By Mariam Aldhahi
June 25, 2014

Like most neighborhood transformations-turned-gentrification, Wynwood’s started on the streets.

As the younger, trendier brother of Miami’s Design District, Wynwood has grown quick. When its largest gallery held its first show in 1999, the area was nothing more than a string of abandoned warehouses and auto shops. Though the current cultural core of the city is just ten minutes from South Beach, it’s only been a few years since many were too afraidto walk down its graffiti-ridden streets after dark.

Not anymore. In true hipster form, what was once terribly dangerous is now terribly cool. Also in true hipster form, it’s only really cool once a month. The Wynwood Art Walk, held the second Saturday of every month, transforms the usually scarce streets into the sort of place that gives Miami the cultural cred it so greatly deserves.

Thousands of people spill in over the course of the night, turning the often inaccessible city into an urbanite dream. Breakdancers perform outside of the Wynwood Kitchen + Bar—the neighborhood’s flagship restaurant known for the Shepard Fairey murals that line its interior walls. Gourmet food trucks line the street offering arepas alongside international artwork—alluding to the ever-present Hispanic undertones of a city pushing for recognition as an global art force.

There aren’t many cities that allow for outdoor entertainment all year-round, and Miami is banking on that individuality. The neighborhood has its highly-regarded outdoor murals to thank for the consequential indoor success of galleries that have sprung up exponentially since the Art Walk’s inception.Aptly named Wynwood Walls, warehouses covered in the carefully curated work of artists like Os Gemeos, Ron English and Maya Hayuk combine the grit of street art with the sort of high-brow name-dropping necessary when trying to call attention your way.

What Art Basel does for Miami once a year, Wynwood aims to achieve non-stop. It convinces people that the city is more than just one of the sexiest in the nation and that ithas more to offer than beaches and Cuban sandwiches. Being one of the most diverse places in the country has its perks—there’s no shortage of people looking for new attractions, new art, new anything. Being one of the most culturally-driven cities in the country also has its perks—the same people looking for the new already have an idea of what to expect. It’s the city’s job to surprise them. Miami is offbeat, people crave it, and Wynwood understands it. It also understands the delicate balance between grit and glam.

Wynwood won’t do itself any good by losing its edge, but it also seems understood that it won’t get where it wants by merely being edgy.

Mariam Aldhahi is a blogger at Travel + Leisure and a design writer who bounces between New York and Miami. You can find her on Twitter at @mariam_aldhahi.

Photo courtesy of Marium Aldhahi