooray!)
Have yourself an amazing breakfast.. at Las Olas. Side note: the Cuban restaurants were a little intimidating at first because the menus are entirely in Spanish, and they're all pretty frantic with customers at the same time. Eventually we discovered that you simply can't go wrong with an order of huevos y papas, a couple of Cuban sandwiches, and as many refills of cafe con leche as they will allow. Also empanadas! I still have dreams about this chicken empanada from Las Olas.
Spend the rest of your morning/early afternoon.. at the beach! Pack drinks and towels, because I'll just go ahead and tell you that if you want to lay on one of those cute pink beach chairs under a striped umbrella, you'll have to pay $20. Yikes!
For your day trip, go gator huntin'! Trust me on this one. We took an airboat tour through the Everglades and I was blown away by how cool it was. Our tour guide was the coolest, too legit backwoods guy with gator-bite scars and missing toes who seemed to have come straight outta the woods from Deliverance. Definitely an authentic and unforgettable experience.
Have the nicest dinner of the trip.. at Joe's Stone Crab. Put your name in early and enjoy a stroll around South Pointe Park. We didn't get our name in early enough so we opted to sit on their "appetizer patio" and share appetizers and enjoy some fancy cocktails, which were SO good. Go ahead and splurge on at least one cocktail, you won't regret it. #worthit #treatyoself
Rent bikes.. at one of the hundreds of CitiBike locations along the beach line. You can pay with a card. It charges at an hourly rate. It's easy, it's cheap, it's fun..do it.
Have yourself yet another amazing Cuban breakfast at Tropical Beach Cafe.
We only had 6 short hours on day 4 before we had to catch our plane home, so we made the most of our last day in the sun but I'm listing some things below that we would've done, if we would've had more time.
Things to note for our next Miami visit, which is hopefully soon.
-Eat more Cuban food! When we go back, we will ONLY eat Cuban food. It is so delicious and authentic and nearly impossible to find in Oklahoma City, so yeah.... I'll have a million Cuban sandwiches and cafe con leches to go, please.
-Rent scooters for TWO whole days. It was way too fun to only have for one day.
-Go to Coral Gables for brunch and take a cruise through the neighborhoods. We've heard good things about their food and overall cuteness.
-Explore Little Havana.
-The water was so much bluer than I had imagined and the weather is literally perfect in February. Seriously.. perfection! We stayed in a cute neighborhood somewhat near the beach, but I'll probably start watching for a good deal on a boutique hotel to pop up that's right by the water on South Beach, because that would be dreamy.
-Stay an extra day/ never leave! Seriously. Never leave.