Downtown Miami is, like the downtown of most other cities, a major hub for finance and business, as well as the court system. This central business district core is bounded by N.E. Sixth Street to the north, Biscayne Bay to the East, and the Miami River to the West and South. The larger area referred to as “downtown”, however, also includes Brickell to the south, as well as the Park West nightlife district around N.E. 11th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, and the Omni district north of that, from about N.E. 14th Street to about N.E. 20th Street.
The central business district was, for many years, largely devoted to high-rise office buildings and businesses catering to the workers there. Much of this was centered around legal services, finance, and trade with South America. Many of the businesses in downtown Miami have also long targeted themselves to South Americans, and particularly Brazilian, tourists, who flock to the area to shop for electronics. And though the streets are generally bustling during the day, for many years they have been largely deserted at night.
This has finally started to change in recent years. A lot of this can be credited to real estate development in the area, which, after the boom, suddenly made luxury apartment buildings affordable to an upwardly mobile class of younger professionals. As more moved in, more restaurants that stayed open for dinner arrived.
At the same time, the creation of several specially zoned nightlife districts has also encouraged nighttime visitors. The main strip is on N.E. 11th Street just west of N.E. Second Avenue, which was first pioneered by the late-night, afterhours superclub Space. This is also across the street from the long-running, 24-hour strip club Gold Rush, and, in fact, because of special zoning to allow a nightlife district, many other establishments on the street enjoy liquor licenses that technically allow 24-hour operation. Slightly further north, around N.E. 14th Street, is another mini club district, including hipster favorites the Vagabond and Eve and gay bar Johnny’s.
For daytime visitors and families, though, downtown Miami offers a number of attractions. Near the public transportation hub at Government Center is an elevated plaza housing the cavernous main Miami-Dade County library, as well as HistoryMiami, a museum devoted to chronicling South Florida history, and the Miami Art Museum. (MAM is soon moving to a new planned museum park in Bicentennial Park, also in downtown and currently under construction).
The main strip of the downtown business district, Flagler Street, offers outdoor cafes in addition to electronics and luggage stores. Downtown is also where you can find historic landmarks like the Freedom Tower, as well as venues like the James L. Knight Concert Center, the American Airlines Arena, and, slightly further north, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. On the waterfront, as well, is the popular tourist shopping destination Bayside Marketplace.
Downtown is easily accessible by car via US-1/Biscayne Boulevard from the north or south, via the I-395 causeway from South Beach, or through numerous exits from I-95 (northbound or southbound). It’s also easy to reach via public transportation, as it serves as a hub for most of the central county’s public transportation. The Government Center station of the Metro-Rail is, in particular, a useful connection point to the free Metro-Mover train and a number of major bus routes. It can even be reached from Broward and Palm Beach counties to the north via Tri-Rail.
American Airlines Arena
American Airlines Arena is the permanent home of the Miami Heat, and a popular venue as well for arena concerts and other events like pro wrestling. For mid-size events, it also offers a sub-venue known as the Waterfront Theatre. The arena offers a number of fast-casual dining options, representing everything from burgers to Latin and Asian food, and full bar service, though, unsurprisingly, prices are relatively steep. While the arena doesn’t offer an on-site parking lot or garage for event attendees, a number of municipal and private lots are available just east of Biscayne Boulevard in the surrounding blocks.
Finally, adjacent to the arena is also Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, a popular Latin-themed megaclub that features live bands and DJs playing tropical beats.
Bayside Marketplace is a popular tourist destination along Miami’s waterfront on the downtown, mainland side. It’s bordered on one end by Bicentennial Park to the north and Bayfront Park and its concert amphitheater to the south. While locals don’t often frequent Bayside, for visitors it remains one of the better places to see the port of Miami and the waterfront of Biscayne Bay. It also offers a rare outdoor walkable cluster of businesses in the city, and with its physical proximity to and view of the Port of Miami, it’s a frequent scheduled activity stop for many area cruises.
At its heart, Bayside is a two-story, open-air mall with different themed shopping areas. It’s also popular for tourists as a dining and entertainment destination, with live music being performed throughout the day and many restaurants offering a particular tropical flair.
If you’re attending a major event at American Airlines Arena or Bayfront or Bicentennial Parks, consider using public transportation to arrive. Parking in the area is widely available, but usually very expensive. During Miami Heat games, for instance, private lots often charge as much as $30 per car.
Conversely, these areas are all served by a couple of nearby Metro-Mover stations. You can access the Metro-Mover for free from the Metro-Rail — and you can park and ride the Metro-Rail along its other stops north or south. Though public transportation usually ends around midnight, it usually runs later from downtown during special events. Check out the Miami-Dade Transit web site for full details.
Downtown Miami Points of Interest
Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
American Airlines Arena
City of Miami Cemetery
Club district, including Club Space, Gold Rush, the Vagabond
Flagler Street commercial district
Gusman Center for the Performing Arts
History Miami museum
James L. Knight Center concert and event venue
Miami Art Museum
Miami-Dade Public Library, Main Library
View Downtown Miami in a larger map