We know summer isn’t technically year-round anywhere. But in Miami, it sure feels close—and that makes this city a perfect playground for sports fans of all stripes.
One of only a baker’s dozen of American cities, this south Florida metropolis is home to all four major sports franchises. For racing, Miami-Dade County’s Homestead-Miami Speedway revs engines, as well, with multiple NASCAR events scheduled throughout the season.
If you’re a football fan, this may not be your time of year. But Miami offers plenty of reason for fans to line up now outside of stadiums—and for fans of fall sports to start planning their trips.
The Heat Is On
The city’s NBA basketball team is aptly named, as Miami fans bring the heat to every game, especially courtside on Friday nights.
“Everyone dresses up. Women are in dresses, guys are in button-ups and slacks,” explains longtime Miami sports fan Peter Schoenthal. “There’s always celebrities there. If you go to a Heat game on a Friday night, that’s your pregame. You’re going there to be seen.”
But there’s a challenge, Schoenthal notes. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, Miami’s a late-arriving crowd.’ It’s because it takes forever to get off the highway, park and get in the stadium.”
Plan ahead, so you can get your pregame time in at nearby Bayside Marketplace. It’s less than a five-minute walk from AmericanAirlines Arena, and there’s a host of eat-and-drink options at the ready. Picky eaters will find exactly what they expect at some of the nation’s favorite mall chains. If you’re looking for local flavor, though, try Sharkey’s. Grab a waterfront seat and enjoy pub food before the game.
If you’re more interested in a cocktail, stroll to The Corner (thecornermiami.com). It’s a spot known for its concoctions and live jazz, with a happy hour (or four, since it runs 4–8 p.m. weekdays) sure to please. Choose from $3 canned beers, half-price cocktails, and $3 hot dogs. Stop back after the game—it’s a short walk, after all—as there’s often live music to keep the party going.
Would you rather be closer to the action? Arrive early to the arena, and direct your attention to 601 (601miami.com). All ticketholders are welcome, and you’ll be able to order specialty cocktails and dinner and partake in the self-serve craft beer wall.
Swing, batta batta!
Spring training games are all over south Florida, and just a short drive from Miami itself. Or wait for the Major League Baseball season to begin at the eponymous Marlins Park. The stadium itself is something to see, with aquariums serving as the backstop behind home plate (don’t worry, they’re bulletproof and, therefore, foul-ball proof). Modern art replicas add character—a nod to the city’s thriving arts scene—and a bobblehead museum offers a bit of quirk.
If you want something truly special in the Marlins’ stadium, though, book space at the Clevelander Marlins Park. Miami is known for its South Beach party scene, after all, and you’ll get a taste of that while taking in America’s favorite pastime right next to the field. The nightclub atmosphere includes food, music, field-level seats, and a swimming pool. It’s Florida, after all! High temperatures average in the upper 70s from November to April. Why not take a dip?
But maybe sand and sweat aren’t why you’re here. Then head to the BB&T Center for the National Hockey League’s southernmost team, the Florida Panthers. It’s not an ideal place for tailgating, though, with parking not opening until two hours before puck drop. But as with several of the area’s sports venues, there’s a lot of celebrating to do inside.
Love a sports bar? Want a place to dine before the game? Head to Legends Lounge on the suite level of the arena. All ticket holders are welcome, and there’s plenty of casual food options on hand.
There are more exclusive experiences, as well. Corona Beach House and Mardi Gras Casino Jester’s Court cater to club-level ticket holders. Those who opt in to Club Lexus receive unlimited food and drink—brought to them by waitstaff—and premium seating. (Oh, and valet parking, a real boon at any major sports event.) Sports fans buying seats in sections 328 to 330 can visit Lord Stanley’s Loft, with its inclusive buffet and wine and beer service.
On the gridiron
Schoenthal’s college allegiance is actually based 450 miles north of his Miami home, but that doesn’t keep him from attending the football games. Even so, the attorney and football coach says the best tailgating occurs when his Florida State Seminoles face the Miami Hurricanes in Miami.
Some college cities shut down on game day, with most of the action centered on the stadium. That’s not so in this sprawling metropolis, and Schoenthal says the city adds its own flavor.
“Miami is really cool in this sense. They tailgate long and hard, just like anywhere else,” he says. The area’s Cuban influence amps up the flavor. “That, at Hurricane games especially, is different than anywhere else I’ve been in the country. It’s Latin music, Uncle Luke booty music—it’s a big party.”
Both the Hurricanes and the National Football League’s Dolphins play at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The stadium offers luxury to those willing to pay for it. For example, 72 Club members arrive in their own lane of traffic and sit in wider seats with more legroom. The stadium also boasts LIV multi-level suite experience, with multiple dance floors, cabanas and a full bar.
Those outside the premium clubs bring their own fun. There’s not much else around, Schoenthal says, which means you show up for a tailgate and stay for the tailgate.
“It’s a gift and a curse,” says Schoenthal, who has attended Dolphins games since childhood. “It’s a gift that everyone’s together and it’s a big party. It’s a curse in that if you run out, you’re out.”
The parties around the two teams can look a bit different. The Dolphins attract more people from the surrounding area, and the games are more family-friendly. Hurricane tailgates are rowdier.
Either way, the good times will roll. Fans often spill back out onto the stadium grounds after the game, settling in for still more tailgating. Isn’t that half the fun?