The Concise and Opinionated Guide to South Beach
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Our Miami NTK – February 2020
Every so often, we like to add a Need-to-Know for our favorite cities. With a new year and new decade upon us, it’s time to mention -and celebrate- a real crack-down by city officials on several dining scams that have plagued Miami Beach for a long time. This will make visits there better than ever!
What were the scams? Well, first of all there was the surprising practice of adding a 20% tip onto the bill unbeknownst to the often tipsy patron who then would leave a second tip on the table. While common enough in Europe, Miami was the only US city where we’ve seen this practice and warned about it in our Clued In Miami. Now, restaurants trying to sneak this in will face a fine as well as temporary closure for multiple offences. Other scams that have been curtailed were ones where hawkers in front of restaurants, especially along Ocean Drive, would tout a special cocktail or plate to get the customer in without telling them that the drink is $50 a person or that the “special” dish is $110. The hawkers should all be gone now, and the prices for everything must be transparent. Even so, it never hurts to ask the price when ordering so don’t be too proud to do so. This is a good practice in any city.
Finding that perfect spa – January 2020
Readers of our Clued In Miami will know that our top spa recommendation in South Beach is at the Standard Hotel, but there are a multitude of great spas to choose from in the area. Whether you’re feeling the winter onslaught of dry skin or just want to have a really good massage, one of these will certainly fit the bill…
The Spa at The Miami Beach Edition is an elegant place to relax and unwind. Their draped, candlelit room will astound you with its dramatic effect and their grapes and jasmine body treatment will make you feel like a new person.
The Acqualina Spa by ESPA features the style of a Mediterranean villa. Their gorgeous spa pool has a Roman fountain, and you’ll marvel at their detoxifying body wrap. Located about ten miles north of South Beach, this one is definitely worth the short drive.
And our favorite, The Standard Spa remains one of the best. Their Turkish hammam, special mud baths, and extensive variety of treatments will make you feel as if you never want to leave.
Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019
We love having a meal with a festive menu at holiday time, and in Miami Beach that means Le Sirenuse at the Surf Club hotel. As an official offshoot of their famous location in Positano, you can come here expecting the best in fresh Italian cuisine. Their special four-course Christmas Eve and Christmas Day prix fix menus offer something for everyone in your party including Lobster with cucumber and lime, Truffle risotto, Rosemary-smoked filet mignon, and mandarin orange seven layer cake. Their website doesn’t allow you to make reservations on these days so just give them a call at (786) 482-2280.
Cocktails and a view at Watr – November 2019
Watr is the fabulous rooftop cocktail lounge high above South Beach’s Hotel One. You can enjoy breathtaking ocean views and nibble on Peruvian and Japanese cuisine while sipping a truly great cocktail. This is the gorgeous pool deck by day, which means that if you are not a guest you’ll be admitted after 6pm. We say it’s worth the wait.
Visit an underwater necropolis – October 2019
Our recommendations for Miami Beach in autumn would normally include the annual re-opening of Joe’s Stone Crabs or music events, but our new series of “Bored In” travel books have inspired us to go in a stranger direction this year. Below is one of the unusual things you can do that will be included in the upcoming Bored in Miami–Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor:
If you love to scuba dive, don’t miss Key Biscayne’s underwater necropolis of paved roads, Romanesque columns, and carved lions. Based on the Lost City of Atlantis, the Neptune Memorial Reef will astound you. This man-made structure forty feet beneath the surface of the ocean is a memorial and final resting place for famous divers. Any experienced diver can visit the site for free, but you’ll need a boat and gear to get there. You can arrange transport with these dive operators.
Fall Fun in South Beach – September 2019
As the weather cools (a bit) and October nears, it’s time to start thinking about which Miami events you can time with your own travel schedule. Miami Beach goes into full swing at the end of September and continues partying through the spring. There’s so much going on between now and April that it’s mind boggling. If you intend to be there in October, don’t miss the fabulous South Beach Seafood Festival. It’s a huge, week-long event on Ocean Drive that culminates on October 26th. Lobster, stone crabs, shrimps, crayfish and more await you!
Where to Have an Insane Dinner – August 2019
This month we have an extra special restaurant to send you to! If you want clean food that’s top quality, cooked over flames, and has tons of flavor, head up the beach to the Casa Faena Hotel. Inside, Chef Mallmann is serving up exactly what you’ve been craving inside the beautiful red dining room of Los Fuegos. You simply cannot order wrong here because everything is amazing. Go for lunch, Sunday brunch, or to have an insane dinner; it’s worth going north a few blocks to get there. Seating is first come, first served.
“Born from a passion for the ancient art of South American live-fire cooking, Argentine grill-master Francis Mallmann creates a contemporary asado experience with an open-fire kitchen, local ingredients and a gaucho’s touch to transform traditional rustic recipes into sophisticated, savory dishes.”
In focus: South Beach’s newest darling – July 2019
You’ve heard of Time Out Magazine but what about Time Out Market? From the folks who give tons of advice about food and drink, this giant new food hall seems like someone decided to put their money where their mouth was, or vice-versa. Located on Drexel Avenue in the center of all the South Beach action, this 18,000 square foot behemoth is not what we would call a market. It’s a food Mecca of sorts, and a very tasty social experiment. Inside are eighteen eateries, many of which are the creations of notable chefs or food artisans, and the three cocktail bars mean you’ll never be lonely. From fresh oysters to fried alligator, and smoked meats to Cuban-style ice cream, it’ll make you glad to be alive. There’s so much to it that we hardly know what to say, except that you should definitely go there with a good appetite.
Where to enjoy a picnic in South Beach – June 2019
As National Picnic Month (July) approaches, people all over will pack up delicious goodies and head to a favorite park. This happens year ’round in shining Miami Beach but is usually on that wide expanse where the white sand meets the sea. So where to go when you want to picnic and not get sandy? Where to enjoy a lunch or sunset meal when you’re not in your beachwear? In South Beach that’s an easy question to answer: head to Lummus Park. You didn’t know that the grassy, palm tree dotted park along Ocean Drive actually had a name? Yep. And it’s just close enough to the ocean to let you know you’re in Miami. We like to pick up a few of our favorites at the truly amazing La Sandwicherie located at 229 14th Street. The place is like a picnic waiting to happen! From there you’ll be in the park within three minutes. Remember, alcohol is not allowed at Florida’s beaches and parks so take care.
The Air & Sea Show, Miami Beach – 2019
South Beach will again showcase the US Military and first responders over the entire weekend of Memorial Day with a series of spectacular events like powerboat racing demonstrations, fly-overs, extreme water sports, interactive recruiting exhibits, an Action Zone, a Kid Zone and more, all on or near the beach. Visit their official website for more information.
In Focus: Where to brunch in South Beach – April 2019
The gorgeous weather in Miami during April and May almost demands you spend a few leisurely hours with friends and loved ones over a tasty weekend brunch. In this town there are literally hundreds to choose from but the best tend to be extremely overpriced even if they do include cocktails. For this reason we turn to one of our favorites near Lincoln Road, Yardbird. Its modern Southern cuisine never fails to satisfy and we love it more and more every time we go. Be sure to make a reservation or you’ll have to wait a long time for a table. They serve brunch on both Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 4pm. Order a dish that comes with their homemade biscuits because they’re out of this world!
In Focus: Bodega Nightclub – March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In Miami Beach, that means a hidden nightclub, speakeasy-style. Haul on over to the Bodega Taco stand in South Beach and after a taco or two (they’re really good) walk through their blue porta-potty door and enter a hidden nightclub that rocks cocktails and tunes until 4am. You can’t get more secret than that. Location and details are listed in our Clued In Miami. Cheers!
Update – February 2019
There’s nothing like a winter party when the temperature is 75 degrees outside, so if you’re gay or just want to party with them check out the annual Winter Party Festival being held this year in South Beach from February 27 through March 5th. This huge event features special cocktail parties, brunches, unique entertainment, nightclub soirees, and pool and beach parties. Some events require a ticket which can be booked ahead at this website: Winter Party South Beach
In Focus: Where to shop the sales – January 2019
Like many cities across the U.S., Miami Beach puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays and begins presenting its spring collections. If you’re visiting Miami in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping area in South Beach is the Lincoln Road Mall, a long pedestrian-only street flanked on both sides by shops and restaurants. It’s perfect, especially if you didn’t feel like going farther afield to Bal Harbour or to the new Miami Design District. Lincoln Road offers up the island’s most varied boutiques, as well as several larger stores. For those who are unfamiliar with South Beach, this means that its best shopping can be found near its main stretch of sandy beach. This type of information may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of it tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable area is located. That’s often where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve in Miami Beach – December 2018
Are you going to Miami Beach for New Year’s Eve? Be sure to make dinner reservations now because the best restaurants will fill up quickly. We love being somewhere on New Year’s that’s actually warm, where you can dress like you’re ready to party rather than like you’re going on an arctic exploration. Miami Beach gives us this, and is more welcoming than ever during this time of year. As usual, the city will feature its free, annual fireworks display at midnight, best seen from one of the many fabulous rooftop bar parties in South Beach, or more casually from a spot on the sand near the beach entrance at 9th Street. The beachfront hotels will be in full party mode too, giving those choosing the beach a handy place to continue their celebration!
Update: Autumn in Miami Beach – November 2018
If you simply must escape the cold for some perfect 80 degree weather, head down to Miami Beach for an autumn vacation. There’s so much going on that it may be hard to decide what to do- when you’re not suntanning, of course. Grab tickets for a special rosé wine tasting, learn how to make your own chocolate truffles, or increase your appreciation of art at the Scope exhibition on Ocean Drive, or at the Basel House Mural Festival. Before you go we hope you’ll grab a copy of Clued In Miami. It has info not found in other guides which is exactly why it stands apart from the rest!
Announcement: New 2019 Edition!
Clued In Miami for 2019 is available now at amazon.com. If you wish to update any previous version that you already own, you may do so for free by following the instructions just above. And don’t forget to leave us a review at amazon.com !
Update – October 2018
Planning a spa weekend with friends? Check out the gorgeous, holistic Bamford Haybarn Spa located at the 1 Hotel in South Beach. The Bamford Haybarn has proven itself to be one of the top spas in town and will be featured in our next edition. In the meantime, check out their website or call 305.604.6792 and be sure to book early. You will be renewed in body and spirit!
September 2018 Event Announcement – SEINFELD LIVE
A Jerry Seinfeld comedy event is being held on Friday, September 21st at 7pm. Jerry will present his unique point of view to a large audience inside the Ziff Opera House which is just a quick taxi ride from South Beach. Check it out the Arsht Performance Center’s website here.
August Update 2018 – Recent Changes!
Miami has more restaurant changes than any of our “Clued In” cities…it’s enough to give a travel writer a heart attack. Oh well, nothing to be done but announce it here. The good news is that our new Clued In Miami for 2019 debuted on Saturday, September 1st and is fantastic! Be sure to get the free update if you have an old edition (details above.)
Terrazza (at the Shore Club hotel) is becoming a Mexican restaurant and is now undergoing renovations. Macaluso’s (oh those meatballs!) has moved out of South Beach in favor of a downtown Miami location. The Raleigh Hotel remains closed during its major renovation after Hurricane Irma.
In Focus: The Hotel National, Miami Beach – July 2018
This summer we’re featuring some of our favorite hotels and in Miami that means The National. This art deco original from the 1940’s sits along the famous stretch of vintage hotels on Collins Avenue and is right on the beach. Boasting a kind of casual elegance, it has everything a South Beach hotel should have. Cabanas, a gorgeous pool, an entertainment lounge, and full concierge services will all help keep the fun going day and night. Their central location alone is worth the very affordable prices. Visit the website above for exclusive deals!
In Focus: La Sandwicherie – June 2018
For Miami Beach locals and visitors alike, La Sandwicherie just seems to be everyone’s favorite specialty sandwich shop. While their new website is not completely up and running as of this post, we thought we would share some of our favorite “la sandwich” creations with you. We just adore their Frenchie sandwich, layered with Saucisson Sec and Camembert (French dry salami and brie) which can be made on a baguette or croissant; the super-fresh ingredients come topped with their very own French vinegarette that’s to die for. We also get cravings for their vegetarian Tropical sandwich with comes stacked with avocado, mozzerella, and mango! They also offer up some great salads, perfect on a hot Miami day. Whether you sit at their outdoor counter, take it to the beach, or have delivered to your hotel room, we know you’ll love their creations.
Update: April 2018
To really enjoy Miami’s South Beach, you need to get out on the water. Instead of just looking at it all day, go boating on it. What? You don’t have a yacht? No problem. The Miami Yachting Company has plenty of them, and captains at the ready for you to hire. They will take care of everything, including any onboard catering you might require. Go ahead, live like a millionaire for a day… this is your vacation!
In Focus: Miami’s Rooftop bars, the place to be in March
Miami weather in March is usually glorious and what better way to enjoy it than on a rooftop. Three in South Beach and one in Miami have caught our eye and we are excited to bring them to our ardent readers. The first is Juvia (featured in our Clued In Miami eBook) which boasts fabulous nighttime views over Lincoln Road. It’s a comfortable place, with overstuffed sofas and a full dining menu as well as great cocktails. The next is atop the Gale South Beach hotel on Collins Avenue, and while it is only four stories high (a fashionable height in the 1940’s when it was built) its renovation includes an infinity pool, a 5,000 sq ft deck, and full circle views of the area. Another in South Beach worth trying is Ocho where tacos, guac, and margaritas are the stars. A private club, you will have to be a guest of Soho Beach House to get in (unless you have a friend who is a member!) We also love Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita which is a bit farther afield in the Brickell area. Its lively weekend dance parties a la rooftop should not be missed!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Miami!
If your idea of a white Christmas is actually white sand, then Miami Beach is the answer to your prayers. Spend the holidays basking in the sun, cocktail in hand, or splashing around in the warm ocean waters. Relaxation is the name of the game here. Spas are many and there’s probably a massage table with your name on it. Head over to Macaluso’s restaurant for the best meatball of your life and laugh as you think of all those poor folks in the Midwest who are busy shoveling the snow out of their driveways.
Your Miami NTK – October 2017
Ah fall! The leaves turn gold in New England, the swallows return to Capistrano, and the stone crabs return to Joe’s in Miami Beach. October is the true, seasonal awakening of South Beach, when the sweltering temperatures are gone and the more faithful, regular visitors swarm in. It’s Miami getting back to business, as it were. Why miss out on all the fun this amazing place has to offer? Book a spa day at The Standard, or plan a 1930’s style cocktail night at The Regent Bar. If you plan on being there November 2, don’t miss the Burgerliscious Festival! And that’s your October Need-To-Know.
Important Update for Clued In Miami 2017: Haven nightclub and the Burger & Beer Joint have both lost their leases and are now permanently closed.
Miami Beach is getting back to business/ September 2017
After narrowly missing a direct hit by Hurricane Irma, South Beach and Miami are busy getting things back to normal. Most of the hotels and restaurants had already opened by the time of this posting, and the beach chairs and umbrellas are being set up. Will guests see some palm trees stripped of their fronds? Probably. But as things get back to normal it’s important we give Miami our support -and our dollars. If you had plans to go, don’t cancel them. You will have a fine time.
In Focus: How to jet ski/ August 2017
As Miami gets pumped for its upcoming busy season we thought some tips on making your Jet Ski experience the best it can be were in order…
The first thing you need to know is that’s it’s easy, and so fun that you’ll wonder why you never tried it before. (If you are one of the lucky ones who have tried it before, good for you.) You are not going to fall off and even if you did it’s no problem because the machine stops immediately when you do. We try to go as fast as we can, full throttle, in a straightaway to avoid leaning into a sharp turn. While both the ocean side and the Biscayne Bay side of Miami Beach offer safe, fun, water-scooter experiences, the ocean will definitely give you more thrills because of the waves. Come ready to go; a bag that can hold all the things you want to leave ashore is a good idea (the rental folks will keep it safe for you) and be sure to leave on a tee shirt unless you want those water-reflected rays on your skin for 30 minutes straight. A life-vest then goes on to make this one of the safest things you ever did.
The most important tip we can give you however is to wear goggles. Buy some cheap ones, bring some along along your trip, steal them from your children– whatever. It will make ALL the difference in your experience. Why? When on a water-scooter the spray hits you in the face which is not a problem until the salt starts to get to you. Then you suddenly find yourself trying to skim over the Atlantic Ocean with one eye closed and the other stinging. Avoid this, wear goggles!
You can rent water-scooters right on the beach with Boucher Brothers Rentals.
Where to have breakfast when you don’t like the offerings at your hotel/ July 2017
C’mon, you’re in Miami. You have to have a Cuban breakfast, right? Of course right. Lucky for you there are five locations of Havana 1957, one right on the centrally located Lincoln Road. There you can savor Cuban flavors as they meld with your breakfast favs. For a smaller, lighter breakfast that focuses more on the coffee, check out the Cuban hole-in-the-wall called Playa Café (no website) at 1515 Washington Avenue.
Update: Summer in Miami Beach/ June 2017
As South Beach heats up, its crowds definitely lessen. That’s your reward for braving the summer weather which can include tropical storms and the like. Enjoy the off-season while you can, because millions of visitors will descend around the same time that the stone crabs return to Joe’s –sometime in October.
Update: New info/ May 2017
Miami visitors have a treat in store. Beginning May 8, 2017, the much touted and highly anticipated Museum of Science will open in a four-acre Museum Park. New state-of-the-art buildings will include both a Planetarium and an Aquarium. There will be interactive exhibits, an urban farm, and a Lunar Terrace boasting a telescope.
Just across from South Beach on Biscayne Bay, it’s the perfect excuse to take a water taxi! For museum details, click here.
In Focus: Gay Pride in Miami/ April 2017
Springtime in Miami’s South Beach brings the festive and colorful Gay Pride Festival. This year’s Celebrity Grand Marshall will be TV comedian Ross Mathews, and the three day event will run from April 7 to April 9. Most of the festivities can be found on Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th Streets.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Clued In Travel Books team!
Update: Halloween/ October 2016
Miami’s fortunate near-miss of Hurricane Hermine means good times for South Beach. The beaches, hotels, and restaurants are busy getting ready for the autumn season, always with a fresh sense of excitement this time of year. You had better start working on your Halloween costume…the fabulous South Beach Halloween parade will be here in a snap. No time? That’s okay…the Miami Twice Modern & Vintage Boutique will set you and your loved one up with the perfect get-up.
Update: Summer 2016
Miami’s South Beach takes a nod from Europe and closes many of its restaurants for an August vacation. Don’t get us wrong; you will never starve in Miami. But you might want to double check on those opening hours before getting your taste buds up. (The stone crabs at Joe’s are already on hiatus until mid October.)
Update: Fall 2016
The fall and winter months are when Florida shines. Everything there is in full swing and plenty of folks from the northeastern US will head south in search of warmth and sunshine. That means you need to get working on those hotel and restaurant reservations! Early planning using our Clued In Miami e-guide will give you a distinct advantage.