The Art Deco-styled waterfront district of South Beach has it all -- beautifully restored historic buildings, funky shops and boutiques, elegant restaurants and casual cafes, fabulous people watching, and a wide, clean beach. The Art Deco district runs from 6th to 23rd Streets between Ocean and Lenox avenues, and it's a great spot for a self-guided walking tour (the Art Deco District Welcome Center, 1001 Ocean Drive, has maps).
Rent a car and head to Key Biscayne, an island connected to Miami via two bridges and the Rickenbacker Causeway. Nature, beach and marine enthusiasts can choose between the Miami Seaquarium and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
Explore Miami history via the neighborhoods of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove (renting a car is advised). Coral Gables was developed in the 1920s and is best known as home to the Biltmore Hotel, noted for its resemblance to Seville's Giralda Tower. Bring a swimsuit and head to the Venetian Pool, a fantasy-themed public pool created out of a rock quarry.
Coconut Grove is Miami's oldest section, with construction beginning in the 1870s. It's also a place of fashionable boutiques and restaurants. Worth a detour: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an early 20th-century Renaissance-style -- and quite grandiose -- estate built for a Chicago industrialist who wanted to recreate a 16th-century Italian estate.
Little Havana is the famous 3.5-square-mile site where many Cubans fled after escaping their country. "Calle Ocho," or 8th Street, is the main drag and central point (particularly between 11th and 17th Avenues) and it's best as a walking-around destination.
Serenity seekers should head to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where manmade lakes wind around one of the world's largest palm tree collections -- not to mention other verdant examples of flora and fauna.
If you love art, don't miss Wynwood, a former warehouse district that's been revitalized by galleries, cafes, street art and the incredible Wynwood Walls (a mural arts project). This neighborhood is also home to the Margulies Collection, which displays a rotating selection of modern art.
Another must-stop for art lovers is the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAAM), which boasts a fantastic waterfront location in addition to its collection of international modern art. Before or after your visit, leave a little time to sit in one of the museum's loungers or benches overlooking the bay.
The New World Symphony's Wallcast series offers some of the city's best free nights out. Pack a picnic and sit out on the lawn as an evening concert is simulcast onto the wall of the building outside. Concerts run on select dates between October and April.
Head about 30 miles north to Fort Lauderdale, where attractions include lively Las Olas Boulevard (for shopping and dining), Bonnet House (a historic home) and a couple of fine museums.