South Florida Sunshine State of Mind

From glamorous, well-known attractions to historic neighborhoods rich with culture to local low-key haunts, South Florida has so much to offer any visitor.

Here are some of the best can’t-miss stops in the area’s must-visit neighborhoods.


Visit Historic Coconut Grove and Coral Gables

Where to Go: Nestled in Coconut Grove, The Kampong is a former residence of botanist and plant explorer David Fairchild, and the only National Tropical Botanical Garden site outside of Hawai‘i. Discover exotic fruit plants and flowering trees, from peanut butter fruit to royal poinciana to over 50 varieties of mango. Take a self-guided tour of the 9-acre estate (guided excursions are also available September through June; reservations are required for both), and enjoy a picnic overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay.

Where to Eat: Enjoy views of neighboring Peacock Park, and get your fill of twice-fried chicken paired with marinated watermelon, guava miso, and cucumber at chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s Glass and Vine in Coconut Grove — the sophomore eatery of Miami’s first-ever Food Network’s Chopped champion. Indulge in Caribbean fine dining at Ortanique on the Mile, on Coral Gables’ famed Miracle Mile, with a rum-marinated Niman Ranch pork chop finished with a tropical fruit flambé.

Where to Shop: A Coconut Grove staple for more than a half-century, The Maya Hatcha on Grand Avenue is the go-to for unique finds, such as water buffalo sandals and Indian kurtas. With stores across South Florida, including Coconut Grove, Books & Books is a book-lover’s dream come true. Browse the selection of new releases, literary classics, and local favorites, and take home a paperback or two. And enjoy one of the many author discussions and book-signing events — especially in November during the Miami Book Fair.

Experience Cuban Culture in Little Havana and the Urban Bustle of Downtown Miami

Where to Go: The best way to take in Little Havana is by checking out Viernes Culturales, a nighttime street festival celebrating Latin American culture, which takes place every third Friday. Attracting thousands of revelers every month, the avenues surrounding Domino Plaza on Calle Ocho (Southwest Eighth Street) come to life with live music, salsa dancing, art exhibits, dominoes, and even cigar rolling. Another Friday-night experience to check off your South Florida bucket list is Laser Fridays at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in downtown Miami. Every first and third Friday of the month, the Frost Planetarium’s 67-foot dome puts on an out-of-this-world laser show, where laser-light visuals move along to the beat of Queen, the Beatles, and other music legends.

Where to Eat: Get your Cuban food fix at El Exquisito Restaurant in Little Havana with vaca frita (lime-and-garlic-marinated shredded beef), arroz moro (white rice with black beans), and tostones hawaianos (large fried green plantains). Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market in downtown Miami has called the Miami River home for more than 50 years. Devour the famous fish dip and admire riverfront views from the outdoor deck — or, if you want to take your dining experience to the next level, Garcia’s offers a dock-and-dine service.

Where to Shop: Cuban cigars are synonymous with Little Havana. Bring home your own Cubano from Guantanamera Cafe. Enjoy the bay breeze as you window-shop for beach-themed souvenirs, novelty Florida license plates, comic books, and more at the open-air Bayside Marketplace plaza, just a mile south of the Frost Museum.

Get Artsy in Wynwood and the Miami Design District

Where to Go: Zigzag your way through the streets and avenues of Wynwood, stopping to take countless selfies in front of the many murals along the way, such as Jean-Francois Rauzier and Ara Peterson’s zebra-striped facade of the Wynwood Building, or Felipe Pantone’s geometric patterns and optical illusions on the walls of The Lab Miami. And in December, watch artists as they paint over their old murals to create new designs — just in time for Art Basel Miami Beach and the Miami Art Week frenzy. While the nearby Miami Design District is chock-full of designer boutiques, don’t miss out on the galleries, including Locust Projects (the city’s longest running alternative nonprofit art space) and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (both have free admission).

Where to Eat: For Zagat-rated Chinese with a tropical twist, head to Palmar in Wynwood and try the duck confit dumplings with five spice aioli and pickled red ginger. Quench your thirst with a Father Francisco Belgian-style golden ale from Wynwood Brewing Company, Miami’s first full-production craft brewery. Or take a trip to Greece without leaving the country at Mandolin Aegean Bistro in the Miami Design District (reservations required).

Where to Shop: Bring a piece of Wynwood home with a print from Wynwood Shop, or splurge at one of the many luxury retailers in the Miami Design District, from the famed red-sole stilettos at Christian Louboutin to off-the-rack designer clothing, jewelry, and home goods at En Avance, a local icon for more than 20 years, which moved to the neighborhood in 2008.

Discover the Hidden Gems of Miami Beach

Where to Go: Complete with green spaces ideal for picnics, a fishing pier where you can watch cruise ships as they sail out from PortMiami, and, of course, the beach itself, South Pointe Park is the less-crowded answer to South Beach. Take a stroll along the string light–lined Española Way. Dotted with eateries, cafes, and shops, the pedestrian-only walkway hosts weekly events, such as morning yoga and flamenco shows.

Where to Eat: Serving hungry beachgoers since 1988, La Sandwicherie is a slice of France on Miami Beach. Offering French-style hoagies stuffed with pâté, turkey and Brie, and other combinations, the pièce de résistance here is the vinaigrette (called “The Magic Sauce”), which comes with every order. Treat yourself to creatively prepared dishes and extravagant sweets at Barton G. The Restaurant. Order The Lawn Moo-er (a 48-ounce grass-fed porterhouse served on top of a makeshift lawnmower) as an entree, and Marie Antoinette’s Head – Let Them Eat Cake (a towering pink cotton candy coiffure presented on a platter with candy and a bananas Foster pudding) for dessert.

Where to Shop: The 10-block stretch of Lincoln Road Mall is laden with stores, from swim shops to kitschy souvenir spots to popular chains. You can also buy vintage goods at The Antique & Collectible Market, open every second Sunday from October to May.

Explore Downtown Fort Lauderdale

Where to Go: See the Venice of America by river on a hop-on/hop-off water taxi tour. Take the Fort Lauderdale route and get off at the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park/Park & Ocean stop to visit the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. A city landmark and prime example of Old Florida architecture, the house was built in 1920, but archeological findings reveal that human activity on the site dates to 2,000 B.C. Fort Lauderdale’s burgeoning arts district, FATVillage (Flagler Arts and Technology Village), hosts monthly art walks on the last Saturday of every month (except December), where galleries showcase new exhibits.

Where to Eat: Bring your appetite to Foxy Brown for weekend brunch — try the banana bread grilled cheese stuffed with Nutella and ricotta. Riverside Market South offers eclectic pub fare like spicy fried chickpeas and crab cakes. Plus, it’s one of the only places in South Florida where you can grab any beer from the fridge, and pay at the end by tallying up your bottles.

Where to Shop: Liven up your accommodations by picking out a bouquet of flowers — and have a cup of coffee while you’re at it — at Ann’s Florist & Coffee Bar on Las Olas Boulevard. Stop by Lola’s Market in Wilton Manors — about three miles north of Ann’s. Open on weekends, Lola’s is located in a warehouse in the hidden garden oasis of The Yard, where you’ll find everything from vintage clothing to handmade jewelry.


Where to Stay:
Marriott Vacation Club Pulse®, South Beach

Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers

This article originally appeared in Issue 2, 2019 of the North America edition of Interval World magazine, published by Interval International®, an indirect subsidiary of Marriott Vacations Worldwide. Any re-use of this content, or any portion of this content, is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.