The city of Miami is a metropolis beaming with diversity and places to visit, but when crowds of tourists aren’t your cup of tea, it’s time to explore the 305 like a local.
Village of Merrick Park – 358 San Lorenzo Ave.
Starting close to campus, the Village of Merrick Park is interesting enough to be one of Serena Williams’s favorite hangouts, according to a 2010 People Magazine interview. Merrick Park is not your average mall — it’s packed with luxurious stores, beautiful fountains and top-notch restaurants.
For some retail therapy, Merrick Park has a variety of shops, among them Carolina Herrera, Nordstrom and Pottery Barn. Equinox and SoulCycle also reside inside the village for Miamians who are fond of fitness.
Yard House has the coolness of your old sports bar, but it’s amped up to include every kind of beer you can possibly crave along with an extensive menu of gourmet bites. Bonus: the booths are giant and extremely comfortable.
Across the sidewalk is Sawa, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant and lounge. Enjoy some hookah and belly dancing performances at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) – 1103 Biscayne Blvd.
The growth of the art community in Miami over the past several years (especially among the younger crowd) culminated when the Perez Art Museum Miami opened in 2013.
The PAMM is as interesting and stimulating on the outside as it is on the inside. Its sustainable building was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and quickly became one of the most popular places for “artsy” Instagram pictures.
See the best of Biscayne Bay from a swing on the patio, grab a bite at Verde, the museum’s restaurant, wander through the many modern art exhibits and take a #WesternSunSelfie at the vibrant light installation by Mark Handforth.
The best part: the PAMM has free admission on the first Thursday and on the second Saturday of every month, making it a student-friendly spot. It’s accessible by Metrorail and Metromover.
Eighth Street “Calle Ocho”
Eighth Street is not where the Cane crowd heads out to on a weeknight to get crazy, but this Miami staple is still worth exploring.
Get your fill of Cuban culture at a traditional coffee counter. Ask for a café con leche, steamed milk with a shot of Cuban coffee, or a cortadito, a tiny shot of super sweet Cuban coffee, to channel your inner caffeinated Little Havana resident.
For delicious Japanese/Thai food, head over to Mr. Yum. Later, stop by Azucar Ice Cream Company. The giant ice cream cone and neon sign on the front of the store won’t be the only shocking thing for those with a sweet tooth. Try the Cuban vanilla called mantecado, caramel flan flavor and Abuela Maria, made from Maria cookies, vanilla ice cream and guava.
Calle Ocho even has your fill of live music and cocktails at the newly renovated and reopened Ball & Chain lounge. Rumor has it Billie Holiday performed there back in the day. Stop by 8th St. on the first Friday of every month for “Viernes Culturales,” or “Cultural Fridays,” a celebration of Little Havana featuring live music, dance performances and food deals.
South Pointe Park – 1 Washington Ave.
In terms of beaches, Miami is covered. To avoid the crowds in some parts of South Beach but still get nice sand and water, go to South Pointe Park. This less-frequented nook of South Beach reopened its pier last August after nearly a decade, so it’s perfect for watching boats pass, fishing and enjoying the ocean breeze.
Beaches in Miami are great any time of day, but South Pointe really shines at sunrise and sunset. Setting up a picnic blanket and listening to music with a friend is nothing short of a magical experience.