Experts choose the 9 best museums in Miami
Looking for a dose of culture to go with your fun in the sun? We got you covered with our top picks for museums in Miami.
When people think of Miami they usually picture South Beach, with its art deco buildings and celebrity appearances at posh nightclubs. This South Florida city is known for its parties and Caribbean-style weather, but has transformed significantly in recent years thanks to the influence of a local population eager to fill the culture void that spring breakers left behind.
Miami has produced renowned artists like Romero Britto and Richard Blanco, the youngest presidential inaugural poet. Don’t let first impressions fool you – this place has so much culture that it’s spilling out onto the city walls. Here’s our guide to the best museums in Miami to get your vacation started right.
The Perez Art Museum Miami, or “PAMM” for short, is more than just a museum; it’s a gathering place. The interactive sculptures by the water make the perfect backdrop to Biscayne Bay. We recommend bringing your own picnic and going on a clear day when you’re likely to spot dolphins swimming nearby. Inside the museum you’ll find a collection of rotating exhibits. Admission is free the second Saturday of every month, making this the go-to spot for families, students and young professionals on a budget. Keep an eye out for seasonal activities, including Labor Day and Fourth of July celebrations.
Immediately adjacent to the Perez Art Museum is the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Although this is a new museum still being reviewed by our experts, it has quickly risen to Instagram fame thanks to its show-stopping 30-foot oculus that allows guests to peer inside a 500,000-gallon tank. Inside, open-water marine life swims continuously as they would in the Gulf Stream, sharks included. There are opportunities to engage the marine life, like touching a starfish or sea urchin, and the state-of-the-art planetarium runs shows throughout the day and night, including laser light shows. Whether you want visit “for the gram” or are a true fan of science, this is the type of museum where you can unabashedly geek out.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden isn’t your typical museum. It is primarily outdoors and focuses on the education and conservation of tropical plants. The 83-acre plot is ideal for displaying larger than life artwork that wouldn’t normally fit through a museum door. Over the past decade it’s held multiple Chihuly glass exhibits, incorporating 10-foot glass sculptures seamlessly into nature. There’s a “Wings of the Tropics” butterfly garden that releases butterflies twice a day. We recommend visiting at night for a magical experience at special events like The NightGarden at Fairchild. This is also the site of fan favorites like the International Mango, Orchid and Chocolate Festivals.
If you’re looking for quintessential Miami style, you found it. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most popular wedding and photo shoot venues in the city. It is situated on the water and boasts a stunning 34-room mansion with 10 acres of European-style gardens, featuring ornate sculptures and landscaping reminiscent of the Boboli Gardens in Italy or Gardens of Versailles in France. Those interested in rare orchids should stop by the Orchidarium on the grounds. We recommend that you tour the main house, formerly the winter estate of James Deering, since it was built to incorporate its prime location on Biscayne Bay into the home’s design and function.
This quirky spot is out of the way but worth a visit. Built by Ed Leedskalnin, a man weighing a mere 100 pounds and standing 5 feet tall, it remains a mystery how he single-handedly carved and erected the massive limestone structures adorning the site. Ed engineered it such that the stones could be moved with ease, allowing guests of all ages to move giant boulders with minimal effort. The “castle” is more an outdoor home, complete with a sundial, telescope, obelisk, water well, fountain and furniture. All of the furniture comes in sets of three as he built the home in an attempt to win back his former fiancé, preparing for a fairy-tale ending that would never come. We suggest taking the walking tour included with the price of admission to give your visit more context and further explain this architectural marvel.
Wynwood used to be nothing but empty parking lots; now it’s the hottest arts district in Miami. Proof that Miami can change in an instant, this neighborhood started as a casual hipster hangout. It grew in popularity thanks to the monthly Wynwood Art Walk, featuring free admission and wine at participating art galleries in the area. At the center of the neighborhood lies Wynwood Walls, an urban graffiti park with vibrant murals. The artwork spread to include the facades of most buildings in the surrounding area, and the best way to appreciate it all now is to stroll around the streets at your leisure. Unfortunately, you’ll have a tough time finding parking now.
The Wolfsonian is affiliated with Florida International University, a public research university, and showcases how social and political movements have changed our daily reality throughout the years. The exhibits include everything from war propaganda posters to classic American artifacts from the 1940’s. There are over 180,000 objects total, displayed on rotation, making this one of the largest university art collections in the United States. We recommend attending a lecture or workshop here if any are of interest you; check the calendar online for a schedule of events during your stay.
You can’t travel to Miami without visiting Little Havana and learning more about the Cuban heritage that brings life into the city. This museum is also new, and our experts are in the process of reviewing it, but it is a nonprofit created with the purpose of highlighting the contributions of the Cuban exile community in the arts and humanities. The inaugural exhibition, “Forever Celia,” contains pieces from Celia Cruz’s wardrobe, awards, photographs and personal artifacts from her private collection. While still in its infancy stages, the museum is primed to become as much of a staple in Little Havana as the cafecito window. Note, it is closed on Mondays.