While most of Art Basel and the satellite fairs seem to be crowded with locals, I think the majority of visitors are out-of-towners or the usual Miami party people. It seems to me like the "real" residents of Miami-Dade County are not enjoying Art Week. It could be because many feel it is an elitist-type thing and they don't fit in. But they do.
Oh sure, there are those who you see there who just smell of money, they're the ones in blazers and diamonds walking with their noses up in the air, many being escorted by the elbow, trying to make their way through the crowds. And there have been many celebs, the only one I saw was Josh Altman, from Million Dollar Listing L.A. There are also plenty of Teslas and Alfa Romeo's and limos lining the streets, but the bulk of the crowds are every day people who are out for a fun time -- culture, food and people watching are the game.
All the galleries set up in the tents know that you're there to look, they don't expect to sell to everyone who steps into their tent, dare I say they are happy with one sale all weekend, so there is no need to feel uncomfortable. Most enjoy talking about their art (and themselves) non-stop, so it's a joy for them to see you in their booths. You don't have to talk to them, but you can if you want. No pressure.
People are dressed up and dressed down. Some in suits, others in flip flops, some have backpacks, they look as if they hiked in; most are dressed in between. Many of the events and installations are free, many are not, but there's something for everyone.
Parking is a bitch, but people are of course finding it and you don't have to pay $20 to park, there are plenty of meter spots on the streets and also other areas that you'll find as you drive around. There are also shuttles and trolleys and other means to get around.
It's a great place for children to learn about art and culture; I wouldn't bring babies, although it seemed that every time I went to take a photo, there was a baby stroller in the shot, so people do tend to bring infants and smaller kids who probably don't know what's going on, but I suppose they are soaking up the culture through osmosis.
There's plenty to eat and drink in and out of the fairs, for example all you have to do is stroll through Wynwood and partake in what they offer you can have great Cuban food from Enriquetas at a low price or try Zak the Baker for something midpoint, pay a bit more at Morgan's or Sugarcane Raw Bar. The point is, there is something for everyone and nothing to be intimidated of. You probably will enjoy some of the pop-up restaurants that are only here for the week.
While Art Basel is the snooty event at the Miami Beach Convention Center, it seems that the satellite fairs in other parts of Miami Beach and especially Wyndood, are the places people prefer. The different events like Art Miami and Context are so different from each other. Each has it's own taste and feel. Red Dot is totally different from Spectrum. And of course the live painting around Wynwood and all the street art, especially the murals are a very special part of the event and the neighborhood itself.
There is no way to see the whole thing, it's like choose this and a little of that from a menu.
I highly recommend it for the locals, it's crazy to navigate the traffic but once you're there, you'll enjoy it. Just immerse yourself in the scene, don't have a set agenda, look around. Enjoy it.