The Ten Best Things to Do in Downtown Miami
Most locals have a love-hate relationship with downtown Miami. Its strip of exclusive multimillion-dollar high-rises, hordes of tourists, and the constantly congested Biscayne Boulevard can turn a trip here into a frustrating ordeal. But downtown is truly the urban core of Miami, and it was one of the earliest areas to be developed in the 1890s. There are many historic buildings, cultural institutions, and public spaces to enjoy. And because the free Metromover rail cars stop at all the main points in downtown and can also take you to Brickell, transportation is a breeze — once you finally get here. Here's our guide to discovering downtown's best art, architecture, history, and recreation.
Armando Colls/Manny of Miami
1. Visit Pérez Art Museum Miami.
What’s better than contemporary art, a waterfront view, and massive hanging gardens? Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami’s flagship art museum, curates large-scale exhibits such as "Julio Le Parc: Form Into Action," which displays funky, shiny, and shocking works of kinetic art, including moving sculptures, light projections, video, and paintings. The exhibit is on display until March 2017.
Housed in a building designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, PAMM offers year-round rotating exhibits, educational programming for children, and free nights every first Thursday and second Saturday of the month in a fluid indoor-to-outdoor transitional space. You can even become an artist with the help of PAMM’s teaching artists from 1 to 4 p.m. every second Saturday of the month. On your way out, be sure to check out the gift shop, which sells wearables, decor, books, and toys, and try a Pérez chopped salad and a pomegranate sangria at the restaurant Verde.
1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Open Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The museum is closed Wednesday. Admission costs $16 for general admission and $12 for seniors, students, and youth; members get in free. Call 305-375-3000 or visit pamm.org.
2. Get schooled at the Miami Science Barge.
Do you fancy yourself a marine biologist? Then hop aboard the Miami Science Barge, a floating marine laboratory and environmental education center. The vessel floats on Biscayne Bay and is accessible from Museum Park. Once you’re onboard, you can check out hydroponic systems, an aquaculture hatchery display, and solar panels. The barge even offers field trips for students in grades K through 12 where they can learn about sustainability and environmental responsibility.
1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Call 305-912-3439 or visit miamisciencebarge.org.
3. Marvel at the Alfred I. duPont Building.
Approach the historic Alfred I. duPont building on Flagler Street, and you’ll be greeted by a façade of glittering black granite and Wisconsin limestone. Hailed by preservationists as an outstanding example of depression moderne architecture — a form of late art deco style — the duPont Building was built by banking tycoon Alfred I. duPont during the Great Depression. The interior boasts four stories of Tennessee marble floors, ornate golden gates, and filigreed elevator doors with bird motifs. For the hand-painted ceiling, artist Harold Hilton lay on his back Michelangelo-style to create 124 scenes of Florida’s history.
Today the building is open only for private events such as weddings, corporate gatherings, and special performances (prices start at $13,000). But you can still access the lobby during operating hours to check out the beautiful materials and decorative elements. The Miami Center for Architecture & Design also offers bimonthly walking tours that include a trip to the second floor to see Hilton's mural.
169 E. Flagler St., Miami. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Saturday and Sunday. For walking tours, visit miamicad.org/walking-tour. Tickets cost $20.
4. Pay Homage to the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.
This list wouldn't be complete without the home of Heat Nation. Whether you’re walking, biking, or driving in downtown, the American Airlines Arena — with its three-story, 3,400-square-foot lighted marquee — is hard to miss. The gigantic curved white structure, designed by renowned Miami firm Arquitectonica, seats 19,600 and is a multipurpose arena for sporting events and concerts. Superstars such as Adele, Taylor Swift, and Kanye West have recently played there. Upcoming shows include the Ringling Bros. circus, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Ariana Grande. If you’re hungry before a show, you can get grub from plenty of eateries inside the arena, including Bodega, Kone Sushi, and Pincho Factory.
601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Showtimes and ticket prices vary. Call 786-777-1000 or visit aaarena.com.
5. Explore the Meetinghouse Art Collective & Gallery.
PAMM doesn't hold a monopoly on art in downtown. Welcome to Meetinghouse, an interdisciplinary artistic and cultural space that’s located in the penthouse of the historic Huntington Building. The 13-story structure was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and is known for its austere, soldier-like sculptures on the roofline. The collective’s programming includes exhibitions, lectures, screenings, performances, and printed materials. The current exhibition, on display until March, is "Type-topia," an idealized and fictionalized city created from a collage of architecture firm Khoury Levi Fong’s public institutional projects. The scale models use programmed QR codes that visitors can scan for more details. Another recent project is a printed “Artists vs. Trump” T-shirt showing a BDSM scene between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, where a thigh-high-booted Hillary dominates a naked, cowering, submissive Trump. The shirts cost $25 on meetinghousemiami.org.
168 SE First St., Miami. Open by appointment from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Visit meetinghousemiami.org.
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