Miami is the American city of the future. A gloriously diverse paradise that serves as the gateway to the Americas, over the years its appeal was unfairly reduced to the Four S’s of all tropical idylls: sun, sand, surf, and sex. Body-conscious Miami, the joke went, was where dreams went to diet and where the cultural offerings were as skimpy as a Speedo. But the old saw simply does not ring true. In addition to the eminent fairs Art Basel Miami Beach and Design Miami/ (arguably the best examples of their kind anywhere in the world), the city’s gallery scenes in Wynwood, Little Haiti, and Design District —and, increasingly in mid Beach—are thriving. Elsewhere, starchitects like Herzog & de Meuron are adding to the city’s rich design legacy; local and carpetbagger celebrity chefs are reinvigorating the cuisine with a focus on seasonal produce from Miami and the Caribbean (Floribbean, anyone?) and every other month seems to bring news of another ambitious mixed-use development promising to kick-start a cultural renaissance. Miami’s moment is now.
Best Time to Go
With the exception of parts of summer, when the temperatures get ¡muy caliente! and humidity can resemble South East Asia, Miami offers year-round tropical climate. November through May is technically high season, but March-May means daily temperatures in the mid-70s and discounted hotel rates while the rest of the country defrosts.
Most major airlines fly into Miami International Airport, located 15 to 20 minutes by car from a lot of the places you want to get to on the beach. American Airlines has a hub here so there are plenty of options regarding flights and prices. In recent years the airport has undergone several expansions, so while it is still walkable (for a New Yorker, at least) the Sky Trains makes sense. The culinary offerings have also been updated: in Terminal D, near Gate D8, there’s an outpost of Miami’s famous Icebox Cafe, and near D24, Beaudevin cheese and wine bar is great for delays.
Miami is not a walking city. Public transport is sketchy at best and over the years the taxis here have rivaled Paris for the honor of being the worst anywhere. It’s really all about Uber and miRide— the apps have transformed the city.
Can’t Leave Without
1. Taking a boat out on the water. Propel Yachts has an impressive selection of private yachts to charter for the day or rent for the week. (786-610-6767; propelyachts.com)
2. Stepping back in time to the glamour of pre-revolutionary Havana with the riotous neo-Cuban cabaret at El Tucán in Brickell. (1111 SW First Ave.; 305-535-0065; eltucanmiami.com)
3. Spending a few hours in Sunset Harbour, a buzzy three-block neighborhood located just before you get onto the Venetian Causeway. Hypertoned locals pop in and out of the area’s many gyms, restaurants (most with sidewalk dining), and chic boutiques.
Deserves the Hype
Art Basel Miami Beach. Few cultural events on the international calendar highjack the attention of its host city in the way ABMB does, with multiple points of entry for art wonks and novices alike. As for the complaints that ABMB has become too commoditized? It’s a commercial art fair, people!
Local Dish to Try
Go for the stone crabs at Joe’s and stay for the perennially grumpy waiters at this local institution. (11 Washington Ave.; 305-673-0365; joesstonecrab.com)
Local Drink to Sip
Café con leche, of course. Anywhere in Little Havana in and around Calle Ocho will do nicely. Carino’s is an eyesore but has a cult-like following (901 NW 17th St.; 305-324-1122), but we recommend Versailles (an iconic Cuban restaurant that’s part tourist trap, part cultural center), where you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s quinzeñera season all year round. They also have a chapter at the airport, if you run out of time. (3555 SW Eighth St.; 305-444-0240; versaillesrestaurant.com)
WINTER: With daily highs in the mid 70s, it’s a great time of year to visit—and not just for sun-worshippers. Culture vultures head south for the city’s many worthwhile highbrow offerings, including Art Basel Miami Beach, Design Miami/, and the International Book Fair.
SPRING: March-May brings with it more than spring breakers: foodies come for the SoBe Wine and Food Festival (which, in 2017, technically falls on the last weekend in February); tennis fans converge on the Miami Open in Key Biscayne, one of the most manageable and intimate unisex stops on the tour; and the EDM-obsessed descend on South Beach for the always-jumping Ultra Music Festival.
SUMMER: Miami's June-August temperatures are generally very hot (in the low 90s with lots of humidity). It’s also the start of the dreaded hurricane season. Super storm or not, this time is Miami's rainiest. One the upside: hotel rates hit rock bottom; the city’s best restaurants all offer Miami Spice menus, with three-meal courses created by world-renowned chefs at reduced prices (lunch $23; dinner $39); and nationally renowned models (and the men who love them) arrive in town for Miami Swim Week.
FALL: Average daily rainfall and temperatures drop only slightly during the autumn months. The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s annual Fall Festival in November is one of the city’s most popular family events. The November tradition has become synonymous with its most popular component: the Ramble, which showcases art, antique and rare book dealers; garden vendors, a furniture design show, and the largest plant sale in South Florida. It’s also a great time to catch a Heat game at the American Airlines Stadium in downtown. Or hire a paddleboard or canoe on Purdy Avenue for a one-hour trip that takes in the sumptuous homes on the easily navigable Sunset Isles.