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.
20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Miami
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.