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One of my travel goals for 2017 was to visit more of my egregious oversights in the United States. Miami was definitely one of my top priorities. But I had no idea that I’d end up visiting the city twice within a three-week span!
First, Cailin and I finished our February Florida road trip with two nights and one full day in South Beach. In early March, Jeremy and I hung out in the artsy Wynwood neighborhood for one day and one night after our cruise.
Yes, I fell in love with Miami. Such an interesting cultural mix, a cool art scene, amazing music in every direction, and the best urban beaches that I’ve seen in the United States. (I would say in the world, but Sydney’s got you beat, Miami. Sorry about that.)
The first thing that struck me about Miami was how dominant the Spanish language was. Obviously, I knew that Miami has a huge Latin-American community, but I assumed it would have a similar feel to Latinx neighborhoods like Washington Heights or Corona in New York — salsa music blasting from vegetable stands, tamale sellers on corners, quinceañera dresses in shop windows, loud games of dominoes on the sidewalk.
Miami had all of that — but it was even more Spanish. I was surprised how people frequently spoke to us in Spanish first, not English. And it surprised me a bit how a few drivers, restaurant workers, and hotel workers I chatted with didn’t speak a word of English. In New York, most new arrivals speak a few English phrases; in Miami, I found some people to just stick to Spanish.
Is this a criticism of Miami or the immigrants who have made Miami their home? Not at all! Not whatsoever. It’s just something that I noticed. But I will say that knowing some Spanish will make your Miami experience more enjoyable.
The second thing I noticed was how ridiculously good-looking people are in Miami. People here are hot, dress well, and take care of their bodies. The level of grooming is right up there with Italy! So many women in crop tops with long hair flying, either perfectly curly or pin-straight. Men in tight t-shirts and perfectly cut jeans with haircuts that must have cost a fortune.
I feel like everything I know about pop culture told me that South Beach was the place to be in Miami. It’s home to clubs, restaurants, shopping, pro athletes, and (sometimes) the Kardashians — that’s pretty much an indication that stuff happens here.
Miami Beach is actually a different city from Miami proper, and you have to travel over a bridge to get there. Miami proper doesn’t have much of a beach.
South Beach is home to numerous boutique hotels, many of them known for their unique design. I looked into up-and-coming boutiques and one that just opened and offered us a complimentary stay is the Meridian Hotel, an Urbanica property just south of 5th Street.
This is my favorite front desk I’ve ever seen — I love the vintage suitcases.
The rooms were very modern — since my home is practically a West Elm showroom, I felt very much at home here!
There’s a cafe across from the front desk with free coffee (always a huge plus with me), plus lattes and lots of food for purchase…
And I got a delicious açai bowl, minus the carbs, for a healthy breakfast.
After breakfast, we headed straight to the beach. The Meridian is only a five-minute walk from the beach and they give you free chairs at Esteban’s Place (though not an umbrella — those cost $12).
Just look at that sand and water! Miami Beach is incredible. I’ve never seen a beach this nice in an American city.
The water was a little too cold for me in February, but that didn’t stop a lot of people from swimming. Miami Beach is also the place to spot highly attractive people running along the beach, if you don’t mind being a bit of a voyeur.
Later in the afternoon, we headed to the W South Beach for some time by the pool. I have some contacts at the W and I asked if we could spend the afternoon at the pool, and they kindly offered us pool passes.
And this, dear readers, is where I made the biggest mistake of my Florida trip. The W South Beach doesn’t offer pool passes to regular people; I only got one because I’m press. I make an effort to only write about activities that my readers can do themselves, so this wouldn’t fit the bill. I should have asked if pool passes were available for anyone to purchase; I am kicking myself for not thinking to do that. Where was my head?!
In short — if you want to use the pool at the W South Beach, you’ll need to stay at the hotel.
That said, this is an amazing pool, and one of the highlights of our time in South Beach. After so many days of driving, it was heavenly to kick back with a skinny margarita and veg out on a day bed, Kindle on my lap. If you’re going to South Beach, a fabulous pool makes the experience.
Cailin and I wanted to grab a Cuban sandwich while we were in Miami, so we asked some locals for suggestions. South Beach isn’t the ideal place — you should really go to Little Havana or Little Haiti — but we were urged to check out an adorable Cuban diner named Puerto Sagua.
That Cuban sandwich was the first time I had bread since going primarily paleo, and it was glorious.
When looking for restaurants that night, Cailin and I kept hearing the name CVI.CHE 105 pop up again and again. This Peruvian restaurant, located just across the bridge in downtown Miami, is famous for its varieties of ceviche. Jill from Jack and Jill Travel was also in Miami and joined us for dinner, the three of us splitting this platter of ceviches.
Worth it? Oh HELL yes. The ceviche is so delicate, it melts in your mouth. If I lived in Miami, I would eat there all the time — and I insisted on taking Jeremy a few weeks later.
Jeremy booked a place in Wynwood because it was supposed to be “the Brooklyn of Miami.” Brooklyn is a pretty diverse place, so I wondered which neighborhood it would resemble more. Once we got there, I realized it was undoubtedly the Bushwick of Miami! This is a neighborhood of artists, of brightly colored murals, of wacky shops and interesting nightlife.
The Wynwood Marketplace takes place Friday through Sunday — it’s a collection of local artists hawking their wares. If you’re looking for a unique piece of art of jewelry, this is a great place to visit.
Jeremy and I spent much of the day hanging out at Panther Coffee, one of the top-rated coffeeshops in Miami. We were there to work, but the people-watching was so damn good that we didn’t get much done!
I felt intoxicated by the atmosphere of Wynwood. So many cool people, good-looking people, artsy people, people of so many different ethnic backgrounds. It all fit together perfectly, and it was exciting, and I wanted to be part of it.
There are two other times that I felt like that. The first was the first time I went to Red Rooster and loved it so much that I decided to move to Harlem. The second was when I went to the Oakland Museum of California and watched families of all colors dance to hip hop with their kids.
While we were there on a Sunday night, it was hopping. There were lines around the block for clubs. One taco stand blasted 90s R&B jams, also known as my favorite music of all time, and I think I may have scared Jeremy with my enthusiasm for Jodeci and Ginuwine.
I know this isn’t a remotely representative post about Miami — it’s just a brief look at two neighborhoods. I didn’t get to experience Little Haiti or Little Havana. I didn’t go on an art deco photography walk or take a day trip to the Everglades.
I will say, however, that these trips whet my appetite for the future. I am very interested in coming back to Miami for a longer duration to explore this fabulous city further.
Now — which major US travel oversight should I visit next? Nashville? Hawaii? Portland? Alaska? San Diego? Austin? The national parks of the southwest beyond the Grand Canyon? There are so many options!
More Florida adventures:
Essential Info: Rates at the Meridian Hotel start at $133 per night, which I think is great value for the location and amenities. I loved it there. Find deals on hotels in Miami Beach here and see all Airbnbs in South Beach here.
In Wynwood I stayed at this Airbnb for $120 per night before Airbnb fees. This is a nice little studio in the heart of the action, but don’t plan on anyone sleeping on the futon — it’s horrible. So it says it can sleep four, but plan on no more than two. Personally, I wouldn’t have felt super comfortable in that neighborhood as a solo female traveler, but I felt okay staying with a male friend. Find deals on hotels in Wynwood here and see all Airbnbs in Wynwood here.
Miami has some public transit, but it’s very much a car city. My friends and I got around via Lyft, which is much cheaper than New York!
Don’t visit Miami without travel insurance. Even if you’re a conscientious traveler, you could still be robbed or injured and travel insurance will save you financially if you need it. I use World Nomads for travel insurance on every trip I take and I recommend them highly.