The most fabulous free things to do in Miami, from street art to national parks

Shayne Benowitz
Wander down Ocean Drive to see Art Deco hotels, sidewalk cafés, and tourists clamouring for a taste of the South Beach good life

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The sunny city of Miami is very much about the outdoors - meaning there's plenty to do that won't cost you a dime. From South Beach and its lively Ocean Drive, to glorious green space in the city's many parks, a thriving street-art scene, and not forgetting more Art Deco architecture than you can shake a stick at, Telegraph Travel expert Shayne Benowitz shares her tips on where to get a feel for what Miami's about, all for free.

South Beach

Ocean Drive

Ocean Drive, which runs from the tip of South Beach to 15th Street, is a bustling cacophony of Art Deco hotels glowing in neon and pastel, sidewalk cafés serving mojitos the size of fishbowls, and tourists clamouring for a taste of the South Beach good life. Here, you’ll also find the Versace Mansion, where the designer was murdered in 1997. Lummus Park buffers the ocean with volleyball courts, outdoor workout machines and a winding path with rollerbladers and joggers whizzing by. Lap up the spectacle, soak up the sun and enjoy the sea breeze along this quintessential strip of South Beach.

Address: Oceanfront between 1st and 15th Streets
Getting there: Bus South Beach Local, 103, 120, 123, 150 to multiple stops between 1st and 15th Streets

Ocean Drive should be your first stop to experience the glitz and glamour of Miami Credit: frederic prochasson/vwalakte

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South Pointe Park

Head to the southern tip of South Beach and the beautifully landscaped South Pointe Park where paved paths crisscross along the waterfront and past public art installations. You’ll find a playground with a water feature perfect for children to run around, glorious green space and a pier jutting into the ocean for panoramic views of the beach, the harbour, Fisher Island and South Beach’s glittering luxury condominiums. It’s also a front-row seat to watch the massive cruise ships, lavish yachts and romantic sailboats entering and exiting the harbor.

Contact: 00 1 305 673 7006
Address: 1 Washington Avenue

At South Pointe Park, glorious green spaces and a pier with panoramic views await Credit: (C) Birute Vijeikiene. All rights reserved. ((C) Birute Vijeikiene. All rights reserved. (Photographer) - [None]/Birute

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The New World Symphony

The New World Center, designed by star architect Frank Gehry, houses the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy. The centre’s SoundScape Park was designed for patrons to enjoy free simulcasts of symphony performances on the building’s huge projection wall. These are known as 'Wallcasts', best accompanied by a picnic at this lovely park beneath palm trees and the sparkling stars. On Wednesday evenings October through May, a free Cinema Series is also screened, featuring a wide variety of classic and contemporary films.

Contact: 00 1 305 673 3331; newworldcenter.com
Getting there: Bus 112, 113, 119 to 17th Street at Washington Avenue

The Frank Gehry-designed New World Center is home to an orchestral academy that puts on free screenings of symphony performances Credit: GordonBellPhotography

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Downtown

Freedom Tower

Considered the Ellis Island of the Cuban exile, the Freedom Tower was used by the federal government in the 1960s to process refugees fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime. Here, they were documented and provided with medical care. The tower was originally built in 1925 in the Mediterranean Revival style, and today stands out in Miami’s downtown skyline of modern glass high rises. It's part of the National Register of Historic Places and is operated by Miami Dade College as a museum of art and design, hosting both permanent and visiting exhibitions chronicling the Cuban diaspora.

Contact: 00 1 305 237 7700; mdcmoad.org
Opening times: Wed-Fri, Sun, 1pm-6pm; Sat, 1pm-8pm
Getting there: Metromover to Freedom Tower Station; bus 119 to Biscayne Boulevard at NE 6th Street; bus 120 to NE 1st Avenue at 4th Street

Freedom Tower stands out in Miami’s downtown skyline of modern glass high rises Credit: gregobagel/gregobagel

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Bayfront Park

Take in the views of Miami’s famous skyline with a stroll through Bayfront Park in downtown Miami. Here, you’ll find walking trails, an amphitheatre, fountain, public art, a playground and plenty of green space between the InterContinental Hotel and Bayfront Marketplace. For something a little different, come out for free yoga classes offered on weekday evenings and on Saturday mornings at the Tina Hills Pavilion. Bring your own mat, water and sunscreen. It’s a unique way to get in a good stretch and marvel at Miami’s one-of-a-kind views. If you’re feeling intrepid, keep strolling to the adjacent Museum Park, which anchors Frost Science and PAMM (Pérez Art Museum Miami).

Contact: 00 1 305 358 7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com
Getting there: Bus 3, 93, 103, 119 to Biscayne Boulevard at NE 4th Street; Metromover to College Bayside Station

Bayfront Park is a lovely spot for a leisurely stroll as you marvel at Miami’s one-of-a-kind views Credit: CHUYN

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Wynwood

Wynwood Art District

Wynwood, once a desolate warehouse district, has evolved into a mural-splashed destination of hip bars, restaurants and shops, and more than 70 art galleries. Don’t miss Fredric Snitzer for cutting-edge contemporary works and Gary Nader Art Centre for an impressive collection of Latin American art including Boteros. If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, come out for Second Saturday Art Walk, an evening when art galleries stay open late, food trucks line the street and both revellers and art aficionados come out in droves.

Address: South of SR-112, west of N. Miami Avenue, north of NW 20th Street and east of I-95
Contact: 00 1 786 615 8828; wynwoodmiami.com
Getting there: Bus 2, 3, 10, 16, 32, 93 to multiple stops between 20th and 36th Streets

Wynwood has evolved into a mural-splashed art destination with more than 70 galleries Credit: felixmizioznikov/felixmizioznikov

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Wynwood Walls

The heart of Wynwood runs along NW 2nd Avenue where virtually every square inch of wall is covered in street art. The epicentre is Wynwood Walls conceived by the late Tony Goldman, who is considered the neighbourhood’s pioneer. The outdoor museum park features works by world-renowned street artists such as Retna, Kenny Scharf and the London Police. The sprawling complex includes a garden, indoor gallery and the studio of local artist Peter Tunney. It’s attached to Wynwood Kitchen & Bar whose interiors were designed by legendary street artist Shepard Fairey.

Address:2520 NW Second Avenue
Contact: 00 1 305 531 4411; thewynwoodwalls.com
Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 10.30am-11.30pm; Fri-Sat, 10.30am-12am; Sun, 10.30am-8pm

Wynwood Walls is an outdoor museum park featuring works by world-renowned street artists Credit: Lorraine Boogich/Boogich

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Design District

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

Miami’s newest museum opened in the Design District at the end of 2017, housed inside a modern steel structure with a spacious outdoor sculpture garden. Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami provides an international platform for local, emerging and under-recognised artists. The museum’s permanent collection highlights important moments in both contemporary art history and individual artists’ careers, as well as thematic relationships with Miami. There’s also an impressive public art programme supported by the museum that you can explore throughout this emerging neighbourhood lined with luxury flagship boutiques and popular restaurants.

Address: 61 NE 41st Street
Contact: 00 1 305 901 5272; icamiami.org
Opening times: Tues-Sun, 11am-7pm

The most impressive piece in the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is a wired Madonna sculpture by Thomas Bayrle Credit: ©2016 Fredrik NIlsen, All Rights Reserved/Fredrik Nilsen

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Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove District

The funky bayfront Coconut Grove district just south of downtown is Miami’s oldest neighbourhood, originally settled in the early 1800s and annexed into the City of Miami in 1925. As well as sites of historic interest, Coconut Grove has residential streets canopied with lush, tropical vegetation, and a certain bohemian flair. Over on South Bayshore Drive you’ll find David T. Kennedy Park, a sprawling green space perfect for a picnic and venue for many festivals and celebrations throughout the year; or head to Kenneth M. Myers Bayside Park with a pleasant path from which to soak up the views.

Address: Between South Dixie Highway and Biscayne Bay, south of the Rickenbacker Causeway and north of Prospect Drive
Contact: 00 1 305 461 5506; coconutgrove.com
Getting there: Metrorail to Coconut Grove Station; bus 48, 249 to multiple stops

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, formerly the stately home of a millionaire and socialite, is one of the architectural highlights of Coconut Grove Credit: travelview

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South Dade

Biscayne National Park

Around 95 per cent of Biscayne National Park’s 172,000 acres is underwater, making it the largest marine park in the US. A good starting point is the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, around an hour's drive south of downtown Miami, with a park ranger station, museum and a Jetty Trail for hikes along Convoy Point. Free guided canoe and kayak tours are offered from Convoy Point between November and April. The park's crystal-clear subtropical waters are also ideal for snorkelling. It's best to book all your activities ahead and check on weather conditions before setting off.

Address: 9700 SW 328th Street, Sir Lancelot Jones Way
Contact: 00 1 305 230 1144; nps.gov
Opening times: Water portion of the park always open. Convoy Point: Daily, 7am-5.30pm. Dante Fascell Visitor Center: Nov-Apr, daily, 9am-5pm; May-Oct, daily, 10am-5pm
Getting there: National Parks Trolley from Homestead late November to April; or drive


Visit Biscayne National Park if you want to spend some time outdoors and enrich your knowledge on marine life Credit: 2015 (2015 (Photographer) - [None]/Art Wager