We ended up spending a weekend in Miami purely because it was the cheapest way for us to get back to some main US airports from Guayaquil after our Galapagos trip. When we found out we’d be here for a stopover we figured we might as well make a weekend of it, and we’re glad we did!
We loved every minute of the 3 weeks we spent in the US at the start of our trip and were excited to be back and exploring another new city. Miami is known for its partying, Cuban cultural influences and of course, its famous basketball team – the Heat. It’s pretty easy to enjoy all of these and more on a reasonable budget. We were also lucky enough to be there for Halloween which was amazing – street parties on every corner – so if you can time it right Miami’s a great place to experience an American style Halloween.
Fun Things to Do on a Weekend In Miami
If you’re lucky enough to have a weekend in Miami and you’re trying to stick to a budget but see as much as possible – try and fit in as many of these as you can:
Famous for its beach, obviously, and for being one of the best neighbourhoods in the city. This is a great place to stay with loads of hostels on offer and close by to awesome bars, restaurants etc. Walk along the beach past all the cute beach huts to South Pointe pier for ocean views, then head for a drink by the bay.
This is the heart of Miami’s Art Deco district and is packed with iconic hotels, shops and bars. Check out: the most photographed Art Deco hotel – the Colony Hotel; The Villa, Casa Casuarina site of the Versace mansion where Gianni Versace was shot in 1997, and The Sunray Apartments which featured in the movie Scarface. Wandering down this leafy avenue and checking out all of the awesome buildings is a must do on any weekend in Miami.
This area of Miami is known for its street art and is one of the coolest places we’ve visited. There’s a dedicated park with walls and doors decorated with graffiti and the art has spilled out onto almost all of the surrounding streets. As you’d expect it’s a pretty hipster area with lots of great coffee shops and burger bars to enjoy. The Wynwood Art District contains over 70 galleries, collections and art museums so this is a must visit if you’re an art lover.
Sticking with the art theme, the first attraction we shelled out some cash for on our budget weekend in Miami was this amazing museum. Even the building itself is critically acclaimed after being rebuilt in 2013. Packed with various contemporary art collections, its exhibits have a focus on modern international art from the perspective of the Americas, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours.
This is a must do even if, like me, you’re not really a sports fan! The Heat are one of the most highly valued NBA franchises and play at the American Airlines arena. Tickets can be picked up from as little as $20 per person and it’s a great night out. “Let’s go Heat!!”
Miami’s Cuban history has its home here, where many who fled Castro’s regime based themselves to start their new lives. Check out the street art, numerous cigar shops and the famous Ball & Chain live music bar. There’s also a cute dominoes park which is always busy with locals.
Miami Mansions Boat Tour:
Okay, so this one is just a little cheesy, but that doesn’t make it any less fun! We actually paid $80 each for a full day tour that included this, an open top bus city tour and a trip to the Everglades. Pretty much a bargain for how much of the area we saw in a day and a great way to pack lots in if you only have a weekend in Miami! This tour though was super fun. You cruise round the bay and its various exclusive islands whilst your tour guide points out celebrity Mansions. They are seriously impressive and great if you’re a nosy celeb fan (which I happen to be). We saw homes owned by Rihanna, Will Smith, David Beckham, Matt Damon and many more ridiculously rich and famous people.
We didn’t spend as long here as I would have liked, but it was still good to see the park and learn a bit more about its unique eco system. On our tour we enjoyed an airboat ride along the river where we spotted alligators and kept an eye out for other wildlife. After this it was time for an alligator show – using animals in entertainment shows for tourists isn’t really my jam but we didn’t realise it was included until we were there, and it wasn’t too bad. Getting to see another National Park on our weekend in Miami was a real bonus.
Bonus Halloween Tips:
We had one of the best nights out of our trip on Halloween, which was a completely spontaneous adventure. Where we come from Halloween isn’t really a thing, and actually I was banned from trick or treating as a kid so I was pretty excited to see what a real USA style Halloween would be like. Turns out it’s just as good as you might imagine. Don’t do the British thing of making half an effort just in case no one else gets dressed up… everyone seriously goes for it.
We partied til 3am in stupid fancy dress with all manner of others in inventive costumes at the street parties down Lincoln Road. All you need to do is literally walk down the street and there are bars with cheap beer and DJs on every other corner. Genuinely thought I might die when we got up at 7am the next day for a 24 hour journey and 2 flights to Fiji but I’d say in the whole it was worth it. Definitely try to visit around Halloween if you can!
What We Spent for a Weekend in Miami
We said this would be about enjoying a weekend in Miami on a budget and we think we did a pretty good job. Our paid tours were as follows:
Everglades, Miami Mansions and City Tour:
$80 booked through our hostel.
Miami Heat Tickets:
$30 a ticket reduced from $60
Perez Art Museum:
$12 each for student tickets
We got around mainly using Uber as it’s just easier and cheaper than getting lots of buses when there’s two of you. As well as this we saved money by cooking in our hostel and not eating out – a lot of the food in Miami is pretty pricey and you have that whole tipping thing on top as well.
Accommodation wise, we opted for a dorm room in a hostel located in South Beach – Miami Hostel. It was $50 per night for both of us so expensive on the whole but fairly typical for US cities based on our previous experience. It’s a nice hostel, clean and with good facilities and well located, would recommend to any budget travellers.