Things to Do in Miami for Free
Find out the top 10 things we like to do in Miami for free plus 4 other pay things to do in our Ultimate Guide for Miami. We also cover transportation, accommodation, and share tips that will save $1000s on your budget trip to Miami.
Miami is one of the safest cities in the United States for tourists. We have been 4 times. Everywhere we go in downtown Miami, there is ample police presence. We feel totally safe while we are in Miami and would recommend Miami to anyone.
The best months to go to Miami are April, May and late October to late November. The weather is generally good and the temperatures are in the 70s and 80s with many days in the 90s. These months are the slower periods of the year so the hotels are not full and good rates are available. Tourist sites like museums and activities are not as busy.
Ultimate Guide for Miami
Top 14 Things to Do and See in Miami
1. Miami Cruise Port
On our last trip to Miami we looked over the Miami Port, the largest cruise ship port in the world. From our balcony on the 55th floor we watched the cruise ships come and go.
On Friday to Monday there were six different ships each day in port. In the late afternoon and evening we would see them leave. The next morning there would be a new group of ships docked at the port.
It is fascinating to watch the activity surround these gigantic ships; some holding as many as 7500 people which is greater than the population of our little town. Passengers disembark and new passengers arrive. Transportation comes and goes over the causeway to the mainland.
A police boat with its flashing blue light floats in the middle of the canal to ensure no boats use it while the cruise ships are at dock. When the cruise ships leave dock some of them motor to the end of the canal right below us. Using their side thrusters the ships pivot on the spot.
Heading towards the ocean they are escorted by a police boat and a Coast Guard boat with a 50-calibre machine gun mounted on the bow.
2. Miami Waterfront Parks
On the other side of Biscayne Boulevard from where we stayed is the Maurice A. Ferré Park, named after a mayor of Miami. It has several names over the years, the most recent Museum Park as it contains the Frost Museum of Science and the Pérez Art Museum; two world class facilities.
The 30 acre park had a $10 million remake for the opening of the museums. Up until 1976, the land housed the bustling Port of Miami until the port was moved to Dodge Island. The park located right on the water is spacious with large grassed areas separated by wide cement sidewalks.
The bay walkway in the park connects with the southern 32 acre Bayfront Park so that you can walk several miles along the waterfront. The park has weekly special events with tents set up on the grassy areas. A popular event is the free sunrise yoga that begins at 6:20 a.m.
3. Museum of Science
The Frost Museum of Science opened in May 2017 at a cost of $305 million. The museum is named after Phillip and Patricia Frost who donated $35 million to the museum. It has a three level, 500,000 gallon aquarium, a 250 seat Planetarium and numerous exhibits.
4. Modern Art Museum
The Pèrez Art Museum cost $220 million and opened in 2013. It is named after Jose Pèrez who donated $35 million. The museum houses over 2,000 pieces of contemporary art. The two museums are very popular and have over 1,000,000 visitors per year between them.
5. American Airlines Arena
Next to the park is the American Airlines Arena. It cost $213 million when it opened on December 31, 1999 with a concert by Gloria Estevan. The arena holds over 2000 people and is used for sporting and musical events.
The week we lived across from the arena there were three major concerts. During these events we counted over 40 Miami-Dade Police cars along Biscayne Boulevard for crowd and traffic control. It seemed very well organized.
6. Miami Bayside Market Place
The most visited place in Miami is the Bayside Market Place between the arena and Bayside Park. The Market Place has two levels of shopping and has many waterside eateries and bars. There is daily live music at the open air bandstand with lots of dancing by locals and tourists.
7. Miami Freedom Tower
Located across from the arena, the 1925 tower has been a national historic landmark since 2008. The design is Mediterranean Revival style. It was built for the Miami Daily News who used it until 1957.
In 1962 the tower became the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center and served as the first point of entry for the 500 000 Cubans who fled Castro’s dictatorship. At this time the name changed to the Freedom Tower. When the emergency centre was closed down in 1974, the tower was owned by a number of different owners until it was donated to the Miami-Dade College who undertook a major refurbishing project to bring it back to its former glory.
The tower now is a museum that houses a letter from Christopher Columbus to Queen Isabella as well as a long standing exhibition depicting the history of the Cuban exile presence in Miami.
8. Miami’s Little Havana
A mile west of the Freedom Tower is Little Havana. A great area to spend an afternoon walking around and having lunch.
9. Miami Performing Arts Center
A ten minute walk north on Biscayne is the Adrienne Arscht Performing Arts Center. There is always something going on there. Go to the website for the time you are planning in being in Miami to see what performances are booked.
We managed to get $19 matinee seats to the last performance of Don Giovanni. They were centre seats in the top section. The seats are comfortable. They need to be for 3-hour performances like Don Giovani.
We had a wonderful unobstructed view. With the use of binoculars it was like sitting down front. Better because we did not have to look up and the seats around us were empty so we had lots of room to spread out. Plus the orchestra seats are $250. So, we saved $460 which fits our budget slow travel model.
10. Miami Wynwood Walls
Tony Goldman’s development company who is responsible for the revitalization of SOHO in NYC and South Beach created Wynwood Walls in an area of Miami that was full of underutilized warehouse buildings. It was this vision of an open air art gallery that revitalized the area.
The walls are covered in large murals painted by leading artists from all over the world. This open art gallery takes up most of a city block.
For several blocks around Wynwood Walls the buildings are full of art galleries, eateries, design shops and boutique retailers. It is a great place to go to look at a lot of wonderful art, people watch and grab a bite to eat.
Some of the restaurants began as food trucks back in 2009 when the Wynwood Walls first opened. As the area got more popular and the volume of people eating got larger the restaurants moved from trucks to buildings.
11. Miami Design District
A short Uber ride north of where we were staying on Biscayne Boulevard is the Miami Design District. This is an area of Miami where many of the high-end retailers are located. You will find Prada and over a 100 other luxury stores. The area has attracted design brands, important art collections and design installations, and great dining experiences.
12. Miami Brickell City Center
The $1 billion multi-use Brickell City Center in the heart of Miami’s financial center has three levels of premium stores and eating establishments. The Metromover stops right at the entrance to the upper level of the mall.
13. Miami Coral Gables
Coral Gables, ‘the city beautiful’ was built in the 1920s by George Merrick who had inherited huge amounts of land in the form of citrus groves from his father. It was one of the first planned communities in the United States and today is one of the nicest communities in the country.
You can easily spend a day wandering around the downtown area.There is a free electric shuttle throughout the city to get around. It is home of the famous Biltmore Hotel where the gangster Al Capone once spent a lot of time. We have gone for High Tea at the hotel.
Merrick established the University of Miami in Coral Gables by donating them 250 acres. The original home, Merrick House, has been preserved and is now a museum.
14. The Venetian Pool
The Venetian Pool was build in 1923 from the coral quarry that supplied much of the stone for Coral Gables. It is filled by an underground stream and is emptied each day.
The water is cool and it is a popular spot in the hot summer when most days the pool reaches maximum attendance and ticket sales stop. It is best to call before going on those hot days.
The pool has a two waterfalls and a grotto to swim in. The large area is landscaped with coral rocks from the quarry and tropical plants.
The buildings display Venetian architecture. One day a year they have a dog day where dog owners can bring their dogs to swim in the 820,000 gallon pool. Thank goodness the pool is drained afterwards.
How to Get Around in Miami
Hop On Hop Off Bus Miami
On our first visit to large cities we always take the Big Bus Hop On Hop Off tour. We like it because it gives us a quick overview of the various parts of the city. We also use it for our transportation for that 24 or 48 hour period. We hop on and off all over the city as we explore the areas pointed out on the tour.
The best value in Miami is the 2-Day Tour that includes either the boat tour of the Miami harbour and Star Island or the Miami Night Tour. We chose the boat tour and loved it. It was a beautiful afternoon tour. The cost is $56 on-line.
Free Transportation in Miami
There are many ways to get around in Miami. There are two ways to get around free, besides walking. The Miami Trolley system is eleven free trolley runs throughout Miami. The trolleys are the old wooden type. They come by every 15 minutes depending of the route although they are not always on time.
One time, the driver was going to go right by us and not stop. He only stopped when we jumped out on the road and began waving hysterically. When we got on, he said that he did not see us standing at the stop. He looked a little frazzled, probably because he was half an hour behind schedule. The Biscayne route gets very crowded during rush hours. We have seen whole families of twelve people get off.
The other free transportation is the Metromover, an above ground light rapid transit, that travels through the heart of Miami and Brickell. We used the Metromover almost daily to go the 12 blocks to Whole Foods or to go to the Brickell City Center mall. The station behind our building was the Park West station. The stops are every couple of blocks.
Miami Transit has very convenient public buses and an above ground and elevated light rapid transit system with free Wi-Fi. A day pass is only $5.60 per day. We took the light rapid system from downtown out to the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables about 8 miles from downtown Miami.
We disembarked the train at the Coral Gables stop and walked up to our Bus #44 that was waiting in the turn around. There was no one on the bus so we stood in the shade of the bus waiting for the driver.
After about 10 minutes we saw the driver over by the fence finish his cigarette. He walked up and asked us where we were going. We told him to the Venetian Pools. He didn’t know it and asked where it was located. I showed him on my map. He said, “Hop in, I will take you there.” So, we hopped on the bus and he drove us a block from the pool and let us off.
All over the sidewalks are electric scooters from Uber and Lyft. To use them you launch your app then scan the QR code on the scooter. This unlocks the scooter and begins your rental period. Three pushes on the scooter and the electric engine starts and off you go whizzing down the sidewalk.
When you get where you are going, you push stop on your app and you are charged the minutes used. The rental price changes depending on the time of day. They are generally about $0.15 per minute.
The app makes you take a picture where the scooter is parked so that they can see that it is parked properly. You are not to leave it in the middle of the sidewalk or anywhere else that you are blocking the movement of people.
I don’t think they look too closely at the pictures because there are many scooters that are left in the middle of the sidewalk and other places that make you have to walk around them and you hear people cursing them all the time.
There are racks of bikes all over the place available for rent. We like to rent bikes and ride on the designated bike paths in Miami and in Miami Beach. The most popular bike rental is CitiBike and costs $4.50 for 30 minutes or $6.50 for 60 minutes.
You insert your credit card into the reader and select the stall that has the bike you want. Following the prompts on the screen, remove your card and go to the bike stall where you quickly push the bike forward to unlock the stall and then pull the bike back to remove it from the stall.
When you are finished with the bike you find a stall in another CitiBike rack. Pushing the bike into the stall records that the bike is returned. But, you have to find a stall. If there is not stalls available in the rack you have to keep on riding until you find a rack with an empty stall to place your bike.
The first time we used CitiBike we had problems removing one of the bikes and fortunately a CitiBike service employee was making his rounds and he got us all fixed up.
We used Uber a lot in Miami. I count ten rides on my credit card statement. We were very happy with the service. It was quick and cheap compared to a taxi. A trip to Miami Beach is only $7.50 across the Causeway.
The last three times we were in Miami we were ripped off by taxi drivers taking us the long way even though we called them on it. We have been using Uber and similar services for the past three years and are very happy with our experience. A lot happier than with past taxi experiences.
When we are on our budget slow travel we generally do our own cooking. We love going to the market and shopping for local ingredients to make local dishes. Gathering, preparing and cooking our evening meal takes up a good portion of our day.
Miami Whole Foods
In Miami, we go to Whole Foods downtown because it is an experience in itself. It is the busiest Whole Foods in the entire chain. It is something to see.
There is a continual movement of goods to the floor. Boxes of produce are being put out at a rapid pace. People are milling around the aisles.
Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, they have put in place free 2-hour delivery for Prime members. The entire store was filled with people wearing black tops pushing shopping carts full of insulated bags filling people’s on-line orders.
There was a lot of congestion and you could tell most of the Prime buyers were not regular shoppers. A regular shopper knows where 95% of the items are located on the shelf and go directly to the shelf. These shoppers were spending a lot of time looking at their phones and scanning shelves for the items.
Bread, Wine and Prepared Foods
They have their own bakery. Fresh breads and pastries are coming out all the time. There are several dozen types of bread, walls of cheese and a large selection of wine with their own sommelier.
The selection of individual sized prepared food is outstanding. Salmon stuffed with shrimp, lamb shanks, kabobs, stuffed chicken and so much more. What is even better, is that the prepared food comes in an oven ready container with instructions on the top. Just pop it into the oven and set the timer while you are having a glass of wine. No fuss, no muss. This is modern eating in Miami.
Four days in a row, we had the same cashier and we had lots of fun talking about our pastries and diets and ribbing each other. We got to talk to her about where she grew up and some family tidbits. She filled the moment with laughter. We really liked buying our food at this Whole Foods.
Beside our building was a 24-hour CVS that had a good selection of wine and some outrageously cheap prices for decent wine. We ended up buying most of wine here so that we did not have to carry two or three bottles of wine for 12 blocks.
On the ground floor of our condominium at 900 Biscayne Boulevard was a Sushi Sake that has happy hour Monday to Friday from 4:30-7:00. Beer and hot appetizers are half price.
Three spring rolls were $2.50; five gyoza $3.50; five pieces of shrimp tempura was $6. The food was delicious and brought to the table in minutes. Two drinks and three appetizers was under $20 with a tip.
Patacón Piseo in Miami
Patacón Piseo is an authentic Columbian restaurant serving up all the traditional dishes. Very popular with local residents. Dinner was under $50 for two with a drink each.
Tuyo Restaurant in Miami
Tuyo restaurant is part of the Miami Culinary Institute. It is a few blocks from where we were staying. In the evenings the teaching chefs run this upscale dining room. It is white table clothes and cloth napkins. The serving staff are very well trained and efficient. The food is 5 star at 3 star prices. The meals we ordered were the best tasting food we have had in a dining room in a few years and we eat out a lot during the course of a year.
On our way up the elevator we rode with one of the pastry chefs. We got to talking and told her that our son and daughter-in law are pastry chefs and own a cake bakery. That got her interested and she said that she would make a special dessert for us. At the end of our meal, she sent up a delicious dessert creation. That was so nice of her. The bill was $85 for dinner, drinks and wine.
Cost of Our Week in Miami
Condo – $0
Transportation – $65
Restaurants – $150
Activities – $150
Our Fantastic Week in Miami
We like Miami – a lot! It has an exciting vibe to it. There is a wonderful mixture of people living here. There are 5 million of them. They come from 120 countries speaking 80 languages. There is an abundance of free live music and free events to take part in all over the city. You can have a great time and stay in luxury accommodations on a budget. Our last trip to Miami cost us less than $110 a person for the week!
We were able to do this cheap travel in Miami because we stayed for a week in a beautiful condo for free. We were able to do a Home Exchange with a wonderful lady that lives in an awesome building on marvellous Biscayne Boulevard as it wraps around Biscayne Bay through the centre of Miami.
The building is below. Our condo was on the 55th floor of the 57 floor building. The hole in the building is the pool level on the 17th floor. The 15th floor has a full spa, a gym, private movie theatre, and luxury meeting rooms.
It is directly across from the old Miami Port which is now an open event park, a science centre and a modern art gallery. There was direct access to a variety of transportation methods right in front of the building. We had easy access to all of the great things to do in Miami.
If you are interested in doing a Home Exchange with us, take a look at our Home Exchange listing.
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Flights to Miami International Airport
Budget travellers are always looking for the deals. Scott’s Cheap Flights is always looking for those unbelievable prices for us that make travelling on a budget doable. If we had to pay full fare or even discounted fares, we would not have travelled to a tenth of the places that we have over the years. We use Scott’s Cheap Flights and other smaller speciality websites to find those lower than rock bottom prices. Click above on the blue heading.
Budget Tip: We were able to get two tickets from Calgary to Miami return for $300 total.
We never leave home without travel insurance. We want travel insurance from a company that is experienced with local and world travel and gives us the best rates possible. For budget travellers it is important to get the best rates possible and we have found World Nomad Insurance the best in the industry. Click on the blue heading.
We have been using Hotwire for years and have saved $1000s. I like that you can choose the number of stars the hotel has and where it is located. The last time we stayed overnight in Miami while waiting for a cruise we got a room at a 4-Star Sheraton that was posted at $550 on the Sheraton website for $120.
There are dozens of hotels and many more vacation properties for rent in downtown Miami. We use a variety of strategies when it comes to booking our accommodations. The longer we stay in a place the cheaper it is. Daily rentals like hotels are the most expensive followed by weekly rentals then monthly rentals and finally, home exchanges that are free accommodations.
Click on the Hotwire.com link above or below. Input the city and dates that you are visiting. A map will come up with a number of areas in the city outlined. You pick the area where you would like to stay and whether you want a 3, 4, or 5 Star rated hotel.
Personal Tours of Miami
Travel Gear That You May Need for Your Trip to Miami
Every trip requires new travel items to replace worn out and missing things. Cables get frayed, holders go missing, new things come on-line. I can not travel without my metal insulated water bottle. I love it. Water or a drink stays cold for hours, even in the direct sun.
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