Cultural Experience | Florida

Summer Vacay the Local Way: Miami

A city best known for palm trees, teeny tiny bikinis, and of course the Miami Heat, Miami is truly the city down south that never sleeps.

Although it is practically summer here year-round (except for the three weeks of bone chilling 40 degree “winter” we suffer through every February), Miami has and will continue to be one of the most popular destinations to consider when planning a summer vacation.

During my years living in Miami, I’ve witnessed far too many tourists get sucked into the hustle and bustle of South Beach and never venture past the neon lights of 8th and Ocean. However, there is much more to Miami than initially meets the eye. So if you’re thinking about taking a trip to the 305 this summer, consider doing it the local way. Here is a list of some of my favorite summertime things to do and see while in Miami…

1. Key Biscayne

I know it can be tempting to stay on South Beach the entire time, but I promise you that Miami is filled with beaches that are much nicer and significantly less crowded than the tourist trap that is South Beach. Head south on I-95 for about 15-minutes and you’ll run right in to the exit for the Rickenbacker Causeway, which connects the mainland to Key Biscayne and Virginia Key. Locals love to run across this causeway with sweeping views of Downtown and Brickell in the mornings and then come back later in the afternoon with a grill, a beach towel, and their dog to spend the rest of the day basking in the sun.

2. Vizcaya and the Venetian Pool 

Hidden behind a sweeping thicket of overgrown trees and shrubs in South Miami you’ll find Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Built in 1910 this historic estate is not only a popular venue for weddings and Quinceneara photo shoots (I guarantee you’ll run into someone taking professional photographs during your visit), but it’s a perfect location for a lazy summer day stroll through the garden mazes. Keep driving south on US1 from Vizcaya and you’ll run right into the Venetian Pool, a historic freshwater pool located right in the heart of Coral Gables that is perfect for swimming and taking in the Florida sunshine. Located only 10 minutes from each other (without traffic, yes traffic is a huge thing in Miami) a day spent at Vizcaya and the Venetian Pool is guaranteed to be a day well spent!


3. Find a Groupon for a Jet Ski Rental

It’s almost impossible to go a full day in Miami without seeing someone speed by on a jet ski. Water sports are popular summertime activities for tourists on the beach, but can cost an upwards of $150 per hour. However, if you search Groupon, Living Social, or any other comparable site you can easily snag an hour-long rental and a comfy beach chair for the day for $99 or less, which means more money for shopping! I have always been a huge fan of these online coupon sites and love to utilize them to be a tourist in my own city, because after all who doesn’t love a great deal?

4. Take a Weekend Cruise to Bimini, Bahamas

Don’t forget to pack your passport when you head down to Miami for your summer vacation! One perk of being located at the southernmost tip of Florida is that Miami is a mere hop and a skip away from numerous island destinations including the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. With cruises departing daily from the Port of Miami and Port Everglades in nearby Fort Lauderdale, for a little as $88 per person (if you happen to be a Florida resident the deals are even better) you can take a two or three-night island getaway cruise and be frolicking on the pristine white sands of Bimini in just over two hours.


5. Hollywood Beach

Another great beach to check out if South Beach gets too crowded for you during your summer vacation is Hollywood Beach. Located just north of Miami in Broward County, Hollywood Beach is the perfect destination for a summer day trip where you can grab some ice cream from one of the many local shops and then take a lazy stroll on the boardwalk or bring your chair and umbrella for a lazy day spent relaxing on the sand. Also make sure you make a pit stop at Le Tub for a truly one of a kind dining experience. I guarantee you that you’ll feel like you’re eating in a tree house and it was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, so you already know it’s worth your while!

6. Brunch, brunch, and more brunch!

No summertime vacation to Miami is complete without a “Sunday Funday” well spent brunching throughout the city. No matter your tastes, I guarantee you that Miami has the perfect brunch spot to fit your needs. Here are a few of my favorites…

– Versailles Restaurant– No trip to Miami is complete without a taste of the city’s delectable Cuban cuisine, so why not stop by Miami and perhaps the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant Versailles? For just $8.75 per person you can enjoy a huge assortment of traditional Cuban breakfast foods including pastelitos, croquetas, and platanos. If Cuban food just isn’t your thing, don’t worry they have scrambled eggs, cereals, and bacon as well. The buffet is only available on Sundays until 11am, so try get there early because there is always a wait.

– The Biltmore, Coral Gables– If you’re in the mood to splurge then I recommend you head down to Coral Gables for the #1 rated brunch in South Florida. Complete with sushi, caviar, carved meats, and pretty much any and every breakfast food you could possibly dream of, the Biltmore rolls out the red carpet for their Sunday brunches. While the cost is a little steep at $85 per person, just in the experience alone it is worth every penny. Reservations are recommended as seats to fill up quickly.

– Peacock Garden Cafe– Located in the heart of Coconut Grove, Peacock Garden Cafe has always been my go to brunch spot. I love the enchanted garden feel and it is a great location for people watching and an occasional peacock sighting if you’re lucky (yes there really are peacocks all over Coconut Grove). The atmosphere is great, the food is top notch, and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend any of the fresh squeezed juices, which are a perfect escape from the Miami summer heat. The pear juice is to die for!

Whether you plan on working on your tan or getting out and exploring, Miami has something to offer everyone. So with summer right around the corner, make sure you keep Miami on your list for a summer vacation you’re guaranteed to never forget!

Victoria Humphrey

University of Miami | 4 stories

A recent graduate of the University of Miami and the current Miss Winter Park 2016, Victoria double majored in Biology and Religious Studies and hopes to make a difference one day as a physician. An avid collector of passport stamps and rubber duckies, Victoria lived in Rome (Italy, not Georgia) for five months and is well-versed in both the arts of non-rev traveling and balling while on a student budget. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @vshumphreyy

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