Although Miami ’s Art Basel (Dec.) is consistently referred to as a “sister festival” to the original prestigious Art Basel in Switzerland, it could easily be argued that this younger sibling has eclipsed its predecessor in terms of both its impact on the art world and on the Miami Beach social scene.
For three days Miami Beach  becomes the beating heart of the visual arts world as more than 200 galleries from around the world converge on museums and other display spaces throughout the area to exhibit the best in contemporary art. Those exhibits are complemented by scores of installations, parties, and innovative art shows that, for a weekend at least, gives the lie to stereotypical notions of Miami’s lack of culture.
There are several other worthwhile arts festivals throughout the year as well, and though Coconut Grove Arts Festival (Feb.) and Miami Beach Festival of the Arts come nowhere close to emulating Art Basel’s intensity, they do allow notable local and regional artists an opportunity to shine on a level playing field.
Sponsored by Miami-Dade College, the annual Miami International Film Festival (Mar.) is a robust film festival that usually shows around 100 features, many of which are international films with a special focus on Latin American themes and filmmakers.
The Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (Apr.) is put on in conjunction with the Fort Lauderdale Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and typically screens 20 features and an equal number of shorts.
Film buffs with short attention spans—or a taste for experimental films—will want to attend the Miami Short Film Festival (Oct.). The American Black Film Festival (June) is far smaller than any of Miami’s other film festivals, with a handful of independent films screening between filmmaker workshops, panels, and parties.
In a town as diverse as Miami , it’s unsurprising that there are a number of excellent cultural heritage festivals in the area throughout the year. The biggest is Calle Ocho in March, which takes place logically enough on Calle Ocho in Little Havana . It’s an enormous street party that brings in big names in Latin music, scores of food vendors, arts and crafts booths, and an enormously festive atmosphere.
In June the Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival plays up the close relationship between Miami and its nearby Bahamian neighbors (Miami is closer to Freeport than it is to Orlando ).
Sponsored by the Food Network, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Feb.) is a cornucopia of celebrity chef sightings, culinary seminars, wine tastings, progressive dinners, and scores of food-oriented events that appeal to gourmets and casual food fans alike. Many of the events are pricey—for instance, tickets for the Whole Foods Tasting Village at the 2009 festival topped $200—but the festival is to foodies what Sundance is to film fanatics.
The Winter Music Conference (Mar.) brings the world of dance and electronic music to South Beach  for five days of club-hopping and networking; although theoretically a professional conference, the DJ sets, parties, and events spill out all over Miami Beach  and Miami .