With its charming midcentury arts district, sprawling nature preserves, and cultural cachet, North Miami is one of Miami-Dade's most underrated neighborhoods. It was one of the last U.S. areas to be inhabited by Native Americans, and U.S. soldiers chopped its thick mangrove forests to create one of Miami's first roadways in 1856. The road's most recognizable feature was a bridge over a streaming creek, which gave the area its moniker, Arch Creek, through the early 1930s. Arch Creek became Miami Shores and then North Miami, which was incorporated in 1933. Schools were built, parks were designated, and the city's now-historic cultural district was fashioned, with the Museum of Contemporary Art its crowning achievement. Today, North Miami, known for its mostly Haitian-American residents and quirky middle-aged creatives, is a vibrant community tucked inside a suburban enclave. Here's what you should explore in NoMi:
10. Peruse Antique Row.
North Miami's main district is dotted with antique shops selling their wares to the city's fashion-forward residents. Sure, most shops are probably out of your price range, but looking is all the fun. Inside the sprawling three-showroom Gary Rubinstein Antiques, you might find a $25,000 armchair or a vase that belonged to a princess. Vermillion 20th Century is a midcentury oasis, filled with gilded headboards, orb lamps, and tufted sofas. At Aubery, glamorous Old Regency pieces line the window, while Glo 20th Century Design has lamp shades and chandeliers to suit any vintage lover's taste.
Antique Row begins at 859 NE 125th St., North Miami.
9. Eat fresh seafood at Captain Jim's Seafood Market & Restaurant.
Captain Jim's is a no-frills seafood joint adjacent to the NoMi outpost of legendary Hialeah thrift store Red White & Blue. It's the kind of place that won't turn you away if you're sunburned, sand-covered, and ready to indulge in fresh oysters, colossal shrimp, and succulent grouper, delivered from the day's catch. Plenty of people will tell you to visit Captain Jim's for the fresh raw bar and carefully crafted seafood dishes, but the management alone will give you plenty of reason. Owner Jeffrey Ross, a famed L.A. restaurateur who bought the place from the original Captain Jim Hanson a couple of years ago, has set to work wining and dining North Miami's diehard Captain Jim's patrons. Any night of the week, you'll find Ross cracking jokes at tables, horsing around with his young son, or asking you to guess the secret ingredient in his key lime pie.
12950 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami; captianjimsmiami.com.
8. Take in an exhibit at MOCA.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has gone through some growing pains in the past couple years. After the majority of the institution's former board defected and moved much of the museum's collection (and cash) to form the Institute of Contemporary Art, MOCA struggled to find footing under its new leadership, director Babacar M'Bow. But after the city ousted M'Bow, things seem to be looking up. In the museum's most recent exhibition, "Black Gold," Venezuelan artist Rolando Peña explores oil as a substance and its role in modern art. You can also head to the museum for one of its many community-sponsored events, such as Jazz at MOCA, a free monthly concert hosting local jazz acts such as Conjunto Progreso and Marlow Rosado.
770 NE 125th St., North Miami; mocanomi.org. General admission costs $5 or $3 for seniors and children.
7. Ride horses at Enchanted Forest Park.
Smack in the center of North Miami's otherwise suburban city is a charming oasis straight out of a Disney movie. They don't call it Enchanted Forest for nothing: A 22-acre park filled with subtropical plants, a lush tree canopy, and a flowing creek, Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park is a perfect escape from your busy life. With paved trails, picnic facilities, and a pony-riding facility, it's also the perfect place to take your kids — or just yourself if the big-kid horses prove too scary for you to ride.
1725 NE 135th St., North Miami; miamidade.gov.
6. Go kayaking at Oleta River State Park.
A sprawling 100-acre park adjacent to the Oleta River, this is the perfect place to spend the day amid mangroves and river bends. The largest urban park in Florida, Oleta State Park offers camping facilities, hiking and off-road biking trails, a manmade beach, saltwater fishing, picnic tables and grills, mangrove forest preserves, and tons of subtropical plants and wildlife. But the best part about Oleta are the kayaks and canoes available for rent. You can row out to Biscayne Bay or follow the river around the park for a look at its splendor.
3400 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach; floridatstateparks.org. Admission costs $2 per pedestrian, $6 per vehicle.