A weekend trip to Miami Beach

My first trip to Miami Beach, a.k.a. South Beach, was 15 years ago for my friend's bachelorette party. Four of us crammed into a tiny room with two queen-size beds, but we barely spent any time there, because we were too busy having the time of our lives. I've been back many times since, for long-weekend getaways, girls' trips, and even a wedding, and I will rarely turn down the chance to go. To those who have never been to Miami, I like to describe it as Vegas on the beach. Like Las Vegas, people go there to party— they dress to the nines and the people-watching is off the charts—and there are a bunch of amazing restaurants from top chefs like José Andrés and Francis Mallmann. Unlike Vegas, there is no gambling nor ridiculous manmade spectacles (unless you count all of the exotic cars driving up and down Collins Avenue); instead, there's a glorious beach and some amazing Art Deco architecture. It had been four years since my last visit, so when Sean found out he had a business trip, I decided to tag along and get there a few days early to take advantage of the holiday weekend. Here's what we did on our weekend trip to Miami Beach.

It can be a little chilly at night—bring a jacket!

What to do

Go to the beach, duh! Miami Beach is a long, wide, white-powdered beauty with cute beach chairs and the most colorful lifeguard stands you've ever seen. Most of the hotels have a beach setup, even if they're not beachfront (and most of those have some sort of reciprocal deal with a sister hotel; worst case, you can rent a cabana or chairs from several places). Get there early, bring a book that you probably won't end up reading, and marvel at the skimpiness of everyone's swimsuits—like I said, the people-watching is amazing!

What makes South Beach so unique is its Art Deco district, which is on the National Register of Historic Places (the first 20th-century neighborhood to be designated as such). There are over 800 buildings that were built between the 1920s and 1940s in the neighborhood, along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue between 5th and 23rd Streets. I suggest starting at the north end and walking along Collins, then cutting over to Ocean Drive at 15th Street, and looping back to Washington at 5th Street—all the best hotels (and the Versace mansion) are along Ocean Drive opposite Lummus Park. 

Miami Beach is also home to an amazing promenade that runs for five miles along the waterfront. I walked along it every day, and it was cool to see it being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. You can also bike, skateboard, or roller-skate along the path, and it's definitely dog-friendly. I also recommend it if you're in a hurry and don't want to deal with all the cruising (and stoplights) along Collins. 

When it comes to shopping, Miami has everything from touristy beach shops to fancy-schmancy designer boutiques; for the latter, The Webster is iconic for a reason. Lincoln Road is where you'll find chain stores like Zara and Lululemon, but if you have time to venture a little farther, there are a bunch of cute local shops along Sunset Harbor Drive (including an outpost of Lucali, one of the best pizza restaurants in NYC). 

Where to eat

The sexiest restaurant in South Beach is Byblos, and the best place for a romantic dinner is the front garden (the inside is great too, but more of a party scene). The food is kind of Turkish-Mediterranean, and everything we had was delicious, especially the eggplant dumplings (I normally don't even like eggplant) and the truffle flatbread. Miami is big on truffles, which I fully support. 

Another sexy restaurant is Juvia, which is on top of the famous Herzog & de Meuron–designed parking garage at the end of Lincoln Road. It's several blocks west of the beach and 12 or so stories up, so it has the most sweeping views of the city. We went for Sunday brunch and didn't want to leave—the food, drinks, service, and especially the DJ were all top-notch. 

The best food we had, however, was at 27 Restaurant in the Freehand Hotel. It's kind of in a random location, in Mid-Beach on Indian Creek Drive, but the food is worth wandering off the beaten path—it's a lot of fresh seafood (including the most delicious clams I think I've ever had) and natural wines, served family-style, with a very unfussy vibe. 

For late-night food and hilariously named (yet tasty) cocktails, Sweet Liberty is the place to go. We opted to stay outside, which was just as entertaining as the dance party inside, and had mind-blowingly delicious vegan nachos. (Yes, I said vegan nachos.) 

For a slightly more elevated cocktail experience, I recommend checking out El Salon at the newly opened Esmé Hotel. It was one of the few times we ate or drank inside on this trip, but we felt entirely safe—reservations are required, tables are well-spaced, and there was a lot of airflow. Oh, and the throwback cocktails are delicious, especially the Singapore Sling. 

More restaurants I recommend but didn't make it to this time: Joe's Stone Crab is always a classic; Cecconi's at the Soho House and Casa Tua for Italian food and romance; The Bazaar by José Andrés (we went there for drinks on this trip, but didn't eat); and the 1 Hotel's rooftop restaurant, Watr, for a total Miami scene. And Zuma is worth the trip across the bridge into Miami proper.

Where to stay

In Miami Beach, you generally have to choose between a very expensive, larger beachfront hotel or a smaller boutique hotel that's several blocks from the beach. It's hard to find a hotel that's just right—I prefer beachfront, but not so big that you have to fight for a pool chair or wait forever for the elevator. For that reason, I almost always stay at the Delano, which is my favorite hotel in the world (yes, literally), however it's sadly closed for renovation at the moment. We opted for the Kimpton Surfcomber instead, and it was perfect: central location (a block from the Delano), recently renovated, just-right size, and great service. I was a big fan of all the little outside seating nooks, the nightly social hour with free wine, and the free bikes that you could ride along the promenade. Plus the bed was comfy, our room was a decent size, and we didn't hear people partying all night (which is a big plus in SoBe). Watch out, Delano—I may have a new favorite South Beach hotel! 


Be peres said...

What a beautiful place, I hope to one day visit Miami too.

Avec Amber said...

This sounds like a wonderful weekend getaway! I love your outfit!

I hope you are having a great week so far!


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Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

I don't think I will ever visit Miami, but it sure looks beautiful and clean! And I love vegan nachos!

Joanne said...

That sounds like a fabulous trip! I have never been to Miami.

Gail said...

Love the look of the art deco district! I've been to Miami once but it was for a business trip and sadly didn't get to see any of the sights! Our party with entertainment was on a luxury cruiser, but it only travelled a few yards, bizarrely. Thanks for linking!

Mica said...

I love your maxi dress with that cosy jacket! Such a nice outfit! And I've never tried vegan nachos before but they do look so good in that pic! :) It's good you had a great time there!

Hope that you had a lovely weekend :) We had a great one despite the heat, catching up with friends and family :)

Away From The Blue

Laura B said...

I've never been, but it looks like so much fun! That drink you have looks amazing too!

Jessica Jannenga said...

Boy, I could use a vacation!
Beautiful pictures! I have been to Miami and South Beach once about 13 years ago for my Brother's wedding. It was alot of fun!
thanks for linking!

stylesplash@live.co.uk said...

It looks amazing! I briefly visited downtown Miami in 1996 when I won a holiday to Key West. I'd love to go back and explore the city! Thanks for linking up!

Emma xxx

harperpaul said...

On your final day in Miami Beach, embark on an adventure-filled excursion to nearby attractions such as the Everglades National Park or the picturesque Key Biscayne. Get up close and personal with Florida's unique wildlife, embark on a thrilling airboat ride, or simply soak in the natural beauty of these stunning landscapes.
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