A few months ago, I headed down to Miami to visit one of my best friends and celebrate my birthday. While I had been to Miami before – about two years earlier – the weather was awful when I was there last and my friend and I ended up binge watching the Great British Bakeoff almost the entire weekend (honestly, still a great trip). But this time, the weather was perfect, allowing me to get out and explore the city a lot more! And although I was on a tight budget, I found lots of free and inexpensive things to do that kept me busy the entire weekend.
Eat All the Food
One of my favorite things about Miami is the food! Miami is home to a large international population that brings such a vibrant (and delicious) culture to the city. I’m a big fan of Hispanic food and, during my first trip to Miami, I ate all the empanadas and Cuban food I could get my hands on. My favorite, however, was a small, slightly sketchy-looking, hole in the wall restaurant we stumbled upon called El Rey de las Fritas in the Little Havana neighborhood. Located in a strip mall next to a Western Union and laundromat, you would never guess this little Cuban diner is famous for it’s Cuban burgers.
My second trip to Miami ended up being all about Brazilian food. My friend is Brazilian, which means she knows all the best Brazilian restaurants in the city. We ended up at Boteco, one of her favorites, where I opted for the fish with rice. While the whole meal was delicious, especially the appetizer and the fried mashed potatoes (who know that was even a thing?!), the best part was the caipirinhas, which became our go-to drink for the weekend. I honestly can’t tell you how many we had in just 72 hours, but it was a lot.
Full of vibrant Hispanic culture, the Little Havana neighborhood was one of my favorites in Miami. Calle Ocho, the main street in Little Havana, is lined with cafes, restaurants and bars blasting Spanish music that make you feel like you have been transported to Latin America. Although this neighborhood is a tourist highlight, you’ll also run into locals out and about – grabbing an authentic meal, hitting the local shops or playing dominos in Domino Park.
While I enjoyed walking up and down Calle Ocho, stopping for the occasional empanada, my favorite thing about Little Havana was going out for salsa dancing (that turned into Spanish karaoke for some reason?) at one of the many bars in the neighborhood.
Known as Miami’s Art District, Wynwood is one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in town. In just a few years, it went from a bunch of industrial warehouses, to hosting some of the city’s trendiest bars, restaurants and art galleries. Today, artists from around the world converge on Wynwood to paint murals throughout the neighborhood that depict diverse cultures, politics, fantasy and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Bring a good pair of walking shoes, because you could spend all day wandering the streets of Wynwood, enjoying the vibrant murals and having a photoshoot to get that perfect Insta shot (if that’s your thing). There’s also countless shops, cafes and really cool bars and beer gardens (which is my thing).
Take a Free City Tour on the MetroMover
If you’re on a budget (like I always am) then the Miami MetroMover will be your best friend because it’s entirely free! It’s like a mini metro that darts around the city on elevated tracks and makes frequent stops at many of Miami’s top destinations.
I started the afternoon in Brickell, one of Miami’s fancier neighborhoods. This is where you will find a lot of high-end, expensive shops like Chanel, Coach and other name brands I’ve never heard of because I’m not rich. It’s a nice place to window shop and, even though I didn’t buy anything, I did enjoy a coffee at a cute little cafe I found called Puroast.
From there, I hopped on the MetroMover and made my way across town to Museum Park, enjoying the scenic views along the way. Museum Park is home to two of Miami’s best museums – the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and the Perez Art Museum of Miami. Unfortunately, a ticket to the science museum (the one I was most interested in) was $30. So instead, I opted just to visit the park, which was entirely free and offered wonderful views of the bay and giant cruise ships.
Obviously, you can’t go to Miami without visiting South Beach. The white sand, blue waters, skimpy bikinis, flowing alcohol and bumping clubs have made this beach world (in)famous.
While the restaurants, bars and clubs are really expensive around here, there are still plenty of free things to do. The beach is obviously free and so is a visit to South Pointe Park, which offers incredible panoramic views of the South Beach from the pier. Or you can enjoy a walk down Ocean Drive, taking in the art deco architecture, swaying palm trees, salty air and vibrant atmosphere.
Instead of spending all our money on one expensive drink on Ocean Drive, my friend and I decided to venture a bit off the main tourist strip and found a fantastic outdoor bar that was much more affordable (well, relatively speaking). We hopped around several bars, drinking caipirinhas all night before ending up at an Italian restaurant because it made a lot of sense at the time.
Long story short, if you have a chance to spend a long weekend in Miami – GO! Cheap flights make it easily accessible (I flew with Allegiant out of Asheville for $106 RT) and there are lots of free and inexpensive things to do that will easily keep you busy for three days. It’s probably one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities I’ve been to in the US and the food (and caipirinhas!) alone make the trip worth it.