During my search for my next holiday destination, I wanted a place that met a few criteria, which included warm weather, beach, art, great nightlife and not more than 9 hours away on a direct flight from the UK. I checked destinations from the Caribbean to Africa, but finally settled on Miami.
Miami is known for its amazing Art Deco architecture and is host to Basel Miami Beach, one of the major art fairs on the calendar of events in the art world, which has major celebrities and renowned art collectors in attendance, collecting and admiring the works of both established and emerging artists.
Miami with its gorgeous beaches is a popular playground for the rich and famous and cannot be faulted on its all year round warm climate. Miami is predominately known for its fun side, but it has a lot more to offer than just its beaches and partying scenes. Miami is also the first port of call between the U.S and Latin America for business.
Miami’s best hotels are located on Ocean Drive and Collin Avenue. I wanted the best of both worlds, so I opted to stay at two different hotels, spending a couple of nights at the Metropolitan by COMO Hotel, which I will describe as an urban retreat in the city located right on the beach. It had excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and I was not disappointed. It met my desire to have a beach element to my trip. The 2nd hotel I chose was Vintro Hotel & Kitchen located in the cultural district of Miami, which added another dimension to my stay. Click on the links to read about my amazing experiences at these two very different hotels.
I booked a British Airways flight from London to JFK from Heathrow airport as the departure and arrival timings suited my schedule, rather than a direct flight, as I wanted to catch an evening flight after work. I arrived JFK around midnight, and spent the night; actually it was more like 4 hours in Days Inn Hotel near the airport. I booked a 7am internal flight from JFK to Miami and I was in the city of sun, sea and fun by 10am. This indirect route worked out more or less the same, from flight duration and cost perspective.
Arrival and Shopping – Day 1
On arrival I took a Flamingo taxi costing $35 from the airport to the Metropolitan by COMO Hotel.
Lincoln Road Mall
Early afternoon, after settling in and a spot of relaxation, I decided to do some shopping on the renown Lincoln Road Mall and pay a visit to the South Beach Art Centre.
As I was walking around Lincoln Road Mall, I was drawn to this handbag shop called Bagghy, where handbags and other lady’s accessories are used as a canvas with iconic images and landmarks of London, New York, Paris and other major cities imprinted on the leather bags.
The bags that really got my attention were these imprinted with the art work of Kilmany, a South African Graffiti artist from Cape Town, who depicts portrait images in graffiti Style art. The vivid tones on the bag will add a vibrant splash of colour to any outfit.
These Italian bags are hand made in Venice and offer uniqueness and elegance to any wardrobe.
Lunch at Abuela’s Cuban kitchen
After my purchases, I needed to refuel, so I made my way to Abuela’s Cuban kitchen on Lincoln Road Mall.
It was an easy choice, as I had visited the restaurant before on a previous trip to Miami, so I knew what to expect or so I thought!
I entered the premises and every wall space was covered in art. This was not the case when I first visited. It seems everyone is catching onto the vibrant Miami Art scene. The Artworks were from both local and international artist. I admired the works while I waited for lunch.
I ordered a beef stir fry, rice, plantain and fresh watermelon juice to drink. Plantain is like a big banana and is a favourite in Cuban Cuisine. Lunch was tasty and hit the right spot and was just what I needed.
Abuela’s Cuban kitchen is a place to stop for Lunch, if you want hot food rather than sandwiches, which is what you tend to find on Lincoln road Mall. Abuela’s Cuban kitchen also do takeaway’s.
Art Centre South Florida
On the opposite side of road, on the corner of Lincoln Road Mall was the Art Centre South Florida. I decided to explore, as jet lag had started kicking in and I knew I had to stay awake, to avoid waking up on London time.
The Art Centre had a video installation downstairs and a number of studios up stairs. There was a good mix of art works ranging from installations made out of shoes, large scale paintings, sculptures. All the Art studios in the centre were closed, which I found odd, but most of them had a card in the window with a phone number of the artists, if you wanted to see more. Unfortunately no photography allowed.
Wynwood Art District and Ocean Drive – Day 2
On my second day, I spent most of the morning in the gym and spa area, having a massage and enjoying the rooftop Hydrotherapy pool. You can read more about my experience in the spa at The Metropolitan by COMO Hotel.
Wynwood Art District
To satisfy my creative juices, I boarded a taxi costing $30 to the Renown Miami Art district Wynwood and visited the famous Wynwood wall and walked round the art district admiring the art murals and street art painted all over buildings. This must not be missed if you pay a visit to Miami.
I felt my visit to Wynwood deserved a separate blog post, which you can find here, click to read more about my great experience. If you plan to move around Miami by taxi, I will recommend booking one to pick you up when you finish your visit to Wynwood, as I had to wait a while for one to come by on the street. There are also other galleries and museums in the area and some bars to quench your thirst and restaurants and cafes to keep hunger at bay.
On my way back to Collins Avenue from Wynwood, I kindly asked my Taxi driver to drive through the design district, since it was only a few blocks away. I wanted to see if it was worth checking out later during my stay. If you are looking for high end fashion from European designers the design district will appeal to you, but not for me on this occasion, as it was comparable to walking down New bond street or Knightsbridge in London.
Back in town, I browsed the shops on Collins Avenue, which consisted mainly of your typical high street brands such as Aldo, Zara, Sephora for cosmetics.
I meandered the streets and found myself on Ocean drive which was buzzing and alive. I could hear Latin Music, so I let my ear guide me and I found myself at Mango Tropical Cafe. I could not take my eyes off the dancers and their acrobatic dance moves. I was so captivated; I even forgot to order a drink. Mangos was just at the right capacity and lively. I made a quick exit and a mental note to visit the place again during my stay, which I.
Here is a video clip of some entertainment I enjoyed.
As I walked down Ocean Drive there was more action at Palace Bar , where they normally have Drag Queen shows. On this Occasion, a drag queen was lip syncing to one of Beyoncé’s tune and she stopped traffic with her antics. It was so much fun to watch and the crowd loved it as she strut her stuff up and down the pavement. I was very amused:)
After such an interesting day, I retreated to my Hotel.
Culture and Miami Sightseeing – Day 3
Bright and early, still running on London time, I went for a run on the famous board walk and beach walk before breakfast. I could not resist another session in the glorious hydrotherapy pool at the Metropolitan By COMO Hotel, before check out. I left my luggage with at the Hotel front Desk, and then made my way to the Bass Museum of Art, which is in the vicinity of the Collins Park. It was only about 10 minutes’ walk from the Metropolitan By COMO Hotel.
There was some great public art on display at Collins Park and a Yoga class taking place outside, which I thought was a good idea being out in the open on such a glorious day
Bass Museum of Art
The Bass Museum of Art exhibits arts from the Renaissance period and Modern Art. On the ground floor of the museum is the permanent exhibition called Art Lab History. I found the art history lab very interesting; it had a combination of arts of different styles from different periods.
I found this sign amusing and scary at the same time.
I made my way upstairs through a somewhat dark pathway and I was not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised.
There was a range of Art by Damian Hierst, Peter Marino, Louis Heibronn, Luc Castel, David LaChapelle, Walter Pfeiffer, Jeff Burton, Miguel Vilalobos.
During my visit, there was an exhibitions showing the works of famous architect Peter Marino, who is known for the stunning architecture and design of major fashion houses from Channel to Fendi in numerous countries around the world such as Qatar, South Korea London, New York to name a few.
There was also a space dedicated to gigantic Art work. Below are some enormous works I enjoyed. The massive charcoal sculptures is by georz baselitz and the huge paintings’ are by Anselm kiefier, both German artists from the same era.
Visiting the Bass museum was a pleasant contradiction of old masters and modern contemporary art, which I enjoyed tremendously. This is one to add to the list of things to do in Miami.
I am a big fan of going on the Hop on, Hop off Sightseeing buses when I travel. I feel it gives me a summary of some of the sights that might be worth visiting, just in case I missed some cool spot during my Holiday research. So Miami Sight Seeing bus tour was on the cards.
The Bus stop was a few steps away from the Metropolitan by COMO hotel. I got a ticket and boarded the Beach Road Red line, which went all the way to the end of Collins Avenue, passing the iconic Fountain Blue Hotel, Fisher Island, one of the most expensive zip codes in the US, where the richest man in Miami lives, the inventor of Viagra. We made our way all the way downtown to Biscayne Blvd, the business district of Miami.
I continued with the bus on the City Road Blue line from Downtown all the way through Coconut Grove, one of the oldest neighbourhood in Miami and the location of a vibrant annual Art Festival which occurs in February on the President’s Day Weekend. Coral Gables, full of opulence, gated communities with Mediterranean styled architecture and described as one of the best places to live and finally ending at Little Havana. Architecturally, Little Havana bears no resemblance to Cuba, but it is the lifestyle, people and food that warrants the name Little Havana. This was the final stop of the tour and we stopped for 20mins at a Restaurant to have some yummy Cuban cuisine.
This was a quick easy way to see other areas in Miami that I would not have visited on my trip in a short space of time. It also provided some interesting facts about some of the major Hotels in Miami, like the Royal palm is the first hotel owned by African American in Miami and Loewe is the biggest hotel in Miami with 700 rooms. The only downside to the bus tour was that the bus did not stop much. So it was like going for a long ride and taking so much in, other than that, it was an enjoyable experience.
On the way back, the bus passed through Washington Avenue and the tour guide showed us the two best places for steak and seafood in Miami are Joes Crab Stone and Smith and Wollensky which I did not get to try, maybe on another trip, because I have the feeling I will back again.
The bus returned to Collins Avenue, after which I returned to the Metropolitan by COMO Hotel to pick up my luggage and checked into the Vintro Hotel and Kitchen, a chic art chic boutique hotel.
Espanola Way, Ocean Drive and Night Live – Day 4
Early afternoon, I made my way to Espanola Way, as the name implies, it is street with Spanish style architecture. The street is very small and charming with a wide range of restaurants and Cafes serving Cuban, Spanish, French and Italian cuisines. Espanola Way was alive and busy with people and music playing. I did not find anything that was to my liking so I made my way to Ocean Drive, which was within walking distance.
There are an array of Restaurants and Cafe to choose from to satisfy any palate on Ocean Drive. Acting on instinct, I went to Cala Cafe. At this point, I was starving and I opted for a platter of Meat and Seafood Mixed grill.
I was advised by the waiter that this was huge and will be too much for one person, so I choose a seafood platter instead, which was fresh, the Lobster was absolutely divine and the service was great.
While I was waiting to be served, I asked for a mango daiquiri and I was stunned when the waiter arrived with this giant 64oz glass!!. I decided to pace myself as it was going to be a long lunch.
Taking it all in
After lunch, I walked along Ocean Drive, taking in the Art Deco architecture. Miami Beach has one of the largest collections of protected elegant Art Deco buildings in the world. Walk around and admire this great architecture, when you visit. The Art Deco buildings with eye brows are the oldest, as these were in place before air conditioning was invented. If you are interested in knowing more about the Art Deco Architecture, you can go on an Art Deco tour
Classic Cars and MotorBikes
There were gorgeous classic cars and motor bikes to see, an umber cool ambience to take in and people watching was gratifying.
Gianni Versace Mansion
I spotted one building that stood out, as it deviated from the ART Deco Architecture, it turned out to be the Home of Late Gianni Versace. The late fashion designer was shot by an ex-lover at the steps of this building. I was later told this is the only building on Ocean Drive that does not fit in with the Art Deco designs. The mansion is now a luxury hotel and restaurant, where you can sleep in Gianni Versace’s bed and swim in a gold platted pool.
Further up at Clevander Hotel, there was music jamming and people dancing on the stage and in the pool. I just could not walk on by; I was drawn to the vibrant atmosphere and enjoyed the music. Clevelander is in the heart of the party scene, I visited a few times during stay, as it was always lively and there was loads of entertainment. This is definitely one to check out to feast your eyes.
EFFusion Art Gallery
EFFusion Art Gallery is on Ocean Drive, I thought it was an unusual place for an art gallery, but I was captivated. There were some amazing art work by local and international Artist; I could not get enough of the amount of creativity under one roof. From the outside it may look like any souvenir shop, but the artworks are insanely unique and affordable.
Ocean Drive is the ultimate centre of Cool with a capital C. It is a great place for food, music, people watching and a stroll if you do not mind the busyness of the place. You get to meet and see people from all walks of life. You cannot help, but admire the Art Deco buildings and classic cars as you walk on by.
Although food maybe expensive, it is definitely worth having a meal in one of the establishments and try out there gigantic cocktails. As the sun goes down and the beat steps up, Ocean drive is always alive and it’s time for me to head back to my hotel and get ready for a night on the town.
Getting ready to go out in Miami, requires a little more effort, being a little bit glamourous and sophisticated normally paves the way. The higher the heels the shorter the hem line is a guarantee entry to most night spots for the ladies.
At midnight, all dressed up to the nines, my first stop of the night was Story night club on Collins Avenue , which was recommended by the Concierge at the Vintro Hotel and Kitchen. There was no hassle getting in without being on the guest list, at $30 a pop I was in the sophistically decorated club. House music was blasting from the speakers and people were friendly and moving to the tunes.
Photo Credit: Miami.com
Story was created by the same people that created LIV in fontainebleau , one of the best night clubs in Miami. I was told it could be difficult to get into Liv without reservation, so I decided to give it a miss. If you are up for celebrity spotting and Ultra VIP treatment LIV is the place to be.
Photo Credit/Source: Zanda.com
After a couple of hours at Story, it was time to move on to other spots. We arrived at Mansion on Washington Avenue. Once again there was no hassle getting in. The crowd was hip and trendy. There was a good mix of music playing, ranging from old Skool, house, hip hop to RnB. A lively crowd and great entertainment in the form of acrobatic women dancing from the ceiling. I actually preferred Mansions to Story, as it had a better mixture of music and an amazing clientele.
Photo Credit: Mansion Miami
A Day of Relaxation – Day 5
After an eventful night exploring Miami night life, I slept through Sunday Morning, which happened to be my last day in Miami 🙁 I enjoyed a hearty lunch with bottomless alcohol at my the Vintro Hotel and Kitchen where I was staying.
I took one last trip to South Beach to relax on the beach and people watch and admire the colorful Lifeguard Stands in the sun, before heading back to my hotel for an early night.
Departure and Final Thoughts – Day 6
As I headed to the airport in a taxi driven by a Spanish lady, my thoughts drifted to what an amazing holiday I had. All my expectations were met; you can’t go wrong with Miami if you are after the beach, sun and fun. Miami is the place to be. You can also retreat to blissfulness in secluded areas around Miami.
Miami is a great place for night live, people watching, feasting your eyes on art and relaxing. Checking into the Metropolitan By COMO for my first couple of nights worked out well for me. It was just what I needed to unwind and get into the holiday spirit. Moving to the Vintro Hotel and Kitchen, liven up my stay in Miami.
If you are looking to combine a city escape with relaxation and amazing Night live. Miami is the place for you, there will never be a dull Miami. With the sun up, clear blue sky and perfect white sand under your feet, what more can you ask for.
Have you visited Miami? Are you planning to visit soon? Please comment and share your thoughts. I hope you have enjoyed this Blog Post:)