The “father of Miami,” Henry Flagler, helped coin the nickname “The Magic City.” A lot has changed since his railroad first ran across the state in the late 1800s. Today, Richard Branson has translated his Virgin brand from the sky to the shore with the debut of Virgin Group’s Brightline high-speed rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach — the first intercity passenger railroad built in over a century.
Miami’s new railway is just one of the latest luxe additions popping up around town. Throw in a billion-dollar shopping centre, parties of the year (hello, Art Basel!) and a posh new crop of hotels and you’ll see why Miami maintains its reputation as the ultimate celebrity playground. To experience the city like a VIP, here are the top spots to eat, play and party.
Sizzling South Beach
South Beach was one of Miami Beach’s first neighbourhoods to develop, with its trademark 1930s Art Deco buildings now housing some of the city’s sleekest hotels. Take European beach house–inspired Nautilus South Beach, for instance. Set in a renovated 1950s Morris Lapidus–designed building, Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the many familiar faces you may recognise lounging at the cabanas surrounding the swanky, 1,890-square-foot saltwater pool running parallel to the sea.
Nearby, WALL at W South Beach just feted its eighth anniversary, making it one of the longest-running lounges on South Beach. It’s where Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lopez come to party, and Paris Hilton and Jamie Foxx drop in for surprise DJ sets. For a stay worthy of an A-lister, book W South Beach’s new two-bedroom E-wow Penthouse Suite, complete with a rooftop plunge pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Lincoln Road’s reputation as the Rodeo Drive of Miami may have faded, but the iconic shopping street is planning a revival dreamt up by the same landscape architects behind another stylish pedestrian thoroughfare: The High Line in Manhattan. The project calls for more green space, public art installations and reorganised outdoor café seating. There are a few spots, however, that still make this spot a destination worth adding to your list. Start with a trip to designer-clad Alchemist, a glass box–encased boutique sitting on the fifth floor of the Herzog and de Meuron–designed parking garage, also home to another Miami hot spot — rooftop bar Juvia.
Take a break from Miami’s concrete jungle and soak up nature in a tropical-style safari at Jungle Island, where everyone from Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have been spotted. Soar over the treetops on Miami’s first zip line, the 80-foot-high SkyWire, or get up close and personal with some of the world’s most exotic animals on the three-hour Go Wilder VIP Tour. If you happen to be in town on the third Saturday of the month, the zoological park launched a new drive-in theatre series, featuring cinema screenings and food trucks.
Fashion-Forward Design District
For a neighbourhood devoted entirely to designer fashion, make your way to the Miami Design District, where labels include Christian Louboutin (those signature red soles!) and Louis Vuitton, as well as one of the most revered names in the diamond world — Harry Winston. After working up an appetite window shopping, take a seat at one of the most talked about new tables in town: Kaido. Chef Brad Kilgore (behind Wynwood’s Alter) and mixologist Nico de Soto teamed up on the experiential eatery, modelled after a Tokyo-style drinking den. Start your journey with a cocktail at the centrepiece, 12-seat bar (which sits under a chandelier composed of 1,000 butterfly knives) before indulging in a menu of whimsical, Asian-inspired dishes. One not to miss: the uni fondue, a decadent blend of urchin and aged Parmesan.
South of downtown, the sky-rise-filled financial district of Brickell is shaking off its business-like shell and emerging as one of the hottest spots to stay (and shop) in Miami. SLS opened up a second spot in the heart of Brickell with 124 rooms designed by French legend Philippe Starck (the same name behind Delano, a South Beach institution) and restaurants by two James Beard Award–winning chefs: Michael Schwartz and José Andrés.
Hong Kong–based Swire Group also chose the neighbourhood for its first stateside hotel, EAST, Miami. The anchor hotel of the new, billion-dollar Brickell City Centre shopping and entertainment complex, EAST, Miami is already a local go-to for its 40th-floor rooftop bar, Sugar (named best rooftop bar in the U.S. two years in a row by Condé Nast Traveler), and Uruguayan eatery Quinto La Huella, featuring a menu revolving around wood-fired cuisine roasted in the centrepiece parrilla.
Walk next door and you’ll come across cuisine as authentic as you’d find in Italy at Miami’s first Italian food hall, the three-storey La Centrale, which curates culinary inspiration from 20 regions across Italy (think Miami’s version of Eataly). Stock up on prosciutto and pastries at the ground floor Mercato or sip an Aperol Spritz at the aptly named Aperitivo bar.
This Spring, Brickell is ushering in another high-profile newcomer: Osaka. The Miami location will be the first in North America for the Japanese/Peruvian eatery, whose empire spans nine eateries in seven cities across South America (including an outpost in Santiago, ranked one of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018).
Nearby, waterfront Zuma is a solid staple on Miami’s dining scene, drawing a stylish crowd who want to see and be seen at its lavish bottomless weekend brunch (think copious amounts of Champagne and sushi). Not only is Zuma great for people-watching (the Beckhams, Drake and Will Smith are just a few who frequent the restaurant); it also sits right on the Miami River, meaning guests can make an entrance in the most show-stopping way possible — by yacht.
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Author: Lane Nieset