10 Miami spots where you can act like a tourist

When friends and family heard you were going to college in Miami, they probably thought you were going to major in partying on South Beach with a minor in tanning. While you’ve probably seen more of your books than the beach (hopefully), it’s always fun to act like a tourist for a day. If you’ve never ventured out into the city like a visitor, here are the 10 best places to explore Miami’s attractions.

10. Fairchild Tropical Gardens 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Photo Courtesy Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

This lush garden is home to a wide range of botanical plants and trees. Experience Miami’s tropical climate by strolling through this oasis. Take the time to enjoy the butterfly garden, arboretum and a rainforest. The gardens often feature art displays, as well as special events like movie nights or musical concerts.

  • Tourist Tip: Check out the calendar of events to enjoy its many festivals, such as the Spring Garden, Mango, Bird, Fall Garden, Chocolate and Orchid festivals.
  • Price: $25 for adults, but discounted tickets for students are available through Culture Shock Miami
  • Address: 10901 Old Cutler Road, Miami, FL 33156

9. Shark Valley Visitor Center 

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

Photo Courtesy of NPS.gov

Located in Everglades National Park, this visitor center is in the heart of the river of grass. Stop in to learn about the Everglades or explore it on your own along the 15-mile Tram Road trail. Guests can also enjoy the view from the Observation Tower located at the halfway point and see plenty of wildlife, such as key deer, turtles and Florida’s native birds.

  • Tourist Tip: Watch your step; alligators and crocodiles often sunbathe on the trail.
  • Price: $10 entrance to the park
  • Address: 36000 SW 8th St. Miami, FL 33194

8. Key Biscayne

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com.

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com.

If you want the sand and the sun without the loaded atmosphere of South Beach, head down to Key Biscayne, a more relaxed beach destination. Crandon Park offers 808 acres filled with sandy beaches as well as cabanas to rent. Little shops and restaurants can be found by heading down the Rickenbacker Causeway.

  • Tourist Tip: After chilling out at the beach, take a stroll around the adjacent park or check out the kiddie splash zones if you need to cool off.
  • Price: $1.75 toll by plate to enter into Key Biscayne and entrance into Crandon Park is $5 during the week and $7 on weekends.
  • Address: 6747 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne, FL 33149

7. Miami Seaquarium

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com.

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com.

Located right next to the ocean, the Seaquarium gives guests the opportunity to see several types of aquatic animals up close. For full blown tourist mode, grab an ice cream and walk around with a map, checking off each fun sea animal you meet. Dolphins, orcas and sea lions are some of the charming performers you can watch in the daily shows.

  • Tourist Tip: Deck yourself out in your tourist best with a hat, sunglasses and sneakers to prepare for the heat and long walks.
  • Price: $42.99 for adults
  • Address: 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

6. Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Bill Sumner, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Bill Sumner, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Known locally as the best spot to take quinceanera photos, Vizcaya is an elaborate and richly designed estate and mansion. This Italian Renaissance-style palace was built by industrialist James Deering in the early 20th century. Take a stroll through the interior’s 34 rooms or head outside to meander around the gardens, which have way more than just plants and include fountains, pools and sculptures.

  • Tourist Tip: Take a picnic basket to enjoy a meal surrounded by the beautiful scenery, waterfront views and serene ambiance.
  • Price: $18 for adult tickets and $10 for students with ID
  • Address: 3251 S Miami Ave., Miami FL 33129

5. Zoo Miami

Photo Courtesy of Zoo Miami

Photo Courtesy of Zoo Miami

Go wild and channel your inner child by taking a trip to Zoo Miami. Get close to rare and endangered wildlife in the open-air exhibits that allow guests to experience these animals as if they were in their natural habitats. There are plenty of activities, like behind-the-scenes tours, a giraffe feeding station, camel rides, safari cycles, a rhino encounter and water play areas.

  • Tourist Tip: Get there early in the day for your best chance at seeing the animals before the hot Florida sun drives them into their hideaways.
  • Price: $17.95 for adults
  • Address: 1 Zoo Boulevard 12400 SW 152 St., Miami, FL 33177

4. Little Havana 

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com.

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com.

Miami is a city fueled by Cuban espresso. Cafecitos are a staple in Calle Ocho, or eighth street, which lies in Little Havana. The city is home to millions of people from Spanish-speaking countries, and a good portion hail from Cuba. This makes the district ideal for authentic Cuban cuisine, specialty shops and colorful neighborhoods.

  • Tourist Tip: Sit down for a game at Domino Park and check out the vibrantly colored murals that detail Cuba’s history and daily life.
  • Price: Free to walk around
  • Address: Little Havana Miami, FL 33135

3. Bayside Marketplace

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com.

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com.

Located along the waterfront in Downtown Miami, this outdoor shopping mall is home to dozens of restaurants, cafes and shops, from large national brands to homegrown carts. Live entertainment and sightseeing cruises are popular attractions and nothing screams “tourist” like going on a sightseeing cruise down Biscayne Bay with a piña colada in hand.

  • Tourist Tip: Get there in the late afternoon to watch the sunset on the water or head out to a restaurant and enjoy the free musical performances offered on weekends.
  • Price: Free to walk around
  • Address: 401 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132

2. South Beach

South Beach

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com

This quintessential beach experience can be found at the southern end of Miami Beach. During spring break, excited college students storm the beaches along the water, resulting in a flurry of colorful bikinis and tan lines. While you’re there, take a walk along the South Pointe Park Pier to enjoy the beautiful views.

  • Tourist Tip: Go ahead and snap a selfie on one of the world’s most famous beaches.
  • Price: Free to walk around
  • Address: 1 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139

1. Miami Beach 

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau www.gmcvb.com

Photo Courtesy of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau http://www.gmcvb.com

Featured on TV shows from Burn Notice to Keeping up with the Kardashians, the mecca of South Florida beaches is the center of the Miami tourist scene. The closer you wander toward the beach, the pricier the restaurants, boutiques, parking and, well, everything becomes. Take a stroll down the colorful 1930s Art Deco District, where restored buildings feature historic awnings and neon signs.

  • Tourist Tip: Stroll down Collins Avenue and sit down for lunch at an outdoor patio.
  • Price: Free to walk around
  • Address: Miami Beach, FL

This article originally appeared in USA TODAY 10Best April 7, 2015.

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