20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Miami

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FLAWLESS FLA.

Mentions of Miami and South Beach may prompt visions of beautiful people on the boardwalk, glitzy nightclubs, and pool parties, but there's more than just nightlife in Florida's most glamorous city. From rich Cuban culture and museums to natural wonders and art walks, it can feel like there's no end of activities to choose from. Many are free or budget-friendly for individuals, couples, and families.

HEAD TO THE BEACH

Miami is lined with miles of beautiful sand and warm waters, making the beach an obvious first thing to check out. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has an interactive map of Miami's beaches to help tourists find the beach that fits them best. Visit South Beach for music, drinking, and parties, or drive up north for a more relaxing scene. Parking may be a hassle, but it can be cheap if planned ahead. Best Parking promises the best rates around Miami and is searchable by arrival time, area, address, and attractions.

JAZZ IT UP AT THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

If vacation in Miami happens to include the last Friday of the month, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art for free live jazz. Crowds gather at the plaza outside at 8 p.m. General admission to the museum itself is only $5, and there are no admission fees for veterans, children under 12, and Bank of America cardholders.

EXPLORE EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

Visiting the Everglades and its enthralling wildlife may be pricey, but the park is one of the area's treasures. Plan ahead and price cuts can be found, too. The Everglades Safari Tour, originally priced at $55, comes down to $29 a person with a Groupon, netting the same three-hour, high-speed airboat tour of the swampy Everglades, round-trip transportation from more than 10 pickup points and hotels outside the park, and an educational show.

TRY A CUBAN SANDWICH

Anyone who's watched the 2014 movie "Chef" likely came away craving an authentic Cuban sandwich. Head to Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop for an old-fashioned counter-style meal of delicious Cuban sandwiches stuffed with croquetas (fried tidbits, often of mashed potato) or an extra layer of pork. Yelp reviewers praise the regular specials, crispy bread, and affordable prices. Yelp reviews identify Islas Canarias as a good spot to try croquetas on their own.

GET INTERACTIVE AT THE MIAMI CHILDREN'S MUSEUM

Bring the family to the Miami Children's Museum for a day of educational, hands-on exhibits. Admission is usually $18 per person, but visitors get in for free from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the third Friday of every month. Let the kids build at the Construction Zone, explore the two-story Castle of Dreams, learn about animal care at Pet Central, and role-play at a kid-size supermarket.

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PRACTICE FREE YOGA NEAR THE BAY

Find free and donation-based yoga by the scenic bay and beaches. Free yoga classes are held in Bayfront Park every Monday night, Wednesday night, and Saturday morning. The Third Street Beach Yoga studio is active every day of the week, with donation-based sunrise and sunset classes led by certified yoga instructors. Students should bring their own mat, sunscreen, water, and towel.

ESCAPE TO QUIET KEY BISCAYNE

Head south of South Beach for seclusion, peace, and quiet. At Key Biscayne, there are pristine beaches, a cycling trail, and beautiful views of Miami. Parking is cheap too: $4.75 for vehicles carrying at least two people. After sunbathing, drive north to Crandon Park or south to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park for a variety of sports and activities.

PEOPLE-WATCH ON OCEAN DRIVE

Stroll along one of the most popular, crowded roads in Miami Beach. Ocean Drive runs alongside South Beach and is packed with commercial activity, beach views, beautiful people, and singular architecture. Famous Ocean Drive sites, including the old residence of Gianni Versace, appear in a number of American films (including "Scarface" and "The Birdcage") and TV shows (including "Miami Vice" and "Dexter"). Many restaurants hand out fliers for lunch or dinner specials on Ocean Drive.

BROWSE AT THE FARMERS MARKETS

If shopping is on the to-do list, visit the farmers markets in Miami. There will be plenty of locally sourced vegetables and other foods for cooking in accommodations with kitchens, as well as homemade goods and potential souvenirs to bring home. The Adrienne Arsht Center Farmers Market in Downtown Miami, held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Monday, adds occasional events featuring talks, live music and cooking.

GO ON AN ART CIRCUIT WALK

Miami is known for its art scene and plentiful galleries, and bars and restaurants are often packed with locals and tourists at the tail end of an art walk. The Coral Gables Gallery Night brings art enthusiasts around Ponce Circle Park the first Friday of every month, and the Wynwood Art Walk crowds Miami galleries on second Saturdays. Art of Miami lists the best art walks.

GET ACTIVE AT CRANDON PARK

If sunbathing and drinking near the beach sounds too relaxing, head to Crandon Park on the northern tip of Key Biscayne. It's all about activities: beach volleyball, walking and biking trails, a tennis center, golf, kiteboarding, and more. Pack lunch and a day's worth of supplies (barbecue grills are available). There's a $7 parking fee on weekends.

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STROLL AROUND LITTLE HAVANA

If a taste of Cuban culture is on the itinerary, Little Havana remains a must. Thousands of Cubans fled to Miami after Fidel Castro became prime minister in 1959, making this the place to experience authentic dominos, art, music, and commerce -- including cigar rollers -- as well as the country's distinctive cuisine. Try churro ice cream, sugarcane juice, and strong coffee when hunger strikes while sightseeing along Calle Ocho and Memorial Boulevard.

LEARN SOMETHING NEW AT HISTORYMIAMI

HistoryMiami (formerly the Historical Museum of Southern Florida) is dedicated to maintaining and commemorating the history and culture of South Florida. Learn about the area back to prehistoric times, as well as cultural folklife, pioneering Miami Beach families, and more through artifacts and archives. Admission is free on Family Fun Days on the second Saturday of every month.

SPEND THE EVENING AT THE LITTLE HAITI CULTURAL CENTER

On the third Friday of every month, the Rhythm Foundation and Little Haiti Cultural Center hosts the Big Night in Little Haiti. Swing by for live music, DJs, food, art, and more. There is no set admission fee, but the suggested donation is $5.

DISCOVER THE HISTORIC ART DECO DISTRICT

Pack comfortable walking shoes to explore the Art Deco District in South Beach, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. Charge phones and cameras to capture memories of the bright, pastel-colored buildings, architecture mimicking the ocean liners of the 1930s, and gleaming neon signs. Follow a walking tour compiled by National Geographic for a thorough glimpse of these preserved, unique buildings.

TAKE THE KIDS TO BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK

Biscayne National Park, south of Miami, preserves a variety of ecosystems, including Biscayne Bay and its offshore reefs. For a glimpse of the diverse wildlife, take a trip to the national park for Family Fun Fest on the second Sunday of the month from December through April. At free interactive activity stations, children learn about different aspects of the park's resources and earn a special button at the end of the day.

WATCH AN OUTDOOR MOVIE

The New World Center's ExoStage -- equipped with an outdoor projection wall stretching over 7,000 square feet -- plays features on Wednesday nights. The 2016 lineup includes newer releases such as a "Hunger Games" film and "Avengers: Age of Ultron," as well as modern classics such as "Forrest Gump" and "Independence Day" and occasional older fare such as "Niagara" (1953) with Marilyn Monroe. People bring blankets, food, and sometimes dogs to enjoy an evening of cinema in the park.
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DISCOVER COCONUT GROVE BY BIKE

Learn about the oldest inhabited neighborhood of Miami on a free bicycle tour on the second and fourth Saturday morning of every month. Led by Royal Palm Tours of Miami, the route takes visitors on a scenic, educational ride through Coconut Grove. A local restaurant provides free parking.

ENJOY HAPPY HOUR

The beach may be Miami's top destination, but the local happy hours are a good follow-up once the sun sets. Search by atmosphere, or let Yelp find inexpensive spots such as the dog-friendly Wood Tavern, where reviewers have cheered the free-taco nights, free well drinks for ladies on Wednesdays, and "Sunday Backyard Boogies" with drink specials.

HOP ON A DOUBLE-DECKER

If it's a short vacation and there's not much time for tourist attractions, consider a double-decker bus tour. Miami Sightseeing Tours depart twice a day and include the historic Art Deco District, Little Havana, downtown Miami, and Key Biscayne. They run every day, and groups can hop on and off at their own convenience. Groupon offers deals: $27 for one person and $52 for two.