From high art and design to remote beaches, the "Magic City" lives up to its name
A sparkling melting pot located at the bottom tip of Florida, Miami is an exciting playground with international appeal. From its historic Art Deco glory days in the 1920s to its current position as the home to Art Basel, Miami has always been way more than simply a city on the sea. There are abundant opportunities to learn on a wider cultural scale thanks to its close proximity to Cuba and South America, and the city proudly fosters the fusion of these myriad cultures with well-conceived museums, design districts and restaurants. But the real beauty lies in the fact that in Miami, almost anything goes, and there's no place in the US that makes it so easy kick back and escape from everyday life. Take in some world class art, grab some fresh local cuisine, hit the beach and enjoy the fruits of this multifarious town.
Of the many South Beach hotels, only the Raleigh truly continues to channel the bygone glamour of South Beach culture with its opulent and relaxed atmosphere. Conveniently located in the heart of the area, it's discreet enough for those seeking a low-key retreat but also makes a good home-base for party hopping and shopping. Next door is the almost equally hip Delano Hotel, and just a few blocks further lies Lincoln Road. One of the best features of the Raleigh, its pool makes a great setting for scenesters and celebs to lounge through the afternoon after some quality time spent hitting the waves at the beach, which is just a few feet beyond the hotel confines. Prepare for time by the water by stepping inside the hotel for a visit to the Raleigh Boutique, which offers a steadfast supply of swimsuits, sunglasses and beach toys, or take a break at the baroque pool deck with fare from Restaurant Michael Schwartz.
Run by a charming French expat, La Sandwicherie makes deliciously fresh sandwiches, best eaten at their picnic table seating. Open until 5am, it's a great spot to hit up after a night out on South Beach or really anytime you're craving a Euro-inspired meal, like turkey with camembert or pate on a croissant. Their delicious fruit shakes, juices and smoothies are great refreshers too after some time in the sun at the beach just a few blocks away. La Sandwicherie is also conveniently close to Washington Avenue, a gritty but entertaining thoroughfare lined with souvenir shops, tattoo parlors and dive bars. Activity seekers can also fuel up at La Sandwicherie and rent a bike at the nearby Bike and Roll, which enables one of South Beach's best activities—cruising the residential tree-lined streets for an architectural tour of the Art Deco homes that make this beachside neighborhood particularly special. Or walk down three blocks to take in some high-end art on the beach at the Wolfsonian Museum.
A nine-mile long freshwater swamp teeming with exotic wildlife, Coopertown's airboat is an "only in Florida" experience, offering an up-close view of the Everglades. The family-run establishment uses a boat originally intended for frog hunting, keeping the tradition alive with an on-site restaurant known for super tasty fried frog legs. Feel like the opening scene of CSI Miami as you cruise along in at swift speeds looking for nature's primitive creature and the mascot of Florida, the alligator.
Created by a trio of French fashion veterans, The Webster offers a well-edited collection of of coveted men's and women's labels like A.P.C., Visvim, Osklen and many more. Located inside the eponymous Henry Hohauser-designed Art Deco hotel, the 20,000 square foot tri-level boutique also houses famed Parisian restaurant Caviar Kaspia, for a fully indulgent experience. Steps from the beach, The Webster's rooftop offers expansive views of the sparkling sea and a beckoning atmosphere. The upscale shop is also conveniently situated just a few blocks from South Beach's major outdoor shopping promenade, Lincoln Road, which is home to more accessible stores like J. Crew, Ricky's, Lacoste and more, as well as an array of cafes, restaurants a movie theater and the parking garage-turned-retail space known simply by its address 1111 Lincoln Road. Balance out the shopping while taking refuge from the crowds on Collins Avenue by heading to South Beach's Historic Spanish Village on the clandestine Espanola Way, only a few streets away from The Webster. Stop by Tapas Y Tintos for classic Spanish snacks and Old World charm.
Wading through the myriad of fine dining options along South Beach can be daunting. Housed in the exclusive and impeccably designed Soho Beach House, Cecconi's offers the quintessential South Beach dining experience; offering a relaxed luxury with plenty of fresh air. Chef Sergio Sigala—originally from the Italian Alps—focuses on simple, yet masterfully prepared northern Venetian dishes with freshness the priority. With a focus on using only the best ingredients, Sigala's menu changes with the seasons, from sourcing the hardest-to-find black truffles to the freshest catch of the day. While Cecconi's is not limited to seafood, it is the restaurant's strong suit. An appetizer of grilled octopus with lemon, capers and olives is a revelation, with the char of the grill providing a balance with the natural sweetness of the meat. While food is number one at Cecconi's, in South Beach atmosphere is a close second. A truly indoor-outdoor layout gives the entire dining room an open air feel while antique nile green tile floors add to the restaurant's relaxed yet luxurious Venetian vibe—great for sipping a morning latte or watching the sunset.
Since opening in 1986, the Wolfsonian has become Miami's must-see museum on the beach. A division of Florida International University and a Smithsonian Museum affiliate, the Wolfsonian is known for its impressive collection of 180,000 works, which sagely explore modernity among contemporary art and design—specifically the period between 1885-1945. The museum eschews canonical works in favor of paintings, sculptures and rare books which deftly reflect the social, political and cultural preoccupations of the time. The Wolfsonian's collection is divided in two, with one major component being a non-circulatory library that speaks to the museum's steadfast dedication to research. Be sure to leave enough time for gift shop, where you will find an exciting array of designer goods and thoughtful presents sure to please any discerning friend who prefers items like a Jean Prouve letter opener over an airbrushed t-shirt. If all of the art leaves you hungry, head down to the South of Fifth area to nosh on authentic Italian food at La Locanda, a local favorite serving up beautiful wood-fired pizzas and pastas like fiocchetti with pear and cheese.
This favorite design district bistro serves a simple menu of locally sourced and organic fare in a laid-back atmosphere. Despite its casual ambiance, James Beard award-winning chef and founder Michael Schwartz delivers a seasonal menu of innovative and hearty dishes like pig's ear salad, bacon wrapped peaches and crispy sweet-and-spicy pork belly. Tucked away in the Atlas Plaza, Michael's Genuine is an ideal respite from the myriad shops and galleries lining Northeast 40th Street, which begins with Marni and Celine at the corner of 2nd Avenue and continues further down this well-manicured street with furniture shops Kartell and Ligne Roset, as well as high-end boutiques like Christian Louboutin, Louis Vuitton and Y-3.
Housed in a 45,000-square-foot former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in the Wynwood Art District, the Rubell Collection is an impressive display of modern art by artists like Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman and more. The private collection is owned by Miami's eponymous hotelier family, who have pioneered the way for independent owners creating public institutions. The Rubell Collection is also nearby Wynwood Walls, a graffiti-laden, pedestrian-friendly area developed by the legendary art visionary Tony Goldman. This area of Miami can be enjoyed year-round, but to see it in its full glory, visit during Miami's exciting Art Basel celebration held annually every December.
Tucked in the Miami Design District, Harry's Pizzeria offers casual, simple yet high-quality food in a relaxed atmosphere. A wood-burning oven grounds the restaurant and its menu, with 10 hand-tossed pizzas making up the bulk of the daily fare. Harry's pizzas range from the classic (Margherita) to the innovative (Rock Shrimp with grilled lemon and Manchego) all with Chef Michael Schwartz's signature thin crust. While pizza may be the restaurant's calling card, it has much more to offer. Daily dinner specials may lead even the most devout pizza lovers away from their precious pies. Wednesday's slow-roasted leg of lamb with mint pesto is great to share with friends while Friday's wood-oven roasted local fish and vegetable stew keeps the regulars coming back. A range of hearty, authentic Italian salads and starters are a great compliment to main dishes or as a meal of their own. The selection changes regularly so repeat visits are a must. With a space to suit its design-centric neighborhood, Harry's Pizzeria offers a vibe that's both rustic and modern with the focus on pure, genuine food.
When it's time to trade in the South Beach scene for more secluded sand, hop onto US-1 South for a seaside, scenic three-hour drive to the historic southern most city in the contiguous US. The archipelago that runs from the mainland of the Florida peninsula varies between lush mangroves barely above sea level causeway making this drive one of the more entertaining legs of roadway. Surrounded by jewel-colored seas, finding a secluded vista is no challenge. We recommend stopping off at Kaiyo Grill in Islamorada—about halfway between Miami and Key West—for some of the best sushi and grilled seafood in the keys. A quiet, jungle-like setting makes dining in this relaxed roadside joint a great segue from the city to the relaxed vibe of the Keys. Carry on for another hour to Bahia Honda State Park for postcard-perfect beaches with white sand and a seemingly endless electric blue expanse. After arriving at Mile Marker Zero, it's time to ditch your shoes and slow down. History buffs will appreciate the the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Old Town while everyone will appreciate one of America's most famous sunsets. Forget the "cheeseburger in paradise'" and opt for Blue Heaven's fresh seafood specials, especially when Yellowtail Snapper is in season. One look at Key West's quaint streets and sleepy vibe may turn this day trip into a long weekend.