With a spritely klatch of scantily-clad models flying around a pop-up pool party, slapping around beach balls and cavorting to a live deejay's techno music, Florida’s most hyperactive playground kicked off a fitting new tourism campaign, “It’s So Miami,” on a recent balmy afternoon in New York City’s Union Square. The slogan is clearly more about reinforcing the Latin-infused city’s authority as America’s preeminent destination for escapism than proffering anything newfangled or undiscovered. But the irony of Miami’s decision to double down on its hedonistic caricature is that the city truly is emerging as a genuine cultural hub with gravitas and depth.
In concert with fast-changing neighborhoods and a dynamic culinary revolution, a crop of new luxury hotels (like the new SLS South Beach by Philippe Starck and an outpost of The James opening in October), architecturally dazzling art spaces, and a commuter rail connecting Downtown to the airport are changing perceptions. The city known for throwing a rollicking fête is undergoing a dramatic reinvention of substance. The canary in the coalmine for any metropolis on the precipice of a cultural moment is the addition of a curvaceous Frank Gehry-designed building to its skyline. In that vein, the New World Center performing arts venue debuted this year in the heart of Miami Beach, Gehry’s first contribution to the city’s landscape. 2013 will see the unveiling of the $220 million Pérez Art Museum Miami in Biscayne Bay, while the state-of-the-art Miami Science Museum (MiaSci) is slated to open next door in 2015.
For all the fun Miami’s party culture offers weekend trippers, it’s not a stretch to say that “It’s So Miami” might soon conjure a much different image than the tourism board initially intended. And what’s so wrong with that?
Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.