With its golden sands and carefree attitude, Miami has been a magnet for party lovers since the 1920s. Having boomed in the early part of the 20th century (partly due to its blind eye on the Prohibition smuggling), the town’s reputation was tarnished in the late 90s with the shooting of designer Georgio Armani on his villa doorstep – the non-stop 90s jetset, just stopped coming.
But that was then, and this is now – and now, Miami is the place to be once more. A raft of new hotels have opened up all over town, from Miami Beach to more inland. 1Hotels Miami Beach feels like it’s always been on the island that was once an avocado growing swampland.
So what’s new hotel wise?
Sat demurely on the shoreline, 1Hotels ethos is that it’s a shopfront for nature – think living walls, all natural fabrics, hemp linen and plenty of driftwood. While the hotel is actually one of the biggest on the Miami Beach strip, it doesn’t feel like it, with a series of cleverly designed staggered beach-facing decks, with different pools, bars and even a rooftop bar and yoga space.
You can’t mention Miami in 2016 without mentioning the Faena development. Argentine entrepreneur Alan Faena has created his own Faena district on Miami Beach. Showstopping hotel, tick. Norman Foster designed residences, tick. Cultural centre designed by Rem Koolhaus and boutique souk soon to open, tick – it all makes for a stunning addition that will hopefully bring more than just tourists to the area.
But it’s not just new builds that are changing Miami Beach. Thanks to a protection order, the city cannot tear down its beautiful collection of Art Deco buildings (the largest in the world), forcing brands to carefully remodel the wonderful 1950s hotels that already exist. The legendary Hotel Eden Roc Miami Beach (where Sinatra, Bogart and Taylor used to party) is now being converted into one of the first Nobu Hotels in the world – with the largest Nobu restaurant already open and flying. Choose to stay in one of the Nobu designed rooms and you’ll be able to order Nobu room service and delve into the Nobu themed mini-bar. If that’s too much Nobu to handle, the hotel has a new restaurant from farmer Helene Henderson, who promotes organic, local eating at her farm to table restaurant in California and will replicate that here on the east coast.
Grab a fork and get stuck in
But it takes more than just new hotels to create a destination worth revisiting. Miami’s restaurant scene is truly buzzing, with new outlets springing up every month.
Beaker & Gray opened during Basel Miami in December on the edge of the city’s hip Wynwood district (great for street art and cool industrial style bars). With a masculine leather mixed with bare concrete walls and a great cocktail list, its fast becoming one of the places to be on Friday nights. The menu is a fab twist on south American meets Spanish tapas with small plates like Scallop, white asparagus, black garlic, pea tendril or Grains, Key West pink shrimp, calamari, tomato water to share.
Another brand putting its own Miami stamp on things is Pubbelly, who have two ‘neighbourhood sushi’ joints in the city and are soon to open a third. It’s fun sushi plates with an atmosphere that’s more akin to a corner pub, where everyone knows your name. And with dishes like the Screaming Orgasm (seared bigeye tuna, spicy ponzu, daikon, masago roe) and plenty of Japanese lager you’ll want to become a regular.
Asian food is big business in Miami, and Thai food has had a makeover over at Naiyara which opened earlier this year. Paper posters advertising things in Thai adorn the concrete pillars while keen diners order one of Chef Bee’s special cocktails such as, Gaeng Klaw (Death’s Door gin, Thai basil, mint, cucumber and ginger beer). The large space is made more intimate with clever lighting while the Popcorn shrimp and Tuna garlic chip (with olive oil, yuzu lemon, dried miso and cilantro) keep things interesting on the table.
And work it off…
While Miami’s never short of things to do, the best way to get a vibe for the place is on a couple of offbeat tours. The Art Deco Cocktail Tour will whisk you through 100 years of history around South Beach, imbibing drinks as you learn the rules of Art Deco and the secrets that these stunning buildings are hiding (secret gambling dens anyone?). While the Art Deco tour looks back in time, the Wynwood Food Tour looks forward and gives you a taste of not only the new delis, bars and cake shops (for the best Key lime pie) springing up but also the latest street art from world famous artists over at Wynwood Walls, a free park dedicated to graffiti.
And after all that…well it’s time to lie on the beach and let it all wash over you. You’re in Miami after all.
For more ideas and information about Miami, visit the official vacation guide at www.miamiandbeaches.com.