It's our fourth edition of Gothamist's travel content, Gothamist Getaways. A few times a year, we'll have a week of posts featuring looks at travel, food, products and tips—near and far—for making your trips more enjoyable. So sit back, dream of your next journey and let us know if you have any hints for us—email

Miami's many pleasures are no secret—from the sand, surf, and nightlife of South Beach, to the Design District's luxe shops and galleries—but some of the city's most intriguing attractions fly beneath the typical tourist's radar. Next time you're planning a visit to the Art Deco mecca, set aside a day to take a break from the beach and check out one (or more) of these local hidden gems:

Eighty-three lush acres of tropical plants and trees, many of them rare and/or native to Florida, is reason enough to dedicate an afternoon to exploring Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens in Coral Gables—but the annual collaborations with some of the world's most innovative artists (Yayoi Kusama, Mark DiSuvero, Yoko Ono) make visiting the 76 year old conservation site a must. This year, glass sculptor Dale Chihuly follows up his incredibly successful 2005 exhibition with a new installation of his otherworldly large-scale blown glass creations throughout Fairchild's gardens, glades, pools, and forests.


But while flora might be Fairchild's main attraction, fauna often steal the show. Opened in 2012, the Wings of the Tropics Conservatory is home to more than 40 species of butterfly, including the stunning Blue Morpho and Leopard Lacewing varieties. Be sure to check the garden's event calendar before you go—Fairchild hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, and your visit could easily coincide with a celebration of mangos, orchids, birds, or (our favorite) chocolate.

There's no better way to follow up a steamy afternoon strolling the Fairchild Botanical Garden grounds than with a refreshing dip in the nearby Venetian Pool. Built in the 1920s from a coral rock quarry, the 820,000 gallon pool (replenished with spring water from an underground aquifer) features alcoves, caves and waterfalls created in part from the quarry's original coral.

The Venetian Pool (gregma/Foursquare)

With its faux barber pole-striped canal posts and man-made grottos, the 90-year-old public pool may sound over-the-top, but thanks to the naturalistic design and meticulous upkeep, the overall effect is more enchanting than cheesy. [Note: The pool is closed through February for renovations. It will reopen on March 3, 2015.]

Located off the 79th Street Causeway between the heart of Miami and Miami Beach, the quirky Pelican Harbor Seabird Station is a rehabilitation and release center for injured and orphaned wildlife that welcomes visitors. PHSS takes in wild animals of all types, but the majority of the creatures in its care are seabirds, specifically the facility's namesake brown pelicans. There's no shortage of animal parks in Miami, many of which also devote a portion of their efforts to rehabilitation - but those places are often so crowded with gift shops and snack bars, it's a challenge to find the actual animals amongst all the plush.

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station (Facebook)

At the refreshingly no-frills Pelican Harbor, the focus is—as it should be—on the birds, reptiles, tortoises and other two- and four-legged friends on the mend. If you've never been charmed by a sociable seabird, you don't know what you're missing.

An evening at the symphony may sound old-school, but the New World Symphony's state-of-the-art Wallcast Concerts on the Miami Soundscape's 7000 square-foot projection wall are anything but. Dubbed "America's Orchestral Academy," the Michael Tilson Thomas-led symphony is designed to further develop top music school grads and prepare them for roles in the world's leading orchestras.

The Wallcast (Facebook)

Perhaps because its musicians are millennials themselves, NWS takes great strides to attract a young crowd. The Wallcast Concerts (roughly every other week from October through April) are free of charge, and audience members are encouraged to bring a picnic and spread out under the stars (and the larger than life musicians projected on the wall).

Included on numerous "Best of" and "Where to Eat" lists, Naoe isn't exactly unknown. But with no sign outside and just two seatings a night in its eight-seat dining room, the intimate Brickell Road restaurant is a far cry from South Beach's glam NYC-style sushi outposts. Mentored by his uncle, a traditionally-trained Kaiseki chef in Toyama, Japan, Kevin Cory is a sushi purist who designs each night's multi-course omakase meal according to what's freshest locally and in the daily shipments flown in from Japan (the homepage of the restaurant's website states simply "it's not fresh…it's alive").

Dining at the diminutive Naoe is a bit of an investment (the nightly tasting menu is $200 per person) and requires calling several weeks in advance—but devotees will assure you that the chance to experience umami is worth the splurge. A slightly less spendy version of Cory's magic can found at the recently opened N by Naoe, his new—and, at 16 seats, somewhat larger—lunch spot next door. Both restaurants serve sake imported from the Nakamura Brewery in Japan, which is run by the chef's own family.

Deborah Levine is the director of communications and marketing for Teach For All, a global network of over 30 organizations working to expand educational opportunity in their countries. Prior to joining Teach For All, she was the editorial director for Nickelodeon's website,, and a freelance writer covering everything from food to careers to parenting. Deborah is also an author of books for children of all ages. Follow her on Twitter @deborah_levine