Miami Guide

London Telegraph Newspaper & Online Guide

MIAMI

Miami Beach goes in and out of fashion faster than hemlines rise and fall. But now the beach has something more to offer than just the latest designer hotel, nightclub or restaurant. The city of Miami is fast becoming one of America’s most exciting cultural destinations and one of its most recession proof cities.

Cranes litter Miami Beach constructing ever more outrageously priced star-chitect designed hotels and condos. But two of the most exciting new buildings on the beach are public spaces; the New World Center by architect Frank Gehry, which re-envisions classical music for the digital age, and a car park (yes a car park!) called 1111 Lincoln Road by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron, which contains designer boutiques and has a multi-million dollar home on its roof.

Not so long ago Miami was the modern equivalent of the Wild West (read Gerald Posner’s hair-raising book Miami Babylon for details), Now it is one of America’s most vibrant cities. And if you don’t leave the beach and cross over the Biscayne Bay into the city, you are missing out on a big part of what Miami has to offer. With its unique geographical location – connecting North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe, Miami has a flavor all its own, especially in the arts and food. On the culinary scene, chefs like Miguel Aguilar (Wynwood Kitchen and Bar) and Sergio Navarro and Jose Mendin (Pubbelly) spin together Latino, Asian and North American flavors like top DJs spinning disks.

In the art world, Miami already out-ranks other US cities. Its annual Art Basel – Miami Beach event is where the world’s top artists and buyers gather annually. Then there is the Wynwood arts district, with over 80 galleries (some museum scale), the newly emerging Little Haiti art scene (over a dozen of the Wynwood galleries have relocated and this is already home to many of the city’s artists). Also plum in the middle of Downtown Miami is the new 29-acre museum park home to the Perez Art Museum (formerly the Miami Art Museum).

Don’t believe those who say Miami Beach is passé. Miami will never be over. The party has only just begun.

Experience

NEW WORLD CENTER

Inside Frank Gehry’s stunning New World Symphony building in South Beach, musical director Michael Tilson Thomas is reinventing classical music for the digital age. Concerts envelope the audience in video images projected onto 5 huge screens, creating an intense aural and visual experience and the building’s façade doubles as a screen for free Wallcast concerts (bring a picnic) and weekly movie screenings.   Check out SoundScape Cinema Series listings at http://www.mbculture.com as well as the New World Center website www.nws.edu
  All wallcast events are free.

WYNWOOD ARTS DISTRICT 

This old warehouse district is home to over 80 galleries, bars and restaurants. Plum in the middle is The Wynwood Walls an outdoor park with huge graffiti murals by the likes of Shephard Fairey, Os Gemeos and Swoon. Eat at the excellent Latino inflected Wynwood Kitchen and Bar nearby http://www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com. It is good to go armed with addresses and a map. The top galleries are the Rubell Family Collection, dedicated to A-list contemporary artists such as Marlene Dumas, Kara Walker and Luc Tuymans, The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, which houses some 4,500 works of art, and World Class Boxing, Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and Emerson Dorsch (which will be relocating to Little Haiti in 2016).

SOUTH POINTE PARK

This 17.5-acre esplanade, located on the southernmost tip of South Beach, opened in 2009 at a cost of US$22 million (£14 million). It’s a great place to cycle, skate, jog, stroll or sit and relax. It also has a a children’s play park and marina.

WOLFSONIAN MUSEUM

The Wolfsonian Museum has a wonderfully wide-ranging collection of design and decorative arts from 1885 to 1945 – everything from art-nouveau chairs to the earliest dishwashers. Take advantage, too, of its excellent café and bookshop with its 19th century iron shelving system used in the Vatican and the New York public library. Free after 6pm on Fridays. www.wolfsonian.org

LITTLE HAVANA

Little Havana is the heart of Cuban Miami (it is also home to Nicaraguans, Hondurans and other Caribbean exiles). The main street is Calle Ocho (SW 8th St) and the area between SW 12 and SW 16th streets is the most vibrant part of Little Havana. Check out the Azucar Ice Cream Company (No 1503) and its guava and cream cheese ice-cream; the Ball and Chain club (no 1513) a recreation  of the 30s nightclub where Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Chet Baker and other musical greats used to jam; and the Bay of Pigs Museum (one block away) on 1821 SW 9th st. A little further afield is Versailles Restaurant (no 3555), more of a Cuban institution than a restaurant, the interior is a throw back to the 70s (when it opened). Like a ritzy diner in terms of food.

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK (day trip)

1.5 million acres of Unesco protected tropical wilderness is something you have to experience;  home to dolphins, manatees, alligators, bob cats, 100s of bird species, and cypress and mangrove swamps. The best entry point is Everglade City (85 miles west) where you can take off on a guided boat tour or rent kayaks and canoes.  Avoid the noisy airboat tours which scare off the wildlife.  www.evergladesnationalparkboattoursgulfcoast.com

ART DECO WALK

The Miami Design Preservation League’s historians and architects host 90-minute tours of the Art Deco district. A must for design and architecture buffs. Tickets @ the Art Deco Gift Shop, 1001 Ocean Drive & 10th Street, South Beach.
 www.mdpl.org

CORAL GABLES (day trip)

Head 40 minutes south of Miami Beach for two must-sees. The palatial 1920s Biltmore Hotel www.biltmorehotel.com was a favourite of royalty – the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – as well as movie stars including Marlene Dietrich and Clark Gable, and gangster Al Capone. Stop by for lunch or a martini beside the largest pool in America. Just 15 minutes away is the spectacular Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden with its 83 acres of tropical plants  www.fairchildgarden.org

PADDLE-BOARDING

The fastest growing water sport in America is Paddleboarding. It is a cross between surfing and kayaking. You stand on a giant surfboard and gently glide along the water using a single oar. From a distance it looks like you are walking on water. Get your sea legs by learning on windless days out on the ocean, or peak into people’s back gardens and go wild life spotting along the city’s waterways.   One hour lesson and board rental, $80 for one person (reductions for couples, families and groups). www.miamipaddleboarding.com

MUSEUM PARK

 The Perez Art Museum (PAMM), a world class art museum (formerly the Miami Museum of Art). It is  the center piece of the new 29 acre museum park in Downtown Miami. The museum plaza is beautifully designed by James Corner’s Field Operations (who created the New York High Line). Next to PAMM is the Patricia and Phillip Frost Science Museum. www.miamiartmuseum.org

PALM BEACH (day trip)

Palm Beach, 65 miles north of Miami, is one of the richest in America – a tiny island community comprising many dreamy estates. Peek past the hedgerows on South Ocean Boulevard, visit the Flagler Museum (a mansion built by oil magnate Henry Morrison Flagler), top up your tan or take a dip at the South Ocean Boulevard beaches, shop the glitzy Bond Stree-style stores and have cocktails at the Breakers Hotel.

MIAMI BEACH BOARDWALK

This is the locals’ favorite place to jog and walk (although sadly, no skaters or bikers are allowed). The Miami Beach boardwalk  extends from South Pointe Park past Ocean Drive up above 40th Street. Eventually it will terminate at North Shore Park and 88th Street and be over 6 miles long.

NOMI

The acronym stands for North Miami. This is a  vibrant arts district with over a dozen antiques and design stores, all standing side by side along NE 125th St. Check out; Gustavo Olivieri (No 750), Vermillion (No 765), Stripe (No 799), Thomas Brillet (No 817 and 819) and Gary Rubenstein (No 859).  Also visit MOCA (No 770), with its world-class modern art collection (it shares some pieces with the Tate in London).  There’s free outdoor jazz (rain or shine at 8pm) on the last Friday of every month. http://www.mocanomi.org
. Eat at Captain Jim’s  www.captainjimsseafood.com No-frills décor but the best fresh fish in Miami.

BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK

 An hour’s drive south of Miami Beach, this 200,000-acre wild park and lagoon is perfect for canoeing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat trips, scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, hiking and wildlife-watching (especially manatees, crocodiles and wild birds). Start at the Dante Fascell Visitor’s Center. www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm

VIZCAYA MUSEUM & GARDENS

Miami’s answer to Hearst Castle, Vizcaya was built in 1916 for industrial titan James Deering and is intended to look like a 400-year-old Italian estate. It is filled with exquisite furnishings and objets d’art from the 15th to the 19th century.  www.vizcayamuseum.org

MIAMI BEACH GOLF CLUB

Miami Beach pioneer Carl Fisher founded this 18-hole public golf course (@ 2301 Alton Road, Miami Beach)   in 1923. It was designed by Arthur Hills, one of America’s leading designers.  www.miamibeachgolfclub.com

Eat

WYNWOOD

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar:The best view in Wynwood. You get to sit in middle of the Wynwood Walls surrounded by artworks by Shepard Fairey, Oz Gemeos and other graffiti hipsters and enjoy Venezuelan born chef Miguel Aguilar’s delicious Latin inflected small plates. The tropical salad, empanadas and flash fried bok choy are favorites. www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com

Joeys: The art world’s neighborhood canteen ‘where billionaire art collectors sit next to mohawked artists’. 30-year-old chef Ivo Mazzon specializes in handmade pasta and northern style pizza (the house favorite ‘dolce e piccante’ is topped with figs gorgonzola, honey and hot peppers).www.joeyswynwood.com

NOMI

Captain Jim’s: This is where MOCA director Bonnie Clearwater takes her museum patrons and artists. ‘You’ll see Rolls Royce’s and you’ll see me,’ she says. No frills décor, plastic cutlery and paper towels, but the best fresh fish in Miami Dade County guaranteed by owner Jim Hanson’s own fishing crew. http://www.captainjimsseafood.com

DESIGN DISTRICT

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink: Michael’s is discretely popular with celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Anderson and shoe designer Christian Louboutin. The mouthwatering dishes include wood roasted sweet onion stuffed with ground lamb and apricots and pan roasted ‘poulet rouge’. http://www.michaelsgenuine.com. If you can’t get a table here, chef Michael Schwartz’s restaurant group also runs the nearby Cypress Tavern and Harry’s Pizzeria.

Buena Vista Bistro: A petite 50s inspired French bistro run by Canadian chef Claude Postel and his wife Callie Bienvenu. Simple French classics like escargot, duck pate and steak with hand cut fries. A consistent favorite with locals. Open until Midnight.www.buenavistabistro.com

DOWNTOWN

Zuma, one of Miami’s smash hits. This Japanese restaurant (located in the Epic Hotel) is a London import, extremely popular with celebrities and athletes. Famed for its exquisite sushi, tempura, black cod, spicy beef and lychee martinis. The prix-fixe brunch is comparatively a great deal.

MIAMI BEACH

 Joe’s Stone Crab: Over 100 year’s old, this SoBe institution is THE PLACE to go for stone crab (delicious giant crab claws), key lime pie and a power broker clientele. The no reservations policy means long queues, but you can opt for the fast and cheap take out/cafe next door (although sadly lacking in the Joe’s vibe).  www.joesstonecrab.com

Pubbelly: A runaway hit with locals, Asian-fusion gastropub Pubbelly has just 8 tables, woodsy décor and a friendly atmosphere and is tucked away in the upcoming Sunset Harbour area of South Beach. Inventive dishes include duck confit ravioli, Florida snapper salad, pork belly with butterscotch miso, corn puree and brussels and apple pie clafuti for desert. Great intimate setting and lively crowd. Also check out the new Pubbelly Sushi. http://www.pubbellyboys.com

Mr Chow’s: The sophisticated Bejing cuisine at Mr Chow’s is a world away from the heavily-sauced, overly sugared and salted Chinese food that most of us are used to. Try the squab with lettuce and gambler’s duck. Relax and enjoy the OTT decor including a 123ft-long gold leaf and Swarovski crystal chandelier www.mrchow.com

27 Restaurant & Bar: The food at 27 is a sort of free spirited tribute to the multi-culti taste of chefs Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta  (Jewish and Venezuelan respectively). There are Middle Eastern staples like latkes and falafel, American favorites; massaged kale, roast beets and burgers and Latina dishes like rice and oxtail and Arepas.  Charming location poolside in the freewheeling Freehand hotel.

Puerto Sagua: This authentic Cuban diner has been a staple of the South Beach scene for over 50 years. Sit at the counter (or in the restaurant) and try classic Cuban comfort food at diner prices; roast chicken, black beans, plantains and rice, and a coradito, a thimbleful of very powerful Cuban coffee. Open from 5am to 2.30am

SHOP

Miami is a clothes shopper’s paradise. All the top American boutiques are here, as are some extraordinary originals such as The Webster and Alchemist. Don’t forget Bal Harbour Shops, a mall of Madison Avenue class stores with price tags to match.

 LINCOLN ROAD

A great place to shop in the heart of SoBe, for everything from super-affordable trainers and shorts to cutting-edge designer togs by the likes of Rick Owens and hot American duo Rodarte at Alchemist, which is situated in the extraordinary Herzog and de Meuron parking lot (No 1111; car park level 5 and also at no 438 Lincoln Road). Menswear specialist Base (No 939) is a local favourite, as is the excellent bookshop Books & Books (No 927).

COLLINS AVENUE

The south end of Collins Avenue, between 7th and 12th Streets, has a string of fashion favourites including New York store Barney’s Co-op (No 832) and The Webster (No 1220) – three floors of top fashion designs and accessories, beloved by celebrity stylists. After looking at the price tags, retire for a glass of champagne to Parisian restaurant Caviar Kaspia in the lobby.

BAL HARBOUR SHOPS

A 10-minute taxi ride up the beach, the Bal Harbour Shops (www.balharbourshops.com) is a high-fashion mall filled with top American boutiques such as Calypso, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Tomas Maier, James Perse, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren, Scoop, Trina Turk, John Varvatos and Vince. Also in the mix are two more affordable department stores, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

 THE DESIGN DISTRICT

A 15-minute taxi ride from Miami Beach, the Design District has become a shopping experience to rival Bal Harbour.  The big name designers here include Tom Ford, Rick Owens and Marc Jacobs. And there is a lively mix of fashion and interiors stores and a few art galleries (although the main art district is nearby Wynwood). Star attractions include menswear designer Sebastian James, Alchemist, hip Dutch fashion label Scotch and Soda and Vo73, (the first store by Elisabetta Armellin, the handbag designer behind many top labels). On the design front, check out the interior design emporiums by Holly Hunt, Christian Liaigre and Jonathan Adler.

STAY

 LUXURY

St Regis Bal Harbour: Every inch of the 227 room St Regis oozes money. Yabu Pushelberg’s shimmering interiors (think enormous crystal chandeliers, glass walls, sky high ceilings) conjure up a modern take on Art Deco opulence and the days of grand old hotels. You’ll have to dress up not to be outclassed by the décor or the Ab Fab style shopaholics who like the proximity to the high end Bal Harbour mall and the most glamorous stretch of Miami Beach (away from the SoBe crowds). You will also be rubbing shoulders with Russian oligarchs, Saudi Princes and hedge fund managers. The hotel is a 10 minute taxi ride to SoBe. http://www.stregisbalharbour.com

Soho Beach House: Downton Abbey meets Tropical Modernism. This Miami Beach outpost of London’s Soho House hotel group is a quirky and inviting mix of decorating ideas. The small, intimate scale is a plus, as is the location half way up the beach, away from the noise and clamor of the Art Deco district. Also of note, the excellent Cecconi’s restaurant in the lobby/garden and the Cowshed spa offers the best massages on the beach. http://www.sohobeachhouse.com

W South Beach: Still one of the trendiest hotels in South Beach. These two shiny glass towers create a fashionable playground in a prime location close to Lincoln Road. Each room has a balcony angled to get a view of the beach.  Four restaurant options (including The Dutch and Mr Chows), a Bliss Spa, 2 huge pools, tennis courts, basketball courts and a huge gym.  www.wsouthbeach.com

MID RANGE (rooms under $350)

Metropolitan by Como: This beautiful new hotel boasts a calm, elegant atmosphere, top notch spa facilities, excellent services and design by the subtle but brilliant Italian designer Paola Navone.  Features include a beautiful rooftop hydrotherapy pool and solarium, the Traymore restaurant which offers 2 menus including a delicious healthy option. The hotel just bagged the Conde Nast Traveller Gold award for 2015 http://www.comohotels.com

The Betsy: A mini Raffles. The 61 room Betsy, sits at the quiet end of Ocean Drive in the Art Deco district, an idyllic setting with unimpeded views of the beach. The plush modern decor is by Ralph Lauren’s interior designer Diamante Pedersoli and Carmelina Santoro (who designs the Bulgari stores). The hotel features a rooftop solarium and mini spa, outdoor swimming pool and popular New York restaurant BLT Steak. http://www.thebetsyhotel.com

The Redbury: The latest and smallest addition to the hip media grabbing SLS chain.  A great little Art Deco hotel with 69 edgily designed rooms by Ashley Manhan (rooms have turntables and stacks of old LPs), rooftop pool terrace, herb garden, Lorenzo restaurant and best of all, access to the Raleigh and SLS South Beach hotels, two beachfront style icons with lots of amenities. http://www.theredbury.com

 Prime: A great little under the radar boutique hotel in the quiet but coveted SoFi area or South Beach, near South Pointe Park.  The petite Prime hotel has 14 stylish rooms and a stellar clientele (celebrities, heads of state, top chefs) who come for the location and the hotel’s exceptional dining connections.  The owner also runs Prime 112, the best meat restaurant in Miami, and allows hotel guests to hop to the top of the reservation queue.  http://primehotel-miami.com

AFFORDABLE ($100- $250 a night)

Freehand Miami: A little bit of Williamsburg (Brooklyn) by the beach. This hip hostel (designed by Roman & Williams), is in a former 30s hotel. It is filled with cushy dorm rooms (beds have plush mattresses and are sectioned off with curtains) and a few private double rooms. The poolside Broken Shaker bar and 27 Restaurant are Miami Beach hot spots .Located on Collins Avenue @ 28th street. The hotel is two blocks from the beach and 10 blocks from the Lincoln Road Mall (10 minutes on a bike that can be rented at the front desk).http://thefreehand.com

Hotel St Augustine:  This much loved Art Deco hotel is in the hip residential SoFi area (South of Fifth street) and close to the newly spruced up South Pointe Park in South Beach. The St Augustine features large modern rooms with blond wood platform beds and surprisingly generous bathrooms. Great value for money. www.hotelstaugustine.com

Standard: Biba founder and local design guru Barbara Hulanicki’s favorite South Beach hotel overlooks Biscayne Bay. Some garden rooms have an outdoor bathtub. The Scandinavian inspired interiors are by Shawn Hausman (who did the iconic Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles).   Worth a trip for the bayside view from the Lido restaurant. www.standardhotels.com

Circa 39: Redecorated in 2014, this simple, colorful 97 room hotel is located near 40th street on Miami Beach. It offers good amenities for a great low price tag. Pool, small gym, Jules Kitchen, Wunder Bar and it is close to the sea and a short hop to South Beach on the regular beach bus. http://www.circa39.com

 NIGHTLIFE

 South Beach is famous for its party atmosphere. Ocean Drive between 5th and 14th Streets vibrates with pounding dance music. Almost every hotel in Miami Beach has a bar, but the big newer hotels like the Fontainebleau are best for drinks and dancing. The adventurous may like to track down the tiny happening clubs in Wynwood, but they will need an art-world insider to give them the address.

 Liv Hollywood stars like George Clooney, Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow flock to Liv, an 18,000 square foot club in the Fountainebleau Hotel (where Elvis and Frank Sinatra used to perform). The futuristic décor features light framed skyboxes, a planetarium ceiling and groovy pink leather banquettes. Open 11pm until dawn. www.fontainebleau.com

Regent Cocktail Club + Rec Room at the Gale Hotel. The Regent cocktail club looks like a 40s movie set for Bogey and Bacall. An excellent place for a relaxed pre-dinner drink. Return later to visit the Rec Room, a groovy 70s inspired subterranean nightclub, which still spins vinyl (not the usual thumping house music).

Bardot Super-hip live music venue in Wynwood.   A comfy living room setting where the acts are just arms length away. http://www.bardotmiami.com

Broken Shaker Enjoy the non stop party at the Freehand hotel’s lively pool side bar and its jewel box size cocktail bar which feels like somewhere Ernest Hemmingway would have loved.
http://thefreehand.com

Jazid
 One of oldest live music places in SoBe featuring jazz, reggae and an ever changing roster of latina groups.  http://jazid.net

WHEN TO GO

In winter, Miami Beach is one of America’s pre-eminent resorts and a favourite with fashionable New Yorkers; the weather is in the idyllic mid-70s (degrees Fahrenheit) even in the coldest months. Its 8.5-mile-long stretch of white sand can be crowded in winter, especially around South Beach (SoBe), the Art Deco district. Summer is a great time for bargain hotel rates, but the weather can be hot and humid. Also note that June 1 to November 30 is hurricane season.

GETTING AROUND

Transfers: From Miami International Airport (www.miami-airport.com), a taxi to Miami Beach takes 20 minutes. A cheaper (but longer) option is the super shuttle (305) 871 2000

Taxis: Are hard to hail on the street. Have your hotel call a taxi in advance or use Uber (www.uber.com)

Buses: The city offers a great trip planning advice line:  (305) 770 3131. In Miami Beach, buses run the length of the beach on Collins Avenue and cost US$2 each way.

Cycling: Deco Bike’s have 85 unmanned bike rental stations in Miami Beach (www.decobike.com). Rent by the hour ($6) or by the day ($24). If you want a well maintained hybrid bike with helmet and lock, a segway or inline skates, your best bet is Bike and Roll http://bikemiami.com at 210 10th Street or 1655 James Avenue (near the Lincoln Road). Prices from $15 a day.

 KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Emergency services: Dial 911.

Local road traffic accident/emergency evacuation information: Dial 511.

LOCAL LAWS & ETIQUETTE

You can turn right at a red traffic light (provided you come to a complete stop first, there is no oncoming traffic and no contradictory sign saying “no turn on red”).

In most American cities, you have to park with your car pointing in the direction of the traffic on the correct side of the road, otherwise you will be fined.

Also, avoid parking within 15ft of a fire hydrant.

Always have your passport and driver’s license with you when driving in the US, in case you get stopped by police.

© 2015

 

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