Miami Downtown Walking Tour, Miami

Miami Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Miami

The coastal sunny city of Miami is a world-class destination for tourists, rich in sights and public venues. The city was off to a humble start on July 28, 1896 with a population of just over 300 people. Miami owes its existence to a woman and is the only major U.S. city founded by a female. Julia Tuttle, "the mother of Miami", was a local citrus grower who originally owned the land the city was built on; she succeeded in convincing railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to extend his Florida East Coast Railway to the region and thus the city was born.

Miami and the eponymous river it stands on derive their name from the Native American tribe that once inhabited the area, Mayaimi. A village of hundreds of people, located at the mouth of the Miami River, predated the arrival of Europeans here by almost 2,000 years. The entire tribe is said to have migrated to Cuba by the mid-1700s.

In the late 19th century, the Miami River neighborhood was seen as a promising wilderness and "one of the finest building sites in Florida". The Great Freeze of 1894–95 hastened Miami's growth, as the crops here were the only ones in Florida that survived. Another crucial role in Miami's early development was African American labor. During the early 20th century, migrants from the Bahamas and African-Americans took up 40% of the local population.

Miami prospered throughout the 1920s thanks to the influx of settlers from up north. However, the collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920s, the 1926 Miami Hurricane, and the Great Depression in the 1930s slowed its development. During WWII, Miami served as a base for U.S. defense against German submarines and once again enjoyed rapid growth in population, earning the nickname “Magic City” among the winter visitors who remarked that it grew so drastically from one year to the next, as if by magic.

After Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in 1959, many wealthy Cubans fled to Miami, further adding to its increase. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Miami became a major international, financial, and cultural center with many new businesses and cultural amenities.

Being the second-largest U.S. city with a Spanish-speaking majority (after El Paso, Texas), and the largest city with a Cuban-American plurality, Miami is jokingly referred to as the "Capital of Latin America". Another title – the "Cruise Capital of the World" – has been attributed to Miami as the world's busiest port in passenger traffic and cruise lines. In large part for this, Miami is also a major tourist hub and a much loved destination for annual conventions and conferences, receiving more than 16 million visitors per year.

To see some of the most popular tourist destinations in Miami and to explore its heritage, take this self-guided introductory walk.
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Miami Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Miami Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Miami (See other walking tours in Miami)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: stacey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Perez Art Museum Miami
  • Freedom Tower
  • Bayside Marketplace
  • Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel
  • Bayfront Park
  • Miami Riverwalk
  • Mary Brickell Village
1
Perez Art Museum Miami

1) Perez Art Museum Miami (must see)

The Perez Art Museum Miami is dedicated to contemporary art, reflecting the diverse cultures of Miami with the emphasis laid on showcasing the art from Europe, the Americas and Africa which represent three major ethnic populations of the city.

The Perez Art Museum Miami was established in 1984 as the Center for Fine Arts. In 1996, the name was changed to the Miami Art Museum. The new museum covers an area of 20,000 square feet and opened for public viewing in 2013. It is a world-class repository of contemporary art and a center for visual arts information and education.

The museum has a vast collection of 20th and 21st-century works from the 1940s to the present. It also hosts local, national, and international temporary exhibitions of theme-based modern art. Admission is free. Visitors can join a guided tour conducted by an artist or art expert for an in-depth understanding of the exhibits.

Why You Should Visit:
Miami’s flagship art museum highlighting the city's diverse community and pivotal geographic location at the crossroads of the Americas. In addition to exploring the galleries, visitors can: enjoy waterfront dining at Verde restaurant; shop a unique selection of art books, furnishings and handmade items at the museum’s gift store; and take in the spectacular views of Biscayne Bay and the elaborate hanging gardens.

Operation hours: Monday - Tuesday: 10 am - 6 pm; Thursday: 10 am - 9 pm; Friday - Sunday: 10 am - 6 pm.
2
Freedom Tower

2) Freedom Tower

The Freedom Tower was built in Mediterranean revivalist style in 1925. It once housed the offices and printing facility of a major local newspaper The Miami News. The design closely resembles that of the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. It has a height of 78 meters and the cupola once had a decorative beacon.

The Miami News offices relocated in 1957 and the US Federal Government used the tower as a processing center for refugees fleeing from the communist regime in Cuba during the 1960s. Jorge Mas Canosa, the founder of the Cuban National American Foundation, purchased Freedom Tower and converted it into a monument for Cuban refugees in 1997, incorporating a museum, library, convention center, and the offices of the Cuban National American Foundation.

Today, the Freedom Tower belongs to Miami Dade University and is used as a cultural and educational center. The university has plans to house permanent exhibitions commemorating The Miami News and relating to the days when the Tower served as a major Cuban refugee processing center.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautiful photo opportunities, especially at night, when the tower is lit up with an array of colors.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Fri, Sun: 1-6pm; Sat: 1-8pm
3
Bayside Marketplace

3) Bayside Marketplace (must see)

The Freedom Tower is a 17-floor structure located on the Wolfson campus of Miami Dade College. It has become the symbol of freedom to Cuban refugees who fled to Florida from the communist regime of Fidel Castro.

Bayside Marketplace is a festival marketplace in the heart of Downtown Miami, located between Bayfront Park to the south and the American Airlines Arena to the north. Just as the name suggests, the venue wraps along the banks of Biscayne Bay. Visitors to Bayside Marketplace can experience real Miami as a home of impeccable international cuisine, fine shops, and exotic music in a beautiful, waterfront setting.

The two-level, open-air festival center opened its doors for the first time in 1987 amid a major real estate boom in the city. Instead of being planned to revitalize a specific area, this entertainment complex complements an existing marina with more than 150 shops, including unique and national retailers such as Guess, GAP, and Victoria's Secret, as well as 12 delicious restaurants, such as Bubba Gump, Hard Rock Café, and The Knife.

The shopping center has been frequently featured on the crime drama TV series, Miami Vice. Being the number one most visited tourist attraction in Miami, Bayside Marketplace attracts on average 15 million people annually who come to enjoy the sunshine and a dose of Latin flavor combined with a few drinks by the water or hop on a refreshing Bay cruise.

Why You Should Visit:
Restaurants overlooking the dock, many boating activities – jet boats, sunset cruises, etc. Overall, friendly and very culturally diverse.
Nice atmosphere through the day, but especially in the evenings, when there's always something going on, live, on the main podium.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am-10pm; Fri, Sat: 10am-11pm; Sun: 11am-9pm
4
Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel

4) Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel

Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel is a Ferris wheel located in Miami's Bayside Marketplace. The Ferris wheel is nearly 200 feet high with 42 climate-controlled gondolas, providing visitors with breathtaking panoramic views of beautiful Downtown Miami, the surrounding Metropolitan area, and Biscayne Bay. The rides last 12 to 15 minutes.

Skyviews also offers a VIP gondola with luxury seating, a glass floor, and a custom LED light show. Those who choose the VIP experience also get to skip the line.

The Ferris wheel was designed by Ronald Bussink who is renowned for creating Ferris wheels for more than 25 years. Some of these other designs include the Belfast Wheel, the Wheel of Brisbane, and the Eye on Malaysia. Skyviews was modeled after the London Eye.

Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel is open Monday through Thursday from 2 PM to 10 PM and Friday through Sunday from 1 PM to 10:30 PM. Tickets to the Ferris wheel include access to the buzz booth selfie photos.
5
Bayfront Park

5) Bayfront Park (must see)

Bayfront Park is a large green space in downtown Miami sprawled near the financial district and the American Airlines Arena. The park is located on Biscayne Bay and is the venue of many commemorative events.

Bayfront covers an area of 32 acres and was established after the city of Miami acquired a strip of waterfront land from the Florida East Coast Railway. The first designs were made by architect Warren Henry Manning and the park was opened to the public in 1925. In 1980, it was extensively remodeled by the Japanese American modernist artist and landscape architect, Isamu Noguchi.

The park received extentive national attention following the assassination of Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak on February 15, 1933. Cermak was shot and mortally wounded while shaking hands with President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt in front of Bayfront Park by assassin Giuseppe Zangara. Cermak died 19 days later. A serious debate has ensued as to whether Zangara had been actually trying to assassinate Roosevelt instead, however no firm evidence has been found to prove this theory.

Bayfront Park is now managed by the Bayfront Park Management Trust. It is the venue of many important celebrations like the Independence Day Celebrations and the Official New Years Eve party.

Why You Should Visit:
The closeness of water, enhanced by the latest extension to the Miami River, makes this place very special.
The area allows visitors to enjoy beautiful downtown skyline and bay views. Live music in the amphitheater and the always friendly mood makes it particularly inviting.

Tip:
Check online schedule for the many activities that are always happening in this park.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-11pm
6
Miami Riverwalk

6) Miami Riverwalk

The Miami Riverwalk is a promenade along the Miami River and Biscayne Bay. The Riverwalk starts at Bayfront Park and ends at US Highway 41. It offers stunning views and a quiet stroll in downtown Miami.

Views of the river include a steady stream of yachts. This is particularly true on the weekend. However, it's not just the water that makes the promenade worth a visit. There are plenty of things to see and do on land as well.

Tourists will see the Liberty Column, the Seafair Mega Yacht, and numerous open-air art installations. The beginning of the walk, at Bayfront Park, features a stunning view of the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel. The walk is safest during the day, but the lights of Miami reflected on the water are beautiful at night.

The Riverwalk is the location of the Miami Riverwalk Festival held each November. It is a free, multicultural activity with entertainment, a children's festival, a boat parade, and food competitions.
7
Mary Brickell Village

7) Mary Brickell Village

Mary Brickell Village is a shopping area and a lifestyle center in Miami's Brickell neighborhood. The chic neighborhood offers a variety of shops and restaurants.

Shops at Mary Brickell Village include fashion, specialty shops, and services. Among those shops, tourists might see Face Brow and Beauty Bar, Plump Cosmetics and Injectables, Massage Envy, Total Nutrition, The Village Humidor Cigar Shop, and many others.

Restaurants at Mary Brickell Village range from fine dining to pub food to chain restaurants. Tourists can choose from a sandwich at Subway, a latte at Starbucks, a smoothie at Shake Shack, a cocktail at Blue Martini, or a fine dining experience at Toscano Divino.

The 200,000-square-foot village was built in 2006. It was made to be a spot where locals and visitors can shop, dine and play. Open from 10 AM to 9 PM daily, tourists can enjoy the outdoor ping pong tables, the fountains, or the solace of being in a serene environment in downtown Miami.

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