My travels to Miami in the past involved picking up a cruise to the Caribbean but I never took the time to visit the sights or sample the cuisine. It took my daughter’s wedding in South Beach, Florida for my family and I to explore some of what Miami and South Beach offers in a “Weekend Escape”. We stayed in South Beach but our adventure took us beyond. This visit was not hosted giving me the true perspective of a tourist.
My partners in this travel adventure were my husband, Ken, my mother Teri, friend Janie and cousin Tsilah. They succeeded in diverting our attention when needed from the eleventh hour panics before a wedding.
It was our Uber driver from Fort Lauderdale to South Beach that wowed us with his story and showing the interesting people you will meet when you least expect it. Luis was a political prisoner in Cuba. Living on the Cuban coast he was a natural born swimmer. Wanting to leave Cuba for the USA he came up with a plan in the 1980s. He and a friend decided to swim from their location in Cuba to Guantanamo Bay. Leaving at night they swam 13 miles to freedom. We were riveted in our seats listening to this moving story.
Our plane from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale had been delayed but that did not hinder us, especially since South Beach comes alive at night. Today South Beach caters to Millennials therefore the town extols a party atmosphere. It is a great place to sit at one of the outdoor cafes and people watch.
Arriving in South Beach one immediately notices that Collins Avenue, the main hotel drag dates back to the 40s and 50s when the area was in its heyday. Art Deco design typifies the architecture in South Beach, most likely towards the end of this era. A hotel that really gives off that Art Deco ambiance is the Raleigh. The wood finished lobby is reminiscent of a ship. The grounds are exquisite and the perfect locale for a wedding. If you are into very period rooms, the Raleigh is acceptable for accommodation. My preference was our hotel two doors down, the Marseilles.
The Marseilles, South Beach
A family oriented hotel, the rooms are remodeled and tastefully decorated with an Art Deco meets Post Modern flair. The Marseilles was built by architect Robert Swartburg in 1947 and now owned Lloyd Mandell, whose family has been in the hospitality business since the 1930s.
Being a lover of the Art Deco period, I enjoyed our room’s décor and found the room spacious and comfortable.
Besides a pool each guest has access to the beach. There is a resort fee that includes two beach chairs and an umbrella to use oceanside, unlimited Happy Hour drinks and beach and pool towel service.
Behind the Collins Avenue hotels is a path that is ideal for taking a leisurely walk along the ocean, riding a bicycle or roller-skating.
Wandering Wynwood Art District
A visit to Miami must include a visit to the Wynwood Arts District. The eclectic art style makes this a unique way to spend an afternoon. The murals are spectacular. We spent hours walking up and down the streets admiring the art.
Currently the area encompasses 70 galleries, 5 museums and the Wynwood Walls. It is one of the largest open-air art installations. Started in 2003 by art dealers, artists and curators. Tony Goldman who envisioned making this section of Miami more pedestrian focused created the Wynwood Walls in 2009. The art is a combination of graffiti meets street art that covers the windowless warehouse buildings in this district. The Wynwood Walls has expanded beyond the initial walls to an entire district being covered with these impressive urban art murals.
While visiting the Wynwood Arts District stop by the Wynwood Diner for lunch. The food is good and the atmosphere eclectic making it fit right in to the district.
If you are in the Wynwood area at the end of the day, a good place to enjoy listening to music, sometimes a bit loud while sipping a cocktail or glass of wine is the El Patio.
Wandering Little Havana
A trip to Miami needs at least one overly touristy attraction and we choose a visit to Little Havana. Unfortunately it was a bit muggy that day so we could not spend much time in the area but we did play tourist and picked up a T-shirt for my husband. We also observed the men playing heated games of dominoes.
Dining in South Beach and Miami
Our visit brought us to several sensational restaurants. Miami offers a diverse range of cuisine from Cuban to European to all American. In addition to restaurants and bars listed above, here are several worth mentioning.
My favorite restaurant of our visit was Seaspice. Located on the river, this restaurant has a spectacular view of Miami’s downtown skyline.
Unique to this restaurant are the yachts that pull up and dock at the restaurant with regular patrons that disembark to enjoy a meal at the restaurant. For an extra $2 a plate you can be served dinner on your boat.
The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining. If the weather is warm and balmy I highly recommend eating outside. Looking to host an event the Seaspice has an upstairs outdoor terrace with an exceptional view.
For those with dietary restrictions the restaurant is very accommodating to your needs. Chef Angel excellently prepares the enjoyable cuisine and the restaurant features an impressive wine list.
Some of the dishes we enjoyed were the Lamb Chops and the Veal Shank. Make sure not to miss out on the desserts. They are really scrumptious.
Keeping with the Art Deco design of Collins Avenue, Paris 6 takes you back in time to a bygone era. Think a French Café or Bistro meets Miami Beach and you have the Paris 6. While we were dining a Sax player entertaining us, serving as another nostalgic reminder of a more romantic time.
If you like Risotto I think Paris Bistro has one of the most extensive offers for this dish. Open 24 hours this restaurant will fit any of your gastronomical needs.
Bakerhouse Brasserie is a very popular hangout for breakfast so you must arrive early in order not to wait. After a night of wedding partying my husband and I slept in while my mother and Janie ventured out to try this bakery restaurant. My friend Janie describes the restaurant, “Darling place with indoor/outdoor seating in a quiet/beautiful part of town. Staff was on it! Very friendly and didn’t miss a beat. Took time to talk with us and give us history of the neighborhood. Food portions are large (enough for two). Avocado toast Cherry Tomatoes, Poached Egg, Gremolata on Multi-Grain Toast was so good and a great healthy option. The French toast Bananas Foster with Cheese Glaze was decadent, over the top, but delicious, a must have!” They obviously loved the food and luckily the portions were large so they brought us back a doggie bag. I have to say even lukewarm the food was fantastic. This is a restaurant definitely worth getting up early to enjoy the food.
I was pleasantly surprised with our hotel's restaurant, Gavorochet. Sitting outdoors one can enjoy breakfast or lunch. I especially enjoyed a steak salad one day while being entertained by the local mascot a squirrel, who has the guts to come right up to the table and snatch your food.
Although my visit was a short jaunt, 4 days, I was able, between partaking in wedding ceremonies, to get a good sense of flavor of Miami and South Beach. In Los Angeles I live close to the beach and Marina but sometimes it takes getting away to another coastal community to really enjoy what the coastline has to offer. I loved seeing the boats and crossing the various waterways that connect different sections of Miami. It was the perfect short getaway with family and friends. If you've lost your heart to Miami, it's a great place to call home. Looking to move to this tropical paradise? Check out the Suddath Miami moving guide to help you decide.