Away From Art Basel Miami Beach, There’s Plenty of Fun

After days and nights of art and parties and more art, sometimes you need a break.

MIAMI — Timothy Rodgers is the director of an art and design museum, and to him, Art Basel Miami Beach is the Super Bowl of art fairs. He does not want to miss a minute of it. But after days and nights of art on top of art on top of parties on top of more art and more parties, he sometimes needs a break — even if he does not hit most of the parties.

It is often the same for others. And in Miami and Miami Beach, it is not hard to fill the need. The two cities — often thought of by out-of-towners simply as Miami — have blossomed on the concept that everybody needs a break, from the wild to the tranquil, from shabby to chic.

A break in Miami can be a barefoot stroll on the beach, just a few hundred yards from the main exhibition hall of Art Basel at the Miami Beach Convention Center. It can be a visit to a bunkerlike shooting gallery stocked with exotic machine guns. Or maybe it is a quick spin in a helicopter over the beaches and down to Humphrey Bogart’s Key Largo.

Or perhaps it is catching a glimpse of the alligators and tropical birds in the Everglades aboard one of those airplane propeller-driven airboats.

Biscayne Bay — wide, blue, beautiful and stretching between Miami and Miami Beach — is one of the great marine murals, constantly shifting under the sun and clouds, constantly remaking itself. To feel its pulse, its soul, people rent speedboats, sailboats and yachts as big as the Ritz. Others go for kayaks, paddle boards or screaming, bouncing Jet Skis.

The Island Queen, a double-decker tour boat, loops around Star Island and the mansions of Gloria and Emilio Estefan and other icons of entertainment and industry. During a 90-minute cruise, the Island Queen and its sister boats, the Island Lady and the Miami Lady, glide past the Port of Miami and the bay’s steel and glass picket fences of condo and office towers.

Mr. Rodgers, the director of the Wolfsonian-Florida International University Museum, an eclectic Miami Beach art and design showcase with about 180,000 objects dating from 1850 to 1950, likes to catch his breath in the solitude of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, just across the street from the Convention Center. “It’s small, but really charming,” Mr. Rodgers said.

The Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial and its centerpiece, a bronze sculpture of a curled hand and tattooed forearm reaching high into the sky, are right next to the botanical garden.

Franklin Sirmans, the director of the Perez Art Museum Miami, said he was planning to step away from Art Basel for some tennis with friends at the municipal courts in the Morningside neighborhood of Miami, north of downtown. The nearest tennis to the Convention Center is Flamingo Park at 1200 Meridian Avenue.

Miami Beach is famous for its Art Deco buildings. The hotels overlooking Lummus Park and the sea along 10 blocks of Ocean Drive, from Fifth to 15th Street, are good examples. For a glimpse of other cultures in Miami, there’s Little Haiti, north of downtown Miami, and Little Havana on Southwest 8th Street or Calle Ocho, especially around 15th Avenue.

One of the gems on the Miami side of Biscayne Bay, the Viscaya Museum and Gardens is a Medieval Renaissance style villa with 10 acres of gardens. It’s not far from the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, a luxurious Mediterranean Revival tower that opened in 1926, with an enormous swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course. “It’s a beautiful spot,” Mr. Rodgers said. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami’s biggest botanical garden, is perhaps 45 minutes farther south on Old Cutler Road.

Christopher Bedford, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, has been going to Art Basel Miami Beach for years. This year, he said, he plans to bring 15 to 20 of his trustees. He loves the intensity of the event. “But,” he said, “I think you have to force yourself into a moment of contemplative pleasure.”

He jogs on the boardwalk. He wiggles his toes in the sand. “You look out at that big ocean and reflect on the things you’ve seen,” he said. “There’s something really lovely about the tumult of all things Basel, and the setting in Miami Beach, the sublime ocean and the light, the intensity and clarity of the light.”