Go beyond the beaches in the continental United States’ only truly tropical city.Explore
Far from the beach and teeming with life.
You’re in the tropics, so eat like it. It's on the southern edge of the Miami metro area, near where farmland gives way to swamp, but Robert Is Here is worth the morning trek. At this exotic fruit stand (a recent trip netted mamey sapote, guanabana, sapodilla, and rambutan), you can chat with Robert Moehling himself while he cuts your breakfast, then grab a milkshake and some fried peanuts. Walk through to the backyard for a tropical feast beside a menagerie including goats, emus, and tortoises.
19200 SW 344th St, Homestead, FL 33034
The way back up into the city will take you directly to a glorious testament to the power of pulleys, leverage, and time. Coral Castle was built, single-handedly, by the Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin in the 1920s and ‘30s. It is, as the name would suggest, a gated, walled castle made entirely of giant blocks of Miami limestone. An enclosed, two-story tower sits in one corner, opposite a throne room. There’s a Moon Fountain, a table shaped like Florida, two dozen rocking chairs, and much more in the compound—all mined, carved, and set in place by Leedskalnin himself. This is one roadside attraction that has the capacity to surprise and amaze.
28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, FL 33033
There are five nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Gardens in the United States, and all are in Hawaii—except the Kampong. Further along the path back into Miami proper, on a nondescript Coral Gables side street, you will find what was once the private residence of the horticulturalist David Fairchild. Today it's a narrow strip of lushness with banyans, a baobab, salt mangroves, a lotus pond, and perhaps the most peaceful, idyllic view of Biscayne Bay. Don’t forget to explore the house and admire the Garuda sculpture, spectacularly carved from the stump and rootstock of a lychee tree. Call ahead to make an appointment.
4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL 33133
A short drive north will bring you to El Carajo—gas station in the front, extensive wine selection in back. This service station first added wine, then a bakery counter, and is now an excellent tapas restaurant, where you can still fill up your tank and grab motor oil and a pack of gum. Try the red sangria with some chorizo, the white with ceviche, and a diet soda with a bag of Cheetos. By the way, “carajo” translates as the crow’s nest on a Spanish galleon or one of those useful, versatile curse words for when you stub your toe or want to tell someone to take a hike.
2465 SW 17th Ave, Miami, FL 33145
Get a little rest before wandering around the heart of Cuban America. There are hats and guayaberas and cigars and old men playing dominoes, as well as the kitschy majesty of Versailles Restaurant. But we recommend El Rey de Las Fritas for dinner, a mildly psychedelic diner experience involving Cuban burgers called fritas—heavily seasoned, smashed, and topped with shoestring fries, on a soft Cuban roll. With the money you save, grab a cocktail and hear some live music down the street at Ball & Chain.
1821 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135
A trip through the city's past.
Miami’s sprawling, low-slung, shade-averse neighborhoods aren’t so pedestrian-friendly, but Little Haiti is worth a quick wander, starting at the Cultural Center, which hosts Caribbean market days and a variety of art shows and dance performances. Check out Libreri Mapou (a Creole-French-English bookstore) next door or duck into an unusual botanica. If you’re there in the evening, swing by the city’s classic, rough-and-tumble punk bar, Churchill’s, and Sweat Records next door.
212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL 33137
Haitian food seems heavy for a tropical climate, but it’s a true product of the tropics. At the sidewalk-side counter of Naomi’s, grab some legume with mayi moulen and picklies (that is, beef stew with cornmeal porridge and spicy slaw, vegan options available), and a passion fruit juice, then head to the airy backyard garden. The roosters and chickens scuttling around your feet are good company.
650 NW 71st St, Miami, FL 33150
This could be the most forgotten corner of Miami. Wedged between trendy Wynwood and downtown, this historic graveyard has Jewish, African-American, and veteran plots, as well as graves of some of the city’s early luminaries. Many of the headstones are cracked and crumbling, and some crypts have clearly been broken into and hastily patched, but not Carrie Miller’s: “THE BODY OF CARRIE BARRETT MILLER WAS MOULDED IN THIS SOLID BLOCK OF CONCRETE—DECEMBER 4TH.1926. AFTER THE BODY HAS GONE TO DUST HER SLEEPING FORM WILL REMAIN.” It’s not a large graveyard, so you can see the entirety of it in an hour or so, but it’s worth lingering over its little narratives of neglect and decay.
1800 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33132
Betting away an afternoon at the decrepit old jai alai fronton near the airport is an experience not to be missed. This lightning-fast sport with origins in Basque country remains popular in Latin America but can only be seen year-round in the United States in Miami. This site was once known as the Yankee Stadium of jai alai, but it’s just barely hanging on today. The game is played just three times a week now, and the weekend matinees are attended by only a dozen dedicated bettors. Don’t be afraid to place some small bets at the kiosks outside. Rooting for #3 makes it even more exciting, and you don’t need to understand it to enjoy it.
3500 NW 37th Ave, Miami, FL 33142
At the end of the long parking lot of Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, past the public beach, is another piece of Miami history, a little-visited corner of the park that used to be a zoo—until August 1980, when it became clear that a hurricane-prone beach wasn’t a good spot for a collection of wild animals. But the remains are there: broad paths, lots of gator-friendly water features, and the ruins of enclosures, both expansive and claustrophobic. It’s also full of peacocks, wading birds, and more invasive iguanas than you can count. On the way back to the mainland, pull off at the city’s most iconic ruin, graffiti-covered Miami Marine Stadium, a seaside symphony of weak concrete, brutalism, and chain-link fences.
6747 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149
In this arts and shopping district, recently manufactured whole-cloth from a forgotten industrial area, Wynwood Walls is the primary attraction, an outdoor gallery of glaringly bright street art. Explore a little more and you’ll find a massive taxidermy, bone, and stone store called Art by God. But it’s the diversity of food here that really shines. There’s a lot just for food trucks, and a couple of hours can get you Japanese-Peruvian ceviche, chicharrones, and Mongolian duck wings.
2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127
If you like the Art Deco style of Miami Beach but can do without the oontz-oontz-oontz and crowded sidewalks, stay on the mainland and book one of the renovated modern-ish motels in the MiMo (Miami Modern) area, a developing neighborhood between Little Haiti and Biscayne Bay. Vagabond Hotel is the nicest of the bunch, with a poolside bar and pleasant, quiet rooms.Check Prices Or Availability →
If you thought Pensacola, Florida—with its powder-white sand beaches, near-perfect weather, and fresh seafood—was just a place to soak up the sun, think again. In fact, the city and beach of the same name is the site of the first European settlement in the continental United States. Established by Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna in 1559, it was christened Panzacola, a name of Native American origin and the precursor to the city’s modern name. The destination is also the birthplace of U.S. naval aviation and is still home to a naval air station and the thousands of service members stationed there, as well as the Blue Angels, the flight squadron famous for their death-defying fighter plane stunts. This delightful coastal city is an ideal, if somewhat quirky, blend of historical sites (on land and underwater) and activities to get your adrenaline flowing.
The people of Tucson have been eating off the land for 4,100 years. From grains to livestock to produce introduced by missionaries in the 1600s, this UNESCO City of Gastronomy is home to some of the oldest farmland in North America. What once was old is new again in The Old Pueblo where ancient flavors are found in nearly every dish — trendy to traditional.
Any travel enthusiast would be hard-pressed to open any social media channel and not see photos of Iceland, with its jaw-dropping peaks, natural hot springs, pure glaciers, northern lights and snow-covered landscapes. But the island nation’s appeal goes well beyond the well-worn paths of Reykjavik, the Golden Circle and the southern region's countryside. Travel to the untamed north along the Arctic Coast Way to discover otherworldly beauty—sans crowds—around every bend.
Crowds clog Edinburgh's Royal Mile, the main artery between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The road is dotted with stores selling Nessie trinkets and lined with bagpipers and street performers pulling off dazzling tricks. But look beyond the tartan tourist traps, and you’ll discover tucked-away gardens, remnants of the city’s medieval past, and much more.
In 1967, 100,000 artists, activists, and hippies gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix played free concerts for fields of college dropouts, and San Francisco established itself as a countercultural capital. More than 50 years later, in a city increasingly known for Twitter and tech rather than art and activism, travelers who come on a pilgrimage are often disappointed to find expensive, skin-deep psychedelia. But if you know where to look, you’ll find a walk down Haight Street to be wonderfully weird, full of historic links to hippiedom and modern takes on the vibe.
More than eight million diverse individuals call New York City home, and many of them share their heritage through food. Whether it’s a billiards hall that serves stellar Bhutanese fare or a mosque where Malian vendors sell snacks for just a few hours each Friday, the city offers a vast culinary landscape for those willing to explore it. Venture beyond the flashy hotspots with months-long waiting lists and you’ll find New York’s true flavor lies within the small restaurants and stands rooted in its thriving immigrant communities.
It may be famous for Mardi Gras, but New Orleans has subtle, surprising wonders on tap all year long—even in the touristy French Quarter. Around every cobblestoned corner, you’ll find historic ephemera, bits of Creole culture, environmentalism, and no shortage of spooky stories, whenever you happen to visit.
From the street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hard to miss: The institution’s two-million-square-foot main building, at 1000 Fifth Avenue, spans four New York City blocks and stretches into Central Park. Inside the galleries, you’ll find thousands of objects spanning 5,000 years of world history. With so many treasures under one roof, it's inevitable that some fascinating pieces are tucked into the museum's lonelier nooks and crannies, hiding in plain sight. The next time you spend a day at the museum, keep an eye out for these overlooked wonders.
Detroit and Nashville are synonymous with two all-American music genres. It’s no surprise that visitors flock to these cities each year to get a feel for the places where artists such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton began their careers. A (relatively) straight, north to south route connects the two cities, as does musical heritage. Load up the RV, make sure your speaker system is in tip-top shape, and create a playlist filled with old-school Motown and Country hits. If you're not driving on the trip down south, you should be dancing.
The terrain along the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes called the “Third Coast,” but for an offbeat road trip, it’s second to none. Starting in Houston and ending in Pensacola Bay, this journey takes you through some of America’s most diverse landscapes. You’ll cross Cajun swamps, drive along sparkling white sand beaches, and even spend some time in the Big Easy. Take an RV and camp along the way to truly immerse yourself in this wondrous region. The world’s largest gulf, it turns out, holds some of America’s best-kept secrets.
The Coachella Valley and its environs boom in the spring, when tens of thousands of music lovers flock to catch their favorite artists perform in front of a dramatic, mountainous backdrop. But this region stays wonderfully weird all year long. If the festival drew you to the area and you only have a day to explore, choose a direction: Either head north, toward Joshua Tree and Landers, or southeast to the Salton Sea and nearby oases for a blissful respite. If you can spare a couple of days, lucky you—go forth and see it all.
Los Angeles’ Highland Park is a diverse, eclectic neighborhood that Native Americans and Latinx communities have inhabited for centuries. Celebrated for its history, art scene, ethnic diversity, and cuisine, Highland Park is filled with surprising delights that more and more people are discovering every day. Exploring the neighborhood's nooks and crannies is one of the most rewarding ways to spend a day in L.A.
Once referred to as “The Coney Island of the Pacific,” L.A.’s beachfront neighborhood of Venice has long been a popular tourist destination. Its colorful characters, quirky architecture, and carnivalesque atmosphere are well-known the world over. But take a moment to look past the kitsch, and you’ll discover a place where artistic ingenuity thrives more than a century after Abbot Kinney endeavored to bring a grandiose version of Venice to America. The bohemian beehive has always attracted artists and performers, and everyone is welcome to enjoy the show.
The 1970s brought a wave of artists into this former industrial area in Downtown Los Angeles. They sparked a fuse of creative imagination that burned for years. Up-and-coming creators took advantage of the then-low rents and built a foundation for the creative mecca that exists here today. In its infancy, L.A.’s Downtown Arts District came to life behind-the-scenes, with artists mostly working in closed studios. Today, the art has spilled onto the streets in the form of colorful murals, attractive gallery spaces, and stylish storefronts. But the curious explorer can still find literal and figurative traces of the ‘70s. In addition to the more historic spots that remain, a creative, entrepreneurial spirit abounds.
Wedged between Charing Cross and Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square is known for the throngs of people flocking to its famous attractions. Weave around the tourists on the National Gallery stairs and dodge the crowds clogging the street corners. Instead, duck down dreamy alleys and pop into unique, overlooked museums and shops. There, a secret side of this busy area waits to reveal itself.
Few cities on Earth are as well-trodden as New York–but as any intrepid traveler knows, the more you explore a place, the more wonders you find. You may not be able to discover all of these spots in a single trip, but that could be a good thing. No matter how many times you return, the city that never sleeps never ceases to surprise. Visit NYCGo to uncover more of the city’s secret spots.
Anchored by the Zócalo plaza and the architectural splendor of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City's historic center rightfully draws scores of visitors from around the world. If you look, smell, and taste carefully, you’ll also find a universe of culinary offerings that tells stories of immigration, adaptation, and imagination. With the help of Culinary Backstreets, we assembled a primer on eating and drinking your way through the district.
Hollywood Boulevard is world-famous—for the Oscars and the Walk of Fame, for schlocky souvenir shops and crowded tour buses. But beyond the terrazzo stars and the occasional celebrity sighting, there’s plenty left to discover. Here’s how to make Hollywood’s acquaintance, whether you’re a visitor or a local who keeps a practiced distance from these busy, saturated blocks. Look closer and you'll find a neighborhood full of nature, history, and wonder.
There's the Times Square you know, full of blazing billboards, selfie sticks, and costumed characters. Then there's the less familiar one, beyond the lights—the nooks and crannies that most visitors to Midtown Manhattan overlook. They're not obvious, but surprises can still be found along this world-famous stretch of real estate.
Follow along on our 2,200-mile adventure with NPR's 'All Things Considered.'
Forge your own path in this tourist magnet, toward places that are less crowded but no less wondrous.
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Find surprises around every corner in a U.S. city that embraces history like no other.