The Inside Out Guide to Miami and South Florida

miami city guide
Credit: Miguel Romero

It’s hard not to be dazzled, at least slightly, by Miami’s sublime weather, gorgeous beaches, a thriving art landscape, and excellent, varied restaurants. Basically, those are pretty essential ingredients for a fun-filled vacation from reality, right? The South Florida metropolis offers strikingly different vibes from area to area, from Little Havana’s rich Cuban heritage to South Beach’s Art Deco beachfront hotels to Wynwood’s lively arts scene, and it’s relatively easy and quick to hop between ‘hoods here. The city’s expansive waterfront settings mean ocean and bay views to ogle, thanks to the fact that the city’s essentially an interconnected slew of islands. Ahead, a curated dossier for exploring the 305’s top places to sleep, get cultured, feast, and, of course, get inked.

Where to Get Tattooed in Miami

Iris Tattoo Studio:This innovative tattoo studio in Wynwood actually started in Argentina by founder Nahuel Hilal, who wanted to evolve the inking game after having a bad personal experience at a Buenos Aires parlour. A Miami location was opened in 2016, awash in soothing pastel hues and light-filled, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Besides its very attractive digs, Iris offers a more welcoming vibe and approachable, varied range of ink styles, making it a great pick for first-timers and veteran ink enthusiasts looking for a fresh piece of body art. Highlights include geometric designs and watercolor-esque work; for incredibly delicate, detailed work, be sure seek out Karry. 2700 N. Miami Ave., Suite 508, Wynwood

Love Hate Tattoo: Arguably Miami’s most famous tattoo studio, Love Hate Tattoo garnered national recognition (and helped solidify the city’s ink cred) thanks to Miami Ink and founder Ami James. A talented team of artists as well as big-name guest artists can tackle a wide range of designs and styles, and the space is a nice departure from the sorta-dingy, no-frills ambiance of many parlours, with an attractive, wood-lined and glossy black-floored waiting area that resembles a hip clothing boutique (and, well, kind of is one, as there are T-shirts and other assorted merch for sale) to kick off your ink experience. 1360 Washington Ave., South Beach

Where to Stay in Miami

Life House Little Havana: A hip, potentially game-changing Silicon Valley-backed hospitality venture, Life House utilizes custom technology for booking and pricing, the check-in process, and other features, and also to connect guests whose stays will overlap…before arriving, for a more social travel experience, for those who want it. The inaugural Life House location is nestled in Little Havana, for a more interesting, neighborhood-y way to experience Miami versus popular parts like South Beach and Brickell (not to mention the proximity to the city’s finest Cuban fare, of course). Novel tech touches aside, the main draws are the rates, which start at just $119 per night, and the seriously stylish environs, which channel a “tropical mansion” vibe and are decked out in handsome dark wood, a soothing palette (loads of olive, russet, and tan throughout) lush plants, and attractive, with luxe touches like Le Labo toiletries. There’s a rooftop pool, bar, and restaurant set to open this spring. Another Miami location is slated to debut on May 1: the South Beach outpost of Life House, which will be located in a 1930s Tudor cottage, on the neighborhood’s southern fringes, a peaceful distance away from throngs of tourists that populate the area further north. 528 SW 9th Ave., Little Havana

1 Hotel South Beach: Perched on the buzzy, luxury-packed northern stretches of South Beach, 1 Hotel has a decidedly zen vibe,  filled with lush greenery, plush cream furnishings and decor touches, plus lots of wood detailing. In addition to some prime beach real estate for sunning on the sand, there are four pools to choose from, including one on the rooftop, an adults-only space with epic to admire and cocktails to sip between dips. There’s great grub on site, too, at Habitat, which serves up Latin and Asian fusion from chef José Mendín, who’s an alum of popular Miami chainlet Pubbelly. Travelers who prefer to explore the world in as green a manner as possible will appreciate the 1 Hotel’s environmentally minded design touches that can be found throughout the property, including reclaimed wood pieces and cardboard hangers in rooms; rates start at $490 per night. When you’re in need of a change of scenery, head to nearby Faena or The Edition hotels (the latter of which boasts a nighttime indoor skating rink) both of which are walking distance from the 1 Hotel and offer equally luxury laden digs for a meal out or round of cocktails without needing to hop in an Uber to get there. 2341 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

The Plymouth: The Plymouth, which dates back to 1940, got a thorough renovation by interior designer Fernando Santangelo and reopened in 2017, kitted out with charming antique furnishings and a serene, South of France-inspired color palette (think: warm, muted hues of cornflower blue, peach, and ivory). Lounge by the tastefully outfitted pool area, and though it’s not an oceanfront property, the beach is a five-minute walk away, where there’s exclusive seating on the sand for guests of The Plymouth. The prime, central location in Miami Beach is appealing, as are the prices, which are pretty affordable for the area, with rates starting at $250 per night. Also of note: There’s an outpost of beloved, long-running NYC restaurant, Blue Ribbon, for topnotch sushi and more. 336 21st St,, Miami Beach

Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club: One of the more recent editions to Miami Beach’s dizzying array of topnotch hotel options, the Four Seasons Hotel opened in 2017 after a dramatic, awe-inspiring revamp by prominent architect Richard Meier of the iconic Mediterranean revival-style Surf Club, which dates back to the 1930s. There are a few striking new buildings and pools courtesy of Meier’s redesign, but thankfully, all that gorgeous Art Deco detailing is still intact. Dining offerings are equally impressive: for Amalfi Coast vibes and fare in the 305, there’s La Sirenuse, the first outpost of chef Antonio Mermolia’s cooking beyond the Positano original. Or, head to Surf Club Restaurant, helmed by celebrated French Laundry and Per Se chef Thomas Keller, with posh (and pricy) takes on classic dishes, like Caesar salad that’s prepared tableside on a cart and beef Wellington. It’s certainly a splurge, whether you’re sleeping or simply dining here (rooms start at $820 a night) and its Surfside location is removed from the South Beach action, but it’s a perfect pick for a really luxurious respite from reality. 9011 Collins Ave., Surfside

What to Do in Miami

Wynwood Arcade: Once an industrial area, the Wynwood neighborhood has become a hotbed of art (both alfresco public pieces and indoor galleries), flanked by cool indie boutiques and great dining options. The action is concentrated in Wynwood Arcade, comprised of three former warehouses that are filled with over 70 art galleries, retailers, and dining and drinks offerings. Instagram bait abounds in Wynwood; odds are, you’ve definitely seen a plethora of shots starring those vibrant murals. Punctuate all that art perusing and selfie-taking with cocktails and apps via a pitstop at rooftop bar and lounge No. 3 Social: prominent local restaurateur Norman Van Aken serves up exciting tipples plus noshes like coconut-citrus ceviche and hoisin BBQ chicken baos, and cool down with a flavorful boozy paleta (aka popsicle), like the smoked pineapple mezcal creation, for an icy treat that’s perfect for the humid climes. Another great option for refueling and unwinding with a drink or snack while meandering around Wynwood is Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, with an expansive menu filled with lots of fresh seafood and creative brunch dishes, like Key Lime French toast and kimchi benedict. 50 NW 24th St., Wynwood

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park: While South Beach is the go-to stretch of sand for most visitors, one of the loveliest spots to bask in the sun is a bit further south, and worth the trek for a truly mellow beach day. Located on Key Biscayne, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is an oasis of pristine sand and waves that are situated amid ample palm trees and other greenery that looks positively tropical. Check out the longstanding Cape Florida Lighthouse, which lends a charming Northeastern coastal town vibe to the setting, and affords sweeping views from the top, accessible during tours held Thursday through Monday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.  While the beach here lacks the posh cabanas and loungers or a clubby day partying ambiance of most Miami hotels’ oceanfront set-ups, it certainly compensates with its peacefulness and tranquility. There’s also plenty to do for more active beachgoers who’d rather break a sweat than soak up some rays: you can also fish, hike, bike, and birdwatch here. 1200 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum: Key West was Hemingway’s stomping grounds for around a decade, and his beautiful abode, which was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1968, has been painstakingly preserved. Tours of the place reveal not just Hemingway’s lair, but also shed light on little-known, intriguing morsels about him. The eccentric writer was pretty prolific with his work during his stint this quirky piece of paradise, where he reportedly wrote 70% of his total, lifetime body of work. Feline lovers will particularly appreciate the posse of 40-50 cats that roam the grounds, all of which are polydactyl (six-toed) kitties. Fun fact: Some of the cats are descendents of Hemingway’s six-toed pet, Snow White, whom he received from a ship’s captain. Other Key West highlights to check out: Tiki House or The Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn for topnotch, rum-addled cocktail creations, and Louie’s Backyard, for loads of seafood to devour while gazing at the waves. 907 Whitehead St., Key West

Where to Get Inspired in Miami

Pérez Art Museum Miami: The digs are just as riveting as the works on display at this modern art museum. In 2013, the Pérez Art Museum Miami (also referred to as PAAM) relocated to a 200,000-square-foot building designed by acclaimed architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron in Downtown Miami’s Biscayne Bayfront area. There’s lots to explore beyond typical wall-mounted canvases here, like the lush outdoor Mary M. and Sash A. Spencer Sculpture Garden,  and a colorful fleet of replica boats strung from the ceiling in British artist Hew Locke’s “For Those in Peril on the Sea,” a massive 2011 work that’s on display through September 2019. In town on a Thursday? Check out PAMM gratis, thanks to the institution’s Free First Thursday program. 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown Miami

Rubell Family Collection: Selections from the impressive, and eclectic collection of contemporary art collected by Miami residents and art denizens Mera and Don Rubell is open to the public to ogle at The Rubell Family Collection, also known as RFC. The couple is basically art-world royalty in these parts: they were key players in Art Basel’s arrival in Miami, which has made Miami a major player on the global art scene. The RFC is one of the biggest private contemporary art collection in North America, and is filled with pieces the Rubells have been collecting since they married in 1964; the couple apparently bought a new piece of art weekly, for decades. The vast 45,000-square-foot space was formerly a DEA warehouse. Oh, and if the Rubell name sounds familiar: Don Rubell’s brother, Steve Rubell, was Studio 54’s co-founder and co-owner, and the iconic ‘70s NYC nightlife spot is where the Rubells hung with huge late 20th century artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Cindy Sherman. While a slew 0f notable pieces are on loan at any given time to institutions, there’s certainly plenty of fascinating work housed in the RFC to peruse. The museum is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, with free guided tours offered each day at 3 p.m. 95 NW 29th St., Wynwood

Where to Eat and Drink in Miami

Versailles: Miami’s dining landscape is densely populated, largely impressive, and increasingly diverse, but at least one classic Cuban meal is practically a non-negotiable when visiting. Versailles is a beloved local institution in the genre, for good reason. A culinary crown jewel of Little Havana’s Calle Ocho, Versailles is steeped in history: opened in 1971, the place served as a de facto community hub for Cuban exiles. Next door, there’s Versailles Cuban Bakery, for more of a grab-and-go option (or, to stockpile some decadent Cuban snacks to devour later on). You can even get one last topnotch Cubano before bidding farewell to Miami thanks to the restaurant’s airport outpost, located in Terminal E. Don’t plan to stray far from South Beach? Hit up Puerto Sagua, a delicious Cuban spot on the southern end of Collins Ave. which opened in 1962 and thus dates back even further than Versailles. 3555 SW 8th St., Little Havana

Broken Shaker: Miami is serious about its nightlife, a balmy playground for turning up and going hard, if that’s your speed. For a more mellow cocktail or two in a hip indoor-outdoor space, though, head to the acclaimed Broken Shaker. The charming, romantic courtyard cocktail lounge is situated in the Freehand Hotel, a young hospitality group that began in Miami and has since expanded to NYC, L.A., and Chicago. Broken Shaker, which was started by Bar Lab founders Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, features concoctions like the French Intervention, with Mezcal, herbsaint, pineapple, lemon curd, and coconut milk, are creative, expertly mixed, and often lean on tropical-feeling ingredients that are a far cry from crappy, cloyingly sweet daiquris or pina coladas. The cocktails are priced at a palatable $12 to $14 a piece versus the $20-plus prices that clubs and scene-y pool bars tend to command, with a daily special cocktail for just $9 and daily special punch for $8. Equally affordable bar bites include artichoke fries with tahini ranch dip, shawarma chicken wings and ice cream sandwiches. In addition to excellent libations at Broken Shaker, the Freehand’s cheerful, colorful, affordable accommodations are worth a look, too. 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach

Ghee Indian Kitchen: Head to this Design District newbie for exceptional indian food in an airy, industrial space. Ghee Indian Kitchen’s chef, Niven Patel, was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2018 and was nominated again for the prestigious awards’ 2019 shortlist. The menu changes daily, based on what’s freshest from the restaurant’s very own farm, Rancho Patel, named after Ghee’s chef, as well as local fishermen and other nearby farms the eatery sources from. Expect a mix of familiar dishes, like chicken tikka masala and samosas, alongside inspired dishes like roasted duck breast in a coconut curry sauce, white truffile porcini paratha bread, or Key West pink shrimp with basmati grits. It’s easily accessible if you’re staying (or mostly hanging) in Miami Beach, located right over the Rd. 112/Julia Tuttle Causeway, and close to plenty of worthy attractions in the Wynwood and Design District. 8965 SW 72nd Pl., Design District

St. Roch Market:While food halls have become a ubiquitous, if mostly welcome, presence in many metropolises at this point, St. Roch Market is a gorgeous new addition to the 305’s dining landscape. The New Orleans import, which is pronounced “Saint Rock,” opened in Miami in early 2018. It’s situated in a gorgeous 10,000-square-foot space tricked out with mid-century decor, marble countertops, white ceramic floor tiling, as well as a modern art library packed with 3,000 art and design tomes available to peruse, plus rotating art exhibits. Don’t miss Itamae, a Peruvian sushi spot run by a duo of siblings and their father: the octopus-hamachi roll with olive crema is a standout. Other dining options among the dozen vendors include Jaffa, an Israeli eatery, Coop, which specializes in Southern fried chicken, and Dal Plin, a pasta spot. There’s also a cocktail bar, The Mayhaw. 140 NE 39th St., 2nd Fl., Design District

Related: Check Out More of Inside Out‘s City Guides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *