One by one we are exploring the neighborhoods of Miami and today is the turn of the downtown, the city center opposite the famous South Beach which lies beyond Biscayne Bay. The downtown is not only the financial, business and government hub, it is also an area with museums, shops, hotels, entertainment and sporting events. The bay is overlooked by condominiums and palm trees and, as we enter the heart of the city, the skyline displays the silhouettes of skyscrapers born from the inspiration of famous and emerging architects.
We started to create a panoramic picture of this city that knows how to attract visitors, starting with the beaches of Miami, the sophisticated neighborhoods of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, the cafes, restaurants, shops, art galleries, premises and art deco buildings of Miami South Beach, to finish with the sparkling Cuban reality of Little Havana.
Perhaps Downtown it will not have the same charm as the aforementioned neighborhoods, but those in search of events, science and art will not be able to avoid passing through here, and if the time is not enough, there is always the Metromover, the elevated transport system from which enjoy a nice panoramic view and get a synthetic idea of the city center without too much effort.
- What to see in Downtown Miami
- Bayfront park
- Freedom tower
- American Airlines Arena
- Frost Science Museum
- Perez Art Museum – PAMM
- Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
- History Miami
- Olympia Theater
- Alfred I DuPont Building
- Gesu Catholic Church
- Events in the Downtown
- Where to shop
- Where to eat
- Where to sleep in Downtown Miami
What to see in Downtown Miami
The downtown area, as the Americans call the city center, looks like an area in constant development; until 15 years ago it was very unsafe to attend but now it has taken on an important role of social, tourist and economic aggregation.
We like to start exploration from Bayfront park (301 Biscayne Blvd.) a green area near Bayside Marketplace and American Airlines Arena. The park overlooks Biscayne Bay; we immediately head towards the sandy beach embellished with swaying palm trees, a presence that seems obvious here in Florida, but which is always appreciated, especially to take a relaxing break in the shade of the shady branches moved by the breeze.
And speaking of relaxation: here you will probably see some clubs intent on doing yoga, 2 steps from the location where events and concerts are also held. After resuming the walk inside the park we notice an amphitheater, an outdoor pavilion and a children's play area with a sculpture that attracts our attention: it represents the typical marine creatures of Miami: a sea turtle, a dolphin and a manatee breaking into a wave. It is located in the Lee & Tina Hills playground area to the southeast of the park.
We continue towards the Freedom tower (600 Biscayne Blvd.), an octagonal shaped tower rising from a classic-style historic building with a richly decorated facade. The design of the tower was inspired, perhaps not too happily, by the bell tower of the Giralda, Seville's cathedral.
We are in the "Ellis Island of the South", with an evident reference to New York City, as, after having been the headquarters of the Miami News newspaper, the building was a refuge center for Cuban immigrants from 1962 to 1974. All of the together they occupy a space that stands out in the blue sky of Miami while the other modern downtown skyscrapers form a group a little more distant.
The building houses the Museum of Art & Design (MOAD) which exhibits works of visual arts and design together with cultural, historical and educational exhibitions. Inside you shouldn't miss the spectacular mural (12 x 6 meters) depicting the two hemispheres: it is the New World Mural. The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 13pm to 18pm and on Sunday from 13pm to 20pm (official site), if you pass by in the evening you will notice the illuminated structure.
American Airlines Arena
Next to the Freedom Tower, near the waterfront, the large white and round shape of theAmerican Airlines Arena (601 Biscayne Blvd.) with large front windows that take on various colors at night. The building is the home of the NBA's Miami Heat but also hosts events and shows throughout the year. Inside there are restaurants, small catering areas and an inevitable gift shop.
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At a reasonable distance there are spaces to park, especially near the Bayside Marketplace and the nearby Freedom Tower, or you can use the metrorail and metromover service, two forms of public transport that we talked about in our article on how getting around in Miami. Get close to the HEAT is the hugely successful promotion that allows holders of a home game ticket to watch their favorite players warm up from opening to the public up to 15 minutes before the match.
Frost Science Museum
There is so much to see at the Frost Science Museum (1101 Biscayne Blvd.), a large, modern white structure. In this harmonious building, knowledge of the solar system, the universe, the mind, the human body, ecosystems, flight and technological innovations is deepened. After that, must-sees in the six levels are the 250-seat planetarium and its large dome and the futuristic three-story aquarium that studies the marine ecosystem of South Florida, from life on the surface of the water. up to the maximum depths.
We report i Laser Fridays which, as the name already suggests, are laser shows that take place on Friday nights at a cost of $ 10 for adults and $ 8 for children.
Perez Art Museum – PAMM
Of a completely different kind is the Perez Art Museum – PAMM (1103 Biscayne Blvd.) established in 1996 for those who love modern and contemporary art, dedicated to organizing international exhibitions and collecting works from the 20th and 21st centuries, including several by Cuban artists. Even before going up the stairs, “falls of green” catch your eye, an original welcome with plants that descend from the ceiling of the external portico.
The museum is spread over three floors in which there are separate galleries that host both permanent and temporary works of art. We suggest everyone to visit it, admirers or not, because beyond the artistic preferences it would be difficult not to appreciate the chromatic and emotional impact of the works.
Also very welcome are the daily tours lasting 45 minutes included in the entrance ticket and managed by the museum guides at certain times. Overall, the outdoor plaza is worth visiting for the tropical vegetation and the remarkable view of Biscayne Bay. At the time of our visit the museum had the following hours: closed on Wednesdays, open on Thursdays from 10 to 21 and the other days from 10 to 18.
Entrance to the Pérez Art Museum
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
THEAdrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd.) is a large multifunctional center where many events take place. The complex that externally highlights its modern style, was born thanks to the benevolence of Adrienne Arsht, a business woman and great philanthropist who has constantly supported the artistic growth of Miami and two other cities: Washington DC and New York City.
The facility consists of several buildings, such as the headquarters of the Florida Grand Opera Miami, the New World Symphony and the Miami City Ballet. Parts of the complex such as the Ziff Ballet Opera House and Knight Concert Hall are hired out for weddings, meetings, conferences and performances.
In this high-sounding place, the more intimate Carnival Studio Theater with theatrical performances, dance, comedy and cabaret should not be forgotten. Free tours of approximately one hour are offered on Mondays and Saturdays at 12 noon for up to ten people. Some car parks in the area for this location are Omni Garage (453 NE 15th ST.), Lot C (1201 NE 2nd Ave.) and Melody Tower (corner of NE 14th St. and NE 2nd Ave.), but it can also be easily reached by Metromover.
To know the local history we recommend theHistory Miami (until 2010 Historical Museum of Southern Florida, 101 W. Flagler St.), a museum created to make people understand the importance of Miami's past, which is why it specializes in the conservation and study of historical and archaeological finds from all over South East Florida, including the Keys and the Everglades. In the museum there is also a folkloristic center in order to keep alive the traditions related to music and dance.
In the building, the external plaza which resembles a Spanish fortress is also worth a visit. To mention the weekend gallery tours, 40-minute guided tours that take place both on Saturdays and Sundays at 13pm and 15pm.
THEOlympia Theater (174 E. Flagler St.) is one of the flagships of this downtown already full of pleasant discoveries. Opened in 1926, it is a splendid historic theater in a Mediterranean revival style with a hall of striking architecture, worth seeing. Thanks to the establishment of the Olympia Center, this heritage is preserved, thus allowing thousands of spectators to enjoy quality performances and even free events open to all in a scenario that must be seen, rather than described.
Alfred I DuPont Building
THEAlfred I DuPont Building (169 E. Flagler St.) is an art deco style building in black marble and granite that is spread over 17 floors with beautiful rooms, ballrooms, all with elegant details, opulent décor, superlative wooden ceilings and exclusive offices in the 'attic. Here are held events of different kinds: birthdays, debuts in society, engagements, weddings, but also exhibitions, parties and meetings.
Those like us who do not participate in an event can admire the building from the outside at night when the lights give some glimpses of the interior but can also do much more: call 001-305-777-1602 and book a tour (why not , the one about ghosts in October?).
Gesu Catholic Church
Our downtown visit ends at Gesu Catholic Church (118 NE 2nd St.), with its delicate pink exteriors, the oldest Catholic church in South Florida built in 1896. The structure soars upwards, tapering and the front arches invite us to enter. Inside we immediately notice the decorated and brightly colored windows but also the wide vaulted ceiling catches our eye. This is the church where, during the Second World War, soldiers who came to Miami to train received the sacraments.
Events in the Downtown
From May and June takes place in various locations around the city Miami Fashion Week, a paid fashion event where the collections of Caribbean and Latin American designers are presented. On this occasion we point out the exclusive and expensive gala that the honorary president Antonio Banderas holds at the Alfred I DuPont Building (169 E. Flagler St.) in favor of his Lagrimas y Favores foundation and that of a pediatric hospital.
Il 4 July, American Independence Day, theAmerican Birthday Bash at Bayfront Park (301 Biscayne Blvd). There are various activities throughout the day, many of which start in the early afternoon. The fireworks then start around 21pm, so it is obvious to strongly advise you to arrive on time.
At the beginning of December takes place Art miami, a large and highly anticipated event featuring 20th and 21st century artwork at the location at One Miami Herald Plaza @ NE 14th Street, on Biscayne Bay between the Venetian & MacArthur Causeway. We would like to affirm that the works are of a high standard and the great variety of styles and shapes makes the visit very pleasant. The opening hours are from 11 to 20 from Wednesday to Saturday and until 18 on Sunday.
Where to shop
Downtown isn't the best place to shop in Miami, especially for those looking for something quaint; large chains and shopping malls are in fact the main resources for those in search of boutiques or souvenirs. If you like the genre you can still find bread for your teeth: overlooking Biscayne Bay, the Bayside marketplace (401 Biscayne Blvd.) is a lively, airy shopping mall, with indoor and outdoor areas, spread over two floors with shops, music and food; a place that exudes colors, energy and worldliness.
Even long Flagler Street there is a large concentration of shops, for example the famous department store Macy's (22 E. Flagler St.), along with many jewelers, including the Richard’s Gem & Jewelry (33 Flagler St.) seems particularly popular. Moving south, in the neighboring area of Brickell, is the Mary Brickell Village (901 S Miami Ave), a pleasant open-air mall with bars, restaurants and luxury boutiques in the heart of the financial district.
Where to eat
If you want to stay in the Bayside Marketplace area (401 Biscayne Blvd.) you will find mostly chains, and this does not necessarily mean low quality, indeed there are some that at least once in the US would be worth a try, if only for the particular " themed atmosphere ". Here are 2 to evaluate:
- Da Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., the restaurant inspired by the film Forrest Gump, the main ingredient is obviously the shrimp, which is found in many dishes, for example with the cut of sirloin steak, puree and fried onion rings; but there is no shortage of classic burgers with fries and cesar salad. A tip: be sure to try the brownie with vanilla ice cream garnished with espresso sauce and whipped cream, it's worth it! The restaurant has a relaxing outdoor patio, while inside it is decorated in a marine style, with the usual signs "Run, Forrest Run".
- THEHard Rock Cafe of Miami strikes for its imposing structure, which imposes itself on the profile of the entire commercial area, but also for the classic memorabilia hanging on the walls and scattered everywhere (for lovers of the genre I point out the historic guitar by Eddie Van Halen ). The venue features live music, a popular gift shop and classic American cuisine, including burgers, grilled salmon, mac'n cheese with chicken, jumbo combo (combination of the most popular appetizers) and cheese cake with pieces of Oreo cookies.
If you are tired instead of the usual chains but do not want to stray from the Bayside Marketplace, you can evaluate The Knife, an Argentine steakhouse that offers buffets with appetizers, vegetables, desserts and the inevitable typical meat cooked on the grill. Also in the area, those looking for a special moment can opt for Of yours (415 NE 2nd Ave.), a romantic location where you can appreciate the panoramic views of the city and Biscayne Bay while enjoying contemporary American cuisine. Meat lovers should try it too Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue, a typical American diner serving spare ribs, pulled pork and various cuts of meat (we talked about it in our article where to eat in Miami). Getting there is easy, just take the metromover and get off at First Street Metromover Station.
At the South East Financial Center is located Z (200 S. Biscayne Blvd.) offering global cuisine following the seasonality of ingredients. The venue organizes popular events such as live music on Thursdays and a DJ in the courtyard on Fridays. From Monday to Friday from 15 to 18 pm there is an air of celebration with happy hour. The Zest Market is open from 7am to 16pm and offers snacks, sandwiches, soups and salads.
Where to sleep in Downtown Miami
We suggest some accommodation facilities. In the heart of downtown near the Frost Science Museum, the Perez Art Museum and at the gateway to the Brickell financial district is the JW Marriot Marquis (255 Biscayne Blvd. Way) an elegant and modern hotel with sophisticated design and technology, with a high-sounding name but often lower in cost or similar to many other hotels in the area. Contemporary guest rooms and suites have views of Biscayne Bay. The hotel features restaurants, spa, fitness center, swimming pool and meeting rooms.
Even from the sophisticated rooms and suites of theHilton Miami Downtown (1601 Biscayne Blvd.) enjoys panoramic views of Biscayne Bay at an affordable cost. The hotel also offers valet parking ($ 28), a business center, concierge desk, gift shop, swimming pool and restaurants. Two pets are allowed per room with a maximum weight of 34 kilos.
Within easy reach of downtown shops, the financial district and the Metromover is theHoliday Inn Port of Miami-Downtown (340 Biscayne Blvd.) overlooking Biscayne Bay. The rooms and spacious suites are equipped with free wi-fi and a coffee machine. The hotel has restaurants, business center, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, concierge desk, laundry, valet parking ($ 27).
Near the port, the Miami Sun Hotel (226 NE 1st Ave.) is a hotel that combines minimal and modern style with a hint of art deco. The rates are low, the rooms are embellished with very particular headboards, the wi-fi is free and the view is over the city. The property has a restaurant, laundry and computer area in the lobby.
Search all Downtown Miami hotels
If you want some more advice on other hotels in Miami Downtown, and have a more general idea of the other neighborhoods of the city, you can read our article on where to sleep in Miami.
We are taking the time to explore all the Miami neighborhoods that show us their diversity and their facets but it is evident that the energy and the desire to grow are common denominators. Now we also know the downtown and its many faces, the one dedicated to business, the cultural one, the interest in the arts, sport, events and forms of entertainment without neglecting shopping, good food, the desire to relax and, last but not least, to experience the outdoors, which could not be missing since we are in Florida!