If you’re traveling to Miami Beach, especially South Beach, you’ll probably spend some time ogling hot hardbodies in skimpy bathing suits and fashionably dressed socialites from around the world. If you get tired of beaches and bars, however, here are a few things to go look at that are stimulating in an entirely different way.
World Erotic Art Museum
For one of Miami Beach’s strangest stops, you don’t even need to get into a car. Smack in the thick of head shops, bars, and nightclubs on 12th and Washington is the surprisingly high-brow World Erotic Art Museum. This is an amazingly thorough collection of explicit art through the ages, spanning centuries and continents. Some of it is obscure, some of it quite famous and valuable—like the giant phallus used in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and works from big names like Rembrandt, Rodin, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Helmut Newton.
Works are grouped by theme and though plenty will provide some giggles, it’s all displayed as serious art, with proper tags, good lighting, and explanatory context. It’s rather gratifying to see that an obsession with sex is not a modern phenomenon and before the camera came along the creators found plenty of ways to titillate the public or private benefactors. Admission is $14 and you need to be 18 or older to enter. See more at WEAM.com.
The Spanish Monastery
I once went to a wedding in Miami that was in a stone Spanish-style building constructed in 1141. “How can that be?” you’ll probably wonder. The Spanish didn’t arrive in the new world until the late 1400s and St. Augustine wasn’t founded until 1565.
It’s a crazy story, actually. The eccentric William Randolph Hearst bought the entire monstery, had it dismantled stone by stone in its home of Sacramenia, near Segovia, and paid to have the very heavy colletion of stones shipped to the United States. He ran into financial troubles soon after and the whole shipment of 11,000 crates sat in a warehouse for 26 years. Two entrepreneurs eventually bought it and spent a fortune rebuilding it piece by piece, planning to make it a big tourist attraction.
That didn’t pan out and eventually a philanthropist bought it and donated it to the Episcopal church. So now you can go to mass, see a concert there, or just come for a tour ($10 adults, $5 students). Follow this link for more info, photos, and directions.
Wynwood Walls Graffiti Garden
Where I live the graffiti is just an ugly eyesore. But in the most artistic area of Miami, what’s on the walls is intricate and inspiring. On NW Second Ave. between 25th and 26th, nearly two dozen artist have their work on display and there’s no admission charge to go scope it all out.
Many of the artists on display here are American, but they also come from Tokyo, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Athens, Paris, and Barcelona. There is an excellent website for Wynwood Walls where you can get a sneak peak of what’s on display and see some photos from when the murals were created. This is just the anchor for an area that’s full of great artwork, boutiques and funky restaurants, so plan to spend some time wandering around. When Art Basel is not in town, this is also a relatively cheap area for hotels in the Miami Beach area if you’ve got some wheels and don’t need to be right by the water.
Dezer Collection Miami Auto Museum
There’s nothing inherently strange about a classic car museum, but any other one you’ve probably seen is going to seem sad and tiny after you’ve visited this car collection to beat them all in North Miami. There are more than 1,200 vehicles jammed into multiple warehouses and it’s no random collection lined up side-by-side either. There are Model Ts, classic 50s American cars, and some used by actors playing James Bond and Batman. That’s just scratching the surface though in a collection that also has Vespas, army vehicles, and an adorable collection of dozens of mini cars from Europe. Even if you’re not all that into cars, you’ll find something fascinating to check out here and the kids will love seeing vehicles from movies they know.
Admission, good for a year, is $50 for an adult or $90 for a family of four (hey, just think of the insurance and air conditioning bills for this place). See a more detailed post we did here and check out the Dezer Collection website for times, directions, and more info.
Post and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who wrote more on the area in this Perceptive Travel story: No One’s Too Sexy for Miami.