Miami is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US and it always ranks in the top 10 most visited cities in the country. And with all of its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and interesting landmarks, this should come as no surprise. However, with so many things to see and do, there are always some hidden gems in Miami that remain under most tourists’ radars. And this article is all about that. So, if you’re planning to get off the beaten track in Miami, keep reading, this post will give you a lot of useful suggestions that will allow you to experience a whole new side of the city you never knew existed.
Helpful Resources For Visiting Miami
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If you want to get off the beaten track in Miami and discover some of the hidden gems on this list, it’s probably a good idea to rent a car (this link gets you 10% off) and drive on your own.
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O Cinema South Beach
If you are passionate about films and theater, you should definitely consider visiting the O Cinema South Beach. In the past, this place served as the city hall but today, it’s been turned into a classy space for national & international films, with its own bookstore and a café. The venue is run by the Miami Beach Film Society and it has a seating capacity of 50 people which makes up for a nice and intimate viewing experience. In addition to showing films, the venue occasionally hosts while performances and art exhibitions.
Stiltsville is one of Florida’s most charming neighborhoods (well, sort of). It consists of 7 wood-stilt houses lying off the southern coast of Cape Florida. The Stiltsville houses were built in the 1930s and most of them were used as venues for social clubs but since 1985, Stiltsville is a part of Biscayne National Park. This is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in Miami and if you want to visit, I recommend going for a cruise that includes a guided tour narrating the history of Stiltsville.
Wat Buddharangsi Buddhist Temple
You probably didn’t expect to see a Buddhist temple on this list but that just serves as proof that Miami has something in store for everyone. A perfect retreat for people looking to get away from the city’s busy streets, Miami’s largest Buddhist temple sits on 5 acres of rural lands decorated with impressive Asian architectural elements. Inside, you’ll find a 23-foot tall statue of Buddha in shining, sculpted by a professional sculptor in Thailand before being shipped to Miami.
Little Haiti Cultural Complex
If you like exploring foreign cultures while traveling, you’ll surely love The Little Haiti Cultural Complex. It’s one of my personal hidden gems in Miami and here, you can learn a lot about Haitian culture and cuisine. The center is located in Miami’s Little Haiti and it often hosts live musical performances by Haitian artists playing traditional melodies. You can also try some delicious Haitian food, shop for fresh cooking ingredients, and even join a Haitian drum class, one of the visitors’ favorites.
If you’re looking for a great tour of the area, I suggest you check out this amazing Little Haiti tour.
The Deering Estate is a beautiful property in Miami that was designed to preserve the property of Charles Deering, a famous local preservationist and art collector. The property is located along the South Dade coast, away from Miami’s hustle and bustle and it features historical buildings, mangrove forests, tropical vibes, and much more. Visitors can also indulge in canoe tours, butterfly walks, guided museum tours, and natural (walking) tours. This estate is also a part of the National Register of Historic Places.
Rubell Family Collection Museum
Even though it was established in 1964 in New York, the collection was moved to Miami in 1993 in a 45,000 square-foot museum that was once a property of the DEA. The contemporary art museum is home to a fascinating collection of internationally recognized artists. The collection in the museum is one of the largest privately-owned collections in the world that’s open to the public but during my visit, I was under the impression that this museum remains under most tourists’ radar.
And speaking of art-related hidden gems in Miami, another place you should really check out is…
Wynwood is one of Miami’s most colorful districts and a great place for visitors who enjoy art and want to see a different side of Miami’s vibrant culture. Here, you’ll find some of the best street art in Miami and if you have the chance, I personally recommend taking the Second Saturday Art Walk (taking place every second Saturday of the month). It’s an exciting tour that brings hundreds of visitors together to show them some incredible art, teach them about Miami’s alternative culture, and share some delicious local food.
As was the case with art districts of many other cities, Wynwood used to be a largely forgotten industrial warehouse district. However, the place saw some dramatic changes over the last few years and now, it’s even been listed as one of the top hipster destinations in the US by Trip Advisor which makes it a perfect fit for our list of hidden gems in Miami.
Gold Coast Railroad Museum & The Magellan Railcar
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is certainly not one of Miami’s most popular but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. Located in South Florida since 1957, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is still one of the best hidden gems in Miami. Inside, you’ll find an authentic retro atmosphere with music from the 1930s and 1940s that enriches the whole experience. The museum is home to more than 40 historic railcars and other interesting monuments but perhaps the highlight of the museum is the Ferdinand Magellan railcar.
This railcar was purchased by the US government in 1928 and was used by several different US presidents, including F. Roosevelt, H. Truman, D. Eisenhower, and R. Reagan. Inside, the railcar was equipped with a medical department and a presidential suite with two separate bedrooms, two guest rooms, a conference room, and a lounge.
The Fernando Magellan also happens to be the only passenger railcar to become a designated National Historic Landmark of the United States.
If you’re a nature lover, The Kampong is one of the places in Miami you should definitely visit. The Kampong is a beautiful botanical garden located in Coconut Grove (similar to Leu Garden in Orlando, just a bit smaller) populated with thousands of tropical plants from different corners of the world. This garden is more than 150 years old and was founded by famous plant explorer, Dr. David Fairchild who introduced most of the early varieties of tropical fruits, spices, and grains to the United States.
Today, The Kampong is home to more than 1,000 varieties of unusual plants and trees and it stretches across 9 acres of lush tropical wilderness and is open to visitors (with advance reservation) Tuesday through Friday.
Center for Subtropical Affairs
Speaking of hidden gems in Miami, we just can’t forget the Center for Subtropical Affairs. This is an ecological learning center in Miami’s Little River that provides jobs in sustainable development to the community. The center works with people of all ages who want to advance in environmental education, resource conservation, and overall environmental health. The place has a nice tropical vibe and an amazing atmosphere, so if you’re a social traveler that likes supporting local eco-initiatives, I think you’ll definitely like the Center for Subtropical Affairs.
If you’re an art lover, you should also check out the Coral Castle; a fascinating park filled with hundreds of sculptures sculpted by Edward Leedskalnin between 1923 and 1951. The name of the place is not the most appropriate because the sculptures are actually made of oolitic limestones and not corals (even though the two are very similar in appearance). Locals often refer to it as Florida’s Stonehenge and the park was featured in Billy Idol’s “Sweet Sixteen” but yet still tourists (until recently also including yours truly) aren’t aware it exists. So, next time you visit and are looking for hidden gems in Miami, make sure to check it out.
Neptune Memorial Reef
Neptune Memorial Reef is an undersea cemetery that’s designed to look like the lost city of Atlantis. A couple of carved lions mark the entry to the “lost city” that lies 40 feet below and stretches across 16 acres of concrete bronze and steel. The cemetery was intentionally designed to create a marine environment for fish and coral by the Neptune Society (a cremation company) and today is inhabited by a handful of endangered species. This site is accessible only by boat and is open to all divers and there isn’t an entrance fee.
Ancient Spanish Monastery
The Ancient Spanish Monastery in Miami consists of cloisters that were a part of an old monastery in Spain (St Bernard de Clairvaux Episcopal Church)built in the 1130s AD. The cloisters were sold and brought to Florida in the 1830s during the First Carlist War in Spain. This iconic monument arrived in the United States separated in 11,000 separate boxes.
However, the person who bought them (William Randolph Hearst) was forced to sell all of his belongings. The buyers bought the cloisters for 1.5 million dollars, somehow managed to reconstruct them (it took them 19 months), and turn them into a tourist attraction. Despite being one of the oldest structures in the US, the “monastery” never became a major attraction but at least it made it to this list of the best hidden gems in Miami.
World Erotic Art Museum
As you can probably tell from its name, The World Erotic Art Museum is one of the quirkiest museums in Miami. It’s located on South Beach and it was opened in 2006. The owner of the collection has been collecting samples of erotic art for years and the collection has art pieces dating back to as early as the Roman Era but there are also some pieces from modern artists as well.
In the beginning, the owner (Naomi Wilzig) kept her collection in her home but at one point, the collection has grown so much that Naomi decided to buy a whole building for her collection. Today, the museum consists of 12,000 square feet of artwork stored in 20 different rooms. Some of the most famous exhibits include the male appendage used in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” and a one-tonne Kama Sutra bed decorated with more than 100 Kama Sutra positions.
The area surrounding Circle National Historic Landmark was supposed to be a luxurious apartment complex but unfortunately for the landowner, during a routine archaeological inspection, hundreds of mysterious holes were discovered. Because of this, all construction work was stopped and after further excavation, many historical artifacts were discovered, including ancient tools, human remains, and wooden constructions more than 2,000 years old.
To this day, Miami’s Circle remains the only place in the United States to have a prehistoric structure built into bedrock. According to historians, the area was likely inhabited by the Tequesta Indians and the holes in the ground were probably the foundation of a ceremonial/religious structure…
Our list of hidden gems in Miami wouldn’t be complete without the Wolfsonian; a fascinating museum in Art Deco District with a mission to “illustrate the persuasive power of art and design and to tell the story of political, social, and technological changes that have transformed our world”. The museum’s collection consists of more than 100,000 artifacts that cover the period between the Industrial Revolution and WWII. Within the collection, you’ll find rare books, ephemera, paintings, metals, textiles, periodicals, etc.
The museum was open to visitors in 1995 and is often endorsed by famous collectors, scholars, and educators for its fascinating collection of art and design and for presenting the ways in which it influences societal and cultural change.
Pro tip: Admission is free Friday evenings between 6 and 9 PM.
To complete this list of hidden gems in Miami, we have a couple of more places that are near Miami and deserve a mention.
Everglades National Park
If you’re in Southern Florida, your trip wouldn’t be complete without the Everglades National Park. The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands that consists of the southern half of a large drainage basin within the Neotropical realm, an ecosystem that can’t be found anywhere else on our planet. Within the park, there are several different ecosystems, including Sawgrass marshes and sloughs, cypress, tropical hardwood hammock, mangrove, and coastal prairie Flatwoods, and pineland.
The park stretches across 7,800 square miles and if you want to visit, I suggest you take a tour. My personal recommendation is this Everglades Airboat Adventure and Wildlife Encounter.
Coral Gables & Venetian Pool
Coral Gables is a town located roughly 5 miles out of Miami known as “The City Beautiful”. It’s a picturesque city dotted with tree-lined streets and a perfect getaway from Miami’s hustle and bustle. The city resembles a European city with its historic plazas, beautiful fountains, and classical architecture but the real gem of Coral Gables is the Venetian Pool.
The Venetian Pool is the only pool in the US listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This pool is emptied and refilled every day with natural spring water from an underground aquifer. It was built in 1923 from a coral rock quarry, modeled after a Venetian grotto with a goal to bring a slice of the Mediterranean to Florida’s coast. If you’re planning to visit, try to get there early because the pool stops accepting visitors once its capacity is reached. Also, note that there’s a $13 entrance fee.
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Did you ever visit Miami? How did you like this list of hidden gems in Miami? Do you think there are some other places we should have mentioned but didn’t? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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