Why you should care

It’s about so much more than the beach.

Famously the party center of America, Miami has a well-deserved reputation for beautiful beaches and people and a well-established nightlife. But beyond the glitter of South Beach lies a wide variety of alternative things to experience, helping the Sunshine State live up to its WTF Florida subreddit.

The Wreck Bar Mermaid Show

When you enter the Wreck Bar, it’s like you’ve stepped into an adult Disneyland. Less than an hour’s drive from South Beach, the hotel where the show takes place resembles a wrecked Spanish galleon with porthole windows, briny decor and, of course, the huge pool, which is viewable from underground windows in the bar. That’s where exotic mermaids twist and turn in hypnotizing synchronicity for your viewing pleasure. “Underwater performers were popular in the golden age,” says mermaid MeduSirena, a regular performer and a trained free diver. She says her show is designed to let people’s imagination run free: “I love helping people almost unravel.” Shows are free and held Friday and Saturday nights, though reservations and a $20 food spend are recommended (the margaritas are delicious).

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Full Moon Drum Circle

Every month, hundreds of locals and in-the-know tourists hit up Miami’s North Beach to get their groove on at the full moon drum circle. Expect to get sandy at this free event and experience the heady delight of seeing fire spinners and capoeira dancers flip and spin to the rhythmic beat of the drums, the bonfire making them glow red and gold. “It’s the one day a month I can truly appreciate being wild and free,” says Miami resident Deborah Marie. It’s a BYOB situation: Go prepared and be open to making some beats or enjoying free fruit slices handed out by locals. Timing: 8 p.m. to midnight.

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Gastro Delights at Barton G.

Famous for being a glitzy upmarket bar and dining area, Barton G. is the must-go place to visit if you’re a dessert foodie. Whether you opt for a towering cotton candy pompadour held in place on a Marie Antoinette–shaped head or the Dolla Dolla Bills Ya’ll — a gold-plated chocolate ganache tart with a four-foot giant dollar bill tucked into it — you’ve stepped into a strange, sugary place.

Cotton Candy to the Top Side 😜 #BartonG

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Haulover Sandbar Party

Think of this as the secret beach party the cool kids know about. Accessible only by boat (a charter is around $550 for two hours, a kayak costs $30) at low tide, the Haulover Sandbar appears in Biscayne Bay, around 10 blocks north of Bal Harbour Beach (for the exact location, search “25.901928, -80.128613” on Google Maps). The experience of standing in a sandy oasis in the middle of the bay is hard to describe, but the surrealness is tempered by the partying. People arrive loaded with beer and speakers and party till it gets dark. If you get hungry, swim out to D’s Sandbar Munchies, an enterprising hot-dog-serving boat that provides greasy goodness to sandbar folk.

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Flyboarding

Live out those Back to the Future dreams and let water jets propel you high into the air. Think of it as snowboarding mixed with flying, and you’ll have a vague sense of what it entails — basically a real-life hoverboard propelled by jets of water. Adrenaline junkies stand on the board, point their toes and, voila, they’re booted into the air; height and speed can be adjusted by shifting your position. It’s as close to flying as you’re likely to get. Ever.

Go There: Miami Magic

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If you’d want to drink it, eat it, wear it, ride it, drive it; if it’d be cool to see, listen to or do, we’re writing about it.