Despite what you see on TV and in movies, Miami is much more than South Beach. Miami-Dade County hosts one of the country's most diverse collections of communities and neighborhoods. If you're thinking about where to live in Miami, this is something to keep in mind. Miami offers everything from beachfront paradises to classic suburban homes with picket fences, so here's a brief guide to Miami's neighborhoods.
Beachfront Neighborhoods in Miami
We know we just said there's more to Miami than the beach, and there is, but beachfront living still feels like the most natural place to start when discussing where to live in Miami. From shopping to dining to, of course, beach lounging and major events, you have limitless options living on the beach.
Living in South Beach places you at the doorstep of paradise. With beautiful people all around you and the Atlantic Ocean as your backyard, living here feels like stepping into paradise. And because it's a tropical paradise, the world is literally your oyster if you live in South Beach. South Beach is more than its own neighborhood: it's basically its own ecosystem. Once you cross the I-395 bridge and venture over to the island, you're not in Miami anymore; you're in South Beach, and with that entails a culture and experience all its own. Unlike most of Miami, you really don't need a car to get around here. Despite earning the status of being an international tourist destination, South Beach is small enough that you'll know names, faces, and business owners if you spend enough time here. You'll also get to know all South Beach has to offer from the hidden gems to the tourist hot spots. You can swing by Lincoln Road Mall for the trendiest shopping the state has to offer. If you're looking for good drinks, head over to Foxhole or Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami. We've all got to eat, so heading to Quattro Gastronomia Italiana and Drunken Dragon should offer the delicacies to satisfy your palate. For those who are into the arts, fear not that you'd be plunging yourself into a neighborhood catering solely to partying: South Beach also has a thriving art community, and they host their annual Art Basel every December.
While Bal Harbour certainly meets the minimum requirements to be considered part of Miami Beach, it's about 10 to 15 miles north of what people consider to be Miami Beach. However, that doesn't mean it isn't one of Miami's coolest neighborhoods and a great place to live. Bal Harbour is right on the water and is just east of one of Miami's nicer suburbs. While it lacks the party atmosphere of South Beach, it still attracts celebrities and and local elites partly because of its close proximity to the beach but also because of the Bal Harbour Shops. If Lincoln Road is peak Florida shopping, Bal Harbour is a close second. Naturally, it's also one of Miami's best dining destinations. If you're looking for a good meal, stop by Cafe Prima Pasta for delectable Italian food and Makoto Japanese Restaurant if you love sushi and other Japanese fare.
Key Biscayne is like the ugly stepsister of Miami beachfront living, but, because it's in Miami, that ugly stepsister is pretty much a pageant queen by conventional standards. A residential neighborhood with big city flair, Key Biscayne is a barrier island connected to the city by the Rickenbacker Causeway and home to secluded beaches like Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which is a popular family destination. Most of the things to do in this village are more family-oriented, but it's a more extravagant take on typical family outings, including experiences like visiting Miami Seaquarium, the best aquarium in Florida outside of SeaWorld | Orlando.
Emerging Neighborhoods in Miami
Despite being one of the biggest cities in the country, Miami can still be described as developing, which is understandable because it's a younger city in comparison to other eastern locales like New York, Boston, and Philly. When deciding where to live in Miami, some of these up-and-coming cities are already among the hip spots to live, and others are predicted to become hot neighborhoods in a few years.
Once a warehouse district on the outskirts of Miami's urban communities, Wynwood seemingly re-branded itself overnight in 2012. That re-branding involved making lemonade out of the lemons and catering to the under-served art community in Miami. Wynwood began its local rebranding as a counterculture alternative to South Beach and Brickell. It became home to hip dive bars playing obscure indie rock and the monthly Wynwood Art Walk. But like most things in Miami, Wynwood's secret didn't take long to get out. Today, Wynwood is undeniably mainstream but manages to remain hip. Now, Wynwood is home to some of Miami's best brunches at The Butcher Shop MIA and Wynwood Diner. Of course, the party scene offers plenty as well. Wood Tavern and Brick are among Miami's most popular party venues, and if you're looking for one of the best Latin clubs, El Patio Wynwood will have you dancing salsa and bachata all night.
As its name suggests, Little Haiti has had a thriving Haitian population for generations. It's a community with a culture and language (often Haitian-Creole) all its own. Naturally, you'll get lots of Afro-Caribbean vibes here, but Little Haiti has undergone a gradual transformation. It's still undeniably Afro-Caribbean, but Wynwood's artsy atmosphere has begun to leak into the neighboring Little Haiti in the form of new shops, stores, restaurants, refurbished neighborhoods, and apartment complexes. However, while the influence of neighboring communities is undeniable, the best parts of Little Haiti are its classic holdovers. Restaurants like Chef Creole Seafood Takeout made their name here and quickly became an iconic Miami institution. Churchill's Pub is arguably Miami's best live music spot and has been around since the late 1970s. Sweat Records, a throwback record shop, serves the community with the independent and international tunes the neighborhood craves. As rent has gone up in Wynwood and the Design District, Little Haiti has become a haven for artists as well. Yo Space is a communal art gallery allowing local creators to share their work as well as a hub for artists of all kinds.
There's a bit of debate between locals about where Little Haiti ends and where Little River begins. Wherever you believe the boundary lies, it's undeniable that the area is evolving rapidly. Like Little Haiti, Little River is one of Miami's oldest neighborhoods and has a rustic feel that is being remixed by artists currently flocking to the area. From the Bill Bradley Gallery. TenOver6, and Fountainhead Studios, Little River is a tapestry of diversity for creatives. As a beacon for outside-the-box thinkers, Little River also attracts businesses offering new spins on common activities. For example, why buy your coffee from Starbucks when you can create and brew your own at Counter Culture Coffee? You could buy your next bottle of vodka from ABC Liquors or you could purchase locally-distilled vodka at Our/Vodka.
Urban Neighborhoods in Miami
When you think of Miami, you think of tropical paradise, not an urban mecca. While everyone knows Miami as one of the biggest cities in the country, it's thriving city center isn't really a part of the associated imagery. Nevertheless, Miami's urban neighborhoods have recently become some of the most preferred areas for those looking to plant roots in the Magic City.
There was a time in the 1990s when Downtown Miami wasn't a place you wanted to spend much time in unless you worked there or wanted to shop at a specific store because it was known as a haven of crime. Things have certainly changed since the new millennium, however. These days, Downtown Miami brands itself as the place in Miami where "work meets play," and that couldn't be more accurate. Some would argue that downtown added play to the work when the American Airlines Arena opened its doors in January 2000 as its the home of the Miami Heat as well as a venue for diverse concerts and events, regularly attracting traffic. A number of other prominent venues also sprung up in Downtown Miami since 2000 with Club Space, The Corner, Pawn Broker and E11EVEN MIAMI being among the most popular spots. Also, the Ultra Music Festival, which celebrates its 20th year in 2018, takes place in Biscayne Park just mere blocks from the AAA. Downtown Miami has something everyone, even the artsy types as living in this neighborhood provides easy access to the Perez Art Museum Miami.
Mary Brickell Village is the result of Downtown Miami's new millennium renaissance. This neighborhood is really just a few blocks from downtown and was just considered part of Downtown Miami 15 to 20 years ago, but times change. Today, Brickell is the zenith of what Downtown Miami strives to be with cool bars, shops, and people. It's an urban center with plenty of opportunities for those climbing social and career ladders. With its collection of high-rise condos, living in Brickell offers views only rivaled by living on the shores of South Beach. Most of Brickell's hang out options are built for both dining and partying. Fado Irish Pub, Blue Martini, American Social Brickell, and Taverna Opa are among the most popular locales. Of course, if you're looking for establishments fully catering to the party scene, a spot like Sidebar Miami or Blackbird Ordinary definitely fits the bill.
Suburban Neighborhoods in Miami
If metropolitan areas are overlooked when thinking about Miami, suburbs are surely non-thoughts, but they do exist, and they're home to those who have grown out of the hustle and bustle as well as the artsy and party scenes in the rest of Miami. These are the folks ready to lay down roots in Miami and build the classic nuclear family with 2.5 children, a dog, and two-car garage, all surrounded by a white picket fence.
Kendall is off Miami's beaten path. If you're in Kendall, it's because you want to be in Kendall. This isn't to say Kendall isn't nice, but no one comes to Miami to visit Kendall. It's a great neighborhood with good schools, making it ideal for settling down with the family. Kendall is also an underrated hangout and shopping spot as it's the home of one of Miami's best malls, Dadeland Mall, fulfilling all your shopping needs with Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani Exchange, Adidas, Banana Republic, and more residing within its limits. But there's more to do here than settle down and go shopping. Blue Martini Kendall is a hot spot often surpassing its Brickell sister location. If you're looking for fine dining and better wine, Chef Adrianne's Vineyard Restaurant and Wine Bar is as good an option as you'll fine anywhere in Miami.
Miami Lakes is about as Miami as you can get if you actually live in Miami. South Beach is the glamorized version of Miami. Brickell is peak cool. Wynwood and its surrounding neighborhoods are indie-Miami. But if you think of Miami, it's culture, it's accent, it's all captured in the neighborhood of Miami Lakes. Miami Lakes is probably as lush and verdant as Miami gets. As you'd expect, most of what Miami Lakes has to offer caters to families. Miami Lakes Mainstreet, for example, offers movie and shopping options attracting most of the city's residents at one point or another. If you're looking for a good drink and good vibes, you can always head over to Miami Lakes Ale House or Flanigan's. But if you're looking for something not of the sports-bar variety, there are options here as well. The Miami Lakes Food and Wine Festival is rapidly growing in popularity and an excuse for you to call up the babysitters while you and your significant other get a day away sipping on the area's finest wine.
Aventura is a neighborhood that's hard to peg. It captures the best of Miami suburban life and beach lounging. Depending on where you choose to live, you could be in a neighborhood with kids riding bikes up and down your street or in a high rise with a view of the beach. It's really the best of both worlds here. And with Aventura Mall, one of South Florida's best malls in your backyard, you'll rarely have a reason to leave the area. For those of you who are sporty, Turnberry Isle Golf Course is a popular spot to fine-tune your driving, putting, and overall game. But the golf course isn't the only place for you to get into sporting. If you're into water sports, Aventura is still ideally placed with Oleta River State Park just a short drive away and Turnberry Marina just blocks away.
If you're trying to keep up with the Joneses in Miami, the Jones family likely resides in Pinecrest. Pinecrest is one of Miami's more affluent neighborhoods and sits just outside of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Pinecrest is as picturesque as it gets when it comes to Miami suburbs. You could probably photograph the average home and use it as a postcard. As you might expect, Pinecrest is ideal for family activities. Zoo Miami is a short drive away, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens are a popular locale for visitors young and old, tourists and locals. History buffs have something to look forward to here, too, with the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, one of the neighborhood's highlights that provides a glimpse of Miami's rich history.
Deciding where to live in Miami is no easy decision, but it ultimately comes down to what you want out of the city. In a city that has everything, what do you decide on? We can't answer that for you, but we hope we've at least given you an idea of what to expect out of each of these neighborhoods in Miami.
Cover photo courtesy of Adobe Stock Images