Before visiting Miami for the first time, I pictured impossibly blue water, and that’s about it. Imagine my surprise upon discovering just how many other colors paint this city, from the pinks and whites of South Beach’s nostalgia-inducing Art Deco architecture to the neon-bright personalities of local characters.
The art explosion taking place here is not just hype. Like New York or London, Miami’s museums, galleries and public exhibitions are worth wandering through. Unlike those sometimes-freezing cities, Miami is also a warm weather playground begging you to relax. Time moves at a different pace here, meaning a day of lounging by the pool can slip into happy hour and a leisurely late-night dinner can morph into a memorable night of partying before you even realize what’s happening.
Here, our guide to a weekend in Miami attempts to strike a balance between a stereotypical (and often much-needed) beach vacation and an exploration into the vibrant culture in this one-of-a-kind city.
Miami is ripe with places to drop your bags, but if you’re in search of the ultimate over-the-top extravagance, the Fontainebleau is calling. The resort has been a well-known destination for decadence since it first opened in 1954, and if you haven’t seen the property since its $1 billion renovation in 2008, you’re missing out. Two new towers hold over-the-top suites like the Sorrento Penthouse, where you’ll have five bedrooms and a private pool overlooking the ocean.
Or, in the spirit of exploring something new (while still staying in the most luxurious of accommodations) try the island oasis that is The Standard Spa. This Belle Isle hotel is less party palace and more relaxation retreat, complete with a Turkish-style hamam, yoga classes, acupuncture and beyond. Though only minutes away, putting a bit of water between yourself and the South Beach scene is a sure way to bring something different to your Miami weekend.
Get some sun and a rush of adrenaline while riding a jet ski. American Watersports is located on the bay side of Miami Beach, so you won’t be riding amongst a crowd of beachgoers swimming in the ocean. If you opt for their guided tour, you’ll also get to check out some serious real estate porn while circling Star Island, Fisher Island and more.
If you’re not used to the heat, it’s always good to have an indoor activity on your list of options for the afternoon. The Perez Art Museum opened in 2013, a testament to the explosive growth of Miami’s art world in recent years. Currently on view is “Julio Le Parc: Form into Action” the first solo exhibition from the Argentinian kinetic artist. The museum’s restaurant, Verde, is the perfect lunch spot with a light, seasonal menu and an amazing view of Biscayne Bay.
Dine in style at Villa Azur, an opulent space with a rich, Italian and Mediterranean-inspired menu crafted by Chef Erwin Mallet. Arrive early for a more relaxed meal, or later (as the locals do) to be there as the music from DJ Stephan M gradually gains momentum. This is the kind of place where you might find yourself dancing until the sun comes up.
After a whirlwind day and night, it’s okay, ideal even, to keep things low key on Sunday. For a breakfast that feels like an escape to a European boulangerie, I recommend Rosetta’s Bakery on Collins Ave. Rows and rows of fresh, nutella-filled pastries and next-level cappuccino await you at this adorable outpost.
Or, head to Wynwood Kitchen and Bar for a double dose of Miami staples—Latin-inspired food enjoyed under the gaze of the neighborhood’s most famous murals. The restaurant features work from Shepard Fairey inside, and the outside seating is adjacent to the Wynwood Walls, the official collection of large-scale murals and graffiti.
The vibrant colors of Wynwood don’t stop outside the area known as the Walls. Walking up and down side streets is a worthwhile and inspiring way to pass the afternoon. There’s plenty to see (and Instagram), and cute shops to pop into to cool off. When you’ve seen your fill of graffiti, grab a seat at Wood Tavern, an outdoor craft beer bar covered in art and reminiscent of a skate park.
End things with a cocktail followed by a relaxed dinner at Klima in Miami Beach. The Latitude 41 and the Gaudi’s Punch are both light and delicious sips, and the bar area is reminiscent of a charming living room complete with rich leather couches. For dinner, enjoy tapas like Spanish octopus and croquetas in the garden area.
Top image courtesy of Fontainebleau.