You say "Miami", I say "nice". That’s right— today's Miami Beach has more in common with the glamorous French Riviera than the iconic TV show, Miami Vice. Blessed with year-round sun, the ocean-lapped city of Miami draws a cosmopolitan crowd lured by boat shows, food fairs, music festivals and cultural programs, most notably Art Basel. Here’s how to spend an amazing three days or a long weekend in this glitzy city.
Start off your weekend by checking out the recently revamped Nautilus hotel, an Art Deco masterpiece designed by the arbiter of Miami style, Morris Lapidus. You can spot his 'Staircase to Nowhere' feature from a plush booth in the sunken lobby bar (where drinks are served from 3pm). Rooms with the best views overlook an ocean stretching for days, so take it all in before tearing yourself away for pre-dinner drinks at Rose Bar, located in the Delano Hotel. Revived by hotelier Ian Schrager in the 1990s, the white-on-white stunner is said to have inspired the boutique hotel trend around the world. Continue the Art Deco tour and stroll to the Shelborne Hotel, whose Sarsaparilla Club is a trendy dining spot. Helmed by Aussie chef Janine Booth, the Asian-inspired restaurant makes a mean pork belly steamed bun (the soy glazed mushroom version is excellent, too). You can’t go wrong with a few share plates, and don’t be shy to point to the banana cream cake with meringue when the dessert cart rolls by.
Ocean Drive thrives at night— neon lights, frozen cocktails, a party crowd—but this famous South Beach stretch looks even better under the morning sun when those colourful Art Deco facades shine brightly. Have breakfast at the 24-hour News Cafe, a popular gathering spot, or on the porch of the just-renovated Betsy Hotel, where you can easily while away hours over coffee and eggs. Up for more Art Deco? The nearby Wolfsonian Museum is a repository of objects dating from the Industrial Revolution—or, you can just wander in to photograph the building’s unusual tiled lobby and check out the excellent gift shop, too. Afterward, walk to Lincoln Road, where the outdoor pedestrian mall is peppered with outdoor eating spots and brand-name stores selling everything from Adidas to Zara. At some point you’ll want hit the famous surf and sand. Every morning, Nautilus staff set up loungers and umbrellas (a rental fee applies) on the beach directly in front of the hotel. Simply show up, drop your bags, work on your tan, and order snacks and drinks as you wish. Just save room for dinner at Argentine chef Francis Mallmann's Los Fuegos restaurant in Faena Hotel, a must-see for its bold, cinematic interiors imagined by hotelier Alan Faena and Australian creative duo Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann. That Moulin Rouge-slash-The Great Gatsby theme continues into the reservations-only Saxony Bar where Brad Pitt, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio have been spotted.
If it’s not too much of a stretch, set the alarm for six to catch the sunrise. Seen from the beach, it’ll just be you and the birds. The beachfront boardwalk, however, will be teeming with joggers (this place inspired the South Beach Diet, after all). Head up to 1 Hotel, an eco-chic modern addition, and ask about Sunday’s Spartan yoga. Those outdoor classes receive rave reviews. You’ll want to request a late check to enjoy a leisurely brunch at the Nautilus Cabana Club, where out of the kitchen come pastries, churrasco steak and eggs, Cuban benedict, and everyone's favourite, avocado on toast. The rosé flows freely to the sounds of Chaing y Su Trova Espiritúana band. But the revelry doesn’t end there. Come 4pm, the pool—just steps away—puts on a soiree that pulls special guest DJs and a party-ready crowd. Sprawled on daybeds, you'll be swimming and sipping drinks way past sunset. A timely point, for it prompts the following tip: When booking flights out of Miami, always opt for the latest option.
Feature image: Ocean Drive at night. (Image: Getty)