Jewish Museum of Florida
Having expanded into Miami Beach’s first synagogue built in 1929, this cultural and historical museum occupies two historic Art Deco buildings decorated with chandeliers, sconces and more than 75 stained glass windows. Its core exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, includes a timeline wall, audio-visual presentations and more than 600 photos, documents and artifacts representing the past 250 years of Jewish history in Florida. In addition to permanent collections, the museum also hosts many traveling exhibits, including the art of Matatiaou. The museum store sells books, memorabilia and ceremonial items for Jewish holidays and events.
The large circular plaza in Miami Beach serves as a tribute to the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis during World War II. Black granite walls display a brief history of the war from 1933-1945, and bright Jerusalem stone passages lead to a towering 42-ft high bronze sculpture in the plaza’s center — a giant hand reaching out of the ground covered with almost 100 bronze human figures. The structure, which took four years to build, represents the pain, despair and anguish of the Holocaust experience. Surrounding the memorial are photographic murals and a reflection pool. For a fee, visitors can submit names of loved ones for inscription on the memorial wall.
Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Admission: Free
Bringing balance to creeping urban sprawl are 2.6 acres of botanical gardens near the Miami Beach Convention Center. The gardens specialize in orchids and bromeliads, creating a lush green space of tropical palms, trees and flowers. Walk by the “autograph tree,” which has been signed by tour guides over the years, and cross the bright red wooden bridge for a stroll in the Japanese Garden. The garden recently underwent a $1.2 million renovation by acclaimed South Florida landscape architect, Raymond Jungles and now has meandering pathways that allow for full use of the small space. There are several oolite rock water features, a wetland mangrove, and constantly changing temporary art installations. Exploring the grounds is free, as are the garden’s many lectures and events, including lessons in tropical cooking, photography and horticulture.
Located at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at University of Miami, this center features interactive exhibits and educational sessions about Cuban history and culture. A cinema shows daily films about Cuban heritage, lifestyle, politics and the history of rum and tobacco. Sample assorted instruments and more than 2,000 digital songs by Cuban singers and composers in the Music Pavilion or get a taste of Cuban humor with recorded routines of comedians Luis Carbonell, Trespatines, and Guillermo Alvarez Guedes. The conference room displays historical exhibits, such as the Smithsonian’s photo collection of early 20th century Cuba, and offers guest speakers on subjects like Cuban cuisine and Cuba’s criminal justice system.
Wings Over Miami Air Museum
Located at the Tamiami Airport, Wings Over Miami functions as an educational, family-oriented tribute to veterans, aviators and aircraft history. The museum hangar houses military and vintage planes, like the B-59, 1942 Boeing Stearman, 1957 Ikarus, and the GNAT, used by the British Yellowjacks and Red Arrows aerobatic team from 1964-1979. Other historical exhibits focus on aviation and World War II. Bring the kids to the museum’s air shows throughout the year and watch Yaks and F-86s take to the sky in close formations. Visit the on-site gift shop for T-shirts, photos and model planes – both pre-made and build-it-yourself.