where to stay
Courtyard Cadillac Miami Beach Oceanfront (hotelcadillacmiamibeach.com) completed a $25 million dollar restoration last year. It features 356 guestrooms and 19 oversized suites with oceanfront views, a saltwater pool, a fitness center, and an updated lobby and bar—Lounge DeVille, which during our stay had lively entertainment with tango dancers and live music. There’s also a renovated Carrabba’s Surfside Tiki Bar and new poolside cabanas.
The 641-guestroom InterContinental Miami (icmiamihotel.com), home of the city’s Orange Drop on New Year’s Eve, offers views of Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami. Here, an outdoor digital canvas showcases a dancing lady that’s 19 stories tall, making it a visible point in the Miami skyline. The lobby area has been enhanced with 18 LCD screens and touchscreen coffee tables that allow guests to order drinks, plan outings in Miami, make dining reservations, review cultural events, and scan the mySpa menu. Additionally, a video wall behind the registration area displays local scenes, while another wall beside the elevators showcases a live camera feed of Biscayne Bay. Historical fun fact: This property was originally built as a casino in the 1980s, but never operated as one.
Known for its Hispanic vibe, Calle Ocho or Eighth Street, is filled with Cuban culture—from ice cream shops serving homemade treats inspired by grandma (have clients stop at ¡Azucar! for a cold treat) to cigar shops passed down from generation to generation, as well as Domino Park, where the older generation congregates for a game of dominoes. The street has its own “Walk of Fame”—just like Hollywood Blvd. in California—except here, the stars are dedicated to Hispanic artists like Gloria Estefan. For a taste of Cuban cuisine including an authentic Cuban sandwich, tostones, and a cafecito, plus a history of the Cuban culture and how it influenced Miami, recommend your clients sign up for a Miami Culinary Tour of Calle Ocho miamiculinarytours.com).
Not many think of farmlands when they think of South Florida, but Homestead is just that. This city encompasses acres and acres of tropical crops, and its city-center harks back to a time when trolleys still ran along the streets. The area is best known as a hub for the Henry Flagler railroad in 1903. Homestead’s Then & Now walking tour (cityofhomestead.com) takes guests through this early pioneer town with various historic stops such as Town Hall; the Seminole Theatre; and Hotel Redland, which was once a supply store, a rooming house, and the city’s first post office. The 22-room property is known to have housed Al Capone during his trips to South Florida. Go ahead, have your clients roam around or hop on the city’s trolley to explore. Make sure they don’t miss the sweet homemade treats such as those finger-licking cinnamon rolls, at Knaus Berry Farm, which has been around for 55 years (open November to April).
South Beach has more to offer than all-night partying and a gorgeous shoreline. The city, which is celebrating its centennial this month, has one of the world’s most beautiful collections of Art Deco buildings. Recommend guests sign up for an Art Deco Walking Tour with the Miami Design Preservation League (mdpl.org). This interactive and fun tour offers a great lesson in the city’s history, and offers a glimpse into South Beach beyond the dance clubs. During our time touring our hometown, we dined at Dolce Italian where the decor is chic and the plates are bountiful; and Larrios, an upscale Cuban restaurant owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan that offers lively music and authentic home-style meals.
Yes, South Beach is world-renowned for its trend-setting ways, but your truly hip clients will want to take a detour to Wynwood, which becomes inundated with art aficionados during the annual Wynwood, and where urban art dominates. The best way to get the full scope of the area’s myriad graffiti pieces is to take a drive through the neighborhood—pieces are scattered throughout in no specific order. This was once a garment district, so the former warehouses are the canvas of choice for the graffiti artists, who come from around the globe and whose pieces are commissioned, not created under the cloak of the night. The core of the neighborhood’s arts scene is Wynwood Walls, where visitors will also find Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, a hip restaurant that knows how to bring in the crowds, so reservations recommended. Stylish boutiques are sprinkled throughout the neighborhood, especially along NW 2nd Avenue, and galleries, too, play an important role in Wynwood, none more so than the Rubell Family Collection, exhibited within a 45,000-sq.-ft. repurposed Drug Enforcement Agency confiscated goods facility. Guided tours are available on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 3 p.m.
miami by sea
We highly recommend the Ocean Force Adventures tour (oceanforceadventures.com) aboard a Zodiac RIB boat. It offers a different perspective—as seen from the water—of popular city landmarks, celebrity homes, and historical sights, such as Stiltsville, six houses built on stilts in the 1920s on Biscayne Bay that were part of a larger cluster. The 2-hour tour, priced at $150 pp for up to six passengers, explores Miami by sea
Once known as the “Harlem of the South,” Overtown cozies up to Downtown Miami geographically, and although the neighborhood might not be completely ready for prime time—in recent time, however, it’s been redeveloping with businesses, housing, cultural heritage and the arts—it’s got a few delights worth checking out:
- The Historic Ward Rooming House Gallery, built in 1925, was a resting place and safe haven for both Blacks and Native Americans in Miami. Currently, it’s a historic landmark and serves as an art gallery and exhibition hall. It provides a glimpse into how vibrant Overtown once was. Lively jazz clubs, opera performances, and locally owned businesses were the norm, and via the images displayed in the gallery, visitors will come to understand how important the neighborhood was to the fabric of the city.
- Built in 1913, the Lyric Theater, which sits along what was once known as “Little Broadway,” is the oldest theater building in Miami. Completely refurbished, the theater is a true gem and it’s fun to tour and imagine the headliners that once strutted their stuff on its stage.
- The Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum is an eye-opening venue. Here, one comes to understand the racial divide that impacted the neighborhood and the city as a whole. The precinct was built to provide segregated headquarters for Miami’s “colored patrol officers” and “colored city judge.” It gets to the core of the way life was for black officers during the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
- Want to hang with the locals? Stop in at Jackson Soul Food Restaurant, opened in 1946 and offering everything from fried okra and collard green to smothered chicken wings and BBQ ribs.
Overtown is still up-and-coming, so we recommend clients tour it with an expert guide; contact the Black Archives (theblackarchives.org/the-village/explore/black-heritage-cultural-tours).
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau: miamiandbeaches.com