Out in the sun or under the moonlight, Miami's attractions are always hot

The perfect weather year round, the miles of beaches that stretch on endlessly - the list of reasons why Miami is an attractive destination are endless; however, most are centered around the pristine beaches. Sure, you can come here and sit in the sun sipping mojitos for the duration of your stay, but there is so much more to Miami, which makes it worth your while to get out and explore. Nature takes the forefront, with several places in the Everglades offering the opportunity to come within feet of a Florida alligator, or stay several hundred feet back and watch a Miccosukee Indian wrestle one. Nature stays virtually untouched in the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, while spots like Zoo Miami and Jungle Island bring the best of wildlife from all over the world and are constantly evolving and incorporating new exhibits. Miami Seaquarium lets visitors get up close and personal by swimming with dolphins, petting stingrays, kissing a sea lion, and walking along the floor of a giant aquarium.

10 Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
Constructed in 1916 for industrialist James Deering, this Italianate palace is often referred to as the Hearst Castle of the East. Intended to appear centuries-old at completion, it is absolutely rife with architectural detail and elaborate accents. In fact, more than a thousand artisans took five-plus years to complete the ornate flourishes. Deering was fascinated by 16th-century art and architecture, and most of his fine collection remains on display. The beautifully landscaped grounds aptly complement the building, whose name remembers the Basque term for a raised site. (305-250-9133)

9 Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Lush and meticulously maintained, this garden showcases a wide range of tropical plants. Within its 83 acres, palms and cycads flourish, and a 16,000-square-foot conservatory shelters rare specimens. The Fairchild also offers an arboretum and rainforest, and it houses a world-renowned research facility. Leisurely strolls through the grounds are sure to provoke plenty of "oohs and aahs," and you may gain inspiration for your own little patch of paradise back home. A small museum, gift shop and cafe take care of practical needs. Free tram tours run on the hour. (305-667-1651)

8 Holocaust Memorial
Intensely moving, this memorial created by artist-architect Kenneth Treister honors victims and offers solace to survivors. Included in its design are an arbor that depicts the history of the Holocaust in black granite and a tunnel that opens up to "The Sculpture of Love and Anguish." This enormous bronze arm, with its base of writhing human forms, is variously interpreted as a symbol of despair or hope. The memorial also encompasses a reflecting pool and walls inscribed with the names of thousands of victims. The overall effect is visually and emotionally stunning. (305-538-1663)

7 Lummus Park Beach
Because South Beach is such a broad description, and because the varying beaches here go on for miles, we thought we'd narrow it down. Lummus Park, the area of the beach located along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Street, is the all-encompassing South Beach experience. This is the strip of sand that is always the most crowded, which makes for excellent people watching. There is a mini playground before the entrance to the beach for children ages two through 5, however, the kids will generally tire out playing in the water all day. With Brazilian bikinis and fluorescent tans as far as the eye can see, adults will likely tire their necks from spinning around doing a double take at colorful locals. Once you've soaked up all of the sun you can possibly fit into one day, the strip of restaurants and bars lining Ocean Drive are close at hand. (305-673-7000)

6 BlueMonster Course at Doral Golf Resort & Spa
Dubbed "Best Course in Florida" in 2007 by Travel + Leisure Golf Magazine and considered #1 Best of the Sunshine State Golf Resorts by TravelGolf.com, the Blue Monster at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa has hosted top PGA Championships for approximately 45 years. Dotted with water hazards and sand traps, this is widely considered one of the hardest courses in the United States. The 18th hole was ranked by GOLF Magazine as one of the "Top 100 Holes in the World." For avid golfers, this course is a must. Designed by Dick Wilson, just walking the course is humbling. Gorgeous greens meet a deep Bermuda rough, and prove to even the greatest golfers that a tricky course paired with a Miami breeze can challenge and amaze. (305-592-2030)

5 Everglades Safari Park
This is the most all-encompassing alligator experience. Whip around through the Everglades in an airboat or swamp buggy, where you can observe the alligators in their natural habitat while maintaining a safe distance. Back on shore, you can catch an alligator wrestling show, pet an alligator, and come face to face with other wildlife. (305-226-6923)

4 Shark Valley Visitor Center
Part of the Everglades National Park, the Shark Valley Visitor Center is located in the center of an expansive river of grass, punctuated only by a 15-mile asphalt trail. Visitors can opt to take the tram tour, bike or walk. There are no fences here, and full-grown alligators often sunbathe in the middle of the trail. Key deer can be seen bobbing around, as can snakes, turtles and native Florida birds. At the midway point, a water tower can be easily climbed and the silence and sheer beauty found at the top is absolutely astounding. Alligator calls echo as a slight breeze blows over the grass. This is the place to really see the Everglades as it is meant to be seen - untouched and pristine. (305-221-8776)

3 Jungle Island
Tropical birds have the run of this unusual island park off MacArthur Causeway. Approximately 1,100 macaws, parrots and other winged residents join giant reptiles and exotic primates to impart special character to the attraction. Although the 18 landscaped acres showcase some 500 species of plants and flowers, don't come expecting peace and quiet. Some of the opinionated inhabitants are neither shy nor retiring. Though it's noisy, the sight of a parrot riding a miniature bike is enough to make even the most jaded visitor smile. Other shows include Winged Wonders (singing Amazons and Andean condors), Reptile Giants (snakes, alligators, crocodiles) and Wild Encounters (apes, tigers, even a liger). (305-400-7000)

2 Miami Seaquarium
This attraction is known for many things, but most people recognize it as the site used in the filming of the television show "Flipper." The dolphin that was used in the show also calls the park home. Catch a great show by the performing dolphins (Flipper is retired) and the always-popular killer whale performances. There are exhibits of sharks, birds, sea lions, reptiles and several species of endangered animals as well. The manatees at the Seaquarium are part of an effort to increase the number of specimens in Florida. You may even swim with the dolphins A dream come true experience for kids and adults alike. (305-361-5705)

1 Zoo Miami
The only US zoo set in a subtropical climate, Metrozoo mesmerizes visitors with remarkable exhibits and creatures from around the world. Favorite animals include clouded leopards, Komodo dragons and tree kangaroos. They get ample competition from exotic standards like giraffes, lions, meerkats, koalas, gorillas and colorful birds. When the heat starts to take its toll, Dr. Wilde's World provides a rainforest-themed, air-conditioned refuge for hands-on fun. A petting zoo and wildlife shows also keep kids engaged. (305-251-0400)

Maria Arroyave is a Miami native.  She left only briefly, to attend Florida State University.  She earned a master’s degree in print journalism from the University of Miami and has held an associate editor title with two local luxury lifestyle publications. Maria has also been a senior editor for an international travel publication company, during which time she oversaw print and online publications for local and international clients, including the travel and tourism boards of Bermuda, St. Martin/St. Maarten and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Travel has been instrumental in Maria's writing and identity.  She is happy to have the opportunity to convey her personal experiences to others on 10Best, knowing her tips will make a Miami visit all the more enjoyable and comfortable.  

Read more about Maria Arroyave here.

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Maps and Directions

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Architecture, Historic Sites
Neighborhood: Coconut Grove
Holocaust Memorial 10Best List Arrow
Type: Sightseeing
Neighborhood: South Beach
Lummus Park Beach 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Beaches, Editor's Picks, Free Attractions
Neighborhood: Miami Beach
Shark Valley Visitor Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Active, Adventure, Attractions, City, Editor's Picks, Outdoor Activities, Parks, Recreational Facilities, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Outside the city
Jungle Island 10Best List Arrow
Type: Attractions, Theme Parks, Zoos
Neighborhood: Watson Island
Miami Seaquarium 10Best List Arrow
Type: Aquariums
Neighborhood: Key Biscayne
Zoo Miami 10Best List Arrow
Type: Zoos
Neighborhood: South Dade