Ten Ways to Be a Tourist in Miami

In 2014, Miami-Dade County made an estimated $23.8 billion in tourist money. That's an almost astronomical figure. It's 317,333 times more than Justin Bieber blew at King of Diamonds that same year. It's enough to rent a room at the The Villa, Casa Casuarina (known to everyone as simply the Versace Mansion) every day for the rest of your life and still pay for the construction of more than a few Miami World Centers.

It suffices to say the Magic City is beloved by tourists. But what about us locals? We live where the rest of the world vacations – or at least within driving distance of it. Yet how often do we really take advantage of that fact? We are primed for staycation living, but we're often too busy screaming at one another in traffic to care.

Enough is enough. Grab your city by the horns and ride it into the sunset, all summer long. Don't know where to start? Check these picks for ten ways to be a tourist in your own city. Do it all; then Instagram it. Your friends in Broward will hate you.
10. Learn something about your city on the Big Bus Tour.
Admit it — you've always wondered what these double-decker tour guides are talking about. You see them driving all over, from Calle Ocho to Collins Avenue, but you've never hopped on. Why would you? To learn something illuminating, of course. What better way to spice up your relationship with Miami than by learning a few of its hidden historical secrets? Tickets cost $45 for adults and $30 for children and are good for 48 hours, including all three routes and 40-plus stops. Hop on and off as you see fit. The bus might even drop you off by your home.

Last weekend's crew at #funkybuddha! #miamibrewbus #brewbus #craftbeer #sundayfunday

A photo posted by Miami Brew Bus (@miamibrewbus) on

9. Drink your way through Wynwood on the Miami Brew Bus.
South Florida's brew scene is hopping – get it? Hops? (We crack ourselves up.) Honestly, there are tons of delicious suds bubbling up in our backyard, and the best way to taste them all is on a tour. Of course, you can't drink and drive, so let the Miami Brew Bus do the hard part. There are two routes to choose from. Highway to Hops costs $65 and takes you to Broward to enjoy Funky Buddha Brewery, LauderAle, and back home for Wynwood Brewing. Expressway to Brews costs $60 and visits Miami Rum Club, J. Wakefeild Brewery, and M.I.A. Brewing. Both will get you drunk — trust us. Visit miamibrewbus.com for details.
8. Travel back in time at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens.
Built between 1914 and 1922 as the summer home for businessman John Deering, this 43-acre estate is a veritable tropical paradise. The botanical gardens feature imported fauna from France and Italy intermingled among the Cuban limestone and Floridian coral edifices. In 2008, it was recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the country's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places, mostly due to the encroachment of nearby high-rise development. Protective measures have been taken, but it's a reminder that beautiful things are best enjoyed today over tomorrow. Admission is $18 for adults and $6 for kids aged 6 through 12, and free for those 5 and younger.
7. Get a tan on South Beach.
When tourists close their eyes and imagine a trip to Miami, South Beach is all they see. Babes in string bikinis rollerblading down Collins Avenue. The sun shining bright on the calm turquoise water. Pastel Art Deco buildings hovering low into the sky. Locals who live west of the Bay learn to avoid its expensive prices, shitty parking, and crowded beaches — but it's worth it once in a while to throw oneself into the fray. It's the center of the action. Strangers talk to you. Beer flows in an unstoppable rush, like the tears of that girl who got too drunk too early and is now yelling at her boyfriend on the phone. It's all happening, and it's all happening here. Do it once and be satisfied for at least the next two years.
6. Drag brunch at Palace or Señor Frog's
People often speak of the cultural footprint Cubans left on this great city, and it's all very good and true, but really, we need to give some more love to our gays. The LGBT community built South Beach in the late '80s and early '90s, and though many of them have flocked to more affordable Fort Lauderdale, we still feel their magnificent presence everywhere on the Beach. Of course, nowhere is that presence felt more strongly than at the uproarious, titillating drag brunches every Sunday at Palace Bar and Señor Frog's. Both come with unlimited drinks and more T&A than your girlfriend could ever dream of.
5. Spend a day at PAMM, HistoryMiami, and the Freedom Tower.
Art, history, science, and culture abound in this city. The streets teem with excitement, but if you must gather your experience indoors, there are plenty of museums to tickle your intellectual side. HistoryMiami, conveniently located next to the library (because we know you geeks love books), sees a constant rotation of compelling exhibitions that reflect local, national, and international events and interests. The Freedom Tower downtown is itself an historic monument, but within its hallowed halls sits the work of Miami Dade College's art and design students. Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is the newest and shiniest of the offerings, and though the upcoming Frost Science Museum has not finished construction, the art building is full of works from local and international artists, as well as the site of many after-hour events. 
4. Play a friendly game at Domino Park.
If you grew up speaking Spanish, you already know the rules of dominos — and if you didn't, you have Google, so there's no excuse. Don't walk in here asking someone to teach you how to play. These old dudes are professionals. They might take the time to teach you, or they might just tell you to scram. Come in with confidence and win the respect of some real OGs (original gangsters). Or just watch the magic with your friends. Either way, you'll get some fresh (cigar-smoke-flavored) air, and it won't be a day at the park you'll regret.
3. Watch the salsa dancers at Mango's Tropical Cafe.
Mango's might be the height of Miami tourist attractions. Hot guys and gals dance to traditional Latin rhythms in colorful costumes while you nosh and nom on tropical delights. Someone in the audience will inevitably get called onstage. After 10:30 p.m., everyone younger than 21 has to GTFO, and the various clubs in back and upstairs start to pop off like blacking out is the goal. If you're gonna go, you have to do dinner and a show. If you're gonna do dinner, you have to get a reservation, and you have to pay somewhere around $60 to $75 per person (depending upon the day). It's not something you do all the time, but if you live in Miami and you don't try it once, you haven't gotten the full experience. 
2. Take a trip to the Everglades to watch the gator wrestlers.
“Florida Man Wrestles Alligator” isn't a headline from the local news. It's what happens every day at many Everglades tourist destinations. Alligator wrestling is about as unique a sport as they come, and every Miamian needs to spend more time appreciating the one-of-a-kind ecosystem to the west. Animal Planet fanatics may know the Gator Boys who show off at Everglades Holiday Park, but there are also daily shows at Gator Park and Miccosukee Indian Village. It's educational, it's wild, it's the most "Florida" thing you'll do all year.
1. Ball out on a meal at the Versace mansion, AKA The Villa Casa Casuarina.
You've lived here your whole life, but have you ever been inside Gianni Versace's former mansion? No, dude, Drake videos don't count. Did you even know it was a hotel? Rooms start at $999 a night, and that is absolutely insane, but there's also a restaurant inside called Gianni's. It's definitely pricey, but it's totally doable if you plan ahead. Antipasti range from $21 to $36, and secondi range from a $32 plate of chicken to a $52 lobster. The ten-ounce filet mignon goes for $82. You deserve to live a little. Don't order the ancient champagne, and you'll get out of this place alive. (Too soon?)

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