Miami is one of the world’s most popular cruise ports, but did you know the city has a lot more to offer those who fly in for their cruise vacation a day or two early? From the unique Latin culture to the spectacular beaches and attractions the whole family will enjoy, Miami is a great place to get into vacation mode long before you set sail. Here are some of the best ways to spend the day in Miami!

Experience Cuban Culture

Just 90 miles south of the Florida Keys lies an island nation unlike any other. Many Americans know of Cuba, but not of the people, the food, the music and more which makes the culture so unique. The Cuban influence on Miami is palpable in everything you see, hear and taste. Nowhere else in America will you find such an authentic collection of Cuban experiences like in Miami.

Little Havana Cafecito Cubano and a cigar

The best place in Miami to see the Cuban influence for yourself is Little Havana, a neighborhood west of downtown where much of South Florida’s Cuban population resides. Whether your idea of a good day is touring art galleries or buying a fedora and enjoying a cigar, Little Havana is the place to do it. Those staying at the Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon are just minutes from the neighborhood. The accommodations come complete with a 100-acre natural lake, outdoor pool, jogging trail, and sports courts so you won’t feel as bad after enjoying a picadillo empanada with your Cuban espresso. The hotel is a popular spot for those flying into Miami a day early for their cruise vacation thanks to its location next to the airport and the rest of the city.

Domino Park Calle 8 tile mosaic mural

Visitors need to head to 8th street, or Calle Ocho as it’s known locally, for the most authentic Cuban experience. After a lunch of Cubano sandwiches at El Pub, head over to Maximo Gomez Park for a game of Dominoes against some of the best players in town. Just around the corner is Little Havana Paseo de las Estrellas, or Walk of the Stars, which honors some of the most famous Latin musicians, actors, authors and more. If you’re in town at the end of the month, Viernes Culturales is a street party you don’t want to miss. Cultural Friday, as it translates to, is a showcase of some of the best Latin art, music and cuisine in Little Havana.

Hilton Miami Airport Blue Lagoon

Explore the Frost Science Museum

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a great way to spend an afternoon away from the heat while learning a thing or two! The museum features a planetarium, aquarium, and rotating exhibitions so there’s always something new to see. It’s just a ten minute walk from the Hilton Miami Downtown which offers stunning views of Biscayne Bay.

The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science Aquarium

The aquarium at Frost Science is a must see for kids and adults alike. Three stories tall, the aquarium is a living science exhibit featuring some of the most unique marine life found only in South Florida. The aquarium has three levels; The Vista, The Dive and The Deep, each home to fascinating sea life closer than you’ve ever seen them before.

Hilton Miami Downtown Pool

Take an Island Queen Sightseeing Cruise
If you’re excited to get on board your cruise ship but want a little taste of what’s to come, an Island Queen Sightseeing Cruise is the perfect idea. The Island Queen offers a tour of Miami as seen from the water, offering as unique a perspective as one can get. Take the 90-minute tour and cruise down Millionaire’s Row where you’ll see the homes of the fabulously wealthy, talented athletes, and famous celebrities. The yacht has indoor and outdoor seating and offers a fun way to spend some time getting to know Miami a little better.

Island Queen boat tour on Biscayne Bay

The Island Splash party is another popular option which brings guests to a private island for a day of fun in the sun. Splash around in the warm, shallow waters on your own private beach and enjoy some sun before your real vacation starts! The company also offers a number of private tours for those traveling in groups. Visitors staying at DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay are just steps from Bayside Market, from which the tours leave.

Head to Zoo Miami

Located south of the city, Zoo Miami is the largest and oldest in the state. The zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals of all varieties big and small, so it can be a full day adventure or less depending on your schedule. The zoo features exhibits from all parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, Australia, the Amazon, and more. A focus on conservation for Florida’s endangered species like the Florida Panther, Bonneted Bat and the Gopher Tortoise means your fun day at the zoo contributes to a great cause as well.

Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station | Photo: ZooMiami

What makes Zoo Miami different from others you may have visited is the cage-free philosophy for each animal’s habitat. Strategic moats placed around each exhibit keep the guests and animals safe while offering a more natural environment for the wildlife to enjoy. That means guests get to experience these incredible species just as they would appear in the wild.

You can’t visit Zoo Miami without checking out the Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station, where guests get up close and personal with Giraffes and their 18-inch tongues. Don’t worry, they don’t bite!

Nothing Beats a Beach Day

A trip to Miami isn’t complete without a trip to arguably the best beach in the continental United States. Known the world over for its exquisite sand, brilliant sunshine and crystal clear waters, South Beach is a tourist mecca. Lummus Park, with Ocean Drive on one side and the beach on the other, is one of the most popular spots to spend the day. Smack dab in the middle of Miami Beach’s best Art Deco architecture, Lummus Park is as unique as it is beautiful.

Cycling along Lummus Park

There’s no better way to get into vacation mode than relaxing on the beach with a cold drink in one hand and a great book in the other. For a more laid back atmosphere, head north past 21st street to Mid-Beach where you’re more removed from the bustle and activity of Ocean Drive. Guests staying at Mid-Beach hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn Miami South Beach are just a block from the ocean and a short Uber or cab ride away from all of Miami’s hottest spots.

Miami is a fantastic city unique in just about every way. If the city itself isn’t reason enough to fly in for your cruise a day or two early, it also eliminates the threat of travel delays and flight cancellations from ruining your vacation. Take all the stress out of arriving the day your ship leaves and find out for yourself why Miami is a top vacation destination!

An aerial view of Mid-Beach

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