Sure, with all the multi-sensory restaurants and high-energy clubs that line Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, there is no end to the good times that one can have in South Beach. But since we’ve been there, done that, and gone back, we'll give you our best of the beach and surrounding districts. A bit of additional intel has been provided by Ivy Ackerman. Not only is she the Founder and Director of all things food at ButterAndEggRoad.com, but the girl knows how to shop!
In SoBe proper, there are many boutique hotels to choose from. My personal favourite on Ocean Drive is The Betsy, a graceful landmark hotel that has preserved its traditional colonial façade. On the inside, however, it’s all rock and roll.
On Collins Avenue, it has to be The Raleigh. Love everything about this place…and so have friends that have either booked a room, or enjoyed The Royal restaurant. Further afield is the Soho Beach House with its super hip vibe; this one is also accented with another great resto. We brunched on branzino and pizza at Cecconi’s in the afternoon, then partied late night (thanks to someone who knew someone) at the breezy Club Bar. By day, guests can lounge poolside sipping margaritas at Ocho, an oceanfront Taqueria and Tequila bar on SBH’s rooftop.
To get your bearings, I highly recommend a stroll along Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue. In doing so, you'll appreciate what made South Beach famous. These streets have the highest concentration of the finest Art Deco establishments.This design aesthetic made an impression on over 800 hotels and apartment buildings that were erected in Miami circa 1930.Definitely worth a look.
When shopping South Beach, there’s always Lincoln Road Mall. Find anything and everything among its myriad shops and chill at one of the many casual outdoor cafés. Ivy will tell you that most of the best shopping is found in the boutique hotels. For something that is decidedly more refined, look for expertly curated pieces from labels like Céline, Balmain and Lanvin at The Webster. You can also find NYC imports Intermix and Barney's Co-Op on Collins Ave.
EAT & DRINK:
You can’t go wrong starting the night out with a dinner on Ocean Drive and hotel hopping all the way up Collins Avenue. The Betsy’s Bistro Laurent Tourondel (or BLT) is a chic urbane boîte serving up prime American and Japanese Kobe beef, fish and an extensive Raw Bar. The W is a fantastic choice as you can spend an entire evening here. First, dine at The Dutch or Mr. Chow, and then chill outdoors by the gorgeous pool or at the Living Room Bar. Please don’t bother with the Wall. It’s college-level club craziness. Better off by the pool, where you can actually enjoy a creative cocktail without fear of someone knocking it out of your hand. The bartenders are also much more interested in chatting to craft said cocktail for you.
To cap off an indulgent weekend, make a reservation for a champagne-fuelled Sunday brunch at The Setai. Award-winning chef Jonathan Wright oversees chefs from Thailand, China, Malaysia, India and Singapore as they artfully prepare modern interpretations of native dishes. Go hungry!
District: North of South Beach
Just a quick cab ride from the beach, this hood has a few hidden gems.
EAT & DRINK:
Reserve an evening (or two) to eat at one of the tasty trio that is Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi and Barceloneta. Yardbird takes diners down south with inventive takes on regional fare every weekday, and a “foot-stompin’, soul-healin’ brunch” on Saturdays and Sundays.
If vintage is your thing, get a fix at C. Madeleine’s.
District: Design District
Jump in a cab and head out of SoBe and across the Julia Tuttle Causeway. Here you will discover what is currently a Mecca for home design devotees. However, the area will soon become known for its shopping as a massive retail project – one to rival upscale Bal Harbour – which is in the works and should be completed in the next few years.
EAT & DRINK:
The surprise of a Mediterranean oasis awaits just off the Design District strip. Mandolin is a gorgeous little house with a beautiful back terrace to sit outdoors.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink is Michael Schwartz 's first; the chef also has an outpost in Grand Cayman. Expect a friendly and vibrant bistro where you can indulge in simple dishes made fresh from local ingredients. Can’t get a reso there, or at Michelle Bernstein’s Sra. Martinez? No worries, lunch is just as delicious at Schwartz’s newly opened Harry's Pizzeria and Bernstein’s Crumb on Parchment. Two great spots for time-crunched travelers.
One of only eight North American Christian Louboutin boutiques is here. And it is an experience. Be well prepared to get caught up in a designer dream, because you may just wake up minus, oh, somewhere between $600-$1000. Those soles are red for a reason.
Ivy suggests a visit to En Avance and Marni. Then skip over to Thomas Maier for his eponymous collection, other designer label clothing, as well as an incredible art/travel/design bookstore in the back.
Arising from what was formerly a desolate landscape of warehouses, Wynwood is now dense with remarkable exhibits. On the second Saturday of every month, wander in and out of the galleries and see the latest artistic offerings. Enjoy complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks while meeting art lovers from the community. Click here for more information.
This is the place to be during Art Basel!
Panther Coffee brings a little Brooklyn to Miami and, by Ivy’s accounts, the brew is beyond.
Joey's is also recommended. Locals and critics alike rave about their thin-crust pizza, which has been rated tops in the U.S.
STAY at . It’s the ultimate destination for detox. A perfect day begins with one of their yoga classes, then some holistic hydrotherapy in the Hammam. Afternoons involve lunching on organic market-fresh menu items and taking in the poolside scene. If you are thinking to go during Art Basel in early December, The James Royal Palm will just have opened. Accenting the residential-style hotel rooms will be two swimming pools, two dining options, a poolside bar, lobby lounge, full-service spa, plus Lil' James offerings for children.
EAT & DRINK at the South Beach Wine & Food Fest. There are plenty of hot (and high-priced) ticket events, but the best value is the Grand Tasting Village. Spend a whole day sipping on all sorts of beverages while savouring small bites prepared by some of America’s best chefs.
SEE a basketball game. The Miami Heat know how to set the courts on fire. Watch these ballers bring their NBA game at the world-class American Airlines Arena. Order tickets online at nba.com/heat, then make sure to roll into the Kelly Wearstler-designed Viceroy hotel for a poolside pre-game cocktail.
SHOP at Aventura Mall. You’ll find six major department stores and more than 280 specialty stores. A recent $22-million expansion added a new wing of upscale boutiques and restaurants. If you’re serious about shopping, plan to spend a full day here.
Two Ways To Save:
FOOD TRUCKS! This city is serious about them, and you can find daily location listings at MiamiFoodTrucks.com. Weekly and monthly events, organized in parks and places like the Tropical Audubon Society, are tasty and affordable ways to live like a local.
BOOK EARLY. Especially if you are thinking to go during Art Basel in December, or the Wine & Food Fest in February. There are so many hotels so be sure to take the time to browse their websites and book the best deal to suit your budget.
All images, except the Louboutin boutique, are courtesy of www.thetravelpresse.com