Weekenders: Miami Heats Up

This town has long been known for its nightlife and beach scene. But Miami (and Miami Beach) have upped the ante in the areas of food, art and design.

By Doug Guinan

The sand between your toes, the welcoming embrace of the ocean, the endless sun—no doubt, Miami is intoxicating. While it’s tempting to spend a weekend here in strictly self-indulgent pursuits (mojito by the beach, anyone?), don’t miss out on exploring the “new” Miami, across Biscayne Bay in Miami Beach. With an ever-growing arts scene that rivals those of New York and Los Angeles, great shopping for even the most discerning tastes and a food scene that offers everything you could want, Miami and Miami Beach make for a fantastic weekend getaway.

Neighborhood to Watch

Within the past decade, the South of Fifth area in Miami Beach went from being completely blighted to holding some of the most coveted luxury real estate in the world. This small triangle of residential blocks, bordered on three sides by water (the Atlantic Ocean, Government Cut, and Biscayne Bay), and to the north by Fifth Street, is a testament to the dynamic energy that is Miami. South of Fifth is also a great place to start exploring the city.

Start your morning like a local and pop into Lee & Marie’s Cakery. This chic café and bakery, established in 2011 by New York philanthropist Andrea Travaglia, tempts body-conscious Miamians with locally sourced treats, all while doing good: Through a partnership with Miami University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Travaglia employs adults with autism. Order your cappuccino and croissant to go and stroll around the corner to South Pointe Park, 18 lush acres at the southernmost tip of South Beach. From the top of one of the park’s rolling hills, you’ll have gorgeous views of downtown, as well as of an impressive parade of yachts and cruise ships heading to the Caribbean.

No one comes to Miami without making a trip to the beach. If you’re up for a little more action than the commute between your beach chair and the aquamarine water, head to F1rst Surf, a boutique surf shop peddling (and renting) gear for surfing, skateboarding and paddleboarding.

For lunch, make like the rest of the beautiful people and grab a table at the health food café Pura Vida. Ask for the Acai Bowl; locals swear by the superfood dish, citing—and maybe only half jokingly—age-defying results.

See and Be Seen

Ocean Drive, a slow-moving, jam-packed boulevard of honking cars is definitely touristy, but too fabulous to be missed. While you could rent a Bentley convertible to cruise the streets (Miamians love their fancy cars), chances are you’ll have as much if not more fun on some wheels from DecoBike, the South Beach bike share program. Drop by any DecoStation and rent a bike by the half hour ($4), hour ($6) or the day ($24). Take the route along the palm-tree lined path between Fifth and 17th streets to soak in the pastel and neon-lit architecture and maybe even catch a welcome tropical breeze.

Make a pit stop at the Betsy Hotel—this historic Bahamian colonial is home to BLT Steak, a choice location for people watching. Grab one of the seats on the patio and dig in to the basket of hot popovers that come without asking.

Next, pedal over to Lincoln Road Mall. This pedestrian-only promenade is another place to see and be seen. Once a sleepy area with secondhand shops and novelty card stores, it is now a destination for high-profile architecture and decent shopping (CB2, American Apparel and Oakley all have stores here).

At the intersection of Lincoln Road and Drexel, see what’s on offer at the Frank Gehry–designed New World Center. Reserve a seat for a world-class concert, or just enjoy the lush bougainvillea garden outside, where in the evening you’ll often stumble upon free outdoor concerts and movies.

For a cerebral time-out, visit Books & Books, an old fashioned independent bookstore and a vestige of Old South Beach. The outdoor restaurant, the Café at Books & Books is another prime spot for taking in the Miami scene. After lunch, be sure to stroll west to the iconic Herzog & De Meuron–designed open-air parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road. This controversial structure is a destination in its own right and always elicits strong opinions on both its aesthetics and utility.

Wynwood and the Design District

Once you’ve experienced South Beach and all its wild pleasures, take a contemplative afternoon to explore the Wynwood Arts District in downtown Miami. In 2007, an organization called Primary Flight invited 35 graffiti and street artists to help create an open air museum of sorts on the industrial walls of a 5-block-by-30-block section of town. By 2009, the effort had expanded to 150 artists, and the Wynwood Walls has since grown into a cultural phenomenon, attracting thousands of visitors every year. At the nearby small-batch coffee roaster Panther Coffee, husband and wife team Joel Pollock and Leticia Ramos Pollock also celebrate local artists with a constant stream of cutting-edge exhibitions.

Modern art connoisseurs should visit the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse. Here you can tour 45,000 square feet of gallery space, featuring emerging artists as well as permanent pieces by legends Anselm Kiefer, Willem De Kooning, George Segal and Richard Serra.

Now well past the early gentrification stage, the Design District, a dozen blocks to the north, is becoming a serious place for shopping. While there’s definitely no shortage of Cartier, Prada and Louis Vuitton, there are also less obvious finds like Supply & Advise, a menswear shop owned and run by Jonathan Eyal, who in a past life designed load-bearing military equipment. The store’s look and inventory are a nod to Eyal’s background—functionality, durability and practicality reign. You’ll find labels such as Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Gitman Vintage. What’s more, roughly 80 percent of their offerings are made in the United States, an anomaly in South Florida, but right at home in this eclectic neighborhood.

For lunch or dinner, don’t miss Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, once a pioneer, now a fixture in the area. Chef Michael Schwartz has a reputation for locally sourced ingredients and recipes derived from his ongoing relationships with local artisans, farmers, fisherman and purveyors. The menu changes daily and never disappoints. (Ask about the spaghetti with salami, shiitake mushrooms and kale.) No matter what you settle on, you won’t soon forget the meal—or the impression that Miami is not at all what you’d thought.

Lincoln Road Mall
Miami Beach; lincolnroadmall.com
Books & Books
927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-532-3222; booksandbooks.com
Supply & Advise
3322 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-846-9437; supplyandadvise.com
South Pointe Park
1 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7006; miamibeachfl.gov
Miami Beach decobike.com; one-hour pass, $6
New World Center
500 17th St., Miami Beach; 305-673-3330; nws.edu
Wynwood Walls
N.W. Second Ave. between 25th and 26th Sts., Miami; no phone; thewynwoodwalls.com
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse
591 N.W. 27th St., Miami; 305-576-1051; margulieswarehouse.com; admission $10
Lee & Marie’s Cakery
40 South Pointe Dr., Miami Beach; 305-672-5167; leeandmaries.com; breakfast for two, $20*
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
130 N.E. 40th St., Miami; 305-573-5550; michaelsgenuine.com; dinner for two, $100
Pura Vida
110 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-535-4142; puravida.miami; lunch for two, $40
BLT Steak
The Betsy Hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-673-0044; bltrestaurants.com; dinner for two, $140
The Café at Books & Books
927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-532-3222; booksandbooks.com; lunch for two, $40
Panther Coffee
2390 N.W. Second Ave., Miami; 305-677-3952; panthercoffee.com

F1rst Surf Shop
40 South Pointe Dr., Ste. 107, Miami Beach; 305-397-8103; f1rstshop.com; one-hour paddleboard rental, $30
RCI affiliated resorts near Miami include:
Vacation Village at Weston 5773
The ideal location for golf and tennis lovers. 16461 Racquet Club Rd., Weston (about 30 miles north of Miami)
Member Review: “The units and grounds at this resort are beautiful! Shopping, beaches, restaurants and attractions are nearby.”
Vacation Village at Bonaventure 4025
An immaculate resort located directly across from two 18-hole championship golf courses. 401 Racquet Club Rd., Weston (about 30 miles north of Miami)
Member Review: “The property is ideally located for exploring the Keys, the Everglades, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.”
Mizner Place 7559
Within steps of your front door are restaurants, shopping and nightlife at the Town Center Shoppes. 1775 Bonaventure Blvd., Weston (about 30 miles north of Miami)
Member Review: “The resort was beautiful, from the grounds to the rooms.”
For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.

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Non-RCI affiliated resorts:
Mondrian Hotel
Bayfront property with a raucous pool scene. 1100 West Ave., Miami Beach; 305-514-1500; morganshotelgroup.com; doubles from $330 per night
Raleigh Hotel
South Beach oceanfront landmark. 1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-534-6300; raleighhotel.com; doubles from $355 per night
Eden Roc
Perfect for peace by the pool and ocean. 4525 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 855-433-3676; edenrocmiami.com; doubles from $400 per night
  • *Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Spring 2014