Miami, Florida: Culture, Places, and Restaurants

This February, I had the opportunity to travel to Miami, FL to celebrate my birthday, which fell on a Friday this year. Chicago weather lived up to its expectations that week, and there was a snow storm on Thursday night. (Ironically, it was similar weather to the date that I was born, which was also on a Friday.) Thus, the weather made it even more perfect timing for a weekend getaway filled with sunshine, sand, and water. I flew out early Saturday morning—catching the 5AM flight—and thankfully missed the airport delays due to snow.

I didn’t anticipate how utterly rejuvenating it would be to replenish some good ol’ Vitamin D and spend the weekend surrounded by people I loved. Inherently, that weekend included manifold laughs, smiles, and—of course—celebration. My friends even gave me a sparkly tiara, colorful sash, and bright pink swimsuit, all “extra” but appreciated, and so naturally I wore all with pride and smiles because, hey, it is only your birthday once a year, right?

I’ve been to Miami one other time. I was a little girl and my family drove down from Chicago—ah, classic family roads trips—to visit one of my mom’s friends. I don’t remember much, but definitely couldn’t forget the bright sun and colorful atmosphere. Those aspects of Miami were the same as I experienced the city this year, but this time around I was able to appreciate everything more—older and wiser, of course—and I saw the beauty & culture this city delivers.

Miami was named after the native tribe—the Mayaimi—that lived there during the seventeenth & eighteenth centuries. It officially became a city in 1896 due to Julia Tuttle traveling there and persuading a railroad mogul to expand into that area, which is fascinating because it makes Miami the only major U.S. city founded by a woman. Additionally, Miami Beach—the area east of Biscayne Bay—wasn’t incorporated until 1915 and is home to the world’s largest collection of art deco architecture.

It’s clear that Miami is known for lots of things, a major one of those being the Cuban influence and overall diverse population. This brings a “melting pot” to Miami with absolutely delicious food, unique art, and lots other exclusive aspects of it all. Like most places, not every area in Miami the same; there are different spots, inherently all with various influences & purposes. Clearly there is still a ton more ground left for me to cover, but here are my three favorite and well-known destinations in the Magic City.


This bright Miami district is especially known for it’s colorful murals, home to some of the world’s most famous street artists. This place funky and bubbling with people, art, and talent. Lined are the streets with handmade jewelry stands, manifold boutiques, interesting art galleries, and stylish restaurants, making these streets awesome for strolling (or better yet, “recorrer”).

A particular restaurant I’d highly recommend would be Charcoal Garden Bar & Grill. This fresh, funky, farm-to-table spot is located at the Wynwood Yard, perfect for listening to live music, gathering with people, and stopping by the various food trucks. Charcoal is open for both brunch and dinner, and they have a friendly & welcoming kitchen & waitressing staff.

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Smiling against the Wynwood walls
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Street art with keyless locks
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Plant shop in Wynwood
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Birthday celebration at Charcoal

South Beach

A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without a stop at South Beach, Miami’s iconic beach location. The sun seems to always be shining here, and nothing beats running full-speed into the Atlantic ocean. The sand area is crowded and the beach stretches long, but the different colored life guard stations make it much easier to someone you are looking for!

A restaurant here I’d recommend is along Ocean Drive, the popular road that runs parallel to South Beach. Lolo’s Surf Cantina has indoor & outdoor seating with creative tacos and other unique & delicious dishes. The tacos I ordered had lots of spices and veggies, perfect for experiencing a taste of Miami food that’s of course different from Chicago!

Can you guess whose birthday it was?
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View of South Beach
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cheesin’ on top of the lightguard huts
looking out on the ocean

Coconut Grove

This Miami neighborhood is definitely more upscale. It hugs the shoreline of Biscayne Bay and includes lots of greenery with locations looking out on the Bay, as well as various & relaxed sidewalk shops. Known as a “tropical oasis,” this part of Miami can be a quick getaway from hectic city life. Additionally, numerous outdoor festivals & events are held here.

One place I loved here for eating is Glass & Vine, which is open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. They have amazing outdoor seating and I love the Zak the Baker bread served with burrata & olive oil, as well as the charred cauliflower. The waiters are attentive & happy, and this place is undoubtedly trendy and bustling with people.

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aaanother bday celebration at Glass & Vine
View of the Bay
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Relaxing by the pool in Coconut Grove

Revitalizing Moments in Miami

– eating a burger & fries with the view of the beach
– enjoying a manicure with your mom
– walking along Biscayne Bay in the morning
– having a tiara on your birthday
– laying by the pool in February with an abundance of sun
– swimming in ocean, as salty & exotic as it is
– taking a nap with your best friend at your side
– wearing a swimsuit while it snows back home

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The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.


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