T+L's Definitive Guide to Miami
With its perfect pools, innovative young chefs, and contemporary art and nightlife scenes, this beach city is buzzier than ever.
Lay of the Land
Miami is feeling more and more like a world-class city, thanks to a revitalized urban core and neighborhoods with distinct personalities.
Miami Beach: South Beach, with its Art Deco buildings and heady nightlife, takes up the lower tip of this barrier island; farther north are the quieter high-rise hotels and condos of Mid-Beach and the luxury cocoon of Bal Harbour.
Downtown: Cultural and sports venues have given the financial district a shot in the arm. Just south, the Brickell area hums with residential and shopping developments.
Wynwood/Design District: Proof that Miami's center of gravity is shifting away from the beach: these twin neighborhoods just north of Downtown are popping with new stores, restaurants, and galleries.
T+L Insider Video: Miami Made Easy
See + Do
The city's cultural scene doesn't end with Art Basel. Here are the essential stops all year round.
De La Cruz Collection: Beverage tycoon Carlos de la Cruz and his wife, Rosa, show their extensive collection of contemporary art in a soaring, three-story space in the Design District. Free docent tours illuminate works by Mark Bradford, Wade Guyton, Rudolf Stingel, and others. On the top floor, the wit of Gabriel Orozco is juxtaposed with the anguished elegance of Félix González-Torres.
Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami: Don't judge a cultural institution by its size: small but influential MOCA stages intriguing shows by executive director Bonnie Clearwater and hotshot young curator Alex Gartenfeld, as well as permanent outdoor installations such as Mark Handforth's Electric Tree and Jack Pierson's Paradise. Next up: Tracey Emin's first U.S. solo museum exhibition, in December.
Related: T+L's Guide on Things to Do in Miami
Wolfsonian- Fiu: A thoughtful oasis amid the madness of South Beach, Micky Wolfson's collection of objects is meant to showcase the "persuasive power of art and design." You'll see propaganda posters by Ben Shahn, World's Fair souvenirs, and early- to mid-20th-century household appliances.
Wynwood Arts District: The Goldman family spurred the redevelopment of New York's SoHo and Miami's South Beach. Now they're transforming this former warehouse zone into an arts-centric community. The linchpin: the commission of impressive murals from the world's greatest street artists (Shepard Fairey; Kenny Scharf; Futura), the best of them corralled into a sort of open-air museum called Wynwood Walls. Other galleries have colonized the neighborhood—chief among them Gallery Diet, Emerson Dorsch, Fredric Snitzer, and David Castillo Gallery—followed by the inevitable hipster hangouts. Now you can order pour-overs at Panther Coffee, shop for clever design objects at Elemental, and down craft beers and $2 tacos with the locals at Wood Tavern.
The hottest tables in town for foodies (or the see-and-be seen set).
Cypress Room: Michael Schwartz, whose Michael's Genuine Food & Drink has anchored the Design District since 2007, opened this small, formal dining room nearby as a showcase for more-ambitious dishes: lamb tartare with quail egg; seared snapper with a sea urchin rouille. Mismatched china, wall-mounted deer heads, and a menu of barrel-aged cocktails keep the atmosphere light. $$$
Eating House: An unassuming space in Coral Gables—10 minutes from the airport—is the setting for exciting cooking by young chef Giorgio Rapicavoli. Dinner is a mash-up of Italian, Asian, and Southern traditions, using modern techniques (pork belly glazed in dashi caramel; tomato salad with frozen coconut milk). The brunch menu's stoner-joke dishes (Cap'n Crunch pancakes; Tang mimosas) actually work. $$
Related: T+L's Guide to Restaurants in Miami
Khong River House: Lincoln Road is the last place you'd expect to find authentic northern Thai cuisine, but those are real Chiang Mai–style khao soi noodles in coconut-milk broth on the menu. A sister restaurant to the bourbon-and-bacon hit Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Khong River is done up like a Southeast Asian farmhouse, with tin ceilings, wicker birdcages, and a bar stacked with liquor bottles. It's still South Beach, after all. $$$
PB Steak: A Fran Lebowitz quote printed on an exposed rafter here—"My favorite animal is steak"—sets the tone at the latest addition to the Pubbelly Group's mini-empire in South Beach's Purdy area. Under Edison bulbs and a huge chalkboard menu, locals dig in to tartare sliders, yellowtail-ceviche tacos, and butcher cuts of aged Black Angus. $$$
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Looking for one-of-a-kind spots? You just have to know where to go.
Bal Harbour Shops: A magnet for global big spenders (you'll hear a lot of Russian and Brazilian accents) trying on limited-edition items at stores including Chanel, Saint Laurent Paris, and Audemars Piguet. Refuel with sushi at Makoto ($$$).
Related: T+L's Guide to Shopping in Miami
Design District: Dresses and shoes may be edging out furniture and tiles, but this 12-block area still makes for interesting browsing. Pop in to the Moore Building to see Zaha Hadid's Elastika installation, which looks like the world's worst bubble-gum explosion.
Lincoln Road: Worthy finds among the big chains lining the pedestrian mall include art tomes at Books & Books; stylish men's wear at BASE; and the glass-box annex of the Alchemist, tucked into a Herzog and de Meuron–designed garage.
20th Century Row: On Northeast 125th Street, a series of showrooms specialize in Midcentury (and later) furniture and art. The best-curated: Joseph Anfuso, Stripe, and Vermillion 20th Century Furnishings.
Miami Beach is booming again. Here, the most noteworthy arrivals—and a few long-standing favorites.
Gale South Beach & Regent Hotel: If you're young and beautiful and looking for value, you're staying at the Gale, a redo of a 1941 L. Murray Dixon hotel just a block from the ocean on Collins Avenue. Nightlife is a priority here—Amy Sacco's Rec Room club thumps in the basement. Handsome rooms are white with navy blue accents; some have balconies with Persian lime trees. $
James Royal Palm: A retro vibe permeates the 393-room Deco high-rise on South Beach—terrazzo floors; mod furniture; a sky-blue and sea-green palette. Thoughtful extras include free Wi-Fi and triple-distilled water, solar-powered beach huts, and an outdoor spa area with salt-scrub stations. $$$
Related: T+L's Guide to Hotels in Miami
SLS Hotel South Beach: High celebrity wattage (eye-popping designs by Lenny Kravitz and Philippe Starck; tapas by José Andrés; LeBron James sightings) makes this 140-room hotel the center of the South Beach social scene. The sexy poolside Hyde Beach lounge helps, too. Spring for a suite; standard rooms are teensy. $$
The Raleigh: Miami is holding its collective breath to see what new owners (the SLS folks and partners) will do with the beloved Deco dowager and its glorious, scallop-edged pool. The changes so far—refreshed lobby furniture and a restaurant from Michael Schwartz—are positive. Our hope: dreary hallways and scuffed furniture will go, bohemian charm will remain. $$
The Setai: Miami Beach's most grown-up hotel has a serene atmosphere, deferential service, and graceful Asian design. The new Setai Grill is a steak house with extravagant French touches: côte du boeuf with Roquefort sauce; a caviar tin filled with layers of osetra, crème fraîche, and Florida stone crab. $$$
St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort: Across the street from the vaunted retail mecca, this opulent resort draws a well-manicured crowd who are in town to shop, spa, and relax. Beachfront yoga and fitness classes from cult trainers Tracie Wright Vlaun and Christopher Vlaun help offset all the indulgence. $$$$
W South Beach Hotel & Residences: We like the large-for-South Beach studios at this condo-hotel: 500 square feet and up, all with balconies and kitchen facilities. We love the art—co-owner Aby Rosen rotates contemporary works from his collection. On view now: Damien Hirst, Rob Pruitt, Jonathan Horowitz, and others. $$$
On the Horizon
Big international brands continue to put down roots here. Look for Como Hotels & Resorts, Edition, and Faena as well as an outpost of L.A.'s Redbury Hotel.
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
Three Miami insiders offer up their favorite finds.
Owner, Wynwood's Gallery Diet
"Visiting the Keni Valenti Gallery is dangerous for my checkbook: he's a vintage clothing dealer who collects Yves Saint Laurent, Lilly Pulitzer, and other classic designers. Locust Projects has shows by international art superstars like Theaster Gates and Miami's best talent, such as Christy Gast. My favorite Wynwood watering hole is Lester's; the owner—my husband—keeps it real with comedy nights, artist lectures, and top-notch espresso from Guatemala."
Chef at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
"I grew up in the Florida Panhandle and lived in a VW bus in St. Augustine, surfing and cooking. Miami's not known for great surfing, but when there's a swell I'll bring my board to Haulover Beach. I have a little boat, and it's fun to go fishing and then head up the Miami River to Garcia's Seafood Grille ($$) for grilled fish and oysters. And I love the old-school feel of Prima Pasta ($$), on Miami Beach—it's got pictures of celebrities on the wall and a ton of character."
Laure Hédiard Debreuil
Owner, the Webster boutique, in South Beach
"I always keep my eye on local designers, such as Nektar de Stagni—which makes witty pavé pearl earrings with smiley faces and 1970's-inspired crystal-knot necklaces—and Del Toro, in Wynwood, with its fun loafers, wing tips, and sneakers. On my days off, I like to ride my bike and swim on the beach in South of Fifth, which I refer to as Brazilian Beach, for the barely-there bikinis and striped umbrellas."
Miami moves beyond the mega-club.
Cocktail culture has invaded the land of Coronas and mojitos: hotels and restaurants now have serious mixology programs, and a profusion of lounges suits every aficionado. The young and hip head to the Broken Shaker, at the Freehand Miami hostel. Regent Cocktail Club channels Mad Men, while Radio Bar is divey, with friendly, tattooed bartenders. The Flat goes for a more sophisto-sexy vibe, with Helmut Newton photos and charcoal velvet drapes on aubergine walls.
Related: T+L's Guide to Bars in Miami
Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
Downtown North Miami plays host to this small, but mighty, Charles Gwathmey-designed museum completed in 1996. An earthy, angular structure lined dramatically with palm trees, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami bills itself as a museum on the cutting edge "where new art is discovered." The airy exhibition space houses off-beat videos and installations along with 8-10 exhibitions annually, featuring established contemporary artists like Ryan Trecartin and Danish sculptor Nina Beier. A must-see on Miami's arts scene, MOCA sponsors engaging art functions running the gamut from informative lectures to monthly jazz parties.
Base is one of the hippest—and most ecumenical—stores in Miami, where each selection is more refined than the next. The young staff models the merch and embodies Miami cool, while the wide-ranging assortment on the shelves includes L.A.M.B. bags, international magazines, Giles & Brother jewelry, Kim Jones T-shirts, a CD listening bar with albums like Federico Aubele's Panamericana and Stacey Kent's Breakfast on the Morning Tram, Puma bags, a remarkable selection of coffee table books, and everything else.
What to Buy: Miami is all about Cuban flavor, and the store carries one of the best photo books on the subject, Taschen's Inside Cuba ($50), crammed with great shots of atmospheric interiors.
Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market
Miamians love the views of pricey speedboats and overloaded cargo ships from the open-air tables set along the Miami River at this downtown joint, but the real star is the seafood. It comes fried, blackened, or grilled to perfection and is served with sweet or green plantains. At lunch or dinner, a fish-of-the-day sandwich—often grouper, one of the restaurant's standards—is enough for a meal. The place is casual, and the service is less than impeccable, but in the evenings, when the skyline of Miami looks like Babylon in the distance, Garcia's is enchanting.
Signature Dish: The grilled yellowtail—an entire fish—is a standout: always fresh, nicely cooked, and big enough for two.
Books & Books
Housed inside the Sterling Building on the Lincoln Road Mall, Books & Books is a locally owned bookstore specializing in art, design, and architecture books. The store has an impressive inventory, including everything from hardcover books to imported English gossip magazines, and the space is inviting–large windows provide natural light and ample seating provides opportunities for flipping through the pages of a potential purchase. Special events include monthly author talks and book signings, and an adjacent café serving burgers, wraps, and both vegetarian and vegan fare.
W South Beach Hotel & Residences
Miami's first W property is a major departure for the brand: all 408 spacious residences have a French bohemian aesthetic, and are done in various shades of white and gray. The W South Beach immediately shows its aspirations to chic in a gleaming lobby equipped with a 120-foot-long marble wall, and with an edgy art collection (pieces by Damien Hirst, Christopher Wool, and the like) counterpointed by campy brass screens that recall the glamour of Miami’s 1950’s heyday. Upstairs, the guest suites have Cippolino marble vanity countertops, Italian cotton velvet sofas, and photos of pop musicians by Danny Clinch.