Actually Cool Things to Do in Miami this Summer

Sayonara snowbirds!

At some point after one moves to South Florida, the word “summer” no longer evokes joyful images of barbecues, hours-long beach days, and camping in the great outdoors but instead conjures memories of wading to your car after an afternoon thunderstorm and seeking out air conditioning by any means necessary. But that doesn’t mean Miami summers can’t be fun. With zero snowbirds and fewer tourists, swarming crowds and complaints about how much better New York pizza is are way down. And you can get a tan in, like, five minutes flat.

We’ve also learned to adapt our favorite activities to the sweltering summer weather, and that means plenty of cool stuff to do inside, both literally and figuratively, plus opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with a refreshing dip or leisurely splash-around. So whether you’re checking out a new day club in South Beach or realizing why the Marlins insisted on having a retractable roof, here’s some actually fun things to do in and around Miami this summer.

Support local comedy

Miami Improv and Just the Funny
Stand-up comedy is, in fact, not dead at all, and given the endless material comedians have to work with in Miami it should come as no surprise that we’ve got a pretty good scene. Enjoy some ice cold AC at the Miami Improv in Doral, where you can catch talented comics doing their thing almost every night of the week. And if sketch comedy and improv are more your style, check out Just the Funny on Coral Way, with shows running every Saturday night.

Immerse yourself in Van Gogh

Ice Palace Studios
Perhaps by now you’ve seen the inherently Instagrammable installation going on in Wynwood this spring, where multimedia and digital artists have created an experience that literally places you inside some of Vincent Van Gogh’s greatest works. Social media does not do it justice, so head out there and reach for the Starry Night sky at Beyond Van Gogh. Pro tip: The full program takes about half an hour, so watch it once with your phone in your pocket to get the full experience, then go back through a second time for the ‘Gram.

Compete in a beer-fueled soccer tournament

Champions Doral
Running around on a soccer field for an hour and a half during the height of Miami summer sounds about as fun as working inside a coal furnace. This is why Veza Sur is holding its Copa Veza Sur soccer tournament—where you can win $2,000 and Inter Miami CF season tickets—completely indoors. The two-month tourney hosts 16 co-ed teams and runs from June 6 to August 8. And if you’re not so into playing soccer, you can still show up for the games, which’ll have plenty of cold beer, live music, and, of course, DJs.

Lounge at a swanky new hotels

Moxy and Hotel Goodtime
For most folks living in Miami, hanging out at a South Beach hotel is the kind of thing we only do when friends come to visit or we lose a bet. But this spring, a couple of slick newly opened hotels started enticing even the staunchest of locals out to the strip. The Moxy sports Serena, a breezy rooftop Mexican joint complete with food from the Coyo Taco people and mesmerizing beach views. Just down the  street, the Goodtime Hotel brings us South Beach’s first full-on dayclub with Strawberry Moon, and while summer might seem a little hot for day drinking, cooling off in the pool never hurts.

Volunteer to make Miami a better place

Various locations
Perhaps 2020 gave you a chance to do a little reflection, and you’ve decided you want to give something back to the city that’s given you so much. Or maybe you’re just looking for a way to meet new people that doesn’t involve throwing back tequila shots. Either way, there are plenty of ways to volunteer around South Florida, whether it’s cleaning up beaches, reading to kids, finding homes for stray dogs, or working at a food bank. Don’t know where to start? We’ve got a handy list of ways to volunteer around Miami right here.

Enjoy a slightly less crowded shoreline

Any of our beautiful beaches
While it remains to be seen if we’ll experience any drop-off in tourism this summer, we can at least rest assured that not all of them will be equipped to handle a sun-soaked beach day in mid-July. And if you don’t mind a little toasty sand and bath-like waves, summer is your chance to storm the beaches without fighting over a parking spot. Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne will have the lightest crowds, especially during the week, and you can always count on the sands of South Beach for a good time, with a little more room to spread out this time of year.

Dive into Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

While Everglades National Park gets most of the attention, hiking the Everglades during the summer months sounds like a mosquito buffet to us. But, little known fact: Dade County has the unique distinction of being the only county in America with not one but TWO National Parks. The other one, Biscayne National Park, is mostly underwater and best experienced by snorkeling or paddling through its mangrove islands and trail of mysterious shipwrecks. The park is also now offering scuba tours, where you can get up close and personal with the coral reefs, sharks, tropical fish, and century-old boats that make Biascayne so special.

Take yourself out to the ball game

LoanDepot Park
You may have missed it, but your Miami Marlins actually made the playoffs last year. They even swept the Cubbies in the Wild Card Series! This year’s team is the most promising we've had in years, and since the roof at the newly-named IonaPark is closed most of the time, you can enjoy the live action without immediately sweating out your beer or pausing every hour to let the rain pass. Tickets are also relatively cheap for a pro sporting event, so even if you’re not a big baseball fan, there are far worse ways to spend a summer night.

Oleta River State Park
Oleta River State Park | Globalaura/Shutterstock

Kayak through Oleta River

Oleta River State Park
In one of the more surreal natural experiences one can have in South Florida, Oleta River State Park offers you the chance to kayak through ancient mangroves and escape into a Florida of yesteryear. Then immediately pop out into a bay lined with massive condo towers. It’s a beautiful paddle through our dwindling nature, which takes you to uninhabited bay islands and beaches you can only reach by boat. If the water’s not for you, the park also has miles of mountain bike trails to explore. Of course, this is South Florida, so “mountain” is a loosely used term. But it’s the best you’re getting without a trip up the Turnpike.

Drive-in to a movie downtown

Nite Owl Drive-In and Tropical Market
Drive-in movies may have been the great American comeback story of 2020, as we once again fell in love with the concept of watching a film from the comfort of our cars. While many surfaced, the most accessible, and most consistent, is the Nite Owl Drive-in and Tropical Market on NE 14th Street, where in March you can catch classics like The Muppet Movie, Grease, and Rocky on the big screen. It costs about $20 per carload of two passengers, and while the ticket includes concessions you can always bring your own.

Serena Rooftop | Jeepney

Try one of our literal dozens of new restaurants

Various locations
This winter and spring, we were happily subject to a deluge of restaurant openings. The backlog of places that were supposed to open last year combined with spots slated to open in 2021 has given us everything from a new Filipino spot helmed by a James Beard nominee and a new pizza place from the Fooq’s folks to conveyor-belt-cool Kura Sushi in Aventura. No matter your taste or price range, there’s something out there worth checking out—and all of them offer plenty of tables in the air conditioned bliss.

Photograph the Wynwood Walls

Miami has one of the most impressive collections of ever-changing street art in the world, with blocks upon blocks of colorful, provocative murals that are never the same twice.  Beyond the official Wynwood Walls park, which just started charging admission this year, the al fresco murals act as a free outdoor museum and you'll find plenty of fodder for your Instagram around every corner. Plus, with no tour buses, you might actually be able to park!

Snorkel in the Keys

Key Largo
Showing your guests the natural wonders of the Florida Keys doesn’t mean enduring the two-lane torture all the way to Key West. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is only about an hour from Miami, and offers some of the best snorkeling in the world.  And if you just want to go swim off the shore here you won’t need a boat, a guide, or any reservations. Want even more to do in the Keys? We've got that guide right here.

Relax with a drink on the water, obviously

Various locations
The best way to enjoy our ideal weather is by having a drink on the water. Hit either Monty’s Sunset in South Beach or Monty’s Raw Bar in Coconut Grove for the classic experience. Smith and Wollensky in South Beach is the move for a higher-end vibe, or hit LOL on the Bay in Brickell for a cheap, hidden gem located between two apartment building pools. If you want a scene, grab a table at The Deck at Island Gardens or lounge at the new Joia Beach Club. That’s far from the extent of our outdoor options, though, so here’s a comprehensive guide to South Florida’s best drinking patios and rooftop bars.

Do a neighborhood beer and food crawl

Wynwood has a collection of the city’s best breweries, where you can enjoy cold suds outdoors at J. Wakefield, or take in the Miami-centric murals inside Wynwood Brewing. Then hit the oldest brewery in Cuba’s Miami outpost at Cerveceria La Tropical before kicking back on the sunny patio at Veza Sur. After you’ve warmed up with a beer, go on a walking art tour as you sample the best quick food in the neighborhood by grabbing some Asian cuisine at 1-800 Lucky, a slice at Pizza Tropical, and a couple of tacos at Coyo.

Visit one of our world-renowned museums

Various locations
Miami makes it more convenient than most to visit the city’s many showpiece museums, with both the Frost Museum of Science and Perez Art Museum Miami situated right downtown in Museum Park (not to mention Verde, one of America’s best and breeziest museum restaurants). HistoryMiami, only a short walk away downtown, is guaranteed to teach you something about your hometown and if you want to delve into the modern art scene, hit the Institute of Contemporary Art in Buena Vista, where you’ll see rotating exhibits of provocative pieces plus a massive outdoor sculpture garden, all free to visit. Round it out with a tour of the gleaming new Rubell Museum to catch sight of Miami’s most impressive private art collection.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.
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