Our Insider’s Guide to Miami. Our decoder Meagan Drillinger covers all the stops you need to know for an unforgettable Miami stay.
Miami is rising in the ranks as an international jet-set destination. The city by the sea, home to one of the nation’s largest Cuban populations, has world-class beaches, sizzling nightlife, eye-popping culture and gourmet cuisine. Miami was put on the international jet set map back in the 1950s and 1960s, when it embodied the Art Deco architecture movement in historic South Beach. Since then, it has always been a popular beach getaway for U.S. East Coast dwellers.
The Miami of today, though, has far outgrown itself, pulling in interest from international hoteliers, artists and chefs. The city is poised to rub elbows with the likes of New York and Saint-Tropez. If you are in town on a quick getaway, here is a rundown of what you need to know to get the most out of Miami.
Miami is split off into several sections: North, South, West and Downtown. Inside these sections are a handful of neighbourhoods, each of which has its own flare. If you are flying into town for a quick stint, here are the neighbourhoods that might be most appealing to you.
Lay of the Land
Perhaps the number one reason why tourists flock to Miami. This beachside stretch of Art Deco buildings, swanky hotels, restaurants and colourful characters has been the draw to Miami for decades.
Touching South Beach and the historic Art Deco district, Miami Beach still reflects its swinging ‘60s past. Hotels, restaurants, shops and 1950s- and 60s-era apartment buildings give the neighbourhood a unique vibe.
If you are looking to up the level of luxury, this is the destination for you. The calmer, upscale residential community is known for its Bal Harbour Shops (think Gucci, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli and more), and world-class hotels like the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.
Wynwood Arts District
Speaking of culture, the up and coming Wynwood Arts District is packed with galleries and urban murals.
Miami has a beat that pulses to an entirely Latin rhythm. The city’s overwhelming Cuban population has made Little Havana their outpost – a slice of the Caribbean in mainland United States. Saturated with Cuban culture, Little Havana’s
Picking a hotel in Miami is a daunting task, with names like Ritz-Carlton, SLS and Morgans, to name a few, along the same stretch.
But whether you’re in Miami for business or pleasure, there is sure to be a hotel for all tastes and budgets. Here are some of our favourites.
Celebrities and scenesters make up the clientele at this uber-posh seaside hotel. And with a first class roster behind the scenes, it isn’t hard to see why (think Lenny Kravitz and Philippe Starck on design, Jose Andres on tapas and LeBron James poolside). With 140 rooms, guests can be as in the public eye or behind closed doors as they choose.
The young, sexy and SoBe seekers will feel right at home at The James Royal Palm. Set on A-list Collins Avenue, The James Royal Palm brings that classic Miami Art Deco flavor to the table, with a refreshing, youthful and modern luxe touch. The James has its own private beach club complete with cabanas, lounge chairs, umbrellas and attentive service. The hotel is also home to a spa, two restaurants and is within walking distance to trendy Lincoln Road.
If you have some money to burn, and a need for a high thread count, you will be staying at the St. Regis. Across the street from the exclusive Bal Harbour shops, this resort is all about pampering and indulgence.
From melty Cubano sandwiches washed down with frosty brews, to white linens and lengthy wine lists, Miami’s culinary scene has absolutely exploded over the last few years.
Surely prior to your Miami getaway you will be calorie counting so you can squeeze into that skimpy bikini, but when you Actually get to the destination it is time to cut loose and explore the dizzying array of culinary offerings.
Foodies and design buffs alike will flock to this laid-back, hipster-esque spot. The indoor/outdoor warehouse-style restaurant (we said it was hipster) is surrounded by an original mural by Shepard Fairey. Diners will tuck into brasserie style cuisine while sipping on creative cocktails.
Monty’s Raw Bar
Looking for laid back and local? A Coconut Grove institution, Monty’s has been serving straight up seafood for the past 30 years. While there is an indoor dining room, most people opt for the outdoor raw bar, which is a scene in itself with plunky calypso music and a popular happy hour.
The restaurant scene on South Beach’s popular Ocean Drive is sometimes a bit overwhelming, as waiters stand on the sidewalk and try to lure passersby in. For something a little more low key, but with a whole lot more character, check out Local House. The style here is beach shack-chic, with reclaimed wood, distressed mirrors and an open-air feel. The food is deliciously fresh seafood with a long list of cocktails.
With its Caribbean climate, the thing to do in Miami is be outdoors. Take a tour of its historic neighbourhoods, sprawl out on the sand or see some of the many outdoor art exhibitions.
DELIGHT IN ART DECO
Before foodies and culture vultures got wind of Miami, visitors were coming to see the historic and buzzed about Art Deco design in Miami Beach and South Beach. The Miami Design Preservation League offers tours of the historic district (and all other areas of the City of Miami Beach). Tours are conducted by local historians and architects and provide an introduction to Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District.
Museums are fine and well, but when you’re in a destination like Miami where the sun is more of a draw, why not visit a museum that is outdoors? Wynwood Walls (thewynwoodwalls.com) is an outdoor Street Art Museum with 12 murals by 15 international artists. It took to the streets in 2009 as part of Art Basel and has remained open to the public (and free) since.
If you are lucky enough to plan your trip to Miami around Art Basel, here are a few things to keep in mind. Art Miami, the city’s modern art fair, will return for the 24th year in December. This year is has been expanded to include two additional contemporary art fairs: CONTEXT, in a 45,000-square-foot pavilion next to Art Miami in Wynwood; and Aqua Arts Miami at the Aqua Hotel on Collins Avenue in South Beach.
Connoisseurs of haute cuisine (or, frankly, anyone who likes to eat) will want to explore Miami Food Tours . These three-hour culinary adventures takes gourmands through South Beach combining food and drink tastings with historical, architectural and cultural factoids. Travel through five different restaurants and cafes in South Beach, passing by the tourist traps and heading right for the local watering holes. Stops include Miami Nouvelle cuisine, authentic ethnic eatieries and a Kosher Ice Cream Factory
UNIQUE MIAMI EXPERIENCES
Even the outdoorsy types will find something to do in Miami. Shake- A-Leg (www.shakealegmiami.org) on Biscayne Bay is a non-profit organization that employs their extensive water sports offerings for good: working with physically, developmentally and economically challenged children and adults, they use the marine environment as an educational and therapeutic tools. Shake-A-Leg offers activities ranging from paddle boarding, to sailing, to full two hour Zodiacs boat tours- for the intrepid travelers. Zodiac tours include more than 40 miles of bay to visit historic Miami and Miami Beach sights like Celebrity Mansions, the Port of Miami, Cape Florida Lighthouse and more. Along the way keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, stingrays, sharks and manatees.
Where to Shop
Glitterati from across the U.S. and Latin America all call in Miami to make the most out of the scene. The city is jam packed with designer labels and what’s hot off the runway. Miami is the perfect spot to pick up exactly what the celebs are wearing, and here are the best places to do it.
This pedestrian walkway in South Beach is home to some of the world’s most famous chains. The streets are flanked with shops, restaurants and bars and it pulls in quite the after-hours crowd.
Bal Harbour Shops
Those with deep pockets will relish in this luxury Mecca. Catch up with your old friends Alexander McQueen, Diane von Furstenberg and Marc Jacobs, among others.
Touted as a local neighbourhood, this 12-block area was once known for household wares, but is slowly gaining a reputation in the apparel world