Families are always on the lookout for inexpensive things to do in Miami & Miami Beach, but vacationing on a budget can still be a great family getaway even though the cost of recreation and transportation can sometimes put the squeeze on your pocketbook. However, with our new money saving guide to Miami Beach in hand, you’ll find it’s even possible to add on a couple of extra days of fun in the sun by simply following these money-saving tips that will keep your travel cash in your wallet where it belongs!
1. Airport Transfers
Without a rental car, you will need to pay for the quick trip from Miami International Airport to your Miami Beach hotel. While a shuttle bus is a good choice if you’re a solo traveler, groups can do better than the $20 per person rate by hopping into a taxi outside baggage claim which charges a $32 flat fee for up to 4 passengers. Families can also ask the radio dispatcher to call for a van or SUV taxi that may fit a few extra people at no additional charge. Here is a chart of taxi rates to other Miami locations.
An even better option for saving money on airport transfers to Miami Beach is the Airport Flyer public bus (route 150) which transports passengers from the ground level of Concourse E directly to 41st Street and Alton Road on Miami Beach, and then continues south on Collins Avenue (where many oceanfront hotels are located) to 16 Street. Operating from 6am to 11pm seven days a week, the fare is just $2.35 per person each way.
2. Lodging Location
When choosing a hotel, limit your search to the properties between 1st and 23rd Streets in South Beach. Home to most of the top restaurants, bars and nightspots, lodging in this region makes it easy to travel to all area attractions without a rental car which saves hundreds of dollars for more important things—like sunscreen!
Miami Beach lodging includes everything from low cost, simply appointed hotels as well as lavish resorts. Choose the kind of property that suits your budget and then save even more on sightseeing, cultural events, spa and beauty treatments, and area pools and tennis facilities when you know where to find the best values in town.
3. Sightseeing Miami Beach
Once you’ve settled into your seaside retreat, getting around South Beach for less cash is as easy as stepping aboard the dedicated Local Shuttle Service which loops the entire city for 25 cents a rider. Air-conditioned buses run about every 15 minutes from 7:40am to 1am, stopping at popular destinations around town. For a quarter you can glide past the Holocaust Memorial, the Bass Museum of Art, Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall, Frank Gehry’s majestic Symphony Hall, the Miami Beach Convention Center, the Fillmore Theater, Espanola Way, the Wolfsonian Museum, self-guided tours of the Art Deco District, and South Pointe Park. Access the beautiful beachfront, the great new eateries on the west side of town or check out the discount fashions at 5th and Alton Mall.
One of the most unique museums on South Beach, the Wolfsonian collection is located in the heart of the action at 10th Street and Washington Avenue. Easily accessed by the South Beach Local Shuttle Bus, the Art Deco landmark building houses a variety of “cool stuff” – objects from the modern era (1885-1945) that help visitors see how art and design shape our experience. If your kids think music only comes from iPods, stop in to show them some amazing vintage radios. Open every day except Wednesday, the budget-conscious traveler should stop by on Friday nights from 6-9pm when admission is free.
The Bass Museum of Art is a more traditional art collection that combines antique and contemporary painting, photography, sculpture and objects. Located at 2100 Collins Avenue in Collins Park, the museum hosts a number of low cost adult and children’s art programs designed to expand creative horizons and foster a connection with the local community. On the first Friday of every month, guests over 21 can attend “Beats After Sunset,” a unique happy hour event with free admission to the collections, a DJ spinning in the courtyard and cocktails and snacks served from 8-10pm.
5. New World Symphony free WALLCASTS
One of the most exciting new cultural centers on South Beach, the New World Symphony concert space was designed by Architect Frank Gehry in the arts district between Lincoln Road Mall and the Miami Beach Convention Center at 17 Street and Washington Avenue. A three-year fellowship that prepares gifted young musicians for a career as a working member of one of the world’s top orchestras, the brand new campus includes a high tech public park where the local community celebrates the arts through weekly WALLCASTS. Bring a picnic to the park and watch a free concert broadcast on the 7,000 square foot projection wall or attend a weekly Wednesday night movie under the stars at 8pm through mid-June.
With arts education no longer part of the core curriculum in many public schools, our cultural institutions are stepping in to provide low cost programs to promote a genuine interest in the arts. The New World Symphony performs three half-hour mini-concerts for just $2.50 that provide a perfect introduction to classical music for every member of the family. Late night visitors who usually pay top dollar to part the velvet ropes at hot South Beach nightclubs have discovered PULSE, which transforms the symphony space and atrium into a high tech nightclub with DJs spinning, live performances, light and video installations and a cocktail bar starting at 9:30pm. Get more information on all events at www.nws.edu
6. Low Cost Makeovers
Planning a girl’s getaway on South Beach but don’t have a lot of extra cash to update your look? There are a number of local salons and make-up retailers who can amplify your inner diva for little to no money at all. While a full service pampering spa day can be hundreds of dollars, the training consultants at the Vidal Sassoon Academy (660 Collins Avenue) will revitalize your cut and color with one of their signature sculptural designs for under $20. Sassoon teaching courses require many open-minded models between 18 and 50 years old who are willing to have an instructor closely scrutinize the work of technicians-in-training. Book an appointment at the Academy and see where your daring new hairstyle takes you!
To get yourself ready for a night on the town for less, stop by Sephora (721 Collins Avenue) or MAC (650 Collins Avenue or 1111 Lincoln Road) and have the aestheticians demonstrate the latest colors and products for you. Be sure to specify if you want a natural daytime look or a bold nightclub shine. Each shop has top of the line products for eyes, lips, and skin, perfect for all races and faces. The new demonstration counter at Macy’s Department Store (1657 Meridian Avenue) just north of Lincoln Road Mall has representatives from a number of upscale beauty lines who can show you how to transform your look from chic to sultry in minutes. No purchase is required and free samples are sometimes included in your makeover.
7. Spa and Pool Day Passes
Many of the most luxurious beachfront hotels have spa and fitness facilities that offer day passes to outside visitors including free run of the pool and beach. If your moderately-priced hotel does not have a spa, a pool, or direct beach access, your best bet for a free day in the sun is a quick walk to the beach where miles of golden coastline await your blanket, paperback book and picnic lunch. To upgrade your experience, check out the Lapis Ritual Water Journey at the Fontainebleau Resort where a $40 pass includes full run of the spa’s 40,000 square foot elegantly-appointed marble expanse including the co-ed jetted pool and lounge area. Steam, soak and socialize. Work out on Cybex Eagle, Trazer 2 and Life Fitness equipment at the 5,800 square foot state-of-the-art gym overlooking the pool and that fabulous beach. And once you are finished, nip outside and tan a while at one of the resort’s nine pools.
For a more laid back experience, spend a day chilling on the quiet reaches of the Venetian Islands where a $40 weekday pass at the Standard Hotel and Spa includes use of the indoor and outdoor therapeutic baths, tranquil bayside gardens, pools and gym. Join a yoga or pilates class, practice guided meditation, or arrange for a one-on-one consultation with staff trainers and teachers. The Standard’s holistic approach to spa and aromatherapy includes a DIY (do-it-yourself) menu of hydrotherapy including a hammam, aroma steam room, cedar sauna, sound pool, Roman waterfall hot tub and mud lounge. While many hotel spas are somewhat clinical and stuffy, the atmosphere at the Standard is cozy and casual. To add to your quiet contentment, children under 14 are not allowed on the campus.
8. Yoga on the Beach
Wherever you usually wake up when you’re not on vacation, chances are the sun isn’t slowly rising over the Atlantic Ocean as you deeply breathe in the fresh salt air. If your fitness regime includes a harried drive to a stuffy gym or chasing your kids through their busy day, take a few minutes at the beginning or end of your South Beach vacation day to experience Beach Yoga on the sands of 3rd Street. All you need is a large towel, loose clothing and a bottle of water to join in the 75 minute sunrise or sunset sessions (7 am and 6 pm – 5 pm winter time) led by certified teachers. The co-ed classes are not competitive; in fact they surround your practice with the sounds of seagulls, the rolling surf and your own deep, blissful breath. Suggested donation is $5 – Namaste!
9. Flamingo Park Swimming, Sports and Fitness Facilities
Located in the heart of South Beach at 11 Street and Jefferson Avenue, Flamingo Park offers a public aquatics center that’s perfect for budget-conscious family travelers who can exercise from 6:45am – 9pm in the 8 lane lap pool as well as the shallow water interactive toddler play pool where children can safely experience the brightly colored chutes, ladders and splashing water umbrellas until 7pm. Adults $10, Children $6, Kids under 3 get in free.
The park also features a 400 meter running track, football and soccer fields, a beautifully landscaped Tot Lot children’s playground and a fully-staffed gym and tennis center. Tennis legend Nick Bollettieri’s son James conducts a tennis academy at Flamingo Park’s 19 clay courts where a full service pro shop, locker rooms and practice wall are available every day from 8am-9pm (7pm weekends). Non-residents can enjoy a game for just $8 an hour. The Youth Resource Center’s public gym opens weekdays from 7am-10pm and weekends 8am-5pm offering a one week pass for $35.
10. Fun Free Events
Enjoy a variety of FREE events all year round including…
A.) Lincoln Road Antique and Collectible Market
(9am-5pm alternate Sundays along the Mall from May through October)
B.) Free morning bicycle and evening inline skate tours of Miami Beach
(Second Saturdays at 9am – Miami Beach Bicycle Center, 601 Fifth Street and First Fridays at 7pm – Fritz’s Skate Shop, 1620 Washington Avenue)
C.) Free tours of the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens
(2000 Convention Center Drive, Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm)
D.) Open gallery visits at the South Florida Art Center
(800 Lincoln Road Mall)
E.) Miami Beach Arts Festival
(April 9 & 10, 7300 Ocean Terrace)
F.) Miami Beach Polo World Cup Matches
(April 20-24, 21 Street Beach)
G.) Romantic Short Film Festival
(May 6 at 7:30 2231 Prairie Avenue)
H.) Miami Super Boat Grand Prix
(June 5 at 1pm, viewed free from all public beaches from 8 to 44 Streets)
I.) Brazilian Film Festival
J.) Sleepless Nights Miami Beach
(November 5 & 6, free city wide art, music, dance, theater, film & comedy performances all night from 6pm-7am)
K.) Art Basel Miami Beach
(December 1-4, free concerts & art installations on 21 Street Beach).