The Insider's Guide to Miami: Art Basel Edition
Ed. note: This post was written by Laura House, editor of luxury travel and booking service Mr & Mrs Smith.
Shamelessly sexy and lined with historic architecture, Miami Beach has long been a draw for the sun-starved jet set. It’s true that “Magic City” is infamous for beaches dotted with bathing beauties in barely there bikinis and glitzy late-night clubs. However, now heads turn for other reasons too, thanks to an emerging culinary and arts scene—most notably Art Basel Miami, which kicks off its thirteenth season today. World-renowned art fair or not, here’s the scoop on all things Miami…
A zippy 20-minute cab ride from Miami International Airport delivers you to up-and-coming Mid-Beach and the Thompson Miami Beach hotel. A full revamp last year seamlessly stitched together buildings from three distinct eras—1940s, 1950s, and the mid-2000s—to create one impressive midcentury-inspired stay. Loads of updates—two heated pools, a rooftop with open-air cabanas, big-name chefs in-house—were made all without losing the original charm.
Thompson Miami Beach | 4041 Collins Avenue
Architect Morris Lapidus and his neobaroque style set the tone for splashy Miami Beach hotels in the 1950s, and the Nautilus hotel (just opened in October) is a prime example. The eight-story tower has luxuriously updated rooms, a sunken cocktail lounge, superior sea views, and a smack-dab-on-South-Beach address.
Nautilus, a Sixty Hotel | 1825 Collins Avenue
For those on the hunt for an authentic art deco–era experience, cozy up to Casa Claridge’s, originally built in 1928 as the El Paraiso apartments, which was a destination for well-heeled snowbirds taking flight from the north for the winter. The décor is Mediterranean revival meets Floridian fauna, and it’s just a stroll to the hotel’s private beach club and the Faena District.
Casa Claridge’s | 3500 Collins Avenue
If a spa weekend is in order, place your stressed-out self in the healing hands of the wellness team for a signature Como Shambhala massage, yoga class, or guided meditation at the Metropolitan by Como, Miami Beach. This sleek sanctuary has an ocean-facing rooftop pool, contemporary interiors by Paola Navone, and a private beach for aquatic adventures (yacht cruise, anyone?) or some serious sun basking.
Metropolitan by Como, Miami Beach | 2445 Collins Avenue
Witness the giant outdoor canvases filled by street and graffiti artists of Wynwood Walls. In 2009, community revitalizer Tony Goldman had the brilliant idea to reimagine the rundown warehouse district as a destination for outdoor art, and since its inception, artists from around the world have transformed more than 80,000 square feet of walls.
Wynwood Walls | 2520 NW 2nd Avenue
The Art Deco buildings with their steel chevron motifs and geometric patterns are so pristinely preserved you wonder if you might be on a movie set. Embark on a guided stroll led by in-the-know docents at the Miami Design Preservation League to get the full story on the surrounding architecture.
Miami Design Preservation League | 1001 Ocean Drive
Izzy’s Fish & Oyster is a bit of Cape Cod in balmy Miami Beach. On the seafood-leaning menu: whole Maine lobster rolls (warm or cold), rich lobster poutine (a dash of Montreal, but whoa!), crab cakes, and a daily selection of oysters plucked off the coast of New England.
Izzy’s Fish & Oyster | 423 Washington Avenue
Chef Richard Hales is no stranger to the Miami dining scene (Sakaya Kitchen, food truck Dim Ssam a gogo), but word spread beyond city limits when Blackbrick Chinese was a Bon Appétit Best New Restaurant nominee in 2014. The bad-ass room hung with heroic portraits of Chuck Norris and Keith Richards is only outdone by dishes such as lobster fried rice and panfried pork cheek dumplings.
Blackbrick | 3451 NE 1st Avenue
One standout restaurant should be enough for one address, but the Thompson Miami Beach hotel happens to have two spots that are on everyone’s must-dine list. When the hotel opened in fall of 2014, award-winning local chef Michelle Bernstein’s Seagrape, was hotly anticipated—and the local ceviche, snapper bouillabaisse, and ground short rib burger definitely deliver. In early November, Top Chef alum Dale Talde trotted out his inventive Asian-American cuisine (with a Brooklyn accent)— pretzel pork and chive dumplings, crispy oysters and bacon pad Thai—with the buzzed-about opening of Talde Miami Beach (pictured).
Seagrape and Talde Miami Beach at Thompson Miami Beach | 4041 Collins Avenue
The Broken Shaker is that rare hang that achieves the perfect high-brow, low-brow balance. The Roman and Williams–designed bar at the Freehand Hostel has landed on hit lists (Food & Wine and World’s 50 Best Bars) for the serious cocktail-swilling set, and also pleases those hankering for a laid-back outdoor drinks scene.
The Broken Shaker | 2727 Indian Creek Drive
Opened in 1935 as a saloon, Ball & Chain’s sordid past is the stuff of a good pulp page-turner complete with gambling, police raids, bootlegging, and flamboyant nightclub singers and dancers. Sounds kinda perfect, right? Which is why the legendary cocktail lounge has been revived (save for the illegal bits) and returned to its former nightclub glory serving specialty drinks, like the bananita daiquiri and Calle Ocho Old Fashioned, and hosting events weekly.
Ball & Chain | 1513 SW 8th Street
Slip into something more comfortable—specifically a pair of velvet slippers or leopard print pony hair chukkas from Miami-founded Del Toro. The Palm-Beach-prep-meets-Italian-Riviera style is a reflection of President and Creative Director Matthew Chevallard’s Italian-born, Florida-bred upbringing (with a stint at a New England boarding school).
Del Toro | 2750 NW 3rd Avenue
Shopping at Wanderlista is like sifting through the scores of a friend just back from a trek around the world with his or her shelves stocked with body balms from Madrid, mochila bags from Colombia, and beachy kaftans. You’ll find their concept store in the lobby of the Hotel Croydon.
Wanderlista | 3720 Collins Avenue
Part gallery, part boutique, Iniva is a bright storefront with an artfully displayed and carefully curated selection of artwork, home design goods, jewelry, and bold-print clothing from across Africa.
Iniva Miami | Wynwood Block Space 19-20, 2621 NW 2nd Avenue
Shop a couple of our favorite beach essentials below.
Have you spent time in Miami? What are some of your favorite spots?