Miami Beach is one of the most colourful cities I've ever visited — both literally and figuratively. I recently had the pleasure of staying in South Beach for five days for one of my best friends' weddings and I was smitten! Sorbet-coloured Art Deco buildings, neon nightclubs and hotels, and barely-there hot pink bikinis: South Beach is a visual feast.
Musicians like Will Smith and LMFAO have serenaded Miami, paying homage to its vibrant — albeit over-the-top — go-all-night party scene. They weren't lying. When did New York City lay claim to the moniker "the city that never sleeps"? The good part is, if you tire quickly (like I do) the beach is always waiting with open arms.
Then there's the architecture. I've always adored the Art Deco style and you won't find more of it anywhere than in South Beach. What I did learn is that it's not all actually Art Deco. There are four predominant styles of architecture in South Beach: Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, Streamline Moderne and Miami Modern (MiMo). Walking along Ocean Drive amidst all those sun-washed 1930s buildings is a major time warp. Where were Carey Grant and Ingrid Bergman and why was I not lounging about in a slinky white dress, a long cigarette dangling from my fingers?
Both The Marlin and The Essex House, above, are good examples of the Streamline Moderne style, which emphasizes curved forms and horizontal lines.
There is so much to see and do in Miami, and like most holidays, we could have stayed longer. If you're only in town for a few days like we were, here are my top picks. I dare you not to do your best Will Smith "Miami" rendition upon arrival.
1. Ocean Drive
This is an obvious one, but it must be mentioned. Home to the Ferrari and silicone set, it makes for some great people-watching. Go for a nighttime stroll to see the entire strip transformed into a neon blur, and grab a drink at one of the sidewalk cafés. Don't miss iconic hotels like The Colony and The Breakwater.
2. Lummus Park to South Pointe Park
My boyfriend and I have become big fans of renting bikes when we travel to new cities. It's a great way to see things and cover some ground. You can pick them up at the north end of the beach and ride through Lummus Park to South Pointe Park, the southernmost part of South Beach. Drop them off and dive headlong into the surf afterwards to cool down.
3. The Delano
The Delano epitomizes Miami: exclusive, surreal and over-the-top. This Philippe Starck hotel greets guests with a grand foyer, several swanky bars, like the Umi Sushi & Sake Bar above, and an outdoor restaurant. After dinner, take a walk through the whimsical Orchard and sip a mojito in a crochet hammock.
4. The Raleigh
This hotel and restaurant is just as stylish as The Delano, but with a bit more charm and intimacy (read: great date spot). Grab a small table out on The Royal's balmy garden patio and slurp down oysters and prosecco under the tropical canopy.
5. The Webster
If you've got some money to burn and the good taste to go with it, stop by The Webster and let your credit card do the talking. This three-storey boutique and café is reminiscent of Colette in Paris and stocks some amazing fashion brands as well as a carefully curated selection of art and design books. We were staying right next door and had a brush with fame when Kim and Kanye closed down the store for some private shopping.
You may remember this stainless steel railroad-style dining car from the opening scene of Will Smith's "Miami" video or from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. We stopped by for some burgers and a strawberry shake — yes, with two straws — for a retro date.
If you're reading this, there's a good chance you're into art and design, in which case, you'll want to make a trip to the Design District. Just across the water from Miami Beach, this stylish 4-block radius boasts plenty of design boutiques, both quirky and high-end. If you're feeling adventurous, take a cab to the nearby Wynwood art district after and peruse some of the independent galleries. Warning: it's best to know which ones you want to go to beforehand and cab straight there because the neighborhood is up-and-coming, i.e.; not the most tourist friendly!