Miami, as lively a city as it is, can be a difficult place to make lasting friendships.
Even before the pandemic, many of us have struggled to make in-person connections, which are imperative for our sense of belonging — and even for our mental health. In fact, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told our Editorial Board that loneliness is more prevalent than diabetes, and just as much of a public-health crisis.
But, making friends can be hard in a place like Miami — where ego and clout are king. The guise of social media doesn’t help either. Spend too much time online and you might find yourself doubting your social abilities. But, don’t let the TikTok peacocking and Drake videos fool you. You don’t need millions of dollars to find your tribe.
Real people live here, too, and some of us need a little extra help on how to find meaningful, platonic relationships within our own communities. And no, obligatory work happy hours don’t count.
The Herald Editorial Board crowd-sourced some of your best practices for stepping outside of your comfort zone and making new friends. (If you didn’t get a chance to weigh in, you still can answer here).
Here’s what the readers told us, with some of our own advice mixed in:
Get outside and socialize
From festivals to food trucks, street fairs to rallies, there’s always something going on in Miami. One of the best ways to make new friends in any given community is to find a fun hobby, group activity or local event. This is easier said than done and might even feel a bit intimidating. But, it’s worth a shot.
“Don’t want to be alone? Attend events,” said reader Irina Patterson, a local artist, writer and entertainer who frequents South Florida events. Here’s her advice about going to local events:
“Pro-tip No. 1: If you see a pricey event that you can’t afford, offer to volunteer. Pro-tip No. 2: Wear something eye-catching and distinctive for the event, stand out. I can tell you, as a professional event entertainer, that people like entertaining people, starting with the attire.”
Patterson says the list of events in South Florida is endless. She’s right, and while we can’t list everything going on, here are some ways to search for what’s happening around you:
A simple way to search local events is to use the Eventbrite app or website. Keep in mind this will only include results for events that are registered on that platform.
The New Tropic offers a free newsletter that curates the best events around Miami. Their publication’s slogan is “Live Like You Live Here,” which is exactly what their newsletter will help you accomplish. Also check out their “Things to do” section.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors’ Bureau has a search function on its website that allows you to search events by category, date, location and even has a filter for LGBTQ-friendly events.
Miami.com also has a great section on things to do, and a complete restaurant guide for locals by Miami Herald food writer Carlos Frias. And, if you’re new in Miami, they have some guidance for that as well.
For Miami seniors, the Senior LIFT Center offers recreational, social and education activities for seniors 50 and older. More info here.
Remember to only go to events that you are genuinely interested in and think you will enjoy. That way, you’ll find people who will have some chemistry with you, says Miami Herald education reporter, Jimena Tavel.
“It’ll be a waste of time to hit the club if you’re not a person who enjoys drinking alcohol or staying up late. Be realistic and trust that that authenticity will lead you to meaningful connections.”
Reader Stephanie Sylvestre reminds us of something else to keep in mind when attending events with others: Try talking to someone who is “not the center of attention,” and then “follow up with a one-on-one engagement.”
Meaning, ask them to share a meal, grab a coffee or go kayaking (why not!) in the future.
Everyone feels vulnerable when they are learning new things. Classes are a great way to socialize, while taking some of the pressure off of solely making friends. When you take a class with others, you can focus on bettering yourself while meeting new people along the way.
Miami Herald reader, Alisha Heller, offers this advice:
“Join the dance community! Lots of the events offer free lessons before the dance. You can find a place to dance every night of the week in Miami, it’s great for singles and couples. Salsa is very popular, but Bachata is taking over. Vamos a bailar!”
Mady’s Dance Factory offers salsa on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Bachata on Thursdays.
Little Haiti Cultural Center is offering a Caribbean Marketplace Konpa Dance Class.
Many readers wrote us saying fitness classes are a great way to meet new people while forming healthy habits.
Kristen Spillane shared this experience:
“Moving to Miami, I looked for opportunities to bring my ‘constant’ to the ‘unfamiliar’ and joined CycleBar Aventura. I instantly had the pillars of a new routine that helped me to settle into a rhythm of a new job and new community. You start to see the same riders at classes that work for your schedule, and the staff go above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome and part of the ‘family.’ In less than a year, I now have a new workout routine and a new friend group with healthy lifestyle goals aligned with my own.”
A quick Google search will allow you to find language classes near you. Here are a few recommended by our readers:
Spanish Hangout in Miami Beach offers online group classes for those who want to meet new friends while learning a new language.
Learn English, Portuguese or Spanish at the Cultural Center for Language Studies (CCLS) in Coral Gables.
Art and poetry classes:
“As an arts educator, I create a safe environment for my students to try new things, writes Nerissa Street. “The biggest risk is collaborating with your classmates to learn something new. In class, you’ll find more about yourself and connect with people who have the same interests as you!”
Miami Herald climate-change reporter, Alex Harris, recalls this fun, unexpected experience at an event by O, Miami, a local nonprofit that showcases local poetry through events, workshops and collaborative projects.
“A friend and I attended an interpretive dance event at O, Miami a few years back. We expected to sit in the grass and hear cool poetry, but instead we were wiggling in weird dance moves with a big group! It was so out of my comfort zone but so fun, and we ended up getting brunch with a lovely stranger afterward.”
Volunteering your free time toward a greater cause can be one way to meet people who care about the same causes. Pamela Lear shares this anecdote on volunteering:
“When I moved to Miami 10 years ago, I literally knew nobody. I jumped into volunteer at a local synagogue and took on some relatively large projects. That resulted in some amazing friends.”
She also came up with a conversation opener to use each time she wanted to connect with someone new:
“I’ve only lived in Miami for (X) months or (X) years.”
She said people will usually follow up by asking, “Where did you come from?” and “How do you like Miami?” Which will lead to a natural conversation.
“Ultimately, just being friendly and willing to inquire about what people care about makes the difference.”
The nonprofit organization, HandsOn Miami, is the perfect place to go if you don’t know where to volunteer. They partner with local agencies to help connect you with organizations in need of volunteers. You can create a volunteer profile here or search volunteer opportunities on this convenient calendar.
Suggested by reader Ellen Schmertz Bowen, Food Rescue US South Florida is another way to give back and meet new people. The organization helps end hunger and food waste in your community. Volunteers can pick up and deliver to local shelters and pantries.
Reader Dara Schoenwald recommends attending a beach cleanup. Find one near you through www.volunteercleanup.org.
“It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and helps to connect you with the community.”
Social media, online groups & apps
Many readers told us one of the easiest ways to make friends right now is online. Although catfishing, when someone pretends to be someone they’re not online, is always a concern, using online platforms to find like-minded groups is the silver lining of the internet right now.
Arguably one of the most useful elements of the platform, Facebook groups can be a great way to meet locals or connect with those who have similar interests as you. Here are some social groups to check out: Social Girls Miami, New Miami Girls (New to Miami in 2021-2022 / Girls-Only), 100+ Women Who Care Miami Beach Chapter, Gay Vista Social Club (Miami Chapter), Miami Salsa Events.
Dating apps are not just for romantic relationships. Apps like Bumble and Hinge have functions that can help you connect with those in your immediate area by matching you with like-minded people. You can be intentional about what kind of person and relationship you’re looking for, then leave the rest up to the algorithms.
Meetup is a platform that’s designed for connecting like-minded people with one another. People use it to, of course, meet new people by attending new events, learn new skills, find support and break out of their comfort zones. You can look for existing events or start your own group.
One reader, Libby Paulson, did just that. She and her husband created a Meetup group called Miami Beach Go-ers, which meets every two weeks.
“We gather for social happy hours at local venues, we’ll do kayak trips with BBQs, a Where’sWaldo? Wynwood Bar crawl, and simple beach days, just to name a few.”
Groups, clubs & community boards
When activities and Facebook groups don’t cut it, another good way to connect with your community is to join a committee or group that shares the same interests as you. Many community boards work toward a common goal — so figure out what you care about and join.
Reader Pamela Lear said it best: “Be part of a committee because working together on something that matters is a great way to form bonds with other people who have similar interests.”
As a Miami resident, you can join a board or committee based on your expertise in any given field. These boards often make recommendations to the City Commission on important issues. Each committee has different rules about joining, but you can find a list of them here.
Miami-Dade Community Councils act as advisory liaisons between communities and the Board of County Commissioners. These councils relay relevant information and even make recommendations to the commission on certain issues. You can find a Community Council in your area by visiting the county website here.
Reader Katie Murphy suggests joining a running club as a way to explore Miami physically and socially.
“For the super extroverts, there are runs like the Brickell Run Club that takes place every Tuesday and draws hundreds of runners from every corner of the city to run the streets of Brickell and Downtown,” Murphy wrote.
For those who prefer a smaller get-together, Murphy suggests running groups like Unknown Run Club, based out of Wynwood and Late Night Menu Crew based out of South Beach.
“Each run is usually only between 3-5 miles and all paces are welcome!”
Check out more advice from our readers
What are your best tips for making friends in Miami? Don't overthink it. There are so many people in Miami and Miami Beach from all walks of life with all types of hobbies, interests, and social needs. You have a higher chance of meeting people that become good friends if you go to places and events where the focus is something you enjoy. The key is to remember that not every hobby is innately social, however, just being around like-minded people gives you the chance to participate in innately social things outside of doing those things you like to do. A compliment goes a long when when trying to strike up a conversation with a stranger! Parks are also a great place to meet people, especially if you have a dog. If you don't have a dog, just go hang out around people with dogs. They love talking about their dogs with such reverence, that any dog owner will instantly befriend you if you compliment their pup at the dog park or just park in general. If you have kids, make an effort to pick up your kid at school from time to time. You can meet other prents at the door and find interests in common. Same with birthday parties. Remember that all of us are in the same human-connection boat. We all need relationships for our mental well-being. I think it can be intimidating at times to be proactive and introduce yourself to others, but it helps me to remember that most people appreciate when others introduce themselves. We've all been there! Sometimes I give myself little daily ‘micro-challenges’, like doing one new thing each day that makes me a little uncomfortable (striking up conversation with a stranger, trying a new restaurant or coffee shop, taking a different route home from work, etc.). By stretching our comfort zones daily in small ways, it becomes easier and easier to connect with others in big ways over the long run. Try to face your fears and be open to new opportunities and connections no matter what they look like and where they come from – you never know when a life-changing moment is just around the corner. For me personally, I am a live music junkie. So I have no issues at all going to a live music performance and talking to strangers. If they are there to see the same band, we already have something in common. When I first moved to Miami Beach, one of the first friends I made, I met when I went by myself to see Spam Allstars at Jazid! The best tip I ever got for making friends is frequenting the same places. Find places near you or near your work that you would enjoy going to often. Bars, bookstores, coffee shops. Become a regular at a place and you’ll start to get to know other regulars. Join one of your town's boards - this is a great way to meet local folks, create community, and do some good for others. Most cities have a variety of commissions/boards from Parks & Rec to Personnel, Education, Youth, etc. Google the name of your city (or county) and boards - you will be surprised the variety of opportunities to be civically engaged and meet your neighbors!