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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
The sun sets at North Beach Bandshell in North Beach.
The sun sets at North Beach Bandshell in North Beach.

A local’s guide to Miami

The sun sets at North Beach Bandshell in North Beach.
The sun sets at North Beach Bandshell in North Beach.
  • By Suzette Laboy
  • Photos by Scott McIntyre

Beyond the popular beach and party scenes, the best parts of Miami are on the fringes. Since 1896, the city has depended on renovation and revitalization, especially within its expanding neighborhoods. Although most have been forced to adapt to cultural or societal changes, they have also safeguarded their pasts. Whether in Wynwood, Little Havana or the MiMo District, preservation groups have inspired renewed interest in the art, architecture and culture of these neighborhoods. Each has its own history and charm, but it’s their near-demise and recovery decades later that make them truly unique. Lucky for us, there are plenty of them to explore.

Meet Suzette Laboy

Suzette has lived in Miami since she was 5 and embraces its constantly warm but often finicky weather (hello, random afternoon rain showers). But even given that, she prefers to be outdoors, exploring Miami one park and neighborhood at a time.

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Wynwood was once the garment district and home to Caribbean immigrants before it became known as an area to avoid. But when developers took over this centrally located neighborhood in the early 2000s, empty warehouses were made into art galleries. Now over 200 graffiti-dotted murals line its 50 city blocks, where you can find boutique hotels or apartments to rent to get a true local vibe. Find this neighborhood.
Coconut Grove
Miami’s oldest neighborhood remains an under-the-radar destination. A village founded in 1873, before Miami existed, and with some shotgun-style houses where Bahamians lived, Coconut Grove is a local favorite, with bohemian vibes and sunset views off the marinas. Opt for a vacation rental on its tree-lined streets. Stop by Charlie’s Woods, a wooded plot with quirky figurines, or browse through Miami City Hall, which was once the Pan American Airways terminal from the 1930s. Find this neighborhood.

Explore more of Miami


Peacock Garden Bistro
In the heart of Miami’s oldest neighborhood, Peacock Garden has the laid-back feel of Coconut Grove while also embracing its history. The patio is lush with plants and trees while the walls inside are lined with historical photos of Miami curated by local historian and preservationist Arva Moore Parks McCabe. The restaurant does lunch and dinner most days, but head there for brunch on Saturday and Sundays and sip a breakfast cocktail (no judgments) in the garden.
BTW: After brunch, walk to nearby Peacock Park and enjoy the bayfront breeze.
Peacock Garden Bistro, 2889 McFarlane Rd. Coconut Grove, Fla. 33133
This refurbished 1930s house in Wynwood has a, well, homey feel. Find a seat on the wraparound porch and pick from their menu of comfort foods, like homemade sticky buns or the mascarpone-and-raspberry-stuffed French toast. For a savory start to your day, try the giant BLT or grilled cheese served with a side of tomato soup. Be warned: Indoor seating is limited, and the wait can be long on weekends.
BTW: You may spot the Morgans food truck around town, serving wood-fired pizza.
Morgans, 28 NE 29th St. Miami, Fla. 33132
La Sandwicherie
This French-owned shop has been serving crispy baguettes and salads in Miami Beach since the late 1980s. The place is small and not easy to spot, but look for the line (which remains even into the wee hours). This location has become a must-stop after hitting the nightclubs or bars, because it’s open until 5 a.m. Like any good sandwich joint, it has hearty meat options, but there’s also plenty to make a vegetarian happy. It can get busy, but service is fast.
BTW: Make sure to try their famous vinaigrette, which you can buy by the bottle.
La Sandwicherie, 229 14th St. Miami Beach, Fla. 33139
Blue Collar
There’s always a line outside this spot in the historic Miami Modern district, better known as MiMo. Miami native owner and chef Daniel Serfer’s restaurant prides itself on serving “food that people like to eat” — well-known comfort-food favorites like mac and cheese, braised oxtails, and shrimp and grits. It’s also great to try for brunch or dinner, but there’s only a handful of seats inside and a few tables outside. If you’re lucky.
BTW: Get there for lunch, when wait times tend to be shorter. If you go for dinner, make reservations.
Blue Collar, 6730 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, Fla. 33138
Another restaurant owned by Daniel Serfer, Mignonette is a 1930s gas station turned oyster bar and seafood spot in the Edgewater neighborhood, a short drive from downtown and the beach. There is a fresh oyster bar with a rotating selection, caviar and fish dishes, but there is also turf (prime rib and filet mignon). Go for happy hour, and you can also enjoy champagne and caviar, or get all your seafood fixings — including lobster and king crab legs — with the seafood tower.
BTW: It’s across the street from Miami’s oldest cemetery, with crypts dating to the early 1900s.
Mignonette, 210 NE 18th St. Miami, Fla. 33132
It’s never too late for a Cuban coffee, especially from this restaurant that’s been pouring it since 1971. It’s the unofficial gathering place for Cuban exiles and the stop for any politician hoping to court the Cuban vote, so you never know whom you might see. Mornings are busy and consumed by political banter, but nighttime brings out special experiences — you can get a flan and coffee at 11 p.m. and not think twice about it. Be sure to get the Cuban sandwich, vaca frita or ham croquetas.
BTW: Order a cortadito (espresso with steamed milk) from the “ventanita,” or walk-up window, for a quick coffee break.
Versailles, 3555 SW Eighth St. Miami, Fla. 33135
This is not your average food hall. Sure, you can get poke bowls in plenty of others across the country, but do those have karaoke? Live music? A DJ until 2 a.m.? 1-800-Lucky is one of Miami’s first food halls, and it’s totally devoted to Asian cuisine, with seven vendors selling dishes encompassing Peking duck to Japanese ice cream. The karaoke room is open seven days a week by reservation and offers you and your friends bottle service. Did we mention there’s a record store and a convenience store?
BTW: Look for the Instagram-worthy “unicorn,” a colorful slush with sprinkles that comes in a small floatie of the mythical creature.
1-800-Lucky, 143 NW 23rd St. Miami, Fla. 33127
(Miami illustrator Juan Camilo Rodriguez for The Washington Post)
  1. Miami traffic is legendary, and everyone runs a little behind schedule. Plan accordingly.
  2. Besides Cuban coffee, Miami has a wide variety of cuisines worth tasting: Venezuelan arepas, Haitian puff pastries, Spanish paella and more.
  3. Impolite to stare? Not in Miami, where the opportunities to people-watch are endless, from Lincoln Road in Miami Beach to the Design District with its expensive shops. You’ll spot at least one celebrity at any given time.
(Miami illustrator Juan Camilo Rodriguez for The Washington Post)


Oleta River State Park
The Tequesta Indians called the banks of the Oleta River home thousands of years ago. Today, Oleta State Park is arguably Florida’s largest urban park, located about 30 minutes north of downtown Miami and just off the busy Biscayne Boulevard, which runs parallel to the water. Visitors can bike the grounds or kayak and stand-up paddleboard across the water to its local beach. Check out the butterfly garden after a light rain, when the sun comes out, to see the most of the colorful creatures.
BTW: Each month, the park offers a full-moon kayak tour, which takes visitors out into Biscayne Bay and stops at Oleta’s beach for music and s’mores.
Oleta River State Park, 3400 NE 163rd St. North Miami Beach, Fla. 33160
Monty’s Raw Bar
Yes, a dockside tiki bar can be kitschy, but hear us out: Monty’s is one of the best spots to sip a rum cocktail while enjoying the bay at dusk. The Coconut Grove bar and restaurant offers a raw bar with stone crabs fresh from the Florida Keys and tropical drinks such as a Rum Runner or strawberry margarita. The place is family-friendly and will even let you bring your dog. There is a Monty’s in Miami Beach, but the Coconut Grove location is the real local favorite for its marina, views of the water and walkable distance to the heart of the Grove.
BTW: Happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Monty’s Raw Bar, 2550 S. Bayshore Dr. Miami, Fla. 33133
Shark Valley bike path in the Everglades
Head about 40 miles west from downtown Miami and take a 15-mile bike ride through the country’s largest subtropical wilderness: Everglades National Park. Just watch out for the alligators, which regularly sunbathe on the trail. The Shark Valley visitor center offers bicycle rentals and, if you prefer to view the ecosystem from slightly higher ground, there is a guided tram tour. From the 45-foot observation deck, you’ll be able to catch a spectacular aerial view of the Everglades.
BTW: Take lots of water and sunblock. The only opportunity for shade is the observation tower, and it’s at the halfway point of the road.
Shark Valley Visitor Center, 36000 SW Eighth St. Miami, Fla. 33194
Microtheater Miami
Microtheater Miami gets its name for both its size and length of shows. Each 15-minutes-or-shorter performance is done in one of seven 160-square-foot storage containers that hold only 15 seats. First introduced in Madrid by 50 artists, the concept came to Miami in 2012 and is run in partnership with the Centro Cultural Español de Cooperación Iberoamericana, which promotes work from Spain, Latin America and Miami. Plays are offered in English and Spanish. Grab a drink from the bar or tacos from one of the vendors and sit on the patio while you wait for a show. Tickets are only $6 per play — affordable enough to see a few each night.
BTW: You’ll find happy hour specials on Thursdays.
Microtheater Miami, 1490 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, Fla. 33132
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
Walking distance to the city’s Design District is the Institute of Contemporary Art, which focuses on local, emerging artists. The museum provides public access to all of its works (art, performance, educational field trips and other projects) through its year-round free admission. Reserve tickets online before visiting and enjoy the outdoor sculpture garden, including the steel-and-plaster human figures sitting on benches. Even if you don’t park in the garage, you will notice the seven-story building whose facades are each designed by different architects and artists. One side includes 45 metallic cars in a vertical traffic jam; another has black-and white cartoon renderings — inspired by a mix of baroque paintings and Japanese anime — made from metal and fiber resin plastic.
BTW: Get there before 1 p.m. for a free guided tour.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, 61 NE 41st St. Miami, Fla. 33137
Marlins Park
Come for the baseball or come for the food, because Marlins Park has raised the bar on ballpark cuisine. Its dozen-plus eateries go beyond boiled hot dogs and nachos with fluorescent-yellow cheese: Think Mexican street food by chef José Andrés, Peruvian specialties, sushi, bubble waffles and mojo pork tacos. As you nosh, you can watch the game from the Clevelander club’s swimming pool. There’s even a DJ and dancers, resembling the scene at its sister hotel on South Beach. How many other stadiums have all this?
BTW: The Club: DEX offers a more traditional baseball club experience, with all-inclusive food, drinks and valet parking.
Marlins Park, 501 Marlins Way. Miami, Fla. 33125
Suzette Laboy
Suzette has lived in Miami since she was 5 and embraces its constantly warm but often finicky weather (hello, random afternoon rain showers). But even given that, she prefers to be outdoors, exploring Miami one park and neighborhood at a time.
Scott McIntyre
Scott is a Miami Beach-based contributing photographer for The Washington Post who has been proud to call himself a Floridian since 2011. He has photographed a variety of stories throughout the state and beyond, but his favorite focus has been finding the people, locales and ideas that make Florida the unique place that it is. While some like to make fun of Florida, he likes to celebrate it.