How to do downtown Miami in a day – a guide for locals by locals

A guide for locals (and visitors) by locals – an itinerary for downtown Miami in a day

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.)

11:00: Brunch with ze French

Café Bastille
248 SE 1st St, Miami, FL 33131
Saturday Brunch 8:00am – 4:00pm

Fuel up with a leisurely brunch at Café Bastille, an all day French café (or, as they say, “everything you love in Paris, in Miami”). Their Brunch Safety Kit is almost worth a trip downtown alone. Choose between the Bottomless Mimosa, the Bottomless Strawberry Bellini, the Sangria Pitcher and Fresh Fruits or the Bloody Mary Pitcher (and if you do partake in the full kit, make sure to catch an Uber home, please). The Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche is solid goodness.

1:00: Walk some history

777 International Mall
145 E Flagler 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.

1:30: Walk some more history

Shoreland Arcade
120 NE 1st St, Miami FL 33131

Head out the north entrance and turn left to find the Shoreland Arcade (120 NE 1st St, Miami, FL 33131), 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: Study up

Miami Dade Public Library
HistoryMiami Musem
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

The Corner
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 weekends (or anytime, really) we like anything from the imminently refreshing cocktail list. And, by the way, can someone say BEER FLIGHTS! It’s beloved by many of you, but for those who haven’t been, the local vibe is unmatched.

6:30:  Dive into dining

Soya e Pomodoro
120 NE 1st St, Miami, FL 33132, USA

Head back to Soya e Pomodoro for a charming does of Italian goodness. Order the Fazzoletti di Formaggio e Pera (fresh pear & cheese stuffed pasta w/sautéed baby shrimp in a creamy ricotta sauce), because not only will this be a dish you will always remember, but at $19, it’s an inexpensive dinner for gorgeous Miami food. Of course, splurge a little more for some yummy dessert.

8:30: Relax with a view

Bayfront Park
Head east two blocks to Bayfront Park and find a bench or stroll around to watch the ginormous cruise ships and unbelievably pricy yachts roll in and out. You’ve done downtown and now you can just chill.

10:00: Head home or Staycation

Kimpton Epic Hotel
270 Biscayne Blvd Way, Miami, FL 33131

We’re all about boutique hotels and Kimpton does them oh-so-well. The rooms are always chic and clean, with sweet amenities. Plus, the hotel has two pools on a pool terrace, an outdoor cigar lounge, and if you want more spirits to close your night, head to Maison F.P. Journe (this is pretty exquisite, so reservations are required).

Originally written by Chris @ The New Tropic. Updated with additions – August 2, 2021.

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