Travel Guide to Miami – The Ultimate Bucketlist

The South Beach Boardwalk

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Miami? Is it the ocean and the palm tress that line the coast? The colorful Art-Deco architecture? How about the incredible food? There is no doubt that Miami is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the U.S. and it’s not hard to see why.

I grew up going to Miami throughout high school with my family. When I graduated college and got my first big-girl job, the first vacation I ever took myself on was to Miami. I went to one of the world’s largest music festivals called Ultra, which takes place during the famous Miami Music Week. I loved it so much I went two years in a row.

Miami will always hold a special place in my heart and brings back memories those carefree vacations. There is something for every type of vacationer there. If you’re a foodie, a fan of the nightlife or more of a sight-seeing type of person, there is no shortage of things to do in this city.

As summer came to an end in Chicago, my boyfriend and I were looking for a last-minute trip to any city where we could spend a few final days poolside in the sun. We found round trip flights for under $300 so choosing this city was easy. We flew out early Friday morning and came back late Sunday night. With only 48 hours in the city, we wanted to squeeze in as much as we could while still allowing ourselves some time to relax.

Where to Stay:

I recommend staying in South Beach (often referred to as Sobe), which is across the water from Miami proper. South Beach truly encompasses the vibrant energy you think of when people talk about Miami. We stayed at the Shelborne South Beach Hotel which is at 18th and Collins Ave. Our hotel backed up against the east coast of South Beach, so we were only a few steps away from the ocean.

I don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for a hotel with a pretty aesthetic. As a travel blogger, a huge part of what influences my booking decision is how the hotel looks in the photos I see online. Aesthetics may be meaningless for a lot of people but my I feel my duty is to influence you to travel to the prettiest of places. The Shelborne offered plenty of Insta-worthy photo ops.

The inside bar situated at the back of the lobby had booze stacked as high as the ceiling. The outdoor pool had cabanas and lounge chairs that lined the perimeter. There was even a cute beer garden in the way back of the property (which led to ocean access) that had yard games in turf grass and an adorable retro van which doubled as the Oasis Beer Garden sign.

Where to Eat:

If you’ve read my past blog posts or follow me on Instagram, you know that I am self-proclaimed foodie. Our daily itineraries tend to revolve around the different restaurants we want to try in the local area.

We treated ourselves to a nice meal on the first night at Osteria Del Teatro. This place is a fine dining Italian restaurant but they serve so much more than just pasta. Plus they have vegetarian and vegan options too! We got the burrata appetizer and even though it was a little pricey, it was worth every penny. Highly recommend.

One of the coolest places we ate all weekend was the Time Out Market Miami. The market has 18 food vendors and 3 bars to choose from which I loved because we got to try a little bit of several different cuisines. They also have a big screen TV on one end of the dining hall which made for a fun college football Saturday environment. I hear they’re putting one of these in Chicago so I’m pretty excited! 🙂

Española Way is a charming 2-block street where you can enjoy dinner or drinks on one of many outdoor patios. The pastel colored buildings with plants pouring out of several windows made this area feel like I was in another country. We enjoyed a Cuban breakfast at Havana 1957 which I highly recommend.

On our last day in Miami we stopped for a quick lunch at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila. Bodega is known for their street tacos (among several other menu items) served out of a taco truck inside the restaurant. Travel tip: look for the “hidden” door on the other side of the restaurant from the food truck and walk through it to find a 2-level bar with couches, pool tables and good tunes.

If you’re looking for a few other quick pit-stops (that also happen to be known for their Instagrammable décor) check out Dreamer Café for smoothies or the Dior Café pop-up for lattes and croissants located on the rooftop of the Dior in the Miami Design District.

What to do:

If you’re looking to do more in Miami than eat and lay by the pool, rest assured there is still plenty to keep you busy.

If you’re an early riser, rent a bike and cruise along the boardwalk while watch the sun rise over the beach. Most of the hotels in South Beach rent out bikes for free but there’s also public city bikes that you can rent for a small fee.

You’ve probably heard of the famous Wynwood Walls. There are dozens of colorful murals to check out featuring artists from around the globe. The best part about this art district is that it’s absolutely free!

The Viscaya Museum and Gardens was my favorite part of our trip. The property is the former estate of wealthy businessman James Deering. Even though we went here on a rainy, grey morning, the villa looked absolutely beautiful. The property sits right on the ocean and there’s a giant garden off to one side that you can walk through as well. The cost of admission is just $22/person.

Check out “Gone but not forgotten” at Faena Hotel. This art piece is like nothing you’ve seen anywhere else. It’s a multi-million dollar, 24-karat gold coated skeleton of a wooly mammoth that sits in the back property of the Faena Hotel. Be sure to grab a drink at the bar on your walk out back.

Miami is famous for its colorful Art-Deco lifeguard towers that line the beach. These brightly colored stands are all a variety of colors, so they make for a great photo-op if you’re looking to add a pop of color to your Instagram feed.

One of my fondest memories from coming to Miami as a younger girl is shopping along the Lincoln Road Mall with my family. Shops and restaurants line the road which is pedestrian friendly both day and night.

Miami always provides me with nothing but great memories. If you’ve never been and are on the fence about visiting I would definitely tell you to take the leap! You won’t regret it!


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