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.
5. Grab some curry at Ricky Thai Bistro.
Having a meal at the family-run restaurant Ricky Thai feels like coming home. A cozy interior, dressed in warm lighting, unassuming charmeuse, and wood-paneled walls, is the backdrop for one of the most authentic Thai dining experiences in Miami. Husband-and-wife team Giuliano Carrafelli and chef Majcha Manomai seem to be an odd pairing for a Thai restaurant — he's from Italy, after all – but Manomai, a Thai chef, has creative control in the kitchen. You can taste every kaleidoscopic flavor in Manomai's food, which she cooks using her own homegrown ingredients, such as kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Ricky Thai specialties include whole fried fish and green curry, along with "drunken noodles" — savory flat rice noodles topped with ground beef, fried egg, cilantro, green onions, basil, and plenty of heat.
1617 NE 123rd St., North Miami; rickythaibistro.info.
4. Shop for vintage at Rabbit Hole and C. Madeleine's.
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Madeleine Kirsh made a name for herself as an interior designer who had a taste for the unusual. That sensibility translated to her wardrobe, which she spent years curating with an emphasis on designer vintage adorned with avant-garde accents. She opened C. Madeleine's in 1998 in Palm Beach before moving south a few years later. Her current space, a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in North Miami, is a costume designer's paradise. Sequined Chanel jackets, golden Versace bangles, and over-the-top Oscar de la Renta gowns are commonplace at C. Madeleine's. Though the prices aren’t plebeian, the shop hosts a yearly sale that's frequented by every Miami fashion girl who's in the know. After your stop at C. Madeleine's, head to North Miami's main district, where you'll find Rabbit Hole, a delightfully curated boutique selling more affordable vintage pieces. Though the shop generally specializes in '60s garb, you can find plenty of one-of-a-kind pieces from every decade at Rabbit Hole. Plus, its jewelry selection is one of the best in town.
C. Madeleine's, 13702 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; cmadeleines.com.
Rabbit Hole Vintage, 791 NE 125th St., North Miami; shoprabbithole.com.
3. Visit one of Miami's oldest dive bars, Point Lounge.
Nestled inside the Sans Souci shopping center, an outdoor mall stocked with travel agents and kosher caterers, is an authentic Miami dive bar that welcomes cokeheads, aging former strippers, bikers, drunk fisherman, and average joes alike. The Point Lounge was built in the 1950s, "when there was nothing else around here, not even that bridge," says bartender Denise, referring to the Broad Causeway, which shuttles drivers to the ritzier Bal Harbour Beach. She works almost every night until 5 a.m., when the Point closes, and she's been there for years. Aside from Denise, there are pink neon lights illuminating an old-time jukebox, film posters, a curio cabinet filled with photos of patrons, and a stage where karaoke singers belt out their favorite songs. And in true dive-bar fashion, the Point offers $4 well drinks and $2 beers.
2202 NE 123rd St., North Miami; 305-893-4471; open 2 from p.m. to 5 a.m.
2. Ride over Broad Causeway for one of Miami's best views.
Of all the bridges taking Miamians to the beach, Broad Causeway is undeniably a local favorite. Maybe it's because the bridge's views remain largely unobstructed by buildings, revealing the downtown Miami skyline in the far distance to your right and the sky-scraping buildings of Sunny Isles Beach to your left. Or perhaps it's because it's not nearly as congested as its more southern counterparts. Whatever the case, it's one of the best bridges in Miami to cruise on your bike and watch the sun set.
1. Indulge in a pastry or baguette at Café Crème or Cane á Sucre.
Those who pledge allegiance to the Buena Vista Deli will find a second home at Café Crème, a new iteration of the famous French bakery and deli owned by Claude Postel and Cory Finot. The biggest difference at Café Crème is its size; located adjacent to MOCA, Café Crème is almost double the size of its counterpart in Miami's historic Buena Vista neighborhood. Meanwhile, you'll still enjoy its buttery, flaky quiches, fresh pastries, and café salads with the same neighborhood vibe. Across the street, you can nosh on gourmet sandwiches served on freshly baked baguettes at Cane á Sucre. Chefs Michael and Sinuhé Vega offer traditional French fare such as ham-and-cheese croissants, elevated with options like Gorgonzola cheese, caramelized onions, and fig jam.
Café Crème, 750 NE 125th St., North Miami; buenavistabistro.com.
Cane à Sucre, 899 NE 125th St., North Miami; caneasucre.com.