Welcome to Miami, where the players play without dropping a dime.
In this monthly series, we’ll teach you how to maximize your vacation budget and visit your favorite cities for less than a typical weekend at home. We’ll furnish a two-day itinerary of free and insanely cheap things to do and places to eat, but how you get there and where you stay is up to you. With variable pricing based on travel dates, to find discount accommodation, consider all options from hostels and hotels to b&bs. To score the best flight deals, always compare multiple booking sites, try different airline combinations, and be as flexible as you can with your plans.
Known for ritzy clubs and never-ending car shows, Miami is where people come to flaunt bills and chains. But savvy travelers know you don’t have to flash cash to look or live like a baller. In fact, some of the most authentic and local cultural experiences are completely free if you know where to look. If you’re heading to Magic City for the Superbowl or just to snowbird, here’s where to experience Florida’s most enchanting gems for less than a weekend at home.
Breakfast: Tinta y Café
Cost: $3.90 for a Cafecito and Tostada Cubana
Hip counter service, Tinta y Café is the quintessential Cuban café to introduce you to Little Havana. Grab a quick bite and slurp a super-powered Cuban coffee. Essentially a sweetened espresso shot, you’ll be hyped for hours and fully ready to conquer the day.
Morning Activity: Sun and Fun on South Beach
When in Rome, right? Work on your tan and people watch on the famous Ocean Drive. Called the American Riviera and an Art Deco playground, there’s plenty of colorful architecture, rollerblading acrobats, and flowing palms to set the scene for that postcard-perfect Florida view.
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Cost: $7.25 for a regular Cuban, steak or chicken sandwich
The most famous sandwich in all the land, you must try a traditional Cuban at least once while in Miami. Loaded with ham, cheese, pork, pickles, mustard, and mayo, it’s a salty, sweet, and greasy flavor explosion.
Afternoon Activity: Tour the Wynwood Walls
If you’re looking to step up your selfie game, the Wynwood Walls are one of the nation’s OG Insta spots. Arguably where America’s street art movement started, the Wynwood Walls are one of the most popular mural areas in the country for their colorful outdoor art. A constantly changing project, the walls showcase works by over 50 artists from 16 countries.
Dinner: Versailles Cuban Restaurant
Cost: $10.50 for a Ropa Vieja Plate
If you’re not sick of Cuban food yet, Versailles claims to be “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” A hub for politicians and a haven for Cuban exiles since it’s inception in the ‘70s, it’s as much a community gathering spot as it is a regaled restaurant. Protein plates start at less than $10, which makes it a great place to try the traditional dish Ropa Vieja, which is marinated shredded beef served with rice and sweet plantains.
Breakfast: Island Canarias
Cost $7.79 for a standard breakfast plate and croqueta
Touting Miami’s best croquetas, Island Canarias is a family-owned and operated joint that’s been a mainstay for decades. Choose between a typical Cuban breakfast plate of eggs, fries, toast, coffee, and tamale or a more Western-style meal with eggs, pancakes, sausage, and bacon. Both will set you back less than $7, to which you can add one of their famous croquetas for just $1.
Morning Activity: Tour the Institute of Contemporary Art
Miami’s design district is world-renowned for its fashion-forward clothing brands and contemporary pieces — both inside and out. Poke around the gallery and outdoor sculpture garden to get a sense of the area’s unique style and get a taste of a city celebrated for art, famously hosting the Art Basel every year.
Alternate in Spring: Tour Everglades and Biscayne National Parks
January through April, the city of Homestead offers free public transportation and entry into both Everglades and Biscayne National Parks on a guided trolley tour. Wander the historic downtown before heading to Biscayne to paddle the mangroves or spot dolphins and manatees from shore. The Everglades’ Anhinga Trail can introduce you to other native species like alligators, turtles, and dozens of beautiful birds.
Cost: $5 each
Another one of Miami’s most iconic dishes, empanadas are little pockets of love filled with chicken, ham and cheese, spinach and cheese, or the special of the day. Novecento is one of Miami’s most acclaimed Argentinian restaurants with a happy hour selection that includes mules, gin, and agave drinks for sipping.
Afternoon Activity: Explore Little Havana
You’ve sampled Cuban cuisine, but to get a real taste of Cuban culture, head to Maximo Gomez Park (known as Domino Park by the locals) to play dominos, blow cigar rings, and experience a true Latin immersion. Wander Calle Ocho’s street stalls to peruse the wares before heading to Paseo de las Estrellas, the Cuban version of the Hollywood Walk of Stars.
Dinner: My Ceviche
Cost: $9.95 for a fish or shrimp bowl
Take full advantage of the coast’s freshest catch with a bowl of ceviche. Modeled after the traditional beachfront seafood shacks, it’s the perfect grab and go bite to enjoy on the white sand. There’s something for everyone with sushi burritos, poke bowls, and traditional ceviche.
Nighttime Activity: Get Your Groove on at Bayside Marketplace
You don’t have to splurge on expensive bottle service at the club to move under the Miami heat. Located right on Biscayne Bay, the marina stage has free live music every night of the week featuring everything from soulful funk to local Brazilian and Latin bands. Watch the yachts roll in as you reflect on an epic long weekend of balling on a budget.