For many years a largely desolate, light-industrial nowhere, hiding in plain sight at the foot of the causeway that has carried generations of sunseekers across Biscayne Bay and out to Miami Beach, the Wynwood section of Miami isn't one many people would have tapped to become one of the coolest zip codes in North America. Then again, usual rules do not necessarily apply in Miami, a city that in modern times has made itself quite clear: Their continued presence here on the American mainland is merely a courtesy – an accident of geography, if you will.

Where hapless tourists who accidentally exited the highway in the wrong spot once found a jumble of blank warehouses, vacant lots and the odd, crumbling residential pocket, visitors will now find a world-class art scene, some surprising restaurants, a growing collection of bars and brewpubs and some very good nightlife. All of this is to say that if you miss a date with Wynwood on your next visit to South Florida, the smart move is to lie and say you went anyway. (Should anyone question you further, here are some of the things that you did, on your perfect day in the neighborhood.)

Wake up with coffee at Panther

If you doubt that a place like Wynwood could ever feel like a real neighborhood, be at Panther Coffee – the city's best roaster café and one of its top morning hangouts – the moment it opens at 7:00 on a sunny, Miami day. (On Sundays, they open at 8.) A local who's-who blend of creative types, the bored and the beautiful, telecommuters and sharply dressed real estate agents, the people watching both inside and on the outdoor patio is a big part of the fun. (The coffee is very good, too.) (2390 NW 2nd Avenue)

Have breakfast with Zak the Baker

One of the best small businesses to hit the city in recent years, Zak Stern's rustic, Kickstarter'd café and bakery (called Zak the Baker) tucked away in the heart of Wynwood's arts district opens mornings for rustic toasts (try the beet with tahini, mint, dill and chili mashed up and served on olive za'atar bread, $7) and their fabled pastries, drawing a crowd from far beyond the neighborhood boundaries. (405 NW 26th Street)

Go stare at the walls

Numerous events have prompted Wynwood's transformation into the neighborhood you see today, but none perhaps remain more visible to the naked eye than the giant outdoor canvasses of the Wynwood Walls project, bringing acclaimed street artists from all over the world to create some of the most expressive, colorful graffiti art you've ever seen. The works comprise a sort of outdoor museum spilling out of one block of NW 26th Street, with the lineup changing from time to time – twelve new walls, with a very timely theme (Fear Less) have just been completed. Tip: The walls are a focal point of the neighborhood's monthly Art Walk, if you happen to be in town on the second Saturday of the month. (

Hang out in the Yard

Now roughly a year old, the Wynwood Yard project has combined all sorts of stuff that people living in neighborhoods like Wynwood these days like to have at their disposal – a food truck pod, an urban garden, live music, free yoga classes and – of course – a bar. Drop on by for a casual bite to keep you going until dinner. (56 NW 29th Street)

Go see more art

Dozens of galleries line Wynwood's streets, some of them with barely a sign to signal their presence – this isn't a neighborhood where casual browsing is always encouraged. If you know where to go, however, there's plenty to see – start at the decades-old Bakehouse Art Complex, a non-profit arts incubator that's open every day from 12-5 – there's always something on display and admission is always free. (561 NW 32nd Street)

Drink all of the beer

Other cities were very nearly already over craft beer before Miami got serious about creating its own scene. It makes perfect sense that the city's first microbrewery in ages (if not ever) opened right here, too. Wynwood Brewing is still a great place to drop by (they've got a nice little happy hour later on in the afternoon, find them at 565 NW 24th Street) but for something a little quirkier, it's definitely J. Wakefield Brewing you want. With a fun, Star Wars theme going on in the taproom and a penchant for those quirky sour beers that are popping up all over America these days, this is definitely not your typical "let's pop in for an IPA that tastes like soap" kind of brewery. They're open every day except Monday – happy hour goes from 5-7 on weekdays and features $1 off anything they've got on tap. (120 NW 24th Street)

Book one of Miami's hottest tables for dinner

It's boisterous, the floors are concrete and the walls look like they're not finished yet, but Alter, under the direction of Bradley Kilgore (Best New Chefs, Food & Wine 2016), has become one of the must-tries in Miami. Don't be fooled by the casual bistro setting – the food here, ranging from rustic and rich foie gras-stuffed chicken to inventive vegan dishes (eggplant pastrami, anyone?) – draws fans from all over. Luckily, you were already in the neighborhood. (223 NW 23rd Street)

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