The Coolest Things to Do in Miami After Dark
There’s more to Magic City’s nightlife scene than bottle service and velvet ropes.
You can always spot the transplanted Californians new to Miami in the summer, as they’re the only ones walking around carrying a jacket. Like somehow a little thing like “the sun going down” would actually cool things off. Anyone who’s spent even a sliver of a summer in Miami knows nighttime offers no reprieve from the heat. But the blanket of humidity adds a slippery layer of sexy to everything that happens after dark.
Because once the sun goes down, that’s when Miami becomes MIAMI, the sultry beachside den of neon and lost inhibitions where the world comes to let loose. Nighttime is when you’ll start your night innocently enough with rooftop cocktails, then somehow find yourself eating the best barbecue of your life with a local rapper outside a strip club in Opa Locka. Or what begins as a stroll down Ocean Drive turns into an invite to Italy on a private jet and ends with a sunrise from a yacht near Fisher Island.
Of course, our city is more than its party-till-you-die reputation, and while you can definitely still have your rage-till-sunrise nights, you can also try cocktails from the best bartender in America, watch modern-day chariot racing, or eat a Michelin-star dinner at midnight. Whatever your flavor, Miami has it for you. And here’s where to find it.
Dance dirty well into the night
Wynwood; Downtown; Brickell
If dealing with the lines, bouncers, and other general Miami bullshit at big name clubs doesn't sound “fun,” but you still wanna dance, Miami’s got options. The city is awash in far less pretentious places, where you can twerk, grind, and do loose interpretations of salsa to reggaeton until almost sunrise. Hit the Wynwood tag team of La Otra and Dirty Rabbit. Or head to the attic of an historic 1917 building downtown and Bar La Real, where you’ll do things you’ll pretend never happened when you get back downstairs. In Brickell, Tucandela is the move, where “closing time” is more of a suggestion.
Catch a red-hot cabaret
Brickell; Miami Beach
If you want a taste of the old Havana cabaret shows of its 1950s glory days, grab a booth at El Tucan in Brickell, where feather headdresses, salsa music, and high energy dancing dominate the nightly shows. For something a little more seductive, snag tickets to Tryst at the Faena Forum, which is a little like an R-rated cirque du soleil with a wisecracking, no-holds-barred host.
Cool off with a drink by the glimmering water
Dinner Key; Miami Beach
Even though you’ll still probably break a sweat outside at night, at least a soft breeze and a cold cocktail can help. Plenty of waterside drinking holes are happy to oblige, but this summer the Bayshore Club just opened up on the site of the old Scotty’s Landing (RIP), and this luxe take on bayside beers stays open well after sunset. For drinks with an ocean breeze, head out back of the Eden Roc Hotel to Ocean Social, which has live music until 1 am and late night munchies if the urge for an empanada strikes.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to Miami—other than its drivers—is that it’s completely flat. The only way to get an elevated vantage point is to literally take an elevator, and luckily we’ve got plenty of great rooftop bars to choose from. Sugar at the East Hotel boasts the best view from its 40th floor vantage point. That is, if you can see it past the 700 other people clamoring for a drink. Just down the street, Rosa Sky has a similarly stunning view with a slightly smaller crowd, and the Novotel’s rooftop bar nearby is no slouch either. On the Beach, stop into Juvia on Lincoln Road or Watr at the 1 Hotel for 360-degree perspectives on the city skyline and Atlantic Ocean.
If there’s one thing Miami is synonymous with, it’s clubs full of beautiful models, A-list DJs, and people dropping more on a bottle of Grey Goose than they did on their car payment. LIV and Story are the stars of Instagram, but if you’re planning to go, take heed: Groups of ladies should be able to get in no problem. Rolling six dudes deep? It may be a long night in front of the velvet rope.
Eat dinner at midnight… or 5am!
One of the wonderful advantages of living in a Latin American city is that dinnertime tends to skew late. Most of our best restaurants are not only open until midnight, but they also don’t even get busy until 11 pm on weekends. That said, if you find yourself hankering for a full meal after midnight, Negroni gives you a taste of what the dinner scene in Buenos Aires might be like, with steaks, empanadas, and pizzas aplenty. Bars like Batch Gastropub, Sweet Liberty, and The Anderson offer restaurant-quality food well into the wee hours. And you can never go wrong with late-night staples like La Sandwicherie and Big Pink.
Hit a taco shop with a secret speakeasy
Sometime around 2015, someone changed the Dade County Code to stipulate that any new taco shop required a “secret” speakeasy in the back serving a massive variety of tequilas and mezcals. At least that’s how it seemed, because since then we’ve seen Bodega, two Coyo locations, Tacocraft, and El Santo with tequila dens behind nondescript doors. The Taco Stand in Wynwood takes it a step further, with a full-on omakase restaurant hidden in the back, appropriately named Hiden.
Yeah, Calle Ocho can run a little touristy. But usually by nightfall the busses have left and the streets fill up with people looking for a little slice of Cuba on the U.S. mainland. Here you can stroll down the street, grab a fresh-rolled cigar and a mojito from a streetside bar, and dance to the live bands at Ball & Chain and the Cubaocho Museum. Then grab a Cuban coffee at any ventanilla and get ready for round two.
Sample some of the best craft cocktails in America
Though our city gets a rep for $20 vodka-sodas and $12 light beers, we’re also home to some of the most creative bartenders in America doing stuff you won’t see anywhere else. Get a drink at Café la Trova, run by Julio Cabrera, for some mind-bending takes on Cuban classics. You should also say hello to Will Thompson at Jaguar Sun downtown and his addictive Green Ghoul. In Midtown, the Sylvester and Spanglish will likely create something that comes to your table either on fire or in a shoe. Or if you’re visiting Miami Beach, walk over to the Freehand Hostel and have a drink outside at Broken Shaker. Then step downstairs at the Stiles hotel to Swizzle for a rum drink that’ll effectively put you to bed.
Stuff like “health” and “plans for tomorrow” went out the window the minute you decided to go out in Miami. So never mind the smoke and belly up to the bar at Mac’s Club Deuce, where happy hour might start at 8 am but drinks are still reasonably priced at night. It’s a constant cross section of hustlers, tourists, club-goers, and shady characters. Just don’t be surprised if you look up and realize you’ve somehow been there for four hours.
Drop yourself onto the floor at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood and you’d think you were somewhere in Las Vegas. Much of this is thanks to the addition of the new Guitar Hotel and Daer Dayclub, which when combined with the sea of slot machines and table games makes the destination gambling vibe as strong here as anywhere on the Strip. You might also find yourself at Hard Rock for a show at Hard Rock Live, an intimate 7,000-person venue that hosts names as big as Bruce Springsteen and Enrique Iglasias.
There’s really nothing quite like kicking off a Friday night by enjoying a fine, skunky-tasting chocolate product and watching a bunch of lasers jump around to "Dark Side of the Moon.” The Frost Museum of Science offers part of that opportunity once a month with its Laser Evenings, which in addition to Pink Floyd laser shows also features everything from laser Michael Jackson to laser Beyonce.
If you’ve never heard of harness racing, it’s a little like Ben Hur; except instead of racing to a crowd of screaming Romans, these chariots are racing in front of a crowd of guys in polyester shirts who moved here from White Plains sometime in the 1980s. That said, it’s still an exciting way to bet on horses under the lights at the Isle Casino, and one of the few tracks left in America where you can catch this lost art.
It’s hard to believe, when you’re inching through the concrete canyons in Brickell, that we’re less than 20 miles from complete nothingness in the swamp. And creepy as a nighttime drive to the Everglades might be, heading to one of its many campgrounds to lay back and look at the stars is one of the best ways to remind yourself we’re not that far from nature. Just, ya know, remember a lot of Off!
Watch the show on Ocean Drive
Once in a while, it’s fun to play tourist in your own town. Or, at least, see why all the tourists get so excited to come here. So post up with a drink the size of your head at Sugar Factory or grab a beer at The Clevelander, then sit back and enjoy the all-night circus that is Ocean Drive.
Combining the colorful light of the city nights with the on-water recreation of the daytime, Miami Beach Paddleboard offers a 90-minute SUP tour where your board comes equipped with LED lights. The tour starts at sunset and you’ll see the city transform from day to night as the turquoise water glows under you.
Sure, what was once a quirky collection of local restaurants and boutiques is now the domain of Lululemon and H&M. But it’s still a beautiful pedestrian mall filled with human statues, musicians, robots, and enough other street artists to keep you just as entertained as anything in that Apple Store.
Sample the city at one of our many food halls
Not so very long ago, the closest thing we had to a “food hall” in Miami was the bounty that is the food court at Dadeland Mall. Now you can’t park your car without finding a food hall full of some of the city’s best restaurants, headlined by the TimeOut Market and Lincoln Eatery in South Beach, MIA Market in the Design District, The Citadel in Little Haiti and 1-800 Lucky in Wynwood. This year, Doral got in on the action with the masterfully designed Shoma Bazaar that feels like eating inside a West Elm with really good beer. And the old Miami Ad School was transformed into the Alton Food Hall, whose center bar Airmail is one of the best in the city.
It’s not a REAL night out in Miami unless someone, at some point, at least suggests going to E11even. And why not? Where else can you stroll in at 3:30 am, stand next to an indiscernible pro athlete at the tip rail, give all the dollar bills you have to a dancer, probably see Rick Ross do a couple songs, then confusingly walk out $450 poorer as the sun rises over what’s left of your dignity?
You’ll either feel a lot better, or, like, exponentially worse after a long night out, if you head to South Pointe Park and watch the sunrise. Enjoy the light purples and oranges creeping up from the horizon from the waist-deep ocean water, or sit on a hilltop with views of the flickering skyline and try and forget there are people getting up to exercise.
Sign up here for our daily Miami email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.