16 July 2018

 
Ocean Drive: A timeless history of Art Deco architecture
The art of visiting Miami
But don't forget the brunching! Miami is full of galleries, street art, Art Deco buildings and worldwide cuisine, as Emily Sheridan found out
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iami conjures up many visions - heat, glamour, loudness, colour. While all that is true, the city has a lot more to offer than your usual seaside break. Situated so near to the Caribbean, Miami is known for its melting pot of cultures. With such a high population of Latin Americans, it’s no surprise that partying is high on the agenda. While the beach, bars and restaurants are a big draw, Miami is also full of culture, with museums, art and architecture to stimulate the mind.

After years of having Miami on my holiday wish-list, I finally booked a week in South Beach with two girl friends. We were looking for a combination of relaxing and partying. Most holidaymakers head for Miami Beach rather than the city - with South Beach being the more popular destination.
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There’s a wealth of options of four and five-star beachside hotels as well as the Art Deco, boutique establishments. Our balcony had lovely views over an expansive pool area and the beach. The location was a stone’s throw from the W Hotel and the Metropolitan, so we were certainly near the action.
Espanola Way
Check out the graffiti at Wynwood Walls
"With everyone in their chic beachwear and the music pumping, it was a quintessential Miami afternoon."
When it comes to eating out, the main hubs for restaurants and nightlife in Miami Beach tend to be Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue and the iconic Ocean Drive. With Miami such a mix of cultures, the world’s cuisine is well represented, with Japanese, Italian and Latin food particularly dominant.

Taking the concept of Happy Hour - which we usually associate with drinks - many of the Lincoln Road restaurants offered discounts on the food bill. On our last night, we dined at the Lincoln Road branch of SushiSamba - a Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese fusion restaurant which also has outlets in London, Las Vegas and New York. With colourful murals and bright orange furnishings, the restaurant is certainly very Miami. The meal included Sea Bass skewers with Miso, Samba Sashimi and Crispy Taquitos.

A must is Espanola Way - a protected heritage area featuring Latin-influenced restaurants, including Cuban, Mexican and Spanish. Brunch parties are very popular. We spent a very hot Sunday at Nikki Beach - the original venue of the international, luxury beach club brand. With everyone in their chic beachwear and the music pumping, it was a quintessential Miami afternoon. Miami has a big art community, with the suburbs of Design District and Wynwood full of galleries and street art. I visited the Wynwood Walls, a concrete ‘garden’ dedicated to street art, providing an everchanging canvas for the city’s urban artists.
Wynwood is an upcoming, edgy district, with new galleries and cafes popping up all the time. Recommended is the guided tour, Wynwood Art Walk, on the second Saturday of each month. Miami is renowned for its Art Deco architecture, which dominates South Beach. I took the original Art Deco tour by the Miami Design Preservation League, responsible for saving many buildings from demolition.

A group of about 25 of us started outside the Art Deco Welcome Center and had a two-and-a-half-hour morning walk. Our guide Nancy was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about South Beach. We were taken inside
some of the more iconic 1930s hotels, including The Tides and The Dream (in the former Tudor Hotel and Palmer House buildings), where we were shown the formerly secret rooms used for drinking and gambling during Prohibition.

If a walking tour is too slow for you, try rollerblading along Ocean Drive. We rented blades from Fritz's Skate Bike Surf shop. Certainly not for the faint-hearted, thanks to the hills and dips, rollerblading is a fun, if somewhat frenzied way of checking out the sights. High on the agenda was relaxing and miles of golden beach gives the opportunity. For those looking to unwind in luxury, the W South Beach is perfect. I checked out the Bliss Spa, a multi-storey pampering destination open to non-residents. One thing that really appealed was the music in the treatment rooms - laidback R&B instead of the typical chanting.

I enjoyed the Blissage 49 massage, which eliminated any stresses. Following my pampering session, I joined my friends at the pool area, where you can seek shelter from the midday sun in the luxury cabanas. Hiring your own cabana is a real treat, as it comes complete with a stocked fridge, television and fan - which was incredibly welcome on such a hot afternoon. Our attendant kept us refreshed, fed and comfortable through the day. The bar service even extended to the pool, with one group of guests ordering champagne from the water. We were spoiled for choice when it came to choosing a restaurant each night. For those looking for nightlife, there’s plenty of club action to choose from. The heady mix of food, culture and beach life left me wanting more and I can’t wait to go back.


Original article published in Nov 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.


"If a walking tour is too slow for you, try rollerblading along Ocean Drive."
The Bliss Deck at the W Miami
 
 
 
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