Lifestyle

Actually Cool Things You Can Do This Winter in Miami

Winter is prime time in South Florida.

Gulfstream Park Village
Gulfstream Park Village | Photo Courtesy of Gulfstream Park Village
Gulfstream Park Village | Photo Courtesy of Gulfstream Park Village

Not that anyone ever confused Miami with being even remotely like the rest of America, but in this batshit insane year that’s been 2020, we’ve become even more of an outlier. So while some cities and states appear to be headed back inside for the winter, Miami is collectively saying “We didn’t sweat our way through hurricane season to stay at home!” Debatable logic? Sure. But the fact remains winter is prime time in South Florida, and we’ve got plenty going on to keep you occupied.

The abundance of nature outside of the city is best enjoyed during our cooler months—as are things like live outdoor theater, the Hollywood boardwalk, and the beaches that have brought people here for decades. Most of our best attractions are back open, too, and if you like drinking with a warm breeze in your face, we’ve got plenty of places for that. So read on for some actually fun stuff to do in Miami this winter—just make sure you stay safe while doing it.

Ocean Drive promenade
Ocean Drive promenade | lazyllama/Shutterstock

Work out outside

Free
Various locations
Now that the weather isn’t just tolerable, it’s downright perfect, winter is the perfect opportunity to eschew the gym and flex your muscles outside. You can run the boardwalk along Miami Beach or across the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne. You can also swim in the calm waters of Biscayne Bay, or hit one of our many beautiful parks for some light calisthenics.

Get out and enjoy a slightly-less-crowded beach

Free
Biscayne Bay, Miami Beach
Well, after all the hubbub about reopening the beaches, it seems we’re collectively back to not being able to remember the last time we went. Amazing how fast that happens. But the upside of our slower-than-usual tourist season and minimal regulations is you'll be able to lay out without hearing someone complain about how much better it is in New York, for once. Crandon Park and Bill Baggs beaches are typically less crowded since they’re on Biscayne Bay. Along Miami Beach, head north of 22nd street and you won’t find nearly as many people.
 

Hike in the Everglades

Free-$
Everglades National Park
Though “hiking” is a loosely used term in a place with almost zero elevation gain, if you can appreciate the beauty of a big cypress swamp and rickety birds soaring over black water, winter is the perfect time to get out and explore the Everglades. The bugs are barely there, and you can spend a day in the park without packing your body weight in water. Everglades National Park has plenty of easy trails at both Shark Valley and Flamingo. Or, if you don’t want to go into the park, cruise down US-41 to Loop Road and hike through the water on the 4.7-mile Gator Hook Trail.

Photograph the Wynwood Walls

Free
Wynwood
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.  Even beyond the official Wynwood Walls park, 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.
 

Drink milkshakes and wait in line for the best cinnamon rolls you'll ever have

$
Homestead
Miamians are pretty averse to waiting in line for anything—except for the cinnamon rolls at Knaus Berry Farm, which even midweek will have you waiting minimum half an hour. The farm is open for the winter, and after you visit head a few miles down the road Robert Is Here for some fresh fruit, a milkshake made with said fruit, and the baddest petting zoo animals you’ll ever meet.

Relax with a drink on the water, obviously

$
Various locations
The best way to enjoy our ideal winter 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. 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
Wynwood has a couple 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. 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.
 

Watch live theater in abandoned storefronts

$$
Miami Beach
Miami New Drama gives us a glimpse into what live performances may look like in the post-COVID era, as it brings its new 7 Deadly Sins show to abandoned Lincoln Road storefronts. As the mall emptied out in the wake of the pandemic—and live indoor shows are still a no-go—the company is performing seven short plays in empty retail spaces, where audiences of ten or fewer watch from outside and rotate between the shows until they’ve seen all seven. Each play is based on one of the seven deadly sins, and, no, there’s no food served at Gluttony.

Bask in the glow of holiday lights all over the city

Free-$
Various locations
People up north love to snicker at our palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights, muttering stuff like “that ain’t really Christmas” even though we know they’re just all jealous. Our balmy weather makes enjoying holiday light displays all the more pleasant, and you can catch great ones all over Miami. CityPlace Doral has a colorful Christmas-themed water show each night. Gulfstream Park has over 250,000 LED lights that dance to Trans-Siberian Orchestra every hour. ZooMiami is lit up in over a million lights, and they’ve got cool animals! And venerable Pinecrest Gardens had covered its tropical landscape in glittering lights for the season.
 

Visit one of our world-class museums

Free-$$
Various locations
Miami makes it more convenient than most big cities in America to visit our showpiece museums, with both the Frost Museum of Science and Perez Art Museum Miami both situated right downtown in Museum Park. They each offer envy-inducing bayfront views, whether from the back patio of the art museum or the rooftop stingray petting exhibit at Frost. HistoryMiami is only a short walk away in downtown, and is guaranteed to teach you something about your hometown. 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 perfect for our winter weather. And best of all, it’s free.

Drive through magical Christmas villages

$$-$$$
Various locations
Our legendary Santa’s Enchanted Forest is not gracing us with its presence this year, but instead Santa has moved his enchantment to a couple of cool drive-through experiences. At Miramar Regional Park, you can roll through several “villages” like the Elves’ Toy Factory and Singing Carolers’ Town. At Tamiami Park you’ll find Santa’s Spectacular, a drive-through musical with live action characters, an apres-ski shack, and a huge holiday lighting showcase.
 

Road trip to an Indian village and airboat rides

$$-$$$
Everglades National Park
Getting to the Everglades from downtown Miami without traffic takes less than half an hour, where just a short drive down the Dolphin Expressway dumps you on US-41 and into the River of Grass. Along the side of the road, you’ll find the Miccosukee Indian Village, where you can learn about our native people’s culture as well as catch an alligator wrestling show and peruse their collection of crafts. You can also hop on an airboat taking you into the thick of the glades, and depending how far down you go you’ll see wild hogs, alligators, and creepy mangrove islands.

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Matt Meltzer is a Miami-based contributor for Thrillist, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, former pageant judge in the Miss Florida America system, and past contributor to Cosmopolitan magazine. Matt graduated with a BBA from University of Miami and holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Florida. He currently lives in Miami with his Betta fish, Bob.