The All-Time Best Museums Worth Visiting in South Florida
Explore beyond Wynwood.
Much is made of Miami’s art scene, deservedly so. But with so much focus on murals and NFTs, sometimes South Florida’s lineup of incredible museums gets overlooked. With three major cities and culturally-rich smaller cities in between, our museums run the gamut from contemporary art to meticulous Asian gardens. And because South Florida doesn’t sprawl as much as some other top-tier metropolitan areas, spending the day visiting a museum a county away is pretty easy. So, if you’re looking to escape the heat this weekend, or just need to do something with your kids that doesn’t involve an iPad, here’s a guide to South Florida’s best museums.
Hidden in plain sight at the west end of Las Olas you’ll find Broward County’s best showcase for contemporary art. Though the museum isn’t huge, it’s already become renowned for its exhibits of emerging Floridian and Caribbean artists, while adding retrospectives of Keith Haring and other big names. NSU also regularly hosts meet and greets with artists when their exhibits open, giving almost unprecedented access to members and Ft. Lauderdale locals. The gift shop is a hidden gem, too, selling quirky, funny gifts in addition to traditional souvenirs. And if you’re looking to discuss whatever world-class exhibit you’ve just seen, swing by one these excellent Fort Lauderdale restaurants.
Know before you go: NSU Art Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 am - 5 pm, and on Sunday from noon - 5 pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, and $5 for students with ID. The museum is free for members, NSU students and faculty, and children under 12. It’s also free the first Thursday of the month.
When bigtime touring exhibits start their journeys across the country in the far southeastern corner of America, they’re not starting in Miami or even West Palm Beach. No, they take over the rotating space at the Boca Museum in Mizner Park. Over the past year or so it’s debuted Machu Picchu and the Golden Empires of Peru, which included a mind-bogglingly realistic VR trip to Machu Picchu. And a collection of painted backdrops from the golden age of Hollywood, with tableaus from The Sound of Music, Ben Hur, and other classic films. The hits will continue coming to Boca too, with just enough frequency that it’s worth a quarterly trip to one of the coolest suburbs in South Florida. Afterwards, hang around Mizner for a meal with options ranging from super fresh seafood at Corvina to funky Asian-inspired plates and cocktails at recently expanded Kapow! Noodle Bar.
Know before you go: The Boca Raton Museum of Art is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am - 5 pm, Thursday from 10 am - 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12 - 5 pm. Admission for adults is $12, children 12 and younger are free.
Miami’s largest art museum is as much a showcase of architectural mastery as any other art form, where large rooms, rounded walls, and hanging gardens with more than 54,000 plants give it an aesthetic like no other art museum in the world. The view’s not bad either, where you’ll catch glimpses of Biscayne Bay in between showcases of contemporary art from throughout Latin America and the world. The museum is also home to Verde, among the best museum restaurants in America even without its breezy bayside terrace.
Know before you go: PAMM is currently open Friday - Monday from 11 am - 6 pm, and on Thursdays from 11 am - 9 pm. Admission is $16 for adults, $12 for seniors, students, and children seven to 18. Children six and under are free. The museum also offers scheduled guided group tours Thursday - Sunday, including a Spanish language tour on Saturday.
Perhaps no museum is more important to the future of Miami than the Frost, where the top level educates visitors on the fragile ecosystem of the Everglades and why we must act to protect it. Don’t skip over it on your way to the stingrays tank, where you can pet rays and enjoy a panoramic view of downtown and the Port of Miami. The Instagram star of the show is the Oculus—the window into the gulf stream aquarium you’ll no doubt recognize from your favorite influencer. Frost Science is also a fabulous place to go on Friday nights for their epic laser shows set to everything from Beyonce to the soundtrack of Stranger Things.
Know before you go: The Explorer Ticket is the best way to go, which grants you access to all the exhibits and demonstrations, plus one show in the planetarium. That’s $29.95 for adults and $21.95 for children three to 11. The Frost Museum opens daily at 10 am and closes at 6 pm.
South Florida’s original contemporary art museum has been around since 1981, but moved into its spacious new digs in 1996. The North Miami facility regularly plays host to free jazz concerts in its breezy MOCA plaza courtyard, and features provocative rotating exhibits from up-and-coming young artists. Currently, MOCA is showcasing two Miami Art Week breakout artists. Didier Willian: Nou Kite Tout Sa Deye, and photographer Leah Gordon’s 20-year black and white photo retrospective of Haiti, Kanaval, run through April 16, 2023.
Know before you go: Admission is $10 and free for MOCA members and North Miami residents with ID. Open Wednesday 12 - 7 pm, Thursday through Sunday from 10 am - 5 pm.
Few things are more fascinating to a South Floridian than seeing how this city went from a swamp to a major world metropolis in just over 100 years. You’ll learn all about Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle, and the rest of the characters that made Miami what it is, as well as rotating exhibits exploring everything from the legacy of Hurricane Andrew to photos of the lost era of elderly Jews in South Beach. The museum also offers frequent walking tours with preeminent Miami historian Paul George, where even Dade County lifers will learn something new about the place we call home.
Know before you go: Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 am - 4 pm; Sunday 12 - 4 pm. Closed on major holidays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $5 for children six to 12, and free for children under six, teachers, veterans, and Miami-Dade County employees. Active duty military and their families get in free during the summer.
Downtown Ft. Lauderdale
Broward County’s science museum may not have the sexy rooftop of its Miami counterpart, but it does have one thing the Frost does not—an IMAX theater, and yes, there’s popcorn in the lobby. Beyond the IMAX, the museum gives you a chance to take an airboat ride through a mocked-up Everglades, as well as watch otters doing adorable otter-y stuff (not attacking people). There’s also a hurricane simulator where you can feel what it might be like if you didn’t rush to Home Depot for shutters. For the ‘gram, MODS has a replica shark mouth from the largest Great White ever found, which you can pose inside and post to your heart’s delight.
Know before you go: MODS is open 10 am to 5 pm Monday - Saturday, and Noon - 5 pm on Sunday. The museum’s discovery pass is $27 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $22 for children two through 12, and includes one show at the IMAX. All prices are $3 cheaper for South Florida residents.
West Palm Beach
Even before it underwent its $100 million renovation—which took eight years and finished in 2019—the Norton was widely considered to have the best art collection in South Florida. It began in 1941 as a place to house art owned by industrialist Ralph Hubbard Norton, and now lives in a sleek, open space designed by famed British architect Lord Norman Foster. Inside, you’ll see the state’s grandest collection of contemporary art outside Miami, as well as American, Chinese, and European exhibits of more classical stuff. You’d be best served to make a day out of your tip and plan lunch or dinner at the restaurant, which offers a full bar and creative sandwiches. Afterwards, consider hanging around West Palm.
Know before you go: The Norton is currently open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10 am - 5 pm, 10 am - 10 pm on Friday, 10 am - 5 pm Saturday, and 11 am - 5 pm Sunday. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors over 60, and $5 for students. Children 12 and under, Florida educators, active U.S. military, and healthcare workers and first responders are all free.
Norman Braman’s gift to the city that bought his cars for decades, this free museum in the Design District serves to both showcase the word of avant garde artists and as a home for art research and education. The exhibits change frequently, and run the gamut from sculpture to photography to room-filling installations. ICA also runs community programs to engage the city in the art world. Perhaps its greatest feature, though, is the outdoor sculpture garden, a quiet escape from the bustling city where, on cool winter days, you can enjoy modern art with no distractions.
Know before you go: ICA is open Tuesday - Saturday from 11 am - 6 pm, Sunday from 12 - 5pm. Admission is free, and though not required timed advance tickets are highly recommended.
Interestingly, perhaps Miami Beach’s most recognizable piece of contemporary art is part of a museum many visitors don’t even know exists. Miami Mountain—a.k.a. the tower of brightly painted rocks that sits at the entrance to Collins Park—is actually part of the Bass Museum, the small-yet-fierce contemporary art museum on the park’s other end. The bright, open space is filled with modern art exhibitions from around the world, which typically rotate every few months. And because the works are often topical and thought-provoking, the museum is worth visiting a few times a year as it always offers a different experience.
Know before you go: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 12 - 5pm, with no time-restricted tickets. So just mosey on up and buy yourself inside. Admission is free for Miami Beach residents and employees. Adults are $15. Seniors, students with ID, and youths 7-18 are $8. Children 6 and under are free.
Often glossed over in the Merrick-and-Flagler-filled history of Palm Beach County is the tale of the Yamato Colony, a group of Japanese farmers who lived near Boca Raton at the beginning of the twentieth century. Much of their old land is now this majestic swath of Japanese gardens, where you can stroll through perfectly manicured gardens from different periods in Japanese history. Babbling streams and bonsai trees greet you throughout, as well as centuries-old lanterns and occasional tea ceremonies. Inside the main building, you’ll also find an exhibition gallery with rotating Japanese artwork from the museum’s collection.
Know before you go: The museum us open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm. Adults are $15, seniors and military $13, students with ID $11, children 6-17 $9, children under six are free.
The Rubell family, whose name has been synonymous with art and philanthropy in Miami for decades, has renovated a 100,000-square-foot industrial space west of Wynwood to showcase its massive collection. The family prides itself on finding great artists early in their careers, and visiting the museum you’ll find stuff from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Rashid Johnson, and others from long before the world knew their names. The private collection is beyond impressive, with 7,200 works from more than 1,000 artists. And its new home is a work of modern art in and of itself, the creation of Selldorf Architects with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space.
Know before you go: Members get free admission all year long, but general admission for adults is $15. Seniors are $12, and students $10. U.S. military veterans are free. The museum is currently open Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 11:30 am - 5:30 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am - 5:30 pm. Advance tickets are recommended, but not required.
It seems only fitting that the first fully planned city in America would be home to a museum devoted to architecture and urban planning. The museum is set in the grand old Coral Gables Police and Fire Station, and visitors can wander past the jail cells, courtroom, and apparatus bay before delving into the exhibits. It offers the most comprehensive look into George Merrick and how his dream of a Spanish village in Florida came to life. It also hosts rotating exhibitions of local and Caribbean artists, and currently has a historical retrospective on handbags and a photo essay from quarantine as its headline displays.
Know before you go: Adults are $10, seniors and students $8, children six to 12 $5, and children under six and military families are free. It is highly recommended you book tickets in advance and pick a time slot online. The museum offers both guided and cell phone audio tours, which is included with museum admission. It also offers kayak tours of Coral Gables’ waterways the last Sunday of the month, downtown walking tours on the first Saturday, and Gables bike tours on the third Sunday.
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