It’s not hard to fall in love in Miami. People do it all the time. Locals meet someone at their office, maybe start enjoying a 3:05 p.m. colada with them, and suddenly they’re having drinks at a hip lounge in Brickell. Or they find each other online and decide to take a chance by meeting at a food and art event. The Magic City is magic for a reason, after all.We’ve compiled a list of places you might want to go to, or things you might want to do, if you’re in the mood for romance. Some are low-key while others are meant for high-adrenaline love. There are gorgeous gardens like the Kampong, relaxing parks like South Pointe, and lively yet still romantic performances at joints like the Arsht Center and the New World Symphony at the New World Center. Go through the list and choose your next date wisely. It could become the one that never ends.
Kampong is the Malaysian word for “home in a garden”, an apt description of this stunning attraction. This is one of only eight properties in the US owned by the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and it offers a magnificent array of tropical fruit trees and flowering trees that are not found anywhere else. The facility, located on the site of the former home of plant researcher David Fairchild, also hosts current plant researchers, so plenty of information is provided about the wildlife that grows there. Don’t miss the Indonesian-inspired house on the premises, complete with tropical lagoon, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
ST. BERNARD DE CLAIRVAUX CHURCH, ANCIENT SPANISH MONASTERY
Built in Spain in 1141, the St. Bernard de Clairvaux Church and Ancient Spanish monastery was taken apart and brought to the United States by William Randolph Hearst. The building is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Hearst intended the monastery to be reassembled in California, but the bricks were held in Miami due to possible contamination of the packing material. They were later moved to and stored in New York as Mr. Hearst had moved his attention to other ventures by that time. The building was purchased in 1951 by developers and moved back to Miami. It’s certainly a sight to behold, and is frequently used as a venue for photography and weddings.
FAIRCHILD TROPICAL BOTANIC GARDEN
Lush and meticulously maintained, this garden showcases a wide range of tropical plants. Within its 83 acres, palms and cycads flourish, and a 16,000-square-foot conservatory shelters rare specimens. The Fairchild also offers a butterfly garden, an arboretum and a rainforest, and it also houses a world-renowned research facility. Leisurely strolls through the grounds are sure to provoke plenty of “oohs and aahs,” and you may gain inspiration for your own little patch of paradise back home. There are also often art installations by world-renowned artists like Dale Chihuly, plus moonlight tours and movie nights. A small museum, gift shop and cafe take care of practical needs. Free tram tours run on the hour.
NEW WORLD SYMPHONY AT THE NEW WORLD CENTER
The renowned New World Symphony is housed in the new Frank Gehry-designed New World Center. The venue resembles a geode inside, with sail-like convex panels overhead. A box-like exterior has latticed glass windows and a huge projection wall. NWS is America’s only full-time, post-graduate orchestral campus and laboratory. The acoustics in the semicircular concert hall are alarmingly effective, and the 756 seats are comfortable. On nights the symphony plays (season runs September through May) concerts can be heard and seen outside via sound speakers and video projections. People bring blankets, folding chairs, picnics and bottles of wine, and sit back and enjoy the show in the urban SoundScape Park.
Teeming with natural, archaeological and historical appeal, every visit to the Deering Estate proves endlessly engaging. Excavations at the bayfront compound originally owned by Charles Deering (whose brother James built the infamous Vizcaya property) have uncovered the remains of prehistoric animals, and evidence suggests that Paleo-Indians were here more than 10,000 years ago. Historic buildings also distinguish the 420-acre property � the 1922 Stone House, Richmond Cottage and 19th-century Richmond Hall. For an altogether different perspective of the estate, reserve a spot on the weekend canoe tour. Deering also has a strong commitment to community and the arts and frequently host events ranging from food and art festivals to lectures and even weddings.
SOUTH POINTE PARK
At the most southern point of SoBe, you’ll find South Pointe Park. This tranquil stretch of land has something for everyone. You can enjoy a swim in the ocean or catch some rays on the sand, take a stroll along the board walk or relax on the fishing pier. There’s even a playground for the youngest of beach-goers they’re sure to love. Because South Pointe is in the SoFi (that’s South of Fifth) neighborhood of SoBe, there’s (slightly) less traffic and definitely less commotion. Most tourists tend to stay closer to Ocean Drive along the Art Deco hotels and popular night spots, but those looking for a more tranquil refuge will find it at South Point.
ADRIENNE ARSHT CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
The monolithic Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts was built by Cesar Pelli, the architect famous for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. It is not his loveliest building: In daylight it resembles a collapsed layer cake with jutting angles. But when lit-up at night, the two main buildings look like glowing spaceships preparing for liftoff.
Nevertheless, here’s where to catch the Florida Grand Opera, jazz concerts, flamenco festivals, experimental theatre, traveling Broadway shows, Teatro Avante and shows for children and families.
For pre- or post-show dining, make reservations at the newly opened BRAVA! restaurant on the second floor of the Ziff Ballet Opera House.
MATHESON HAMMOCK PARK
Matheson Hammock Park, which also harbors the full-service Matheson Hammock Marina, offers several enticing features: Natural, native landscaping, featuring old live oaks, mangroves and palm trees. A Hammock Trail (different from the main road, which some also call a trail) for a gorgeous, scenic walk that actually leads into Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. Red Fish Grill, an upscale restaurant carved into an historic coral rock building, where prime dining hours are between sunset and star shine. And a man-made atoll pool that is fed by Biscayne Bay. Shallow enough for babies and attneded by a lifeguard, it’s also perfect for kite-boarders because, while it’s calm and gentle, stiff breezes sweep through here. A snack bar, picnic pavilions and locker/restrooms make Matheson a convenient spot for families to take in the sun and saltwater. As a bonus, there’s also an awesome view of downtown from across the bay.
Located in an Italian-style villa, this restaurant’s distinguishable only by an open gate and diners seated at elegant outdoor tables. You won’t find any signage outside and you might think you’re walking into some millionaire’s home on South Beach but you’ll be greeted shortly by one of their amicable staff members. Start off with bay scallops topped with fresh herbs and olive oil or red wine-marinated beef carpaccio before progressing to an adventurous selection of pastas such as pumpkin and hazelnut ravioli or lobster and artichoke lasagna. Tantalizing main dish offerings include veal marinated in lime juice, seared beef tenderloin with foie gras, and scaloppine with wild mushrooms. After dinner, cleanse your palate with frozen champagne soup and fresh fruit salad.
VIZCAYA MUSEUM & GARDENS
Constructed in 1916 for industrialist James Deering, this Italianate palace is often referred to as the Hearst Castle of the East. Intended to appear centuries-old at completion, it is absolutely rife with architectural detail and elaborate accents. In fact, more than a thousand artisans took five-plus years to complete the ornate flourishes. Deering was fascinated by 16th-century art and architecture, and most of his fine collection remains on display within the mansion. The beautifully landscaped grounds aptly complement the building, whose name remembers the Basque term for a raised site. Built on the bay, you’ll also appreciate beautiful views of the water while touring the estate.