Whether you’re traveling to Miami for the first time or you jet-set here often, there are some hidden gems that even many locals don’t know about. Here’s an insider’s guide to overlooked places — beyond the glitz, glam and beaches — to put on your Magic City radar.
For the site-seer: The Kampong
If you’ve heard of the Fairchild name, you’re likely familiar with the namesake (and Miami’s largest) tropical botanic garden. What a lot of people don’t know about, however, is the family’s nine-acre estate, a hidden oasis in Coconut Grove called The Kampong (“village” or “cluster of homes” in Malay or Javanese).
Here, you’ll see more than 2,000 varieties of tropical and subtropical fruits, palms and flowering trees, many of which were gathered by David Fairchild himself, an Indiana Jones-type explorer who would travel to far-flung locales and bring home exotic plants. The two-story house, built in 1928, is on the National Register of Historic Places and gives way to breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay.
For the foodie: El Carajo International Tapas and Wine
Imagine stumbling on a plate of mouth-watering, bacon-wrapped stuffed dates, perfectly seasoned grilled ribs and juicy sausage sautéed in a red wine reduction. Then, see yourself picking a bottle of wine from one the finest and most varied selections in Florida. Now, what if we said this gourmand smorgasbord was located in a gas station?
Yes, that’s right. Tucked inside a humble gas station on the cusp of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, right off the main highway, is El Carajo, a family-run business that started with a love of wine and turned into one of the best tapas and wine spots in town. Before you balk at the thought of convenience store food, give it one good try — you’ll definitely come back for a second helping.
For the beach-goer: North Shore Open Space Park
True to its name, this park in North Miami Beach really is an open space, blissfully away from the throngs (and thongs) of South Beach. No concrete or crowds here, just a scenic stretch of shady trees, greenery, picnic tables and sunbathing-worthy areas you don’t have to clamor for.
In place of a skyline of high-rises, you’ll have rows of seagrape trees as your backdrop. A favorite staycation spot for locals, the park is so peaceful you’ll forget you’re even in Miami.
For the cocktailer: The Bar at 1306
Look closely for the illuminated red neon sign that simply reads “BAR” or you’ll miss this unassuming watering hole. From the owners of now-closed Grand Central, Brad Knoefler and Brian Basti’s new downtown hideaway spotlights libations from Broken Shaker alums and late-night bar bites. Ask for the velvet swizzle (rum, velvet falernum liqueur, lime and tonic).
Decked with damask wallpaper and tufted couches, with a rear garden, The Bar’s unpretentious Old World charm makes it the ideal spot for an after-dinner nightcap or date-night conversation.