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Miami, Florida

It’s a city that harnesses a type of energy unlike anywhere else. It’s an energy sparked by an electrifying multiculturalism, created by people from all over the world. People flock to its famous beaches for sunshine during the day, and to its lively clubs and bars for dancing and cocktails at night. However, Miami is full of little-known gems that make it so much more than a fabulous beach destination. From incredible Haitian food, to celebrations of Cuban culture, art and adventure that’s accessible to all, it’s easy to see why Miami is a place to love.

 

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PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Wynwood Walls

Cities are known for street art, but what you’ll find at Wynwood Walls is one of a kind. This outdoor exhibition features huge, colorful street murals by artists from around the globe. The murals are powerful expressions of the diverse Miami culture and history. I met up with Shantelle Rodriguez, the director of arts at Goldman Global Arts, who explained how graffiti has morphed into something spectacular. Wynwood Walls is part of Goldman Properties and Goldman Global Arts, named after its founder, the late Tony Goldman. Tony is widely recognized as a developer who saw and realized the potential for neighborhoods seemingly with their best times behind them. There’s much more to see in Wynwood, a former warehouse district. Locals call it the Art and Soul of Miami. Stroll through the neighborhood to discover more than 70 galleries and museums, dozens of new restaurants and bars.

If you go

Miami heat have you working up a thirst? Head next door to the Wynwood Brewery, one of the first in the city.

Contact

The Wynwood Walls
2520 NW 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 531-4411

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Little Haiti and Bon Gout BBQ

Haiti is one of the major Caribbean influences in Miami’s diverse culture. And Haiti is where the traditions and flavors of Bon Gout (Haitan for good taste) started. Haitian chef and co-owner Jean “BJ” Lucel shared his brand of bbq with me. It’s Haitian with a twist, and it’s a culinary experience I will not soon forget. You’ll notice a flavorful thread throughout his dishes, and that’s epis—a Haitian spice that gives this food its je ne sais quoi. What started as a weekend pop-up experience has turned into one of the most beloved food experiences in the city. What’s more: this family operation gives back to the people who give to them. Bon Gout contributes free produce and other foods to the locals on Tuesdays. It’s a feel and taste good place.

If you go

Epis is the backbone of Haitian cuisine. BJ notably uses an epis paste applied to the ribs before grilling. The resulting blackened crust is the perfect complement to the rich flavors underneath. Learn more about it here.

More Info

Bon Gout BBQ
99 NW 54th St.
Miami, FL 33127
(305) 381-5464

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Tigertail Airboat Everglades Tour

The Florida Everglades are well known to most, but I was stunned by the scale and beauty of this famous wildlife refuge. I explored this National Park with Charles Kropke of Dragon Fly Expeditions, along with tour guide Alex of the family-owned Tigertail Airboat Everglades Tour. Alex, a member of the Miccosukee tribe, filled me in on the unique status of his tribe in all of America with the US Government. We visited the well-maintained camp of where his grandmother lived until the 1940s. Seeing the Everglades through the eyes of Charles and Alex demystifies and intensifies the natural beauty and wonder of this unique ecosystem. Luxuriant varieties of birds, deer and other wildlife are found at every turn of our airboat. The story of the Miccosukee, the wildlife and mysterious aura of the Everglades is so uniquely a part of Florida.

If you go

Make a reservation—they often are not able to accommodate walk-ins. Call or email for additional details. ​Please note that once they’ve started tours for the day, it can be a little difficult to get someone on the phone.

ADDRESS

Tigertail Airboat Everglades Tour
US-41
Miami, FL 33184
(305) 439-2745

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Ember Restaurant

Chef Brad Kilgore may own four restaurants in Miami, but it’s his newest one he’s been dreaming of for years.  Ember is all about cooking over fire. He grills things you’d expect, like ribs and burgers, as well as things I’ve never even considered putting on a grill. Example: a 30-layer lasagna, made with a cheese fondue base, and chicken of the woods mushroom ragout. Forget the beach, I’m going back to Miami to eat this again! Dinner here is more than just a meal—watching good grilled over fire is something we humans can’t help but be transfixed by.

If You Go

Brad describes Ember as his dream. But during your trip, visit one of his other top Miami restaurants: Brava, Kaido and Alter.  Choose from fine dining, Japanese and casual. All in Miami’s hottest neighborhoods.

ADDRESS

Ember
223 NW 23rd Street
Miami, FL 33127
305-573-5996

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit and Spice Park

South Florida’s climate supports an amazing variety of flora and fauna. This includes plant life typically found in the tropics of Africa and similar latitudes and is found nowhere else in the US. I loved touring the Fruit and Spice Park with manager Jim Stribling, whose passion for this botanical garden shines. Located 35 miles south of Miami in Redlands, you’ll find plant life from around the globe. I was astounded at the Baobab, Africa’s “Tree of Life” which lives to be over 1000 years and was found on earth before the dinosaurs! There are over 500 varieties of spice and fruit plants and trees carefully nurtured by the dedicated staff. A trip engages your senses: You’ll be invited to taste any that have fallen (grabbing ‘em off the trees is a big no-no). You can smell curry or allspice leaves. You can touch—or hug—as many trees as you’d like. You’ll see dragonfruit, breadfruit, starfruit, sausage trees. Yes, sausage trees. What’s a sausage tree? Guess you’ll have to visit to find out.

IF YOU GO

The area around Redlands, named after the soil color, is home to neighborhoods and businesses that date to the late 17th century! Choose from any of these great little side-trips.

INFO

Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit and Spice Park
24801 SW 187th Avenue
Homestead, FL 33031
(305) 247-5727

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center

Think museums are boring? Not Cubaocho. Founder and curator Roberto Ramos left Cuba in 1992 with nothing but his brother, a tiny boat, and 14 paintings. He was rescued by the US Coast Guard, and once again on dry land, he set out to celebrate the art and soul of Cuba in Miami. Today, the 14 paintings he escaped with serve as the core of his incredible museum, performing arts center and bar. This is the largest private collection of exclusively Cuban art, dating from 1800 to 1959. As you may know, 1959 is the year of communist dictator Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Havana; therefore, a date on which time figuratively stopped for many generations of Miami Cubans. Visit to see paintings, listen to live music and drink mojitos. Now that’s my kind of museum!

IF YOU GO

Make your Miami headquarters the epicenter of true, authentic, Cuban Miami. Try the remarkably affordable and unique Life House Hotel in Little Havana. Check out that rooftop patio!

ADDRESS

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center
1465 SW 8th St #106
Miami, FL 33135
(305) 285-5880

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Overtown Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum

A common practice in today’s law enforcement is Community Policing. My tour of this unique exclusively black police precinct really brings life to that idea. My guides were executive director Terrance Cribbs-Lorrant and 93-year-old Lt. Archie McKay. They offer touching insights as to how this beautifully restored and preserved building served as the police station, the jail and sometimes the courthouse in the Overtown part of Miami. During the early 1950s, Miami was working its way out of segregation when just five officers joined the first all-black force. At the time most of the nearly all-white Miami police force did the policing for 43,000 African American Miamians. Most black Miami residents lived in three neighborhoods, including Overtown. It’s a piece of the city’s history that’s important to preserve and learn from.

If you go

Celebrate the history of Miami’s second oldest neighborhood: Overtown. Visit the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, where Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Josephine Baker and Sammy Davis Jr played– some while Overton was still segregated.

Contact

Overtown Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum
480 NW 11th St
Miami, FL 33136
(305) 329-2513

Places To Love - Miami - Samantha Brown

Shake-A-Leg Miami

Most tourists visit Miami’s beaches, but I like to go one further and get out on the water. I met up with sailboat captain Harry Hogan, cofounder and CEO of the highly regarded nonprofit Shake-A-Leg. Harry’s an entrepreneur, a sailor, and paralyzed from the waist down. As a young man, Harry broke his back and his life changed in an instant. Harry shows how his organization and diverse fleet of watercraft help people with a variety of disability navigate life challenges as they learn about sailing, swimming and kayaking. His fleet includes 10 sailboats, a 30’ pontoon and a replica of Earnest Hemmingway’s Pilar, a 38’ fishing cruiser with wonderful 1930’s proportions. All craft are fully handicap accessible. The staff at Shake-A-Leg, whether disabled or able-bodied, are so enthusiastic about Shake-A-Leg’s mission, I couldn’t help but be inspired. It’s organizations like this that make the gift of travel and adventure accessible to everyone.

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From incredible Haitian food, to celebrations of Cuban culture, art and adventure that’s accessible to all, it’s easy to see why Miami is a place to love.

If you go

Visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, right in Coconut Grove. The museum was the estate of James Deering, a founder of International Harvester. The waterfront, home and estate are stunning.

Contact

Shake-A-Leg Miami
2620 S Bayshore Dr
Coconut Grove, FL 33133
(305) 858-5550

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