Last week, before meeting my family in Fort Myers, Joe and I went on a quick 24-hour getaway to Miami. We don't get to South Beach often and trust me, a short day trip definitely wasn't enough. BUT if you're short on time and want to maximize your fun along that glorious stretch of white sand, follow these tips to ensure you leave feeling like you managed to snag a little culture, a little sun and a lot of cocktails.
Start your day with a coffee
Miami takes their Cuban coffee very seriously and apparently to qualify as a real Miamian, you need to grab a cup from Versailles in Little Havana. In addition to stronger-than-strong coffee, a key component of this experience is to make small talk with the viejos around you while you wait, and honestly, why wouldn't you? This is likely the wisest group of people you will ever encounter. Now if you're looking for something a little trendier, head over to Panther Coffee, an independent coffee shop located in the trendy area of Wynwood. They take their joe seriously here, curating their offerings from small farms and grinding the beans themselves on-site. Lounge in the outdoor seating area while perusing the menu of cold brews, single-origin coffees, and well-made coffee beverages, including Americanos, lattes, and because it’s Miami, cortaditos. If you didn’t have enough at breakfast (or even if you did), consider sampling one of Panther’s popular freshly baked cookies.
Art, art and more art
To take advantage of your coffee buzz, and walk off those pastries, be sure to wander through Wynwood Walls. The Wynwood Walls were conceived in 2009 by the late Tony Goldman. He was looking for something big to transform the warehouse district and he arrived at a simple idea: “Wynwood’s large stock of warehouse buildings, all with no windows, would be my giant canvases to bring to them the greatest street art ever seen in one place.” His goal was to create a center that people could gravitate to and to develop the area’s pedestrian potential. Since then these six, once-neglected buildings have since become a canvas for some of the world’s coolest graffiti art. That said, if you're more Calder than Banksy, check out the Sculpture Garden at the Perez Art Museum Miami. Featuring works by artists like Ernesto Neto and Mark di Suvero, PAMM’s Sculpture Garden displays stunning large-scale sculptures that can be enjoyed in the open air.
Lie on one of the world’s most iconic beaches
Okay, that's enough culture for one day -- time to hit the beach. Miami is home to one of the most famous (and infamous) beaches in the world and an ideal destination for daytime relaxing. With a torrid history as ground zero of Miami’s cocaine habit in the 1980s, South Beach has mainly cleaned up its act and during the day, it's a perfect locale for swimmers, sunbathers, and anyone seeking some great people-watching. Claim a spot on the sand and spend a relaxing afternoon outdoors. If you're staying at one of the hotels on Collins Avenue, take full advantage of their beach club. We stayed at the Delano and not only did the Beach Butlers set up our chairs, they do the rounds serving delicious cocktails in fresh coconuts and let me just say that I'm a BIG FAN of liquor served via fruit.
Indulge in a Luxe Hotel Experience
The Delano single-handedly made South Beach cool again back in the '90s and IMHO, I think it defines the vibe of this city - equal parts quirky and glamorous. There are definitely newer places, but I love the Delano because it is just SO Miami. From the spacious lobby, through the cascading white curtains and out to the terrace overlooking the famously pooled backyard, this decor is exactly right and it smells so, so good. Then when you head upstairs, you're met with crisp, bright white hotel rooms. I love it. Speaking of the aforementioned pool, after Joe and I got tired of the hot sand out at the beach, we wandered into the pool area, snagged two chairs and continued to drink and hang poolside. Let me just say that this pool is a total scene and provides endless people watching. If you've never been to Miami before, this just went straight to the top of your 'Must-Do' list.
Dinner Al Fresco
After a day this full, we didn't even leave for dinner and honestly why bother when Leynia is in the lobby? This Argentine/Japanese concept is spearheaded by executive chef Jose Icardi and in traditional Argentine style, the focal point on the menu are the meats cooked on an open wood-fired grill. The outdoor garden terrace is the prime place to snag a seat, but the modern interior, with soft lighting and mirrors, is just as alluring. Obviously, ordering empanadas at an Argentinean restaurant is a no brainer, but here it's basically mandatory. Whether you get a carne empanada (with Cantimpalo sausage) or a chocho empanada (corn), you'll find a delicious filling and a doughy yet crispy crust. Cheese lovers need to order the Proveloneta, a melty and savory provolone cheese dish. It’s literally a bowl of grilled, gooey cheese with vegetables, and not only is it heavenly, it's just right. I mean, if you close your eyes and breathe in deeply, you'd swear you were sitting at a steakhouse in Buenos Aires. Not in the mood for something so decadent? Order a perfectly grilled piece of steak and load up on a delicious mountain of Brussels sprouts…with crispy bacon. And to be very clear, THIS is the real reason Miami is awash in boutique gyms. It isn’t vanity, it’s an attempt to counteract the incredible food.
End Your Day on a Dance Floor
Even if its not your thing, even if you haven't been to a club in over a decade, even if you didn't pack anything even remotely appropriate, you throw on something short, toss on some mascara and find a club. You owe it to yourself and more importantly, you owe it to Miami. Some of the best nightclubs in North America are strewn across this city and you don't want to miss out on this kind of party. From LIV, Miami Beach’s most famous club (largely due to the sheer number of TMZ-worthy moments that have happened here), to E11even, a club that is literally open 24 hours a day, the club scene is so, so worth it.