LeBron James isn’t the only star to famously “take his talents to South Beach.” Long before The Decision, scores of Hollywood legends jump started their careers with movies in the Magic City. And it’s not just basketball players, actors, and producers — Miami is America’s second most popular tourist city, trailing only New York City. So for the hordes of visitors that flock to this South Florida Alpha city each year — and especially the movie buffs among them — here are some ideas to add to your Miami itinerary that you might just recognize from the big screen.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens — Bad Boys 2 (2003)
The Drive: 12 minutes from Miami Tower
Take South Miami Avenue all the way until you hit the Northeast Coconut Grove neighborhood. On your left, you’ll find a 1920s European-inspired villa, the former winter estate of millionaire James Deering. You may recognize it as drug smuggler Johnny Tapia’s house in the buddy cop sequel Bad Boys 2 starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. In real life, the place is a little more low key. The slow-paced museum offers home and garden tours of the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, and exotic plants and animals replace the $100 million worth of heroin from the movie.
Ocean Drive — Scarface (1983)
The Drive: 12 minutes from Miami Tower
If you’re looking for the setting of the famous chainsaw scene, the apartment that hosted it is now a CVS drug store. But signs depict the exact location where it was filmed, including the staircase outside the apartment climbed by Tony Montana. Across the street, you’ll find the spot where Al Pacino and his co-star Steven Bauer try their hand at picking up American women — and fail. Movie or not, any trip to Miami should include a trip to the city’s most iconic street to see art deco buildings and fancy cars. If nothing else, just the people-watching makes it worth the trip.
Versailles Restaurant — Chef (2014)
The Drive: 10 minutes from Miami Tower
The self-proclaimed World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant is a gathering place for the city’s Cuban population. It’s politically significant too, often a rallying point for anti-Castro Cuban exiles, and a place for media covering Cuban affairs in Miami to get a finger on the pulse. The Little Havana icon was also the destination for Jon Favreau’s character, Carl Casper, in the 2014 flick, Chef. It’s a late-night Cuban sandwich at Versailles that inspires Favreau’s character to move to Miami and launch his own food truck. Try the Cuban sandwich at Versailles — maybe it’ll inspire you too.
Lincoln Road Farmer’s Market — The Birdcage (1996)
The Drive: 20 minutes from Miami Tower
The Lincoln Road Mall is an open-air shopping centre in the heart of Miami Beach, between Washington and Meridian avenues, is open Sundays year-round. The bustling complex is just off the beach, so park the bus and walk its promenade in search of fresh fruits, veggies, fresh-baked bread, local honey, jams, and flowers. In the comical film about a gay drag club owner, the Robin Williams and Nathan Lane characters memorably take a romantic, late-night stroll through the mall.
Miami Dade Cultural Arts Centre — There’s Something About Mary (1998)
The Drive: 30 minutes from Miami Tower
Though most of the movie was filmed in Coral Gables, a city south of Miami, there are several Miami filming locations in the movie. A scene takes place at Big Pink Restaurant near South Beach’s Art Deco district. Mary’s office is in downtown Miami’s waterfront Brickell Park. And in one notable scene Mary, played by Cameron Diaz, takes love interest Pat, played by Matt Dillon, to an architecture exhibit. The exhibit was housed in the Miami-Dade Cultural Center, a 70,000 square-foot venue hosting theatrical events.
Fontainebleau Hotel — Goldfinger (1964)
The Drive: 15 minutes from Miami Tower
Miami’s iconic Fontainebleau Hotel stars in the third James Bond flick. The luxury hotel is the site of a scene where Auric Goldfinger cheats at a high-stakes card game, and another where the villain Oddjob murders Bond girl Jill Masterson. Fifteen minutes from downtown, Fontainebleau is at the Mid-Beach portion of Miami Beach and is a former Rat Pack stomping grounds. As one of Miami’s most historically and architecturally important structures, tour groups should definitely sneak a peek during a stroll down the Miami Beach Boardwalk.
Various Locations — Marley & Me (2008)
The Drive: All over!
This tearjerker slash comedy has everything: Cute dogs, awe-shucks family moments, and walks on the beach. It also has the great city of Miami as its setting. There’s a dog training scene at Jose Marti Park, an urban greenspace just west of the Miami River from downtown, where tour groups can quickly escape the hustle of the city. There’s a family day at Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium, home of football’s Miami Dolphins. And there’s a scene at the Latin American Café at Bayside Marketplace, a two-story open-air shopping center on the marina.
Tips on planning a tour by bus
What you’re about to read could be a Miami tour all on its own. If movies are your thing, then hitting each of these seven big screen locales is a fun and easy way to see the 305 in a day. Alternatively, if you already have your itinerary mostly mapped out, then one of these stops could be just the cherry on top your near-perfect travel plan needs. Because these famous filming locations are each visit-worthy on their own, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the movie. But, of course, it’ll be a lot cooler if you did.
Either way, the best way for groups to get around Miami — or any highly congested city for that matter — is by charter bus. For an amateur film class, this could be a perfect day field trip around the city with a school bus shuttling the whole group together. For a group of friends making the most of a day in South Florida, a minibus or sprinter van rental can efficiently and affordably hit all the stops.