If you're searching for a tropical destination to escape to this winter—without having to go overseas—look no further than the Sunshine State and this roundup of the best places to visit there (more specifically, our favorite places in South Florida). From the luxury resorts and charming streets of Palm Beach to the quiet, moody backwater adventures in the Everglades and the chic, metropolitan experiences in Miami, South Florida is the perfect destination for every kind of traveler. It's nothing short of paradise, hence its well-deserved nickname.
Are you already in Florida? Lucky you! Make the most of your vacation with our tips on the coolest places to visit, including the best places to stay, shop, eat, and see. And for those you shivering over your desktops fantasizing about Art Basel 2017 or getting a head start planning next year's beach vacation, our locals-only tips will give you something to look forward to and motivate you to get there. (Our only request is that you bring us with you.) It's never too soon to start drafting those automated out-of-office emails, so scroll through our list of Florida favorites to get started and beat those winter blues. Bon voyage!
Where to Stay
The Breakers is the grandest, most iconic hotel and resort in Palm Beach. If you love the perks of a big, classic resort, that's your best bet. But if you prefer accommodations with a more modern approach on the waterfront, opt for Tideline.
When it comes to hotels in Miami, we suggest a stay at the Faena Hotel. It'll give you the full experience of the city in all its opulence and glory. Forbes describes it not only as "the coolest new hotel in Miami," but also as a "sensory pleasure palace." Full of old-school glamor and an on-site Damien Hirst masterpiece, we agree it's one of the coolest spots around—and not just in the Miami area. It's right on Collins Avenue in South Beach, though it offers more privacy since it's a little further north of the other popular hotels, like the traditional Setai and hip Miami Beach Edition Hotel (which are also great options).
That being said, Faena is rather pricey, so if it's out of your budget, try the equally colorful and hip option that's incredibly affordable: Freehand Miami boasts a young, tropical energy that will instantly transport you to vacation mode. It's quintessential Miami magic with lush greenery and island vibes. For a middle ground, stay at The Betsy Hotel in the heart of South Beach.
Or, if you're headed even further south down the Florida coast to the Keys, we suggest staying at Casa Morada in Islamorada. You'll find palm trees, hammocks, and pristine beaches, which is exactly what you'd want for a private getaway at the tip of the continent.
What to See and Do
If you're only able to stay in Florida for a short period of time, you won't be able to hit everything on this list, but these are a few of our favorite things to do in South Florida. Whether or not you're in Miami for Art Basel, you should check out the gallery scene. One of the stand-out galleries is NADA Miami Beach. Given Miami's rich art and architecture, it's no surprise that the city has preserved the Art Deco buildings with a tropical edge. Take a tour of the Art Deco District to get a sense, and then walk through the Wynwood neighborhood, where you'll see a series of murals and street art in this bustling creative enclave.
If art isn't your thing, find a spot on the beach with a good book, and enjoy a day of doing nothing but soaking in some vitamin D, or treat yourself to a spa day at one of the hotels we recommended. For anyone who loves the great outdoors and trying new things, book a day trip to the Everglades. While admiring the alligators (from a safe distance), you can sit back and enjoy the slower, romantic pace as you drift through the magical backwaters. Another favorite (especially if you're a bookworm) is a visit to Ernest Hemingway's Key West home for a tour.
Where to Shop
When it comes to shopping in Florida, Miami is your safest bet for cutting-edge boutiques, chic luxury retailers, and glamorous open-air malls. Come to think of it, perhaps "safe" isn't the right word as far as our wallets are concerned. The Webster is our favorite shop for one-of-a-kind pieces. You can either take a stroll down Collins Avenue, and check out their multilevel boutique (it's in an historic Art Deco building painted in vibrant pastels), or you can go to their space in the Bal Harbour shopping center, a great outdoor mall with an incredibly unique design. The Design District is another great shopping area, with all the usual high-end suspects plus a few concept stores, from Céline to Maison Margiela and Dior Homme.
When shopping in Palm Beach, you should stroll down West Palm Beach’s Antique Row. If you're looking to redecorate your home or consider yourself a flea market addict, then this charming string of shops will be a dream come true. And you'll particularly love it if you've been inspired by all the vibrancy and whimsy of tropical Art Deco design. You can expect to score a surplus of rattan finds and sherbet-hued pieces, so pack accordingly.
Where to Drink and Dine
Perhaps our favorite part of traveling is getting to try all the new cuisines and restaurants in the area. Since food is such a great way to get to know the culture, make sure you try the classics, like Joe's Stone Crab for a slice of the famous Key lime pie, as well as some of the newer foodie spots. For an unforgettable meal in a gorgeous setting, you can't miss Mandolin Aegean Bistro. And you should definitely make time to try a Cuban restaurant (our favorite is Puerto Sagua for a late-night bite).
Speaking of late-night bites, Bodega Taqueria y Tequila is great for some fast tacos before a night of dancing in the speakeasy (entrance is through their refrigerator). If you're planning on hitting the town, try The Broken Shaker in South Beach or Bardot in Wynwood.
One of our favorite restaurants in Palm Beach is Bice, which is perfect if you're looking for an authentic Italian experience with an authentic Palm Beach twist. And we haven't tried Bice's beef carpaccio ourselves, but we hear it's the best. Café Boulud is another great option, set in the gorgeous Brazilian Court hotel, and they serve the finest French food around.
Do you have any local tips to share with us? Let us know your favorite places to visit in Florida.