Under-the-Radar Museums in Miami
Home to the Wynwood Arts District and Art Basel, as well as first-class art centers such as the Pérez Art Museum and Rubell Museum, Miami is well-known as one of the US’s most art savvy cities. But there’s much more to the city’s cultural scene. Whether you like vintage trains and planes or want to learn more about Jewish history, read on for the best under-the-radar museums in Miami.
Wings Over Miami Air Museum
Top pick for families.
Visitors to Wings Over Miami Air Museum can see the evolution of flight through the small museum’s surprisingly large collection of restored and maintained military and classic aircraft. You’ll also learn about the pilots who flew them and, if you’re lucky, maybe even see a plane restoration in process or catch a special event during which some of the planes take to the skies.
Don’t miss: Aviation enthusiasts shouldn’t skip a visit to the gift shop, which stocks some great model kits.
Gold Coast Railroad Museum
For train enthusiasts and collectors.
If your interest skews toward trains rather than planes, head for the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, which is home to more than 40 passenger cars, freight cars, locomotives, and antique railway equipment. The historic rail cars on view include Ferdinand Magellan, the private car built for President Franklin Roosevelt. You can also explore the vast collection of model trains while learning about the region’s locomotive history.
Don’t miss: Visitors can take a ride around the museum’s grounds in a historic rail car on most weekdays.
Art exhibits and education.
Focused on exhibitions of international contemporary art, the Bass is housed in a 1930s-era art deco building that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The art offerings at this South Beach institution are more than skin deep, though. Before you even enter you’ll spot such striking public art pieces as Ugo Rondinone’s towering, multi-colored Miami Mountain in the surrounding Collins Park and Sylvie Fleury’s Eternity Now neon sign on the museum’s facade.
Don’t miss: Added during the museum’s 2017 renovation, the Creativity Center has classrooms, a multimedia lab, and space for public programming that makes it a great family-friendly choice.
Jewish Museum of Florida
Honor Jewish history in Miami Beach.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the art deco masterpiece that houses the Jewish Museum of Florida’s main building is an attraction in its own right. Completed in 1936, the building features dozens of stained glass windows, a Moorish copper dome, art deco chandeliers and marble bimah used for Torah reading during services. The adjacent building, which now houses the museum’s expansion, was Miami Beach’s first synagogue. Here, visitors can explore Florida’s Jewish history and culture through the museum’s audiovisual presentations, films, photos, documents, and artifacts.
Don't miss: The museum offers one walking tour focused on Jewish history, and another about Jewish food, the latter of which includes stops at local eateries to sample some signature dishes.
Haitian Heritage Museum
The only Haitian culture–centric museum outside of Haiti.
Learn about the art and culture of Haiti with a visit to the Haitian Heritage Museum, located just steps from Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. This small museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Caribbean nation’s culture in all its aspects—from music and movies to literature—via art exhibitions, cultural events, and educational activities.
Don’t miss: One mile north of the museum, Chez Le Bebe is a long-standing, down-to-earth restaurant serving hearty Haitian fare.
Miami’s oddest museum.
This bafflingly large and complex limestone structure in Homestead, a 40-minute drive from downtown, was built single-handedly, using only homemade tools, under the cover of darkness by Edward Leedskalnin over a period of 28 years—and no one is quite sure how. Legend has it that Leedskalnin started building the “castle” the day after his fiancée called off their wedding; locals claimed that he used supernatural powers. However he did it, the result is certainly striking.
Don’t miss: The nine-ton stone gate that moves with just a touch of the finger.
World Erotic Art Museum
For adults only.
In spite of what you might expect from the name, the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) eschews the tawdry route in favor of a real sense of cultural and artistic history. The museum has a collection of more than 4,000 pieces, including paintings, sculptures, and photography, ranging from works by anonymous folk artists to those by such figures as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí—some pieces date back to 3,000 BC.
Don’t miss: The museum’s collection of Wunderkammern, or “cabinets of curiosities;” repositories for all types of wondrous objects.
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