Excerpt...Quick Escapes Florida Ordering Information
MIAMI ESCAPE ONE
Miami Beach's South Beach
An Art Deco Getaway
Even if you live or are vacationing nearby, South Beach is still a neon-hot destination for a quick escape. With the nation's largest Art Deco historic district, the trendiest of accommodations options, creative chefs in varied restaurants, designer shopping, and the nonstop action of the ever-so-wide beach, the aqua Atlantic, and Ocean Drive's people-watching, SoBe is the place to be. It's like visiting a movie set (a la Birdcage), but this setting is ever so real.
South Beach is enjoying a tourism and economic boom that springs from the refurbishment of the area's Art Deco District. From cafes and clubs along Ocean Drive, Washington Avenue, and Lincoln Road to the hot hotels and restaurants everywhere, South Beach is sizzling with the vibrant colors of Art Deco architecture and style.
The Art Deco Historic District, the first 20th century neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places, has the highest concentration of Art Deco architecture in the world. It takes up about one square mile of South Beach, with most of it found between 5th Street and 23rd Street. Thanks to the work of the Miami Design Preservation League and many hard-working locals, lot of the buildings have been saved from demolition and refurbished for all to enjoy as hotels, restaurants, shops, living space, and public buildings.
One of the best ways to tour the Art Deco Historic District is through a walking tour run by the Miami Design Preservation League (outlined below) or another organized tour by foot, bike, car, or bus. With a tour, you'll get a true sense of the history and flavor of the buildings, providing a perfect introduction for returning later to favorite buildings for closer inspection.
Once you've explored the colorful buildings of South Beach, you can pursue as little or as much as you desire. The choices include: swimming, sunning, and people-watching on the wide beach; strolling, biking, or roller-blading along Ocean Drive and Lummus Park; shopping until you drop; finding a favorite restaurant; or dancing the night away in one of many hot nightclubs. You'll never be bored in South Beach.
The best way to reach South Beach from Miami and the rest of South Florida is by driving east on I-395 off of I-95. It's called the MacArthur Causeway and leads right past the towering cruise ships in the Port of Miami on your right. This provides an up-close view of the busiest cruise ship port in the world. I-395 ends on 5th Street, right at the foot of South Beach. To reach Ocean Drive, just follow 5th Street to the end and turn left.
Try to arrive mid- to late-afternoon, so you'll have some time to stroll Ocean Drive before the nighttime crowds begin. It's also less-crowded on the beach during the week. Whenever you head down to the beach, be sure to check out the brightly painted and architecturally unique array of lifeguard stands all along the strand.
Dinner: It's a good night to walk to a restaurant on Ocean Drive. Located at the Ocean Front Hotel (see below), Les Deux Fontaines (1230-38 Ocean Drive; 305-672-7878; moderate to expensive), brings a bit of Paris to Ocean Drive. Though quite unpretentious, the brasserie-style restaurant is popular with the likes of neighbor Gianni Versace. The impeccable elevated terrace overlooking Ocean Drive is the setting for a meal that features generally low-fat health conscious fresh and flavorful Provencal-style cuisine. Veterans swear by the Ceviche de Grouper or Melon Champagne and Mint Soup to start, followed by the Snapper Provencal or Veal Valparaiso.
Lodging: There are many excellent Art Deco hotels in a wide range of styles and prices. If you want to stay in the heart and soul of South Beach and tend to enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life, Ocean Drive is your best bet. There are also many other excellent options on Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and further afield.
One of my favorite spots here is the Pelican Hotel (826 Ocean Drive; 305-673-3373 or 800-7-PELICAN; moderate), was the first property created by Diesel Jeans International. It's like a perfect South Beach rendition of the company's eccentric advertising campaigns. All 25 rooms have been furnished, decorated, and named with their own style. Examples include the Psychedelic room, made with plastic furniture and posters from the 70s; the African room, with a triumph of Zebra stripes furnished in old safari style; and a tribute to the American flag, the Stars and Stripes room. Other favorites include Best Whorehouse, Halfway to Hollywood, and Me Tarzan, You Vain. There are also three executive oceanfront suites, featuring the styles of the 30s, 50s, and 60s.
If you're up to the club scene on your first night, check out the recommendations covered for Day 2.
Breakfast: For breakfast with the locals and in-the-know visitors, head just down the street to News Cafe (800 Ocean Drive; 305-531-0392; inexpensive to moderate). Grab a paper or magazine, sit inside or outside, and choose from a wide variety of breakfast items that are available 24 hours a day.
Be sure to be finished before 10:30 a.m , so you can head back up Ocean Drive to the Art Deco Welcome Center (1001 Ocean Drive; 305-672-2014; charge for walking tour). This is where the Saturday morning walking tour, sponsored by the Miami Design Preservation League, starts. While you wait, you'll enjoy browsing through the plethora of information, books, t-shirts, and much more.
The 1 1/2-hour walking tour typically includes lots of history about the buildings, anecdotes about preservation efforts, and a few remarkable interior views. For most visitors, it ends much too quickly and they usually head back out on their own. It's also available on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m..
If you're not into a morning walk, other touring options include: biking tours with Art Deco Cycling Tour (601 5th Street; 305-672-2014 or 305-674-0430); car tours with Deco Tours Miami Beach (420 Lincoln Road, Suite 412; 305-531-4465); and a wide variety of options with Miami Nice Sightseeing Tours (19250 Collins Avenue; 305-949-9180). Of course, spending the rest of the morning at the wide and active beach is also a fun option.
Lunch: Of course, Joe's Stone Crab (227 Biscayne Street; 305-673-0365; moderate to expensive) leads the list of South Beach eateries and for good reason. Quite simply, if you go to South Beach (or anywhere in South Florida, for that matter), you must go to Joe's. This legendary restaurant was famous before South Beach was a glimmer in Hollywood's intense lenses (one ad campaign states, "Before SoBe, Joe Be"). But nightly crowds mean a Saturday lunch is the perfect time to try it.
Family owned and operated for the past 80 years, veteran visitors and locals still love the sweet taste of fresh stone crabs, but they also enjoy some secrets (steaks, chops, and salads). Don't leave without trying the key lime pie. You can usually avoid two-hour waits by going there for lunch or early or late dinner (5:00-6:30 p.m. or 10:00-11:00 p.m.). There's also a new Joe's Take Away & Coffee Bar, as well as FedEx delivery to anywhere in the continental U.S. (800-780-CRAB).
Saturday afternoon is a good time for some culture or shopping, in that some museums and shops are closed on Sundays. Though some would say that South Beach's culture is limited to people-watching on Ocean Drive, there's much more to this vibrant area, thanks to many creative minds and souls.
Some possibilities for those in-the-know include: the numerous art galleries on Lincoln Road, (contact the Lincoln Road Partnership, 924 Lincoln Road, Suite 200; 305-531-3442); the Bass Museum of Art (2100 Park Avenue; 305-673-7530; admission charge), an Art Deco building, with 14th to 20th century art; the Wolfsonian (1001 Washington Avenue; 305-531-1001; admission charge), a huge and eclectic collection of virtually anything from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries; and the Sanford L. Ziff Jewish Museum of Florida (301 Washington Avenue; 305-672-5044; admission charge), with an interesting overview of Jewish history in Florida.
With so many fashion models and famous people (some of whom are fashion models living here), it's natural that the shopping choices suit their tastes. Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, Lincoln Road, and the accompanying cross streets provide the swankiest shopping streets.
The most popular shopping spots include Gianni Versace, Armani Exchange, Kenneth Cole, Banana Republic, Succa, Nicole Miller, A.B.S., and Island Trading, all of which (and many more) are on or near Ocean Drive, Collins, or Washington. But there's also huge roster of eclectic boutiques on Lincoln Road (e.g., Books & Books and Pink Palm Company), which ideal for strolling and spending.
Dinner: If you ate on Ocean Drive your first night, this is an ideal time to head up to Lincoln Road for an evening of window-shopping (many stores stay open late) and dining. Lincoln Road has rebounded to become one of South Beach's best dining and shopping spots, featuring a 10-block retail district stretching from ocean to bay (including a sharply renovated seven-block pedestrian mall). Many Lincoln Road afficionados shop until they drop into one of many excellent restaurants.
Though residents and visitors may never have dreamed of trading their stone crabs for Mongolian lamb salad, they are definitely finding the time to try Pacific Time (915 Lincoln Road; 305-534-5979; moderate to expensive). Serving what chef/co-owner Jonathan Eismann calls "Asian-influenced American food with a 'French head'," Pacific Time puts out masterful food in a soaring space, where South Beach surfers sit next to Hollywood elite. Eismann combines the American affinity for experimentation with the spices, flavors, and textures of Far East, resulting in dishes like Cedar Roast Atlantic Salmon. While Atlantic salmon rubbed with olive oil and roasted in the oven on a cedar plank epitomizes western ingredients and cooking style, the raw, salted salmon rolls lend an eastern sensibility to the dish. An east/west mustard sauce, blending French pommerey and Japanese wasabi, finishes the concept.
Even if you're not lured by the lofts of Van Dyke Loftel (see "Other Recommended Restaurants & Lodgings" below), be sure to have a drink at the Van Dyke Cafe (846 Lincoln Road; 305-534-3600; moderate), which has become a Lincoln Road magnet. The Van Dyke's sister restaurant, News Cafe (see above), is a busy all-day magnet Ocean Drive for creative cafe fare and the Van Dyke Cafe is just as popular.
After dinner, evening entertainment options are diverse. There is a wide variety of performances at the stunning Jackie Gleason Theater (1700 Washington Avenue; 305-673-7300), or a host of scheduled events with Lincoln Road's acclaimed Miami City Ballet (905 Lincoln Road; 305-532-7713), or New World Symphony (541 Lincoln Road; 305-673-3331).
The other option is to take advantage of the active club scene that's prevalent throughout South Beach. Keep in mind, however, that much of the activity doesn't even get started until midnight. From foam parties to Latin-style dancing 'til the wee hours, clubs like Bang, Van Dome, Amnesia, Bash, the Cleveland Bar, Kremlin (gay), Berlin, Glam Slam, Groove Jet, Liquid, 821 (gay), and 841 are all hot to nighttime-trotters. To avoid disappointment or embarassment, be sure to call first to see what's happening at particular clubs on particular nights, as well as to make sure the club hasn't closed or moved in this quickly-changing entertainment environment. Tara Solomon's column in Thursday's Miami Herald and the weekly New Times are also great club resources.
Lodging: Of course, it's easiest just to stay at the Pelican Hotel for a second night, but it's also easy to a another nearby hotel for a different South Beach overnight experience suggested below.
Sunday mornings on the beach are a particularly nice and quiet time for a stroll along the sandy shore. A two-mile-long boardwalk starts at 23rd street, if you're up for a longer walk.
Breakfast: Sunday morning breakfast is also popular at the News Cafe (see Day 2), but a special treat is available two blocks over on Washington Avenue. The Astor Hotel's restaurant, Astor Place Bar & Grill (956 Washington Avenue; 305-531-8081; moderate), is already one of Washington Avenue's most popular eateries and is a wonderful spot for Sunday brunch.
For brunch, lunch, and dinner, restaurateur Dennis Max has created a menu that can be best described as "Cowboy Caribbean," fusing grilled, smoked, or spit-fire meats, poultry, fruits, and tasty BBQ sauces with tropical ingredients like boniato, jicama, scotch bonnet pepper, yuca, and stone crab. Be sure to try the Zarzuela, a succulent stew of fresh Florida lobster, clams, local fish, shrimp, scallops, yuca, and peppers, in a habanero-mango broth (yes, this is a brunch item). There's also popular live entertainment to accompany brunch.
The rest of the day can be spent on the beach; visiting museums missed on Saturday (check to see if they're open on Sundays); shopping (South Beach stores are generally open Sunday afternoons); or walking along busy Ocean Drive and Lummus Park, which are popular Sunday afternoon hangouts.
Heading back to Miami proper is easy. Just go back down to 5th Street, turn right, and take I-395 to downtown or I-95.
Other sightseeing attractions: The Holocaust Memorial (1933 Meridian Avenue; 305-538-1663; no entrance fee) is a stirring memorial that includes a bronze sculpture that depicts Holocaust victims crawling up a huge open hand to freedom, pictures from concentration camps, and the etched names of many victims. It's just across the street from the helpful information counter and shop of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Sightseeing by air: Pan Am Air Bridge (1000 MacArthur Causeway; 305-371-8628) offers floatplane sightseeing tours of the Miami Beach and further afield, as well as flights to Bimini (Miami Escape 15). Action Helicopter (1901 Brickell Avenue, B602; 305-358-4723) offers a wide range of sightseeing trips.
In-line skating: One of the most popular activities in South Beach is in-line skating. If you didn't bring your own, rent what you need at Skate 2000 (1200 Ocean Drive; 305-538-8282) or Fritz's Skate Shop (726 Lincoln Road Mall; 305-532-1954).
Bicycling: Along with the Art Deco biking tours mentioned above, rental bikes from Gary's Megacycle (1260 Washington Avenue; 305-534-3306), or Miami Beach Bicycle Center (601 5th Street; 305-674-0150), also offer a convenient way to get around South Beach for a day or more.
Watersports: For watersports enthusiasts, there are vendors all along the beach that rent equipment for windsurfing, sailing, and jet skis. For inland boating along Indian Creek and Biscayne Bay, head up to Beach Boat Rentals (2380 Collins Avenue; 305-534-4307). For boating (and gambling) further afield, you may check into a short lunch or dinner cruise with Sea Kruz (1280 5th Street; 305-538-8300). Golfers can enjoy a fun short course at the Bayshore Par Three Golf Course (2975 Praire Avenue; 305-674-0305).
Fitness: If you want to keep up with all of the other hardbodies of South Beach, fitness facilities include: Club body Tech (1253 Washington Avenue; 305-674-8222); Gridiron Club (1676 Alton Road; 305-531-4743); and South Beach Gym (1020 Ocean Drive; 305-672-7499), where you enjoy and ocean view and are just steps away from a cold drink at the ever-popular Clevelander Bar.
Scuba diving: The artificial reefs (intentionally sunk ships and other items) make for surprisingly interesting dive sites. The marine life drawn to these reefs, as well as the unique structures, have made Miami Beach into a wreck diving mecca. Some good contacts include: Bob's Boat (Miami Beach Marina; 305-535-8334 or 800-657-2BOB); Team Divers, Miami Beach Marina; 305-673-3483); R J Diving Ventures (5332 Pine Tree Drive; 305-864-3040); and H2O Scuba (160 Sunny Isles Boulevard; 305-956-3483).
January. Art Miami attracts a huge crowd of artists and buyers to the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 220-2690.
Art Deco Weekend is a four-day festival, with music, other entertainment, special events, and food along Ocean Drive. (305) 672-2014.
February. The Miami International Boat Show consistently attracts more than 250,000 boat lovers to the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 531-8140.
The Original Miami Beach Antique Show packs the Miami Beach Convention Center with a wide variety of antiques and dealers. (305) 754-4931.
March. The World's Largest Indoor Flea Market brings bargains to the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 651-9530.
The Feast on the Beach brings fantastic food from around the world to South Pointe Park. (305) 672-1270.
April. The Yamaha Outboards Miami Billfish Tournament at the Miami Beach Marina draws old (and young) men to the sea in search of the big one that won't get away. (305) 561-2868.
May. The Miami Home Show features a wide array of home-oriented products at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 673-7311.
The Antique Jewelry & Watch Show sparkles and ticks at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 754-4931.
June. The World's Largest Indoor Flea Market returns (see March) the bargains to the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 651-9530.
October. The International Women's Show features an array of events, booths, and products for females. (800) 849-0248.
The Antique Jewelry & Watch Show sparkles and ticks again (see May) at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 754-4931.
November. The huge South Florida Auto Show zooms into the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 758-2643.
The Baron's Antique Show feature more old stuff at the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 754-4931.
December. The World's Largest Indoor Flea Market returns again (see March and June) the bargains to the Miami Beach Convention Center. (305) 651-9530.
Other Recommended Restaurants and Lodgings
The list of additional restaurant and accommodations possibilities in South Beach is long and distinguished. Just pick any other place to eat or stay that seems to suit your style.
Ocean Drive offers many other fine dining spots, with locals and visitors strolling the busy sidewalks and making their dining choice by the look of the interior or the looks of the posted menus. If you're staying at The Pelican Hotel, as recommended, and don't feel like heading out of to eat, The Pelican Cafe (826 Ocean Drive; 305-673-3373; moderate), is another of many great Ocean Drive choices. Chef Peter Masiello prepares his world cuisine versions of entrees like New Zealand Baby Lamp Chops (roasted with rosemary and balsamic reduction, mashed potatoes, and spinach).
Right on Ocean Drive, A Fish Called Avalon (700 Ocean Drive; 305-532-1727; moderate), serves some of the areas best fresh seafood; both Caffe Milano (850 Ocean Drive; 305-532-0707; expensive) and I Paparazzi (940 Ocean Drive; 305-531-3500; moderate) serve excellent northern Italian fare; and Allioli South Beach Cafe (1300 Ocean Drive; 305-538-0553; moderate) specializes in Mediterranean cuisine.
Over on Washington Avenue, along with Astor Place Bar & Grill mentioned above, China Grill (404 Washington Avenue; 305-532-2211; expensive) is the hottest choice. Chef Ephraim Kadish has invented a number of dishes that intermingle Italian, Japanese, French, Chinese, and American ingredients. Other excellent Washington Avenue eateries include: modern American at the red-hot Mercury (764 Washington Avenue; 305-532-0070; expensive); terrific Thai dishes at Ruen Thai Restaurant (947 Washington Avenue; 305-534-1504; moderate); and down-home American cooking at Lulu's Restaurant (1053 Washington Avenue; 305-532-6147; inexpensive).
Up on Lincoln Road, other creative options include casual Caribbean cooking at Norma's On the Beach (646 Lincoln Road; 305-532-2809; moderate) and nouveau Cuban cuisine at Yuca (501 Lincoln Road; 305-534-4292; expensive). Over on Collins Avenue, the Raleigh Hotel features the 'new American' cuisine of Marc Lippman at the Raleigh Restaurant (1775 Collins Avenue; 305-534-6300; moderate to expensive). Even further afield, if you have time, try meal (or a night, see below) at Indian Creek Hotel's Pan Coast Restaurant (2727 Indian Creek Drive; 305-531-2727; expensive), where native chef Mary Rohan whips out her favorite Pan-Asian and Caribbean dishes.
On the lodging front, the choices are even more extensive. The Ocean Front Hotel (1230-38 Ocean Drive; 305-305-672-2579; moderate to expensive) is another other excellent Ocean Drive option. Located in a quieter stretch of this busy street, the Ocean Front offers just 23 oceanview or oceanfront rooms, as well as four with city views, all of which are soundproof. The oceanfront superior deluxe room, with an oceanfront balcony, is an excellent choice. The penthouse suite is simply one of the finest options (and views) in South Florida.
Situated on the southern end of Ocean Drive, the Century Hotel, (140 Ocean Drive; 305-305-674-8855; inexpensive to moderate), offers tropical touches like mosquito-netted beds, painted wood floors, and an ever-present gecko logo. The Park Central Hotel (640 Ocean Drive; 305-538-1611 or 800-PARK CENTRAL; moderate) is another excellent Ocean Drive address. This member of the Historic Hotels of America features oceanview windows, ceiling fans, period furniture, and many other reminder's of what drew the continent's chick and famous to the hotel in the 1930s. Other solid Ocean Drive choices include: the suite (and more costly) life at Casa Grande Suite Hotel (834 Ocean Drive; 305-672-7003 or 800-OUTPOST; expensive); the classic 106-room Colony Hotel (736 Ocean Drive; 305-673-0088 or 800-226-5669; moderate); the beachfront La Voile Rouge (455 Ocean Drive; 305-531-4107 or 800-528-6455; moderate to expensive); and the very lively and busy Clevelander Hotel (1020 Ocean Drive; 305-531-3485; moderate).
Though many ill-informed visitors think of South Beach and Ocean Drive as synonomous, you definitely don't have to stay on the ocean to get the full flavor of this multi-street mecca. In fact, many knowledgeable visitors head inland for a bit more sedate stay. Located on Washington Avenue, two blocks off Ocean Drive, Hotel Astor (956 Washington Avenue; 305-531-8081 or 800-270-4981; moderate), provides a perfect example of the possibilities. This intimate 42-room hotel has attained a casual elegance typically associated with only the finest European-style concierge hotels. The eight one-bedroom junior suites are a great value at this Washington Avenue hideaway.
On Collins Avenue, a block off Ocean Drive and in the heart of South Beach, the Marlin Hotel (1200 Collins Avenue; 305-673-8770 or 800-OUTPOST; moderate) is the brainchild of Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records. The funky hotel has just 12 units, ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites. Just choose your color: shrimp pink in the Barbie room; vibrant yellows, blues, and ochres in the Mexican room; or violet in the African room, which is filled with original Jamaican, Haitian, and Cuban artwork.
Up on Lincoln Road, the Van Dyke Loftel (846 Lincoln Road; 305-534-3600 or 800-OUTPOST; expensive), offers two of the most unusual and lesser-known rooms in all of South Beach (or the world, for that matter). For a well-spent splurge of $650 per night, guests enjoy an incredible 2,500-square-foot Soho-style penthouse or garden loft, panoramic views, full kitchen, hair salon and spa, full butler service, and all the liveliness of Lincoln Road.
If you want to stay completely away from the South Beach bustle, but still enjoy the proximity and flavor of the Art Deco District, look no further than the Indian Creek Hotel (2727 Indian Creek Drive; 305-531-2727; inexpensive to moderate). Indian Creek melds the graciousness of a small European hostelry with the informal charm of a Key West guesthouse.
For More Information
Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, 1920 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139. (305) 672-1270.
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, 701 Brickell Avenue, Suite 2700, Miami, FL 33131. (305) 539-3063 or (800) 283-2707.