Miami, Florida, is a major departure port for lots of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, but it’s also a popular vacation destination for sun-seekers, foodies, culture buffs and nightlife lovers around the world. If you’ve ever visited the Magic City, you know why it tops so many travelers’ lists — the weather is sunny and warm basically year-round, the beaches are renowned, and every corner is suffused with culture — from the Caribbean cool of Little Havana and Little Haiti, to the vibrant Jewish communities of Miami Beach. If you happen to be have a cruise from Miami coming up and you’re not from the city, you should definitely spend some time before or after your vacation to explore this unique, colorful destination.
Only have one day in Miami? No problem! Granted, twenty-four hours is rarely enough time to soak up the full flavor of a city — especially one as big and diverse as this — but that doesn’t mean you can’t still pack plenty of unforgettable sights, food, and fun into a single day. With just a little bit of planning and research, you can easily hit a few of the city’s neighborhoods — each with its own unique vibe — in just 24 hours, with some incredible meals woven in to boot. Just follow our one-day guide to experiencing Miami and you’ll get a pretty well-rounded taste of this melting pot metropolis.
It’s worth it to wake up early and head straight for this historic landmark, which locals will agree is hands-down one of the best places to visit in Miami. A hundred years ago, this stunning waterfront villa was the winter estate of businessman James Deering. These days, it operates as a museum with guided tours. Once you see it for yourself, you’ll be glad you beat the crowds — Vizcaya is one of the most photographed spots in the city, and you’re going to want to snap lots of photos throughout the palatial home its sprawling gardens. Just make sure you save some time to just stand and take in the incredible views of Biscayne Bay.
Just a five-minute drive from Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, this peaceful seaside Miami neighborhood has plenty of grand estates, leafy avenues, and lush green areas — plus several pretty marinas where you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh ocean breezes. It’s also a great place to be when you’re hungry, as Coconut Grove has no shortage of amazing cafes and restaurants for breakfast and lunch. Load up on jamon serrano croquetas, refreshing watermelon salad, and the perfect Eggs Benedict at Glass & Vine by acclaimed Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli. It’s located it in beautiful Peacock Park. If you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, you can also do brunch at Ariete, where James Beard Award semifinalist Michael Beltran whips up incredible eats like guava pancakes, PB&J French toast, and fritas made with chorizo, papitas and spicy ketchup.
Now that you’ve refueled, it’s time to indulge in a little bit of eye candy. From Coconut Grove, head northeast along the coast to Wynwood, Miami’s Art District, where most of the walls are covered with impressive murals by talented local artists. The Wynwood Walls are a good place to start your art-fueled adventure — the pieces on display continuously change, so no two visits are ever the same. Once you’ve seen all the pieces here, you can pop into the many art galleries that line Northwest 2nd Avenue. Many of them are dedicated to showcasing local emerging talent, so it’s a great opportunity to pick up a piece you won’t find anywhere else. If the Miami heat has you craving a cold treat by the end of your visit, stop by 1-800-LUCKY for some matcha-and-black-sesame-swirl ice cream by the beloved brand Taiyaki, served in an Instagram-worthy waffle cone that’s shaped like a fish.
It’s time to hit the streets of South Beach, home to lots of great restaurants, trendy nightlife, and buzzing bars. Start your visit on lively Ocean Drive and soak up a hundred years of history as you stroll past perfectly preserved Art Deco hotels, like the Clevelander, Congress Hotel, and the Leslie. You’ll pass The Villa Casa Casuarina, formerly the Versace Mansion, as you head north. Don’t forget to snap a picture on the limestone steps that lead up to its gilded wrought-iron gates. Once you’re ready for something to eat, grab a table at Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine right on Ocean Drive. This family-friendly restaurant features live music most nights and a menu that spotlights delicious Cuban dishes like vaca frita (braised, shredded flank steak topped with tangy mojo), fricase de pollo (chicken stewed in a housemade criolla sauce with potato, raisins and olives), decadent tres leches, and of course, classic Cuban flan.
Once the sun goes down, Miami’s party scene heats up. Most of the nightclubs on South Beach don’t open until closer to midnight, but if you cross the bridge to Brickell you’ll find tons of fantastic spots ranging from locally-loved karaoke bars, to rooftop lounges where expert bartenders sling some of the best craft cocktails in town. If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, go to Sugar at East Hotel Miami. Perched on the 40th floor of the hotel and designed to resemble a lush rooftop garden, this gem is known for breathtaking views, delicious tapas, and Asian-inspired cocktails. If you want to keep the evening casual, swing by Better Days, a laid-back neighborhood dive staffed by bartenders who can craft any drink you name. From there, you can branch out to late-night watering holes like Blackbird Ordinary, RedBar Brickell, and Sweet Caroline, which hosts karaoke every night.
If you’re not yet ready to call it a night, check out Komodo. The brainchild of Dave Grutman (he’s behind iconic Miami nightclubs LIV and Story), Komodo is a high-end restaurant that specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine — but on Friday and Saturday nights, its third-story lounge turns into a club with a full bar and guest DJs every weekend. It’s a great place to spot celebrities, and the walls are covered with pop art by trendsetting artists. Still want to keep the party going? You can always head back to South Beach, where after hours mainstays like Mango’s Tropical Café, Rockwell, Basement, and Do Not Sit on the Furniture keep the beats going strong long into the early morning hours.
Trying to experience Miami in 24 hours can seem like a mission, especially when you can easily while away the day on one of the city’s action-packed beaches. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing that, if you dedicate some time to venturing deeper into this vibrant destination, you’ll be rewarded with lots of surprises. Besides — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to unwind on a beach during your Caribbean cruise from Miami. Why not take a city break?