Miami’s got the sun, sand and surf you’d expect from a tropical island, but with the art, food and nightlife that only big urban centres enjoy. It thrives almost as a nation unto itself – more than 60 per cent of the population speaks Spanish, and Cuban culture influences everything from politics to cocktails.
Miami’s Art Deco
Historic District is one of the world’s largest concentrations of deco
architecture. Around 1,200 period buildings line the streets around Ocean Drive
and Collins Avenue. The Art Deco Welcome Center offers a 90-minute guided tour
some of the best beaches in the USA, with white sand and turquoise water. The
beaches are informally ‘zoned’ into areas with their own unique crowds, so
everyone can enjoy them in their own way. The most famous is ‘SoBe’, South
Beach, renowned for people-watching.
As SW 8th
St heads away from downtown, it becomes Calle Ocho, and Little Havana, with a
host of Cuban bars and shops. Visit on the last Friday of the month for Viernes
Culturales, or Cultural Fridays, a street fair showcasing Latino musicians (viernesculturales.org; 7pm-11pm).
District is home to dozens of art galleries and design showrooms. On the second
Saturday of each month, there are evening gallery walks. Or drop into The Moore
Space to catch the zeitgeist (00 1 786 543 7707; themoorespace.org; 4040 NE 2nd Ave; 10am-5pm Wed-Sat;
Renaissance-style villa, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens has 70 rooms full of
centuries-old furnishings and art. The formal gardens make for a gorgeous
backdrop (00 1 305 250 9133; vizcayamuseum.org; 3251 S Miami Ave; 9.30am-4.30pm;
Eat and drink
The 11th Street
Diner is a classic art deco diner housed in a static Pullman train car. It sees
round-the-clock activity, from breakfast to late-night snacks for people
spilling out of the beachside clubs (00 1 305 534 6373; eleventhstreetdiner.com; 1065 Washington Ave; open 24 hours; mains from £5).
Road has been around since the 1920s and has the oldest liquor licence in
Miami-Dade County. It’s often the scene of impromptu jams by well-known guitar
hounds. Be sure to fill up on the Classic Road Burger (00 1 305 374 1198; tobacco-road.com; 626 S Miami Ave; lunch and dinner;
mains from £5).
is Miami’s most venerable Cuban restaurant, and a favourite with the city’s
Latin political elite. It has cafeteria-style dining rooms where you can try
roasted pork with special garlic mojo sauce (00 1 305 444 0240; 3555 SW 8th St;
lunch, dinner and late night snacks; mains from £5).
Famous Deli does it all – from pastrami melts to Chinese chicken salad – and
does it all day long. It also does it big, with huge portions (00 1 305 532
8030; jerrysfamousdeli.com; 1450 Collins Ave; open 24 hours;
mains from £6).
good reason for the long queue at Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant. Don a bib and
find out why this is Miami’s most famous spot for fresh crab claws (001 305 673
0365; joesstonecrab.com; 11 Washington Ave; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat,
dinner Sun and Mon; mains from £10).
With décor that can
only be classified as ‘brothel nouveau,’ the Whitelaw Hotel is a deco darling.
From the cool black and white lobby and bar, proceed to hot-pink rooms with
kitsch oversized bedheads and baroque furnishings (00 1 305 398 7000; whitelawhotel.com; 808 Collins Ave; from £60).
Michel has real old-world charm. Rooms are filled with period furniture and
marble bathrooms have classic chrome fittings (00 1 305 444 1666; hotelstmichel.com; 162 Alcazar Ave; from £90).
and art deco façade don’t hint at anything unusual, but the decorators went
wild inside the Pelican. Rooms come in a variety of outré themes from the Best
Whorehouse, with purple and silver wallpaper and red and gold trim, to the
rigorously black and white Executive Zebra suite (00 1 305 673 3373; pelicanhotel.com; 826 Ocean Dr; from £95).
Biltmore is a National Historic Landmark. The grand Venetian styling makes for
huge, elegant public rooms, while bedrooms have white-on-gold colour schemes
and king-size beds. In the tropical garden, you’ll find the largest hotel pool
in the country (00 1 305 445 1926; biltmorehotel.com; 1200 Anastasia Ave; from £120).
Schrager’s Delano epitomises Miami’s brash, glitzy style. The lobby, with its
off-thescale furniture and billowing gossamer curtains, feels straight out of
Alice in Wonderland. Relax in the rooftop spa or in the private poolside
cabana. Or sip cocktails in the piano bar designed by Lenny Kravitz (00 1 305
672 2000; delano-hotel.com; 1685 Collins Ave; from £215).
You can walk around
the Art Deco District and South Beach. Further afield, Miami-Dade Transit runs
the local Metrobus and Metrorail (£1.50 per trip), as well as the free
Metromover monorail serving downtown (miamidade.gov/transit).
When to go
February is high season, with warm, dry weather, kicking off in December with
the huge Art Basel exhibition (artbaselmiamibeach.com). A good time to visit is
March and April, when you’ll catch good weather and the Calle Ocho festival,
the culmination of Miami’s carnival (carnavalmiami.com).
The article 'Mini guide to Miami, Florida' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.