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Aerial shot of Palm Court Plaza and the Buckminster Fuller Fly Eye Dome surrounded by palm trees in Miami's Design District

A high low guide to Miami

From South Beach sandwiches to themed pool parties, the Magic City promises a good time, no matter the depth of your pockets

01/10/2020Fact-checked 19/11/2020

Miami’s flamboyant reputation is well-deserved – and can come at a price – but the city has plenty of options for those who want to splurge or save. Travel writer and Miami obsessive Lane Nieset offers a local look into some of the Magic City’s must-see sights that are perfect for budgets or blowouts.

Miami Cuban sandwich stuffed with ham, roast pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard (Adobe Stock)


High: As its name suggests, eight-seat omakase spot Hiden is tucked away behind a bustling taqueria and requires a passcode (emailed the evening of your meal) to enter through the speakeasy’s secret door. Eat your way through Japan during the 15-course meal, which features freshly flown-in ingredients and dishes inspired by different regions across the country.

Low: It’s not hard to find quality, late-night fare on South Beach, but one of the long-standing staples, La Sandwicherie, tops the list for its French baguette-filled subs. For something that speaks to the city’s Cuban culture, order a café con leche or croquetas from the ventanilla (walk-up window) at Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Wynwood.

Exterior of White Dot Gallery in Wynwood (Mary Beth Koeth/Wynwood Business Improvement District)


High: Nikki Beach (and its signature tepees) has made its way around the globe with outposts everywhere from Saint-Tropez to St Barts. The legendary beach club got its start here in South Beach, where summer lingers year-round with themed pool parties powered my magnums of rosé. Swing by later in the week when much anticipated natural wine bar, Margot, pops up in the evenings on the sand under the light-strewn palm trees.

Low: The outdoor ‘street art museum’ of Wynwood hosts an evening art walk the second Saturday of the month, starting at 6pm. Arrive early and watch as the street party unfolds from the galleries to the sidewalks, where you’ll find craft markets and food trucks from some of the city’s most celebrated chefs.

The Setai is a pampering oasis by South Beach


High: Massage away any lingering jet lag in one of Asian-inspired The Setai’s four private spa rooms, complete with bath and steam rooms. If you’re spending the night here, make the experience all the more exclusive (and even more socially distant) with an in-room treatment followed by a glass of Champagne overlooking some of the best views of South Beach from the balcony of your suite.

Low: Start or end your day with a sunrise or sunset yoga session on the sand at 3rd Street, where donation-based classes take place 365 days a year on the beach.

Overhead aquarium at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science


High: Lounge in your poolside cabana (complete with flat-screen TV and mini-fridge) as the kids float by in the Lazy River at Tidal Cove in Aventura. The waterpark features seven water slides and attractions that include the first surf simulation pool of its kind in the country and a ‘water coaster’ that dips and dives with the same adrenaline rush as an amusement park ride.  

Low: Over the past few years, Miami has had a substantial museum expansion (thanks Art Basel!), and now there’s one spot where visitors are part of the interactive experience. Head downtown to the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, where you can explore coral reefs in the top-deck aquarium or journey to outer space with 3D, 360° shows at the Frost Planetarium, which also hosts twice-monthly laser light spectacles to soundtracks by the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.     

Palm Court Plaza with Buckminster Fuller Fly Eye Dome in the Miami Design District (also opening image) (Luis Gomez)


High: Award-winning architecture meets high fashion at Miami Design District , one of the glitziest shopping destinations in the city (Fendi and Dior are residents). The area has morphed into an evening hotspot as well, thanks to culinary powerhouses such as Pharrell Williams’ Swan, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Brad Kilgore’s sultry, Japanese-inspired cocktail lounge, Kaido  and wood-fired bistro, Ember.

Low: If you’re looking to snag new designer finds at a discount, Miami’s largest outlet centre, Dolphin Mall, is home to 240 shops, including Michael Kors and Coach. For vintage treasures, pop into New York transplant What Goes Around Comes Around in Sunset Harbour, where the highly curated collection ranges from classic Chanel blazers to rare Hermès bags.

The Cape Florida Light in Bill Baggs State Park is the oldest structure in Miami-Dade (Alamy)


High: Jet over to the island chain of Bimini by seaplane for diving or deep-sea fishing, or spend the day on the deck of your private yacht cruising through Biscayne Bay’s mansion-lined isles with a haute picnic prepped by the team at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club.

Low: Combine nature and sightseeing on a light, 1.5-mile nature walk at the tip of Key Biscayne. One of the lesser-known trails in the popular Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the hiking loop winds through hardwood hammocks and marshes from the historic 1825 lighthouse to a panoramic lookout over Stiltsville, a group of rainbow-coloured, above-the-water wooden shacks standing on stilts over the sand.