6 Free Activities to Try While in Miami
How to Enjoy Miami Without Breaking the Bank
It’s no secret that Miami can be a posh place. Home to numerous billionaires, business tycoons, rappers, actors and other luminaries, it has a reputation for wealth. Additionally, deciding to visit the Magic City (a nickname earned by its explosive growth in the early 20th century) can definitely impact your travel budget. From $600 a night hotel rooms and double, or even triple-digit mixed drinks, to pricey tours and limited parking, Miami breaks many a traveler’s bank account. However, there are free things to do in Miami.
Fortunately, you do not need to take out a new mortgage in order to properly enjoy a trip to Miami. Read on to learn out six completely free activities you can enjoy in southern Florida’s most famous city.
1. Hit the Beach and Soak Up Some Sun
Heading to the beach might seem like an obvious choice for anyone looking to freely soak up some south Florida sun, but many visitors fail to understand the diversity of Miami’s beaches.
For instance, South Beach is definitely the area’s most famous strip of shore — a glamorous, hard-partying stretch of sand located on an easterly barrier island accessible by I-195 and crowned with Art Deco hotels.
While utterly iconic, the crowds and good-natured chaos may disappoint nature lovers. They’d do better heading to Crandon Park, which has 800 protected acres of subtropical paradise that includes a nature preserve and two miles of beach. (While the park itself is free, note that it costs $5 to park on weekdays and $7 on weekends.)
Given the traffic around South Beach, many visitors may want to minimize their driving, and for them, South Pointe Park at the very tip of the barrier island offers great views of South Beach combined with picnic benches, a playground, grassy space and lots of sand.
Other great beach options include pet-friendly Haulover Park Beach (10800 Collins Ave.), family-friendly Samson Oceanfront Park (17425 Collins Ave.) and historic and scenic Virginia Key Beach Park (4020 Virginia Beach Dr.).
2. Educate Yourself at Area Museums
Most Miami-area museums charge admission, but many provide free admission once a week or month. It’s worth cross referencing the dates of your trip with when they provide complimentary access. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (61 NE 41st St.) is an exception with daily free tickets that are time limited.
With an emphasis on modern and contemporary art, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (1103 Biscayne Blvd.) hosts a free program every second Saturday of the month.
If you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, you can get access to the Miami Children’s Museum (980 Macarthur Cswy.) on the first full weekend of the month. (You might want to call ahead to confirm availability, though.)
Finally, the packed-with-real-trains Gold Coast Railroad Museum (12450 SW 152nd St.) has gratis admission on the first Saturday of the month, and children aged 2 or younger can always enter for free.
3. Tour the Artsy Wynwood Neighborhood
Aside from South Beach itself, no other part of the larger southern Florida metro area screams Miami quite like Wynwood. Originally a warehouse district, Wynwood has become a chic collection of boutiques, eateries, breweries and studios. However, what really sets it apart is the profusion of top-notch graffiti that adorns almost every surface. It’s not vandalism, by the way. Developer Tony Goldman commissioned much of the work roughly two decades ago. The most famous section, the Winwood Walls, does require paid admission, but you can see the bulk of the art for free.
4. Get an Elevated View of Downtown on the Metromover
One way to easily access Wynwood (and much of Miami itself) is through the Metromover, a free rail system that shuttles passengers throughout the downtown area, including various noteworthy sights and areas. Typically arriving at any of their 20 stops within three minutes during off-peak hours and every 90 seconds during rush hour, Metromover cars run from 5 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. every day. The elevated view provided by the system’s Inner Loop gives riders a great view of the business district of downtown Miami. The Omni Loop takes travelers north, and one noteworthy stop on that route is Maurice A. Ferré Park, a 21-acre, waterfront near the Perez Art Museum Miami and the Frost Museum of Science. The park boasts Miami’s longest bayfront walkway. Then, there’s the Brickell Loop, which swings by the shops and eateries of Mary Brickell Village.
5. Discover the Magic City’s Most Famous Neighborhoods
The Metromover allows you to do more than merely easily travel around Miami for free. It gives you access to some of the Magic City’s most iconic neighborhoods, all of which make for engaging — and free! — sightseeing. As mentioned above, the Art Deco-inspired edifices along South Beach’s Ocean Drive are awe inspiring. They’re also historic, comprising the greatest number of Art Deco structures in the U.S. The Miami Art District, home of the forever-free Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, also features lots of engaging public art projects to see, as well as top-notch dining and shopping.
Calle Ocho may serve up less glitz than the above offerings, but it more than makes up for it with authenticity. The most famous street in Little Havana, it is a gathering place for Miami’s Cuban diaspora. Watch intense games of dominos unfold in the aptly named Domino Park, browse the world’s best collections of cigars, and drop a few bucks on toe-curlingly good Cuban coffee.
Also important to the city’s culture is Coconut Grove, which is possibly the oldest neighborhood in Miami. Posh shops and luxury real estate make for engaging draws even if you never spend a penny.
6. Explore the Outdoors
While Miami is a teeming, cosmopolitan city, do not forget the wealth of nature all around it, most of which will not cost you a thing. Bring your own bike to Shark Valley (36000 SW 8th St.) and you can tool down 15 miles of paved trail that cuts through the Everglades, swampy wetlands upon which much of south Florida was built. Note, though, that it is part of Everglades National Park, which charges a fee to enter — at least most of the time. All U.S. national parks provide a handful of fee-free days each and every year. Old Cutler Trail (starting at Old Cutler Rd. and SW 224th St.) blends 13.5 miles of biking through both woodlands and gorgeous old Miami homes, and Bear Cut Preserve (6767 Crandon Blvd.) lets you hike among sand dunes and mangroves beside the ocean.
Miami may draw the deep pocketed from all over the globe, but it is accessible to anyone with a little ingenuity, a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for Florida’s most magical city.