Party Central—Twenty-Four Hours in Miami
Whether you know about it through Don Johnson, Will Smith, the Winter Music Conference, a cruise ship hub, or LMFAO, you probably think of Miami as one of the world’s party capitals. Beaches, bikinis, fun, and music are all key elements of what to expect when you hit this Florida hotspot, and South Beach is where it all goes down.
Start by taking in the sunrise (either by getting up early, or not going to bed) at one of the many cafés along Ocean Drive. You may find it difficult to choose between each of the breakfast specials, with each place seemingly offering something to compete with the last, so just pick a spot, face the sea, and enjoy. At the right time of year, the beach will soon be full of a mid-morning feast of eye-candy, so don’t overeat, or you can’t compete when your swimwear comes out.
Just a short hop between South Beach and the mainland, Jungle Island offers a quick, fun zoo experience. Small enough to get around in a couple of hours, this animal park on Star Island offers a few different shows, up-close-and-personal photo opportunities with some cute critters, and some unique attractions, such as the liger (lion-tiger hybrid) and some albino alligators. If reptiles are your flavor, then rent a car and head towards the Everglades for a quick swamp safari to visit alligators in their natural surroundings. If crustacean is more your thing, lunch at the famous Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami should be on the agenda.
Following lunch, a great way to check off some of Miami’s sights and art-deco landmarks is by a tour on the bright-yellow GoCar. This two-seater open air vehicle is guided by a built-in talking GPS that not only directs you, but points out landmarks and educates you on the way, at your own pace. It’s lots of fun, definitely eye-catching, and a superb way to see the classic cars, the famous buildings such as the Armani house, the nooks and crannies, and the homes of the rich and famous. Opt for the two-hour tour as it will enable you to cover much more ground beyond what you will have seen already on foot, and it’s just so much fun. It’ll also give you an idea of where you’d like to go for happy hour or dinner later that night.
Your upcoming evening will be a long, exhausting one, as Miami locals don’t even begin to get going until after midnight. So, early afternoon would be a great time to escape north to the more-relaxing simple vibe of Sunny Isles, simply unwind on the beach or at one of the resort hotels, and perhaps rejuvenate and prepare your body with a massage or prep for the big night out with some treatments or a facial at the Aveda Spa in the Newport Beachside Hotel.
Finish off your down-time with a cliché cocktail at the hotel’s tiki bar on the beach (very Tom Cruise in Cocktail) and then hotfoot it back to South Beach just in time to pick your choice of the competing Ocean Drive breakfast spots to indulge in another strong Miami tradition – happy hour. The drink to have is the Bulldog – a huge margarita with two upside-down Coronas in the glass. Take note though, and do happy hour while the sun is still up, and the bars are busy – a little later and it all goes quiet again while the party crowd goes home to nap, get ready, and drink more.
So, do the same, get your glad rags on (try to avoid the neon, shiny gold, glittery, and cheesy white attire that the shops will have Jedi-mind-tricked you into all day long) and enjoy your hotel bar, or the view from the room. There are some great art-deco locations in South Beach, such as the Beacon Hotel, which oozes cool from its corridors, and was the location of scenes from Scarface.
Right on the beach, this hotel is perfectly situated for fun, and has all the comfortable amenities that you need along with a very hospitable staff. The hotels in the South Beach Group also offer various options of well-located affordable luxury, with a focus on the young and hip and a bustling bar scene to get you started. Or if you are looking for something more high-rise and upscale, the Delano, Mondrian, Gansevoort, and upcoming SLS won’t disappoint.
Kick off your evening in style with a late dinner (remember Miami parties late, so don’t jump the gun). A fantastic place to check out is OLA – Latin inspired cuisine, served in a rich, classic, and moody décor. The choice of many visiting celebrities, this restaurant offers some unique and interesting dishes and spectacular cocktails. Go in a group and eat family-style so that you not only get a chance to try many different flavors, but also so you don’t fill yourself up to the point of lethargy! The food is so good that you might – dishes not to miss are a selection of ceviche, the lobster empanadas, the puerco asado, and the chocolate cigar.
Then it’s time to hit the town, perhaps with a quick cocktail on the stunning roof terrace of the Gansevoort Hotel. At this point, the advice is more general – Miami’s nightlife is ever-changing, and really down to what’s hot that night. So grab a mojito, make friends with a local (or better still a promoter), and have some cash to drop – and you’ll find that the Miami hotspot du jour will be your new best friend. Party hard enough and you might just be wandering home during that infamous Ocean Drive sunrise, to do it all again.