As the birthplace of the City of Miami, Downtown is saturated with history and culture. Home to many landmarks, including the city’s only Art Deco skyscraper, there’s no shortage of places and spaces to explore. Make an itinerary, then throw it away, because exploring Downtown is best done without a plan — embrace the aimless wander that will inevitably lead you through grassy green parks, reimagined buildings, and unexpected courtyards.
Front Yard Theatre Collective at the Olympia Theater
If you caught the O, Miami event “I Know Why the Nick Cage Screams” back in April then you might remember this group. Front Yard Theater Collectiveperforms monthly at the historic Olympia Theater’s lobby stage, doing a variety of shows that span from comedy to improv, live music and even some burlesque shows. The best part about the whole thing? The shows are free every third Wednesday of the month and always involve a little something different.
What they do: Live performance
Website: Visit Here
Hours: 6:30 p.m. Every third Wednesday of the month
Address: 174 E Flagler St.
Gesu Catholic Church
The oldest Catholic church in Miami is this one, right here in Downtown. The church holds mass every day in English and Spanish, but it’s the architecture that brings visitors through. The building was built back in 1896, the same year that the City of Miami was officially incorporated, and its bright pink facade stands out, even amid the bustle of the neighborhood.
Mana Contemporary Third Saturdays at the 777 Mall
Mana Contemporary bought 777 International Mall last year, and is on a mission to breathe new life into the relic. The space hosted a group of Puerto Rican artists and Prizm Art Fair during Art Basel, and now it hosts events every third Saturday, including programming for the O, Miami festival in April and a takeover by the filmmaking and experimental folks over at Borscht Corp. The mall will be hosting third Saturdays events at least through August as part of Mana Contemporary’s ongoing programming plan. Stop by to catch everything from local magazine sales to pop-up art installations.
What they do: Art installation
Website: Visit Here
Hours: Every third Saturday, hours vary
Address: 145 E Flagler St.
Peréz Art Museum Miami (PAMM)
An hour sitting on one of the swinging chairs on PAMM’s epic porch – which has sweeping views of PortMiami, the Intracoastal, and the Macarthur Causeway – is worth a visit it all on its own. So is having brunch at Verde, their great on-site restaurant. But you should definitely leave time to explore the museum, which features contemporary art with an emphasis on Latin American works (big deal Miami developer Jorge Peréz donated a bunch of his personal collection). Even the building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, is a work of art. Keep an eye on their calendar, which is always brimming with events and special offers on admission. Admission is free the first Thursday and second Saturday of every month.
Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
The Frost Museum of Science is finally back, and man was it worth the wait. It’s spectacular, all the way from the top deck, where you can peer down into the 500,000 gallon aquarium tank full of sharks, rays, and fish, to the bottom floor, where you can peer up into the tank via the Oculus. In between are exhibits on sight, flight, coral reefs, and the Everglades (to name just a few), all of which will delight the inner child in all of us. The planetarium is also stunning, and they’re bringing back those beloved laser shows. Come near the end of the day and watch the sun set over Downtown from the top deck.
Bayfront Park Ampitheatre
Much more than just the site of the world famous Ultra Music Festival and Pitbull’s New Year’s Eve parties, Bayfront Park is a Downtown Miami icon. The waterfront green space has a world-renowned performance venue, as well as community yoga classes, flying trapeze lessons, capoeira classes, and more. And the neighboring Bayside Marketplace is a kitschy outdoor mall and cruise port frequented by tourists that’s home to local and international stores, plus restaurants of all kinds.
Miami Center for Architecture and Design
With a Downtown lobby celebrating the city’s built environment, the Miami Center for Architecture and Design is dedicated to encouraging city aficionados to revel in Miami’s remarkable architecture. The center is multi-purpose, serving as a meeting space for locals and a welcome space for tourists seeking cultural events, attractions, and maps. There’s also several rooms available for lectures and educational programming. The center is currently housed in a temporary space near the former location (pictured here) and plans call for the MCAD to find a new, permanent space in the next few years.
(Photo Courtesy of Steven Brooke)
This brief has been updated.
Tucked into a courtyard behind the Centro Cultural Español, between Biscayne and N.E. 2nd Ave., MicroTheater Miami offers a unique theater-going experience. From Wednesday through Sunday, the eclectic theater opens up and hosts five to seven 15-minute plays in repurposed shipping containers. Tickets are just $5 dollars a play, and when you finish one, you can pop into the next container for another intimate performance. Wednesday and Thursday are for English-speakers, while the rest of the week, plays are performed completely in Spanish.
(Photo Courtesy of The Knight Foundation/Flickr Creative Commons)
The decadent Olympia Theater opened its Downtown doors in 1926, serving as Miami’s “grandest silent movie palace and Vaudeville house” for more than 40 years. By the 1980s, however, the aging theater needed significant repairs. Restoration projects have brought the sparkle and shine back to this magical venue. Today the Olympia Theater is a Downtown jewel, with a stunning night sky complete with twinkling stars on the ceiling, gold turrets lining the balcony, and an enormous stage for performances of all kinds, including jazz in the Lobby Lounge every second Wednesday of the month.
(Photo Courtesy of Phillip Pessar/Flickr Creative Commons)
The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building
The Dupont Building is Miami’s best Christmas present ever. Opening on Dec. 25, 1939, the building is Miami’s first and only Art Deco skyscraper. As a historic landmark, the Dupont Building was one of the first skyscrapers built after the Great Depression, signalling Miami’s economic recovery. The perfectly preserved building, with it’s iconic giant bank vault, hosts events all kinds.
(Photo Courtesy of Zack Balber/Ginger Photography)
For anyone interested in Miami’s winding and wacky history, this museum has got the low down. It’s been Downtown since the 1940s and is the largest history museum in the state. Explore the early days of Henry Flagler and Julia Tuttle, or fast forward to the 1980s and learn about the Mariel boat lift and how it shaped the city as we know it today. There are also plenty of activities, including great tours of neighborhoods by their resident historian, Dr. Paul George.