3 Days in Miami: The Perfect Miami Itinerary

Discover sun-soaked beaches, vibrant art scenes, and Cuban-infused culture in this tropical metropolis. Follow this 3-day Miami itinerary for best results!

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

"Miami isn't just a city; it's a sensory overload in the best possible way." That's what my wife Sarah blurted out as we stepped off the plane at Miami International Airport. She wasn't wrong. The moment we arrived, we were hit with a wave of warm, humid air and the pulsing energy that defines this vibrant city.

As a travel writer, I've been to my fair share of destinations, but Miami has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe it's the way the art deco buildings light up at night, or how the smell of Cuban coffee wafts through Little Havana. Whatever it is, I knew I had to craft the perfect 3-day Miami itinerary to share with fellow travelers.

So, buckle up, grab your sunscreen, and get ready for a whirlwind tour of the Magic City. Whether you're a first-timer or a returning visitor, this guide will help you make the most of your 3 days in Miami. Trust me, by the end of your trip, you'll be planning your next visit before you even leave!

Before You Go: Miami Travel Tips

Before we dive into the day-by-day itinerary, let's cover some essential information to help you plan your 3 days in Miami.

Best Time to Visit Miami

Miami is a year-round destination, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences. Here's a quick rundown:

  • March to May: This is the sweet spot. The weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to low 80s°F. Plus, you'll avoid the intense summer heat and the hurricane risks.
  • June to November: Hurricane season. It's hot and humid, but hotel rates are lower.
  • December to February: Peak tourist season. The weather is mild and dry, but expect crowds and higher prices.

For our trip, Sarah and I chose April. The weather was perfect for beach days and exploring, and we didn't have to battle the summer crowds.

Getting Around Miami

Miami has several transportation options to help you navigate the city:

  1. Metromover: This free, elevated monorail serves Downtown and Brickell areas. It's a great way to get around these neighborhoods quickly and cheaply.
  2. Miami Trolley: Another free service connecting various neighborhoods. It's slower than the Metromover but covers more ground.
  3. Metrobus: The extensive bus network covering Miami-Dade County. It's affordable but can be time-consuming.
  4. Metrorail: An elevated train system for longer distances. Useful for getting to and from the airport.
  5. Citi Bike: A bike-sharing program perfect for short trips, especially in South Beach.
  6. Ride-sharing apps: Uber and Lyft are widely available and often the most convenient option.

We primarily used a mix of Metromover, Citi Bike, and ride-sharing apps during our stay. It gave us flexibility and helped us avoid the hassle of parking in busy areas.

Where to Stay in Miami

Choosing the right neighborhood can make or break your Miami experience. Here are some top picks:

  1. South Beach: The epitome of Miami's glamorous reputation. It's perfect if you want to be close to the beach and nightlife.
Tourists sunbathing on South Beach, Miami, with colorful lifeguard tower and ocean in background
South Beach is the quintessential Miami experience. The colorful lifeguard towers are practically celebrities in their own right!
  1. Downtown/Brickell: Great for a more urban experience with easy access to attractions.
  2. Wynwood: The hipster haven, ideal for art lovers and those seeking a more bohemian vibe.
  3. Coconut Grove: A laid-back area with a village feel, great for families or those seeking a quieter stay.

For our 3 days in Miami, we chose to stay at The Savoy Hotel & Beach Club in South Beach. At $132 per night, it offered a great beachfront location without breaking the bank. Plus, being in South Beach made it easy to explore other parts of the city.

What to Pack for Miami

Miami's warm climate and beach culture mean you can pack light, but don't forget these essentials:

  • Swimwear and beach cover-ups
  • Sunscreen (SPF 45 or higher)
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • Light, breathable clothing
  • A light jacket or sweater (for air-conditioned spaces)
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Dressy outfits for nightlife
  • Insect repellent
  • Reusable water bottle

Pro tip: Pack some anti-frizz hair products if you're prone to the effects of humidity. Miami's climate can be brutal on certain hair types!

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into our 3-day Miami itinerary. Get ready to experience the best of what this vibrant city has to offer!

Day 1: South Beach and Art Deco Delights

Morning: Beach Time and Art Deco Tour

Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, showcasing iconic 1930s architectural style
The Art Deco Welcome Center is your gateway to Miami's architectural wonderland. Our guide Marge had the best stories about the area's wild history!

Rise and shine, it's time to kick off your 3 days in Miami! Start your day early with a leisurely stroll along the famous South Beach. The soft sand between your toes, the sound of waves crashing, and the sight of the sun rising over the Atlantic – there's no better way to begin your Miami adventure.

After soaking in the morning beach vibes, it's time to explore the iconic Art Deco District. This neighborhood is like stepping into a time machine set to the 1920s and 30s. The pastel-colored buildings with their geometric shapes and porthole windows are a photographer's dream.

Join a walking tour with the Miami Design Preservation League to get the full scoop on the area's architecture and history. Our guide, a spunky retiree named Marge, had us in stitches with her tales of Miami Beach's wild past. Did you know that Al Capone once owned a home here? Talk about a city with character!

Key Information:

  • Location: Art Deco Welcome Center, 1001 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Hours: Tours depart daily at 10:30 AM
  • Admission: $30 per person

Why Visit: The Art Deco District is the world's largest collection of Art Deco architecture and a must-see for any Miami visitor.

Insider Tip: Book your tour in advance, especially during peak season. And don't forget your camera – the photo ops are endless!

Afternoon: Lincoln Road Shopping and People-Watching

Tourists enjoying outdoor dining on Lincoln Road Mall, Miami Beach, with palm trees and shops in background
Lincoln Road Mall is people-watching paradise. Grab a Cuban coffee, find a spot at an outdoor café, and watch Miami's diverse crowd go by.

After your morning of beach and architecture, head to Lincoln Road Mall for some retail therapy and world-class people-watching. This pedestrian-only promenade is lined with shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it the perfect spot to while away an afternoon.

Sarah and I spent hours here, popping in and out of stores, sipping Cuban coffee, and marveling at the eclectic mix of people. From fashionistas strutting their stuff to street performers showcasing their talents, Lincoln Road is a microcosm of Miami's diverse population.

Don't miss the chance to grab a bite at one of the many outdoor cafes. We loved Juvia, a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views of the city. Their tuna poke bowl is to die for, and the people-watching from up there is next level.

Key Information:

  • Location: Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Hours: Varies by store, but generally 10 AM to 11 PM
  • Admission: Free to explore

Why Visit: Lincoln Road offers a perfect blend of shopping, dining, and entertainment, all in a uniquely Miami setting.

Insider Tip: Visit on a Sunday to catch the Lincoln Road Antique and Collectible Market, where you can score some unique souvenirs.

Evening: Ocean Drive Dinner and Nightlife

Neon-lit Art Deco hotels and restaurants on Ocean Drive at night, Miami Beach, with palm trees and vintage cars
Ocean Drive at night is pure Miami magic. The neon lights, vintage cars, and lively atmosphere make you feel like you're in a movie set!

As the sun sets, it's time to experience Miami's legendary nightlife. Start with dinner on Ocean Drive, the neon-lit street that epitomizes Miami's glitz and glamour. Yes, it's touristy, but it's a Miami must-do.

We had dinner at A Fish Called Avalon, a seafood restaurant housed in the Avalon Hotel. The food was fantastic (try the macadamia-crusted snapper), but the real treat was watching the parade of classic cars and colorful characters passing by.

After dinner, take a stroll down Ocean Drive. The art deco buildings are beautifully lit at night, creating a magical atmosphere. If you're up for it, end your night with some dancing at one of the many clubs in the area. LIV at the Fontainebleau is a classic choice if you want to see and be seen.

Key Information:

  • Location: Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139
  • Hours: Restaurants typically open until late, clubs until early morning
  • Admission: Varies by venue

Why Visit: Ocean Drive at night is the quintessential Miami experience, combining dining, architecture, and nightlife.

Insider Tip: Many Ocean Drive restaurants have hawkers trying to lure you in. Don't feel pressured – take your time to choose a place that appeals to you.

Day 2: Culture and Art in Wynwood and Little Havana

Morning: Wynwood Walls and Art Galleries

Visitors admiring large-scale street art murals at Wynwood Walls, Miami's open-air street art museum
Wynwood Walls feels like stepping into a kaleidoscope. Every corner is an Instagram opportunity - your camera roll will thank you!

Rise and shine, art lovers! Today we're heading to Wynwood, Miami's hippest neighborhood and a mecca for street art. Start your day with a cortadito (Cuban espresso with a bit of milk) from Panther Coffee to fuel up for your art adventure.

Our first stop is the famous Wynwood Walls. This outdoor museum showcases large-scale works by some of the world's most renowned street artists. As we wandered through the colorful murals, Sarah kept saying she felt like she was inside a kaleidoscope. It's truly a feast for the eyes.

After exploring the Wynwood Walls, take some time to wander the surrounding streets. The entire neighborhood is an open-air gallery, with nearly every building adorned with murals. Don't miss the chance to pop into some of the area's contemporary art galleries. We loved the Margulies Collection, housed in a massive warehouse and featuring rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Key Information:

  • Location: 2520 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33127
  • Hours: Wynwood Walls open daily 10:30 AM - 11:30 PM
  • Admission: $10 for adults

Why Visit: Wynwood Walls is the heart of Miami's vibrant street art scene and a must-see for art enthusiasts.

Insider Tip: Visit on the second Saturday of the month for Art Walk, when galleries stay open late and the streets come alive with food trucks and live performances.

Afternoon: Little Havana Food Tour and Domino Park

Locals playing dominos in Maximo Gomez Park (Domino Park) in Little Havana, Miami, surrounded by Cuban culture
Domino Park in Little Havana is where you'll find Miami's heart beating to a Cuban rhythm. The domino games here are serious business!

After your art-filled morning, it's time to satisfy your taste buds in Little Havana. This neighborhood is the beating heart of Miami's Cuban community, and there's no better way to experience it than through its food.

We joined a Little Havana Food Tour and it was hands down one of the highlights of our trip. Our guide, Carlos, took us to some of the best spots in the neighborhood, from hole-in-the-wall cafeterias to family-run restaurants.

Some of our favorite stops included:

  • El Pub Restaurant for a classic Cuban sandwich
  • Yisell Bakery for guava pastries that melt in your mouth
  • Azucar Ice Cream Company for unique flavors like Abuela Maria (vanilla ice cream with guava, cream cheese, and Maria crackers)

Between food stops, we soaked in the neighborhood's vibrant culture. The tour included a visit to a cigar factory where we watched skilled workers hand-roll cigars, and we even got a quick salsa dancing lesson!

End your afternoon with a visit to Maximo Gomez Park, better known as Domino Park. Here, you can watch locals engaged in intense domino games – a beloved Cuban pastime. The park is small, but it's a great place to sit and people-watch for a while.

Key Information:

  • Location: Little Havana (centered around SW 8th St)
  • Hours: Food tour typically runs 12:30 PM - 3:30 PM
  • Admission: Food tour around $60 per person, includes all food

Why Visit: Little Havana offers an authentic taste of Cuban culture and cuisine right in the heart of Miami.

Insider Tip: If you're not up for a guided tour, you can create your own food crawl along Calle Ocho (8th Street). Just be sure to end with a scoop (or two) at Azucar Ice Cream Company!

Evening: Salsa Dancing or Live Music

Live band performing on the pineapple-shaped stage at Ball & Chain, iconic music venue in Little Havana, Miami
The pineapple stage at Ball & Chain is pure Little Havana magic. Sip a mojito, listen to live Cuban jazz, and try not to embarrass yourself salsa dancing!

As night falls, Little Havana really comes alive. For an authentic Miami night out, head to Ball & Chain, a historic bar and lounge that's been around since 1935. The place oozes old Havana charm, with live music every night and salsa dancing on weekends.

Sarah and I attempted to salsa dance here, and let's just say it's harder than it looks! But even if you have two left feet like me, it's impossible not to have fun with the lively atmosphere and infectious rhythms.

If you're not in the mood for dancing, you can enjoy craft cocktails and tapas on their back patio, known as the Pineapple Stage due to its pineapple-shaped bandshell. We sipped on their famous Pastelito Daiquiri (rum infused with guava and cheese pastelitos) while listening to a fantastic Cuban jazz band.

Key Information:

  • Location: 1513 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135
  • Hours: Open daily from 12 PM, live music starts around 6 PM
  • Admission: Usually free, may have a cover charge for special events

Why Visit: Ball & Chain offers an authentic taste of Miami's nightlife, complete with live music, dancing, and fantastic cocktails.

Insider Tip: If you're serious about learning to salsa, arrive early (around 8 PM) on Saturdays for a free salsa lesson before the dance floor gets crowded.

Day 3: Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami

Morning: Biscayne National Park Boat Tour

Boat tour near the historic Boca Chita Key Lighthouse in Biscayne National Park, Miami, with clear blue waters
Biscayne National Park is a hidden gem. The boat tour to Boca Chita Key Lighthouse offers stunning views and a chance to spot sea turtles!

For your final day in Miami, we're heading out to explore the beautiful Biscayne National Park. This unique park is 95% water and home to vibrant coral reefs, mangrove forests, and the northernmost Florida Keys.

Start your day early with a boat tour of the park. We booked a tour with the Biscayne National Park Institute, and it was an incredible way to see the park's diverse ecosystems. Our guide, a marine biologist named Jake, was a fountain of knowledge about the local wildlife and ecology.

The tour took us past several of the park's islands, including Boca Chita Key with its historic lighthouse. We even got to do some snorkeling over a shallow reef, where we saw colorful fish darting among the coral. Sarah swears she saw a sea turtle, but I think it might have been a large fish (don't tell her I said that).

Key Information:

  • Location: 9700 SW 328th Street, Sir Lancelot Jones Way, Homestead, FL 33033
  • Hours: Tours typically depart at 9 AM and 1:30 PM
  • Admission: Around $89 for adults for a half-day tour

Why Visit: Biscayne National Park offers a unique opportunity to experience Florida's diverse marine ecosystems.

Insider Tip: Bring biodegradable sunscreen to protect both your skin and the delicate coral reefs.

Afternoon: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

Stone barge at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Miami, showcasing Renaissance-inspired architecture overlooking Biscayne Bay
The stone barge at Vizcaya is an Instagrammer's dream. It's hard to believe you're in Miami and not some European palace!

After your morning on the water, head back to the mainland to visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This stunning estate was built in the early 20th century as the winter home of industrialist James Deering. It's a slice of Mediterranean Europe right in the heart of Miami.

As Sarah and I wandered through the opulent rooms of the main house, we felt like we'd stepped into a time machine. The attention to detail is incredible, from the intricate ceiling frescoes to the antique furnishings. But the real star of the show is the garden.

The formal gardens are a maze of greenery, statues, and fountains, all overlooking Biscayne Bay. We spent hours exploring the various grottos, pavilions, and hidden nooks. It's no wonder this place is a favorite for wedding photos and quinceañera celebrations.

Key Information:

  • Location: 3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129
  • Hours: Wednesday to Monday, 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM (closed Tuesdays)
  • Admission: $25 for adults

Why Visit: Vizcaya offers a unique blend of European elegance and Miami's tropical beauty, providing a stark contrast to the city's modern skyline.

Insider Tip: Visit on a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds. And don't miss the stone barge in the bay - it's an iconic photo spot!

Evening: Brickell City Centre and Rooftop Dinner

Shoppers under the innovative Climate Ribbon at Brickell City Centre, Miami's modern open-air shopping complex
The Climate Ribbon at Brickell City Centre is an architectural marvel. It keeps you cool while you shop - only in Miami would they make AC look this good!

For your last evening in Miami, let's head to the bustling Brickell neighborhood. This area is Miami's financial district by day, but it transforms into a sophisticated dining and nightlife destination after dark.

Start with some shopping or window-shopping at Brickell City Centre, a massive open-air complex that's home to high-end stores, restaurants, and a movie theater. Even if you're not big on shopping, the architecture of the place is worth checking out. The Climate Ribbon, a masterpiece of sustainable design, provides shade and captures sea breezes to cool the open-air areas.

Patrons enjoying cocktails with panoramic view of Miami skyline at Sugar rooftop bar, located atop EAST Miami hotel in Brickell
The view from Sugar rooftop bar is absolutely breathtaking. There's no better spot to watch the sun set over Miami's glittering skyline!

For dinner, we're going out with a bang at Sugar, a rooftop bar and restaurant on the 40th floor of the EAST Miami hotel. The Asian-inspired tapas are delicious (we loved the Korean chicken wings), but the real draw here is the view. As you sip on a craft cocktail, you'll be treated to a 360-degree view of Miami's glittering skyline.

If you're up for it after dinner, Brickell has plenty of options to continue your night out. Blackbird Ordinary is a local favorite for craft cocktails and dancing, or you could try your luck at the E11EVEN nightclub for a quintessential Miami clubbing experience.

Key Information:

  • Location: Sugar - 788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, FL 33131
  • Hours: Sugar open daily 4 PM - 1 AM (until 3 AM on weekends)
  • Admission: Free entry to Brickell City Centre and Sugar, but expect to pay $15-20 for cocktails

Why Visit: Brickell offers a taste of Miami's more cosmopolitan side, with world-class dining and unbeatable city views.

Insider Tip: Make a reservation at Sugar well in advance, especially if you want to catch the sunset. And ladies, bring a pair of flats - those rooftop tiles can be tricky in heels!

Alternative Options and Customizing Your Itinerary

While this 3-day Miami itinerary hits many of the city's highlights, Miami has so much more to offer. Here are some alternative options to consider based on your interests:

For Art Lovers

If you can't get enough of Miami's art scene, consider adding these to your itinerary:

For Nature Enthusiasts

If you prefer more outdoor activities, try these options:

  • Everglades National Park: Take an airboat tour to spot alligators and unique bird species.
  • Oleta River State Park: Go kayaking or mountain biking in Florida's largest urban park.
  • Miami Beach Botanical Garden: A peaceful oasis in the heart of South Beach.

For Families

Traveling with kids? These attractions are sure to please the whole family:

For Shoppers

If retail therapy is more your style, check out:

  • Bayside Marketplace: An open-air shopping center with beautiful views of Biscayne Bay.
  • Aventura Mall: One of the largest malls in America, featuring high-end stores and unique art installations.
  • Miracle Mile: A charming shopping street in Coral Gables, perfect for a leisurely afternoon.

Time-Crunched Traveler's Guide

If you're short on time and want to hit the absolute must-sees, here's a condensed itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Morning: South Beach and Art Deco District Walking Tour
  • Afternoon: Wynwood Walls
  • Evening: Dinner in Little Havana

Day 2:

  • Morning: Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
  • Afternoon: Biscayne National Park Boat Tour
  • Evening: Dinner and drinks on Ocean Drive

This compressed itinerary gives you a taste of Miami's beaches, architecture, art scene, cultural heritage, and natural beauty in just two days.

Wrapping Up Your 3 Days in Miami

As our 3 days in Miami came to an end, Sarah and I found ourselves already planning our next visit. From the sun-soaked beaches of South Beach to the colorful streets of Wynwood, from the cultural richness of Little Havana to the natural beauty of Biscayne Bay, Miami truly offers something for everyone.

This itinerary is just a starting point. Miami is a city that rewards exploration, so don't be afraid to wander off the beaten path. Strike up conversations with locals, try that hole-in-the-wall restaurant that catches your eye, or spend an afternoon lounging on a less crowded beach.

Remember, the best travel experiences often come from the unexpected moments and discoveries you make along the way. So while you're ticking off the must-see sights, leave some room in your schedule for spontaneity and serendipity.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning traveler, I hope this guide helps you make the most of your 3 days in Miami. From Sarah and me, buen viaje and enjoy the magic of Miami!

Practical Tips for Your Miami Trip

Before we wrap up this guide, let's cover some practical tips to help you make the most of your 3 days in Miami:

Safety in Miami

Like any big city, Miami has its share of safety concerns. However, with some common sense precautions, you can enjoy a safe and worry-free trip:

  • Stick to well-lit, populated areas, especially at night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings, particularly in tourist-heavy areas.
  • Avoid flashing expensive jewelry or electronics.
  • Use reputable transportation options, especially late at night.
  • Be cautious when using ATMs and try to use ones inside banks or hotels.

During our trip, Sarah and I never felt unsafe, but we did stay alert and followed these basic guidelines.

Beach Safety

Miami's beaches are beautiful, but they can also be dangerous if you're not careful:

  • Always swim in designated areas with lifeguards present.
  • Pay attention to beach warning flags and signs.
  • Be aware of rip currents and know how to escape them (swim parallel to the shore).
  • Apply and reapply sunscreen regularly - the Miami sun is strong!
  • Stay hydrated and seek shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Dining Tips

Miami's culinary scene is diverse and exciting. Here are some tips to enhance your dining experiences:

  • Try local specialties like stone crab, Cuban sandwiches, and key lime pie.
  • Don't be afraid to venture into smaller, family-run restaurants - some of our best meals were in these hidden gems.
  • Reservations are recommended for popular restaurants, especially on weekends.
  • Tipping is expected in Miami restaurants, usually 15-20% of the bill.

Language

While English is widely spoken in Miami, you'll hear a lot of Spanish too. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can be helpful and is often appreciated by locals:

  • "Hola" - Hello
  • "Gracias" - Thank you
  • "Por favor" - Please
  • "¿Dónde está...?" - Where is...?

Weather Considerations

Miami's weather is generally warm and sunny, but there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Hurricane season runs from June to November. If you're visiting during these months, keep an eye on weather forecasts.
  • Afternoon thunderstorms are common, especially in summer. They usually pass quickly, but it's a good idea to have a backup plan for indoor activities.
  • The humidity can be intense, especially if you're not used to it. Stay hydrated and take breaks in air-conditioned spaces if needed.

Final Thoughts on Your 3 Days in Miami

As we come to the end of this guide, I hope you're feeling excited and prepared for your Miami adventure. This city has a way of surprising you - just when you think you've got it figured out, it reveals another layer of complexity and charm.

Remember, this itinerary is just a starting point. Miami is a city that rewards those who explore, so don't be afraid to deviate from the plan if something catches your eye. Maybe you'll stumble upon a Cuban bakery with the best pastelitos you've ever tasted, or a hidden beach that becomes your new favorite spot. These unplanned moments often become the highlights of a trip.

As you explore Miami, take time to soak in the unique atmosphere of each neighborhood. Feel the energy of the crowds on Ocean Drive, let the rhythm of the salsa music in Little Havana move you, and breathe in the salt air as you watch the sunrise over South Beach.

And don't forget to interact with the locals. Miamians are proud of their city and often happy to share their favorite spots or insider tips. Some of our best experiences came from chatting with our Uber drivers or striking up conversations with people at the next table in a restaurant.

Whether you're lounging on the beach, exploring world-class art, indulging in delicious cuisine, or dancing the night away, Miami offers a feast for all the senses. It's a city that lives life to the fullest, and invites you to do the same.

So pack your sunscreen, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready for an unforgettable 3 days in Miami. From the moment you arrive until your reluctant departure, let yourself be swept up in the magic of the Magic City. Who knows? Like us, you might find yourself planning your next visit before you even leave.

Bienvenidos a Miami - enjoy every moment of your adventure!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:58 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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