Virginia Key Outdoor Center
Virginia Key Outdoor Center

Virginia Key is always a great place to kayak — the water is calm and you can duck between all sorts of tiny sandbars and pockets of mangroves. The key is also historic: In segregated Miami, Virginia Key served as the only "colored" beach in town, and it's worth taking the time to reflect on the area's history as you paddle through the water. Like many outdoor renters around Miami, the Virginia Key Outdoor Center offers nighttime full-moon paddling for the adventuresome. The bioluminescent paddles that occur occasionally from June through September are by far the best option. During these events, you leave shore as the sun dips below the horizon. As the sky darkens, plankton and other sea creatures naturally set themselves aglow, transforming the water into a sparkling show beneath your boat. Individual kayak rentals range from $25 for the first hour ($10 for each hour after that) to $85 for a full day.

On your vacation or staycation in the Magic City, maybe you never want to leave Miami Beach and have all of your meals sent to your suite at the Fontainebleau or Setai. Maybe you want to take a walking tour through Little Havana and eat every single empanada you see. Or maybe you want to learn how the city ticks by understanding what goes on in its kitchens. There's no better place to do that than in Romi Naparstek's kitchen. Naparstek grew up in Argentina and attended the Argentine Institute of Gastronomy. Since opening her kitchen, she's partnered with the Wolfsonian and the Jewish Museum of Florida. But the heart of what Naparstek does is simple: She teaches you how to make a mean churro, pastelito, alfajor, or any other Latin American staple you can imagine. Individual classes start at $75 per person.

Readers' choice: Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science

Biking around South Beach is fun. You get to see art deco buildings and maybe run into DJ Khaled. And, of course, it's worth biking through the Everglades at least once in your life. But for a real Miami experience, hit the Commodore Trail. This paved, five-mile route takes you through the heart of some of Miami's mainland landmarks, from Vizcaya Museum & Gardens to Miami City Hall to Peacock Park. You'll cut through thickets of tropical plants and see fantastic views of the bay. And unlike that bike tour around South Beach, the Commodore Trail gives glimpses of wildlife. But beware: Coconut Grove peacocks can be ornery and have been known to even scratch up cars.

Big Cypress National Preserve

As endearing as Miami can be, some days you just need to get the eff out of town. Luckily, anyone with a car can make the trek to Big Cypress National Preserve. Big Cypress is approximately 80 miles west of downtown Miami and an easy jaunt on U.S. 41. Big Cypress boasts more than 700,000 acres of tropical wonderland. How adventuresome you want to get is totally up to you: You can take a scenic drive and watch wading birds feed; embark on a free ranger-led swamp canoe trip (private canoe rentals are available from about late November to April for $60 to $100 per trip); give your off-road vehicle a spin ($100 per year with a proper permit); or hike miles upon miles of lush trails. If you want more than a simple day trip, Big Cypress offers eight campgrounds for $10 to $30 per night. You'll be hesitant to return to the gridlock after a day out west.

E11even Miami
Photo by Adinayev

Party your ass off until 10 a.m. or get the party started at 10 in the morning: Both are acceptable at E11even. The 24/7 entertainment hot spot celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year, and it's showing absolutely no signs of slowing. On any given night, you can catch superstar DJs such as the Chainsmokers and Zedd on the decks, and celebs such as Drake and Daddy Yankee getting their party on. Throw in heaps of booze, a 20,000-square-foot space, premium bottle service, a full-service kitchen, and trapeze artists, and you're in for a good night (or day, whatever). Whether you're strolling out when the sun comes up or watching people enter the club in broad daylight, E11even is a prime people-watching spot in Miami. So kick back and enjoy the spectacle — any time of day.

Readers' choice: Lincoln Road

Maurice A. Ferré Park
Jessica Gibbs

Running blows. But when you throw in sweeping views of Biscayne Bay and the epic Miami skyline, it really isn't all that bad. Located smack in the middle of downtown Miami, Maurice A. Ferré Park, formerly Museum Park, is a serene reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city and a perfect place to jog. The 28-acre waterfront park includes winding walkways, bathrooms, benches, pedestrian access to museums, plenty of trees for shade, and a couple of sculptures for those sweaty postworkout selfies.

Surfside Beach
Jessica Gibbs

It's a good problem to live in a place with too many quality beaches. Every shore in Miami-Dade offers something unique, from party vibes to family fun. But if you're looking for a relaxing and uncrowded day on the sand, head to the peaceful oceanfront haven known as "Miami's Uptown Beachtown": Surfside. The unspoiled one-mile stretch from 88th Terrace to 96th Street is a slice of paradise that's clean and serene with a locals-only aesthetic. Rest assured, you won't see an "I'm in Miami Bitch" T-shirt here.

Readers' choice: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Best Weekend Getaway
Gary J. Wood / Flickr

Miami offers plenty of beaches, but if you're looking for a real escape, head north on I-95 for four hours and pull off at the exit for New Smyrna Beach. It's one of the few Florida beaches where you can park your car on the sand, making it easy to stake out a spot for your umbrella, chairs, and cooler. Because the surf is unquestionably better in New Smyrna than Miami Beach, take advantage with a lesson from the Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy, which offers private classes for $60 per person or classes for groups of three or more for $40 per person every Saturday from May through September. Then take a stroll along Flagler Ave, dotted with charming surf shops, ice-cream spots, and the city's famed Coronado/Mainland Shuffleboard Club. For dinner, grab a blue cheese burger from the Breakers, a casual oceanfront dining spot that's similar to the West Palm Beach resort in name only. Cap off your day by completing the Flagler Stagger, a do-it-yourself bar crawl on the main strip.

First dates can be awkward: If the conversation comes to a halt, you'll need something to talk about. Watching the sun set over Biscayne Bay is a great icebreaker, and there's no better place to do that than at the Wetlab, part of Salt Waterfront Restaurant at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. This campus watering hole offers spectacular views from its waterfront veranda. Head there after work on a Friday, when there's usually a live band playing until things wrap up at 9 p.m. The Wetlab deserves major kudos for its wide variety of beers, including 17 local craft brews on tap, but its best selling point is the price: For just $20, you can make a mix-and-match bucket of five craft beers. It's a spot that hits all the marks of a good first date: inexpensive, easygoing, and memorable.

Tropical Vinyasa
Amy Dannheim

After opening less than three years ago in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood, Tropical Vinyasa has quickly established itself as the go-to spot for South Florida yogis. Community vibe is front-of-mind for this small but welcoming studio, which offers special events throughout the year for couples, kids, and moms-to-be. Prices start at $24 for one class, but new students can buy a three-class package for $50 or try 30 days of unlimited yoga for $79. The instructors at Tropical Vinyasa are warm, engaging, and helpful without being too corrective. And it's a great workout too: Prepare to leave the studio drenched in sweat and feeling satisfied. For an extra treat, book a class with a sound bath ($24), where you'll sink into savasana under the spell of deeply meditative noise vibrations from Tibetan singing bowls and gongs.

Readers' choice: Yoga Joint

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®