When the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum began in 1952, the school could comfortably display its entire collection in three unused classrooms. Those days are long past. Today, the museum stands as Miami's most comprehensive collection of western and non-western art. The permanent collections feature pieces drawn from across human history, with notable works including Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge and a recently acquired face mask from the Dan people of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, forged from wood, cloth, and fur. A sizable trove of Native American artifacts includes pieces from the Southeast such as a beautifully embroidered bead shoulder bag. Other exhibits include paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and photographs from the Middle Ages through the present, including the Samuel H. Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as pottery, sculpture, and metalwork from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, dating from the first millennium BCE through the 4th century CE.
A few miles away, the tower of the 1939 Old Police and Fire Station rises above the street, gazing down on an unusual blend of sleek, depression-era modernism and Mediterranean revival ornateness. Founded in 2003, the Coral Gables Museum Corp. completely renovated the old municipal building. Spanish touches were added—the new Fewell wing and a 5,000-square-foot plaza—and the space was opened in 2011 as a museum dedicated to the civic arts of architecture, urban design, historic and environmental preservation, and sustainable development. Today, it holds regular art and design exhibitions, educational events, and concerts.
From its humble beginnings in 1949, the Miami Science Museum has expanded into a sprawling facility that includes informative exhibits, the Planetarium, and the Wildlife Center. Many current exhibits teach kids about scientific principles using interactive elements. Visitors literally light up the dance floor at the Energy Tracker exhibit— boogying down helps power neon lights underneath the glass floor. At Moving Things, youngsters can learn about the physics of moving objects by dropping objects of different shapes into flowing water, or they can challenge their spatial reasoning skills by packing blocks into perfect cubes.
The four-story dome at the Planetarium has a daily schedule of stargazing shows. Some of these take audiences on informative expeditions through the solar system and various constellations they might not typically see, such as the elusive Medium Dipper.
The Wildlife Center, meanwhile, is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of raptors; here, guests can encounter an owl, falcon, and eagle.
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum began in 1956, when train enthusiast William J. Godfrey chanced upon the miles of abandoned railroad track snaking through the pineland of University of Miami’s southern campus. He imported a newly retired steam engine to the premises, and a tribute to railroading history began.
Now in a new location in Miami proper, the museum continues to honor trains’ role in American history, with nine exhibits on locomotives, passenger cars, and the Richmond’s Naval Air Station’s fleet. Visitors can hop aboard a full-size diesel locomotive passenger coach, or take a ride a miniature children’s railroad that’s ideal for transporting shipments of Lincoln logs. Alternatively, they can run motorized or free-wheeling trains through a model railroad, which zips through mountain tunnels and circles around to-scale landscapes.
Thanks to a generous $35 million donation, the Miami Art Museum is now called the Perez Art Museum Miami, and has a shiny new home to match the label change. The Museum serves as the anchor to new 29-acre Museum Park, which overlooks glimmering Biscayne Bay. The updated digs were designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architects Herzog & de Meuron and are dedicated to international art of the 20th and 21st centuries, laid out across three stories. At more than triple the floor space of their previous home, the Perez is modern and contemporary, housing more than 1,300 works across a range of media. There is also Verde, a lovely waterfront restaurant and bar, where the menu is locally-inspired and created with seasonal ingredients.
HistoryMiami celebrates Miami's unique legacy with rotating exhibits tracing the area’s history from prehistoric times to the modern day. On the first Wednesday of every month, HistoryMiami throws down an open smorgasbord of live jams, fine wine, and tempting tidbits to flutter the wings of local social butterflies. July's Wine Down Wednesday celebrates the new Aviation in Miami exhibit with a special performance by the Oscar Fuentes Combo, whose poetic, Latin-fused rhythms evoke the history of Florida's skies, from Howard Gill's cardinal flight a century ago to today's majestic herds of domesticated clouds. Imbibe from the open wine and food bar while enjoying access to the museum galleries, outdoor courtyard, and spectral Crockett and Tubbs. Free parking is available at Cultural Parking Garage at 50 Northwest Second Avenue.
The Wolfsonian of Florida International University displays an eclectic, singular collection of more than 120,00 North American and European artifacts from 1885 to 1945, all of which demonstrate how design has been influenced by cultural factors. Experience the collection as often as you choose with the unlimited admissions granted by membership. Members also receive invitations to members-only previews, 10% off museum shop purchases, and a variety of other benefits.