Two "must do's" in Miami for under $20

Living in South East Florida, Miami is always an option. That’s the nice thing about our location… We’ve got beaches, big cities, museums and lighthouses all in one place. So, we woke up on a sunny & 75 Saturday morning in January and decided to head on down to Miami for the day. We’ve been down there many times before, and we’ve hit Wynwood, the bars on Ocean Drive, American Airlines Arena, South Beach, Nikki Beach, you name it. This time we just wanted to explore! First stop: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. The entrance fee is $18 dollars- Unless you are a student. (Tip- ALWAYS ask for student discounts!) Show your student ID to get into Vizcaya for $10.

The Vizcaya is an insanely beautiful waterfront mansion in Coconut Grove built over a ten-year span and finished in 1922 by James Deering. He was rich and famous, and really sick. That’s right- he built Vizcaya after doctors recommended he seek warmth and sunshine to better his health. So he poured his life into the estate, importing antiques, decorations, plants, and materials from all over. The place is incredible.  They don’t allow photography inside the main house, and the security guard told us it was because people wouldn’t pay attention while taking pictures and would fall or bump into things… But, lucky for us the house was practically empty and a super nice guard told us if no one was around we could snap some pictures on our phone as long as the flash didn’t go off. Yay! I’d recommend doing the house first to prepare you for the beauty that is the immaculate secret gardens, staircases, and massive stone boat that lies in the bay. And if you’re lucky, you’ll even see manatees in the waters surrounding the estate. We were so lucky!

Entrance to the Main House.

 Second floor over looking the courtyard.

Second floor over looking the courtyard.

 Vizcaya Gardens.

Vizcaya Gardens.

 Pool outside the main house, next to the Café.

Pool outside the main house, next to the Café.

If you’re thinking of going to the estate, avoid times of the year when school is not in session, and avoid summer.  We had beautiful late January weather, and school had just gone back into session after winter break, so the crowds were minimal. The grounds open at 9:30am and I would absolutely arrive then! We got there around 10:30 (even though we attempted to get there at 9:30), and by the time we were leaving massive crowds were coming in. So, go early for the nice weather and peacefulness!

 The stone boat patio sitting in the bay behind the estate. 

The stone boat patio sitting in the bay behind the estate. 

 Beautiful stone staircases surround the house.

Beautiful stone staircases surround the house.

We arrived at 10:30 and left at 12:30, and it was not enough time! We wanted to enjoy lunch at the café there, but we were pressed for time because we wanted to make it to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park so that we could catch a lighthouse tour at 1pm… But we didn’t actually have to be there by 1 and it was a pretty big bummer since we cut our Vizcaya time short...

 Coconut Palm lined walkway to the Cape Florida Lighthouse.

Coconut Palm lined walkway to the Cape Florida Lighthouse.

The park services website for the lighthouse is extremely misleading. It makes it seem like you can only climb the lighthouse at 10am and 1pm, but it is actually open to the public a majority of the time and you can climb it without a guide (just give them a call and make sure it’s going to be open when you’re thinking of going!). But of course, we sat and listened to our tour guide (we were the only two in the group), and it was short and sweet and informative!

 Cape Florida Lighthouse seen from the south side of the park grounds.

Cape Florida Lighthouse seen from the south side of the park grounds.

 Views from the top.

Views from the top.

The park entrance fee is $8 per car and it is so worth it! The place is so beautiful. One thing you MUST do…Pack a lunch! Our lunch experience almost ruined our day. We decided to google places to eat near the state park since we were starving after exploring and climbing the lighthouse. We wanted somewhere nice and quiet, possibly on the water, with some not so high lunch prices. The first two places that came up were the Lighthouse Café and Boaters Grill. These two restaurants are in the state park so we wouldn’t even have to leave…great deal right? Not. Don’t do it. We decided on Boaters Grill and we were so disappointed. It was loud, crowded, and the waiters were so rude. Needless to say, it was a waste of money. When our food had been ordered (crappy cheeseburgers because it was the cheapest thing on the menu), we asked for two boxes and the check and we got up and left. We couldn’t even sit there to eat lunch! We went back to a beautiful beach front spot in the park and ate lunch out of our to-go boxes, and it was way better than remaining at Boaters Grill. We hung out at the beach, threw a football, and walked around the state park until it was time to go.

 Just don't. 

Just don't. 

 Our lunch spot after leaving Boaters Grill. Much better!

Our lunch spot after leaving Boaters Grill. Much better!

All in all, awesome day exploring the more relaxed side of Miami and all the views were so worth it! It was an awesome way to do the day and explore a state park and National Historic Landmark in one day for under $30! If you have a free day and are within two hours of Miami, this itinerary is definitely worth your time.

Just Go With It-

Mo