When visiting Miami, it’s easy to be excited about the sun, the ocean, the authentic Cuban food and music, and the nightlife that give the city its unique vibe. But among all the dancing and suntanning, you might also want to plan a day inside to escape the sun and the heat, or in preparation for the surprise summer thunderstorms Florida is notorious for.
Whether you’re traveling to Miami or you’re a local looking for something new, a museum is an excellent place for people of all ages to play, learn, or just relax. We’ve put together this list of Miami’s best museums to help you find the one that best fits your party’s needs and sparks the interests of everyone.
Located just off the sunny coastline, The Bass is known as Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum. If you’re staying close to sand and sea, the Bass is easily accessible and would make an excellent stop on your itinerary.
As with many contemporary art museums, much of the art in the museum’s collection rotates frequently, with some pieces staying longer than others, so be sure to check the website if you’re hoping to catch a particular artist’s work. There are a few permanent installments for view, spanning several different mediums and located both inside and outside. These permanent installments play with both traditional sculpture and with modern applications of electricity and technology to create a diverse assortment.
And while admission to the Bass isn’t free for everyone, it’s still worth checking the website for pricing if you’re traveling on a budget. The museum does offer lots of discounts, plus free admission for some, including Miami Beach residents and active duty or retired US Military. There’s more to the museum than just touring the halls, though, as the facility hosts activities such as art camps for kids, programs for teens, and classes taught by experienced educators.
Miami Children’s Museum
If you’re traveling as a family and looking for a perfect adventure for the kids, it can be difficult to find places to go that keep them busy and entertained. A big day of play at the Miami Children’s Museum will give your little ones a chance at some kid-oriented excitement.
This children’s museum in Miami is a great place for kids to have fun and learn at the same time, with interactive, hands-on exhibits designed to engage their minds and work on everything from motor skills to problem-solving strategies. Some of the sections of this museum include a kid-sized supermarket, a stuffed animal veterinary clinic, and a giant explorable sand castle.
If you’ve got an athlete on your hands, check out the Health and Wellness Center, where virtual sports allow kids to explore their interests, and equipment has been scaled down to fit smaller hands. And for children with sensory processing challenges or who might just appreciate a calm atmosphere, the Multi-Sensory Room has been created to help kids explore communication and reactions in an engaging place with a serene, comfortably lit setting. No matter the kid, there’s something for them here.
Institute of Contemporary Art
As with most big cities, Miami’s large population lends it lots of culture and character. This in turn creates lots of art and places to view that art. If you’re looking for a free museum in Miami, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is a wonderful place to spend a few hours without spending money.
The ICA strives to provide a comprehensive collection for view, with pieces in many mediums and created by artists of many backgrounds. Sculptures and paintings are common, but mixed media works that push artistic boundaries are showcased.
More than that, however, the ICA works to be a neighborhood center where education and artistic knowledge can be accessible to all. The museum has programs for children’s education, community engagement, and special access tours to accommodate guests with mobility or sensory needs. There are also research programs within the organization, and events where community members can participate in the discussions this research sparks. When you visit the ICA, you’re certainly visiting a prestigious museum with a stunning collection, but you’re also visiting a place where art is used as a gateway for people to gather, grow, and learn together.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
With expansive grounds and an opulent, grand villa converted into the main museum building, it’s no wonder the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is fairly famous. With plenty to do both inside and out, it’s worth a trip to South Florida just to visit this incredible Miami museum.
The original villa where visitors can view the indoor exhibits is now known as the Main House and is registered as a National Historic Landmark. It holds the museum’s collections of both 20th century art and ancient historic artifacts. Many visitors also attend to tour the awe-inspiring splendor of the original architecture and décor present in the villa’s interior rooms, including a library, dining room, many bedrooms, and several reception rooms all richly decorated.
The art collection continues outside in the gardens, where sculptures from time periods across the ages are sprinkled throughout the grounds. While the historic collections both inside and out were originally designed to represent a reflection on the passage of time, today the museum workers’ mission is focused on conservation, to protect the pieces under their care. This leads to a museum where the deep respect for the creations it holds permeates the air, creating an excellent environment for learning and enjoyment.
Jewish Museum of Florida
Operating as part of Florida International University, the Jewish Museum of Florida is one of the most unique museums of Miami and may be the most important history museum in Miami as well. The establishment is dedicated to documenting and preserving Floridian Jewish stories and history.
The museum is held in two buildings that formerly served as synagogues for the local community, adding significance to the restored Art Deco architecture. The smaller of the two buildings was erected in 1929 and acted as Miami’s first synagogue, with the larger building being built to house a growing congregation in 1939. The buildings reflect the lives and stories of the many members of South Florida’s Jewish population until 1986, when the buildings were abandoned. While the buildings deteriorated over time and one was even scheduled for demolition, a traveling Jewish Heritage group called MOSAIC moved into the space and worked to renovate and rebuild the historic structures.
Aside from the stained glass windows and decorative concrete reliefs that decorate the buildings themselves, there are many fascinating historical artifacts available for viewing. A complete bound set of the Jewish Floridian, a weekly magazine started in 1928 and published until 1990, provides a glimpse of the community’s everyday life through the decades. Oral histories are recorded and preserved with both audio tapes and transcriptions, and still images are available in media such as photographs, microfilm, and negatives. Visitors also get the chance to view textiles, and artwork, and objects of religious significance also populate the museum’s archives.
Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center
The Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center may not be the biggest or most comprehensive art museum in Miami, but it’s certainly the liveliest. With events and shows scheduled frequently and a full café bar with a wide selection of rums, this isn’t an average art museum.
Cubaocho was founded when two young brothers, Roberto and Carlos Ramos, fled Cuba in 1992 with a small collection of artworks created by artists who did not support Fidel Castro. The ten paintings in their original collection were almost lost at sea when their boat began to sink, and they pled with the US Coast Guard to tow their boat to shore to save their small treasure. Today, the mission of Cubaocho is to preserve, revitalize, and celebrate Cuban and Cuban-American culture in all its forms. Visitors will have the chance to view the museum’s now much larger collection of 19th century and early 20th century artworks while enjoying a signature drink from the bar, or spend time leafing through books in the museum’s research library.
But what better way to preserve a culture than to live it? Cubaocho hosts live Cuban performers, from jazz musicians to salsa dancers. Visitors can also participate in a descarga, or Latin-style music jam session, where improvised melodies weave through a rhythm based in Cuban music styles like guajira and bolero. Be sure to check the museum’s events calendar, as performances change regularly and there’s always something new.
Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Undoubtedly the best science museum in Miami and one of the best in Florida, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a fantastic place to explore everything from the sea to the stars. With immersive and hands-on exhibits throughout the multilevel building, the facility has something for all ages and combines learning with fun.
The aquarium itself covers three levels, with each one covering a different unique ecosystem present in the layers of the ocean. The aquarium also helps the museum’s mission to provide education about marine science, wildlife conservation, and coastal preservation. Below the aquarium’s bottom level, you can visit the state-of-the-art planetarium, where a 16-million-color 8K projected display is enhanced by a surround sound system for captivating shows.
Alongside the three levels of the aquarium are other exhibits that allow visitors to explore many other scientific subjects. These exhibits change regularly, so it’s always wise to check back with the museum’s website to see what’s new. They include things like exploring the physics of flight, learning about biology and animal sciences, and how environments across the globe are interconnected.
Museum of Graffiti
While comprehensive art museums are a fantastic way to explore many genres and mediums of art at one time, sometimes it’s fun to visit a museum that dives in depth into one specific facet of the art world. At the Museum of Graffiti, visitors can learn the history and meaning behind an easily overlooked art form.
The museum has glowing reviews featured in publications such as Forbes Magazine, the New York Times, and the Miami New Times. Visitors can tour exhibits that include photos of iconic works, 2D drawing and paintings, and even entire rooms designed by talented artists in an indoor exhibition space and a fine arts gallery. There are also eleven large-scale murals outside, and the gift shop has exclusive and limited edition merchandise from talented graffiti artists from around the world.
This is also a museum you will definitely want to check the events schedule for, as they host lots of fun gatherings. Aspiring artists can take either the children’s or adults’ graffiti workshop class and learn how to create in this iconic style. There’s also an event called Bring Your Own Bike, where a tour guide will lead your group on a bike tour through the streets to view and talk about local graffiti installments around the city.
If you’re looking for a museum with a recognizable seal of quality, the HistoryMiami Museum may be an excellent choice. The exhibits embody a high level of excellence, and the museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
The museum is home to over 37,000 artifacts that originate from the 20th century all the way back to prehistoric times, and the Archives and Research Center holds more than a million historical images. The facility acts as the official repository for all archeological finds collected in Miami-Dade county and has an extensive collection of items crafted by the Native American Seminole tribe over the thousands of years they lived in South Florida. There are also collections of technology, homegoods, maritime and aviation materials, and documentation of local community life.
Aside from the permanent collection, the museum acts as a temporary home for many esteemed exhibitions through the year, some provided by the Smithsonian. Events and workshops are held for all ages and interests, from learning about locally sourced produce to learning how to play Brazilian percussion music. Visitors can also book tours through the city, where knowledgeable and helpful guides escort groups through historic landmarks like cemeteries, city districts, and even the nearby bay.
Perez Art Museum Miami
The Perez Art Museum in Miami, also known as the PAMM, is another of the more famous art museums in the city. It’s dedicated to exhibiting contemporary and modern international art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of the collections highlight Miami’s important role as an important port city for international trade across the centuries, influencing and shaping economic and cultural happenings around the world.
Outside the museum, visitors can explore the sculpture garden, where large-scale constructions are on display in an open-air setting. Inside, there’s always something new to explore, with a revolving schedule introducing something new every few weeks to provide a continually enriching experience for both newcomers and repeat visitors. For a more in-depth experience, you can join a tour on select days of the week, where you’ll learn more about the sculptures outside, along with information about the museum’s architecture. Tours are small and operate on a first come, first served basis, so plan ahead and speak to the Visitor Services Desk if you’re interested in participating.
The museum’s permanent collection is expansive, and boasts both 2D and 3D work that explores life in Latin America and Africa, and life for the people in the US who can trace their ancestry to those lands. A selection of the nearly 3,000 works that comprise the permanent collection are on display across eight galleries within the building. The collection has been accumulated with the help of thousands of people over the course of 25 years and showcases the museum’s dedication to supplying education and experiences to everyone who enters its doors.
Miami has a rich history with international influences, and the many facets of the city’s culture come alive every day in the hearts and minds of its people. Whether you visit a museum dedicated to preserving the records of the past, educating the creators of the future, or celebrating the accomplishments of the present, the best museums in Miami have something for everyone.