Miami is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the United States, and for good reason. There is still the unfortunate perception that Miami is exclusively for high-rollers and big spenders, but this isn’t always the case. In actuality, finding affordable apartments in the hottest neighborhoods is easier than ever, making it cheaper for you to enjoy your vacation. 

With the ever-present tourist population there’s more free things to do in Miami than most cities could ever dream of. Whether you are choosing to stay long-term or just for a weekend, you’re going to want to check out some of these free activities the next time you find yourself in Miami.

Friday Night Jazz at MOCA

Miami has no shortage of amazing museums. While a lot of them have free days or free admission for particular visitors, most of them have a typical ticket cost. On the other hand, paid museums often tend to hold free events on occasion. One of the cooler events held at the Museum of Modern Art North Miami is Jazz at MOCA series, held for free every Friday throughout the year. 

Miami also has several populations from countries like Haiti, Cuba, and other Afro-Caribbean nations, and it also has no shortage of local musical talent. This offers a diverse sound with many influences and big bands with big energy. You’ll want to bring your dancing shoes for some of these shows. Most events are advertised as rain or shine, however, MOCA was forced to cancel one show due to potential threats from Hurricane Dorian.

little havana miami naomi tamar
Photo by Naomi Tamar.

Little Havana and Little Haiti

Miami is such a special city because so many cultures have melded together over the decades. Florida’s geographic location has made it a central hub for mariners from all nations and you can see evidence of this in the vibrant cultural districts present in Miami today. Today, little Havana is home to over a million people who would identify themselves as of Cuban heritage.

In fact, at some points in history, Miami was known as “Cuban Miami.”  Walking through little Havana is like being transported to another world. Cuban beats are ever-present as you take in the sights and sounds of authentic cafes and restaurants. On the last Friday of each month, Little Havana celebrates Viernes Culturales, or Cultural Fridays. It’s a great time to take an adventure through the bustling neighborhood with art installations and special events.

During the Haitian political upheaval in the 80s, Miami saw refugees take up residence in a newly-formed neighborhood that would come to be known as Little Haiti. One of Miami’s most culturally-distinct districts, Little Haiti is home to the vibrant colors and Creole influence that has come to define the small island nation. There are numerous stalls and stores that stock distinct handmade Haitian art and clothing. Fresh seafood and fruit is also readily available. The incredible food and drinks may cost you a little more than you might expect, but the music and the good vibrations are always on the house in this pocket of Miami. 

miami skyline alejandro luengo
Photo by Alejandro Luengo.

Bayside Marketplace

Lots of older large cities have a market district where you can find local crafts and produce. Philadelphia has the Italian Market and Seattle has Pike Place. Miami, on the other hand, has Bayside Marketplace. With boats of all sizes coming and going, shops, and restaurants, Bayside is a great place to get lost for a few hours. There’s also no shortage of live music and other special events. It also might look a bit more like a contemporary American mall with some chain restaurants and big box retailers, but don’t be fooled. Bayside is distinctly Miami. 

Wynwood Walls

Once a dilapidated warehouse district, today Wynwood hosts over 70 art galleries and countless public works. In 2009, Miami decided to use the old warehouses as giant canvases to help restore the struggling neighborhood. Today, Wynwood features over 50 artists from 16 countries. Graffiti is also encouraged!

Wynwood is a vibrant and colorful neighborhood on any day of the week, in addition to the gallery openings, live music, and other cultural events happening several times a month. Wynwood is often featured on many “Hippest Neighborhoods” lists, and with so much to do and see, it’s not hard to imagine why.

miami beach joel de vriend
Photo by Joel de Vriend.

The Beach

Perhaps you’ve managed to go this entire trip without ever actually seeing a map of Miami, or better yet, without ever looking east. If you didn’t know, Miami has some waterfront property you might be interested in. Why anyone would go to Miami without plans to visit the world-class beaches is their own business, but for the rest of us, there’s enough sun and sand in Miami to go around. 

South Beach alone is considered one of the most popular and prestigious beaches in the entire world. This is where people go to watch–and to be watched. South Beach is only the beginning, and one of the busier beaches in the area. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, try Surfside or Matheson Hammock Park. If you need help finding a good beach in Miami, just start marching east. It shouldn’t take too long before you find one. If that doesn’t work, try heading west–just lookout for the swamp.

Is Miami your favorite city for free activities? Or do you have another favorite spot?

Header photo by Lance Asper.