You won't be disappointed if you fly into Miami a day or two before your cruise (a good strategy, especially in winter when flight cancellations and delays from cities to the north and west are most common). The city's vibrant art, culinary scene, and world-famous architecture will give you lots to explore. Or you could just lie on the beach until it's time to embark. Here, the seven best things to do in Miami.
1. Explore art deco South Beach.
Whether you stroll along Collins Avenue or barhop on lively Ocean Drive, you'll be surrounded by “tropical deco” architecture. South Beach is home to more than 800 buildings built mostly in the 1930s and 1940s with distinct white-and-pastel exteriors and neon signage (the Art Deco Welcome Center on Collins Avenue offers tours). Many buildings are now hotels, so you can also snooze amid the splendor.
2. Kick back on the beach.
Want to soak up some of that Florida sunshine? South Beach is the most iconic place to stretch out on the sand. The beach scene is, well, a scene, and there are lots of hip bars for post-sun cocktails. If you're looking for something a little quieter, head across the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne, where life slows to a relaxing pace and two state parks have terrific beaches that are calm spots to swim, kayak, and snorkel.
3. Sample local cuisine.
Miami’s food scene brings together Cuban classics, South American flavors, and pure Southern cooking. You can try new restaurants by local chefs such as Michael Schwartz, Brad Kilgore, and Daniel Serfer, or book a table at an old favorite, such as Joe’s Stone Crab. Need more suggestions? Check out our guide to where to eat in Miami.
4. Take in the art scene.
Easily Miami’s most colorful neighborhood, the Wynwood Art District has more than 70 galleries as well as trendy restaurants, bars, and a cool craft brewery. One of the neighborhood’s most distinctive features is Wynwood Walls, a public street art project featuring more than 40 murals (art walks are held every second Saturday from 6 to 10 pm). If you'd rather enjoy art in the comfort of air conditioning, Pérez Art Museum Miami in downtown Miami has an extensive collection of modern art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
5. Visit Vizcaya.
Fans of over-the-top opulence will be awed by this Italian-Renaissance-style villa. Completed in 1922, the winter home of millionaire James Deering has been a museum since 1953, and the lavish rooms are decorated with 2,500 art objects and furnishings. There are also 10 acres of formal gardens, including 2,000 orchids.
6. Take a boat tour.
Yes, you’ll be on the water for your cruise, but before you board your mega ship, you can live out your “Miami Vice” fantasies with a boat ride around Biscayne Bay. Choose a duck boat, speed boat, or sailboat to enjoy views of everything from the modern skyline to coastal mansions. Or head out into the Florida Everglades on an airboat — keep an eye out for the resident alligators.
7. Catch a game.
Depending on when you visit — and the teams’ home schedules — you can see nine innings of National League baseball at Marlins Park or some NBA court action at American Airlines Arena (home of the Miami Heat). The Marlins play from April to September, and the Heat’s season is October to April. The seasons could stretch longer if the teams make the playoffs.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.
Kristen Boatright is the New York City-based senior video editor of ShermansCruise.com.