In A Considered Afternoon, we explore itineraries for decidedly local weekend afternoons spent discovering Miami’s hidden corners and unexpected treasures.
Downtown is suits and ties and the 9-to-5 grind for many of us, but with an influx of new residents, a ton of history and some surprising culture, it’s also a fun place to spend a Saturday. Park your car and spend an afternoon roaming the city center with us. Historic buildings, breathtaking views, great food and great stores are just a MetroMover stop away. Here are 6 local things to do in downtown Miami. (PS: You can visit these stops in any order, but we’ve built a suggested itinerary. Did we miss your favorite spot? Let us know.)
Noon: Brunch with downtowners
114 SE 1st St, Miami, FL 33131
Saturday Brunch 9:00am – 4:00pm
Fuel up with brunch at Downtown Bistro. The food’s solid (we like the french toast) and the mimosas flow liberally, which may be why we see so many downtowners there. Owners Jonathan and Ilona Carrell opened last year with an eye to downtown’s future growth, serving weekend brunch and weekday dinners when most places closed at 5.
1:00: Walk some history
777 International Mall
145 E Flagler St, Miami FL 33131
120 NE 1st St, Miami FL 33131
Downtown is full of architectural treasures— historic buildings from the 1920s and 1930s; faded relics of forgotten booms; shopping arcades slipping slowly into obsolescence. You could spend an entire day exploring the 60 buildings on the official historic district list, but here’s a few to get you started.
If you go north from brunch to Flagler Street, you’ll be surrounded by history. There’s La Época in the 1936 historic Walgreens building, the 1926 Olympia Theater and the 1939 Alfred I. DuPont Building to explore—but we suggest heading for the big “777” sign. Before it was a shopping center, this building was home to one of South Florida’s grandest movie theaters. The Miami Theatre, operated by Mitchell Wolfson’s Wometco company, opened in 1947 with an ambitious Streamline Moderne design. It closed in 1978 and was converted into a mall, with the Floridita Restaurant and Bar installed in the basement (one of Miami’s precious few subterranean spaces). Inside you can find the obscured remnants between the empty shops and neon lights. We like the view from the abandoned third floor, which has a small private residence where the projection room used to be.
Head out the north entrance and turn left to find the Shoreland Arcade, one of our favorite hidden places. The Shoreland Company (which developed Miami Shores) planned to build a 20-story skyscraper as its headquarters here, but went bankrupt in the 1926 real estate market collapse and never got beyond the first floor and the elevator doors (sounds familiar…). The only accessible entrance is through Italian restaurant Soya e Pomodoro — if they’re open and you’re nice, they might let you wander back for a look.
2:00: Batidos y jugos
Richard’s Fruit Center
124 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33132
Saturday: 10:30am – 5:30pm
Pick up some refreshment at Richard’s Fruit Center. Richard’s been in downtown for more than 20 years. Until Whole Foods opened last week, it was the only place in downtown with fresh local produce—but more importantly, they sling delicious smoothies, juices and milkshakes. We’re partial to the mamey shake and the green juice, but you can’t go wrong.
2:30: Study up
Miami Dade Public Library
101 W Flagler St, Miami FL
Walk (or take MetroMover’s Inner Loop from First Street Station to Government Center) to the Miami Cultural Center, home to the Miami-Dade Public Library and the HistoryMiami museum. The building looks like it should have some 17th century cannons mounted on it, but it actually opened in 1983 on a design from noted architect Philip Johnson (see Curbed’s great writeup).
This is the library’s main branch, which means it’s got an impressive collection. We got new library cards (mine has pirates on it!) and perused for new beach material. Side note scavenger hunt: see if you can find the peculiar vending machine items and educational posters featuring dated local celebrities (here’s looking at you, Kazaam).
Across the plaza you’ll find HistoryMiami and the great team that’s disproving the idea Miami doesn’t care about its history. We’re loyal fans of the museum’s many tours with the enjoyably encyclopedic Dr. Paul George; you can sign up after browsing the exhibits.
3:30: Find your beach
Take the MetroMover’s Inner Loop or Omni Loop to Bayfront Park for gorgeous afternoon views of Biscayne Bay and Port Miami— it’s the world’s busiest cruise port with 4.9 million passengers every year. Ponder the ever-present but never-occupied Flying Trapeze School on your way to the water and a comfy adirondack chair lining the little beach near the big fountain. If you need some Miami kitsch, Bayside Marketplace is a short walk to your north, but we’ll save our guide to $40 mojitos and the best worst Miami souvenirs for another time.
4:30: Happiest hour
1035 N Miami Ave, Miami FL
From Bayfront Park, take the MetroMover’s Omni Loop to Eleventh Street Station, and walk two blocks west to a place we are all proud to call a local favorite.
On weekdays, beer cans and some snacks are $3. On weekends (or anytime, really) we like anything from the imminently refreshing cocktail list. It’s beloved by many of you, but for those who haven’t been, the local vibe is unmatched.