14 Places To Go in Miami That Aren't Ultra

If you’ve inadvertently found yourself in Miami, you might be wondering where to go to get a bit of a break from the hordes of shirtless partiers.
a shot of south beach, miami at night

There’s no denying Ultra helped solidify Miami’s reign as America’s preeminent electronic music town. Taking over the 305 every March, the EDM extravaganza attracts well over 150,000 ravers and revelers hoping to hear today’s biggest names in EDM along with old favorites and rising stars. Literally everyone—from Afrojack and Tiesto to Steve Aoki and Flosstradamus—has lit up the stage at the three-day festival, which also acts as the grand finale of Miami Music Week. There’s a sense the hype won’t last forever, but for now, there’s truly nothing else like it.


That’s all well and good, but if you’ve inadvertently found yourself in Miami for vacation or work during Ultra, you might be wondering where to go to get a bit of a break from the hordes of shirtless, rainbow-clad partiers. Or maybe you’re in town for the festival but also interested in catching a tan and eating some dank Cuban food to cure that hangover. Whatever your reason, we’ve got you covered with some alternative activities to try come next March. From outdoor adventures to art immersions, here are 14 things to do and places to go in Miami (that aren’t Ultra).

1. Hit up South Beach, duh.

If you like to party, you’re probably doing this anyways. But it goes without saying that a visit to Miami is not complete without some fun in the sun at one of America’s most iconic beach neighborhoods. And it’s just like in the movies, what with its lawless (in a good way) streets, sun-kissed white sand, and crystal blue waters. If you’re staying at South Beach hotel, you’ll probably have access to a designated strip of beach—if not, there’s plenty of public space to go around. Pro-tips: There’s a party-friendly gay section of the beach around 12th Street if that’s your scene, or you can head south of 5th Street for more quiet beachgoing. Some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and clubs are here as well, so come back at night if you’re looking to eat, drink, and dance.

2. Stroll down Calle Ocho.

Little Havana is one of Miami’s tried-and-true cultural epicenters, and Calle Ocho is its most famed walkway. Home to tens of thousands of Cuban-American exiles, the neighborhood’s still got plenty of its original old-school charm—from street art to cafés and cigar shops. Grab empanadas at the legendary Versailles restaurant, then head to the longtime cocktail establishment Ball & Chain for a drink and some (non-electronic) live music. For a taste of the new Little Havana, end the night at recently-opened Cafe La Trova, where world-famous Cuban cantinero Julio Cabrera and his family are fusing local flavor with modern cocktail culture.


3. Catch a Miami Heat game.

Home to the Miami Heat, AmericanAirlines Arena is as quirky as NBA stadiums go—mostly because everyone dresses for games here like they’re dressing for the club. Expect to see lots of heels. But also expect fun and excitement because you’re watching one of the best teams in the country play their hearts out. Could this be the year they take home their fourth championship?

4. Soak up Miami’s thriving arts scene.

These days, when you talk about art in Miami, you can’t not mention Art Basel—which might be the only event in town that comes close to Ultra in terms of hype. Now in its 16th year, the international art fair, which takes place between December 5-8 this year, put Miami on the map as an arts town. But let’s be clear: there’s plenty of art being created and appreciated year-round. If you’re a fan of contemporary art, head to the world-renowned Pérez Art Museum Miami. Those that enjoy graffiti and street art should also head to Wynwood Walls to see large outdoor murals—open daily to the public, free of charge. As far as private collections, the de la Cruz Collection is a mainstay.

5. Splurge on a meal or drinks at a celeb hotspot.

Yes, you can eat very well for very cheap, but Miami’s long been a town for A-listers, C-suiters, and jet-setters of all stripes. With that in mind, you’ll probably have to shell out more than you’re used to in order to rub shoulders with these folks. If you’re looking to see and be seen, consider Prime 112, a high-end steakhouse that’s served everyone from Oprah to Kim and Kanye. Or try Swan, the new Design District restaurant opened by hitmaker Pharrell Williams and mogul David Grutman. On the nightlife, you may catch a glimpse of stars—such as Justin Bieber and the Jonas brothers—at Grutman’s legendary club LIV.


6. Go full South Florida with the alligator-spotting.

You have to remember Miami isn’t (culturally) part of America, let alone Florida. West of the white sand and beaches lies an endless stretch of marsh known as the Everglades—one of the most unique water systems on the planet and home to all manner of reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Head to the Miccosukee Indian Village for a kooky airboat ride where you can spot Florida gators from a safe vantage point.

7. Stock up on Santería supplies at a botanica.

Santería is an Afro-American indigenous religion born out of Yoruba religion and influenced by Catholicism. The religion’s practices involve a range of merchandise and tools that include idols, masks, candles, and jewelry. The stores that sells these items are called botanicas, and they function as pillars of the community. Standouts among these are Botanica Negra Francisca and Botanica Nena, two Little Havana mainstays that are happy to help you get started on your divine journey.

8. See giant penises at the World Erotic Art Museum.

Founded in 2005, this Miami Beach institution is a fun, raunchy temple to all things taboo. Open as late as midnight on weekends, the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) houses a collection of 4,000 pieces of erotic art dating as far back as 300 BC. Find works from the likes of Rembrandt all the way to Dalí and Mapplethorpe all sourced from the private stores of philanthropist and collector Naomi Wilzig. Oh yes, and there are penises everywhere—including in the form of 8-foot-tall bedposts.

9. Do the Mac’s Club Deuce and La Sandwicherie combo.

Perhaps the last true relic of old Florida left on Miami Beach, Mac’s Club Deuce has miraculously managed to survive in its prime beachside location since 1933. These days, it’s still one of the best dive bars in America (or the world?) with its pool tables, cheap drinks, and super odd crowd that ranges from local degenerates to A-list celebrities. Across the street, and often the next stop, is La Sandwicherie, a late-night, open-air counter for delicious, have-it-your-way subs and croissant sandwiches. The two go hand-in-hand—just trust us.

10. People watch on Ocean Drive.

Yes, all the drinks on Ocean Drive are grossly overpriced. But this super-touristy strip offers plenty of good fun—for newcomers, a walk down Ocean Drive is something you should experience at least once. Beyond people-watching, you can also snap a photo in front of The Villa Casa Casuarina, more commonly known as the “Versace Mansion,” the ridiculously extravagant former home of the late Gianni Versace that’s since been turned into a luxury hotel. If you want to stay active, the beachside sidewalk here is also a nice jog or walk at sunset.

11. Take a mini roadtrip to the western neighborhoods.

Once you get about an hour northwest from South Beach, you’ll stumble upon the newly up-and-coming community of Hialeah. Head to the city’s Leah Arts District to find a burgeoning arts scene centered around dozens of murals. Flea markets and cheap goods are plentiful here, at establishments like the Opa Locka Hialeah Flea Market and ˜Nooo Que Barato (which literally translates roughly to “damn, how cheap.”


12. Snorkel in the Keys.

Explore Florida’s natural wonders with a quick one-hour trip to Key Biscayne, offering beautiful crystal clear waters for snorkeling. The main point of interest here is the beautiful, snorkel-able Mandalay shipwreck at Biscayne National Park, which is 95 percent underwater. If diving down isn’t your deal, you can navigate the mangrove coastline via kayak or canoe. Admission to the park is always free.

13. Learn about jai alai.

Often dubbed “the world’s fastest sport,” jai alai is a game of Basque origin that involves dudes using curved bats called xisteras to hurl balls at the wall. While it used to be popular in Miami as a gambling sport, it’s much less prevalent nowadays. But if you want to watch some jai alai in action, head to the Magic City Casino, where they’ve done it best for years.

14. Treat yourself to a spa day at the Russian & Turkish baths.

Sure, you could go to the hotel spa, but you’re in Miami! Enjoy the full Miami experience by heading the Russian & Turkish Baths—founded back in New York in 1892. Here, you can get smacked in the face with an oak leaf broom during a traditional Russian healing experience known as the “platza.” Also on the menu: dead sea mud exfoliation, restorative soap scrubs, and, of course, massages.

This story was originally published on March 25, 2014. It has since been updated to keep its recommendations current.