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Miami beyond the beaches

By Katia Hetter, Special to CNN
March 30, 2012 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
The Miami Design Preservation League offers a daily tour of South Beach's art deco historic sites. The Miami Design Preservation League offers a daily tour of South Beach's art deco historic sites.
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Miami Beach's art deco treasures
Mango's Tropical Cafe
Nighttime at Key Marina
The Clevelander
Key Biscayne
South Beach lifeguard station
Little Havana
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Make your way to Wynwood for the monthly art walk
  • Head to Lario's or Havana Harry's for Cuban cuisine
  • Take a boat tour to see celebrity island homes
  • Take a tour of art deco structures in Miami Beach

Editor's note: We'll focus on facets of a different American city each month in our Destination USA series. Next month, we're looking at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

(CNN) -- Everyone knows the beach is the thing in Miami, and specifically South Beach, where all the beautiful people go to see and be seen. But what if you're traveling with children or grandparents or people who don't want to be covered in suntan lotion and little else all day? We asked for your recommendations beyond the beach, where you go when you're not lying on a towel. "There are so many Miamis to visit when you are here," one iReporter said. Here are a few of our iReporters' favorites.

The art scene

Miami's vibrant art scene is very much in evidence in Wynwood, where the local arts association has a map to keep track of which artists are in the hood. "If you are lucky enough to be visiting on the second Saturday of the month, you better make your way over to Wynwood for the local art walk," writes iReporter Jennifer Ortiz, a Miami native. "Live music and DJs spin in various galleries throughout the night, often with free beer and other refreshments. Here you'll witness some of the world's finest urban art; muralists and graffiti artists have been brought in from around the globe to use Wynwood as their canvas." You can also use the map to tour galleries during the day.

For a Cuban feel, Oritz recommends heading to Little Havana's "Viernes Culturales" on the last Friday of each month. If you prefer the expert's tour of Little Havana or other parts of Miami, contact HistoryMiami for an organized or private tour.

iReport: Share your Santa Fe tips and photos

Have a cafe con leche and more

Miami's dynamic food scene now goes beyond everyday Cuban cuisine to fine and experimental dining with local ingredients. "Hang with the locals at eclectic places like The Electric Pickle, Bardot or The Stage in the Midtown/Design District," writes iReporter Alain Lantigua, who has lived in the Miami area for most of his life. Other iReporters recommend Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, in the Arts District, and Sra. Martinez, "Top Chef" judge Michelle Bernstein's tapas restaurant.

Many little Cuban joints will feed you a good cheap lunch, iReporters tell us, and you can get an excellent Cuban coffee after your meal for half the price of a Starbuck's. For affordable classic Cuban food, go to South Miami and "hit Lario's on a Saturday night for live Cuban music," Lantigua writes. It's "like nothing anywhere else and cheap." (Be careful not to confuse this location with Lario's on the Beach, which is in South Beach and probably will be mobbed.) For something a little more upscale, check out Havana Harry's in Coral Gables.

If you're worried about your lack of knowledge of Cuban cuisine, let Three Guys from Miami teach you what's what.

Communing with nature

There are endless opportunities to enjoy Miami outdoors aside from tanning on the beach. You can take a boat tour of celebrities' island homes in Miami or stroll the grounds at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Animal lovers can snorkel in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in nearby Key Largo or head to Zoo Miami.

Eliza Dash of Parkland, Florida, visits Miami almost every week for the restaurants and beaches, but that's not what stands out for her. She was fascinated by what she found on her visit to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, about 45 minutes north. "More than 70 species of butterflies, humming bird and lorikeet aviaries and a very peaceful garden takes the cake!" she writes on iReport.com. "It may be said that this is one man's hobby gone wild, but I say what a way to connect (with) nature!"

Don't dis South Beach

Although some locals may sneer at the tourists visiting Miami's most famous beach, the crowds who choose South Beach are clearly enjoying a meal, dancing the night away and staying at the trendy hotels. The South Beach experience is a must, whether you get a drink at Mango's or the Perry (known as the Gansevoort until this year). "Get a blackberry mojito at Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road or a generous pour of scotch at Segafredo and people watch," Lantigua writes. "If you want to hit a club, the place to go is LIV. Guarantee your entrance by purchasing tickets in advance."

Jeffrey Moellering of Clearwater, Florida, appreciates the Clevelander's outdoor space, which "features a large deck area with a pool, live music and the best people watching panorama right in the heart of the district. The adjacent hotel is also a quite adequate and reasonably priced place to stay."

South Beach culture

For a break from the beach scene, head to the New World Symphony's new campus, designed by Frank Gehry in close collaboration with symphony artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas. Miami native Melissa Lopez, who now lives in nearby Kendall, says the symphony offers many free outside movies and concerts. "Bring a blanket!" she writes.

Miami Beach's art deco architecture is worth a visit. "I enjoy walking, dining and shopping on Lincoln Road as well as walking and dining on Ocean Drive along the Art Deco hotels," writes iReporter Robert Ondrovic, of Pound Ridge, New York. If you'd like a guide on your walking tour, join the Miami Design Preservation League's daily art deco tour. "The architecture of these buildings is something no one should miss when in the Miami area," writes Matt Colver of Castle Rock, Colorado.

Do you live or vacation in the Miami area? Share your tips in the comments below.

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