The 2nd Edition of Hg2 Miami is finally here, thanks to our party-loving man on the ground Todd Obolsky. He’s combed the city to bring us the latest hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars, clubs, spas and cultural must-sees — with all his fabulous findings stuffed into one chic, covetable city guide. To celebrate the launch, we’ve teamed up with The Guardian to offer one lucky reader a hedonistic trip to the original city of sin: included in the prize is flights for two courtesy of Delta Air Lines; a three-night stay at the five-star Fontainebleau Miami Beach; a full set of 26 Hg2 city guides; and a free digital download of our new Miami guide. Now that’s what we call hedonism! To be in with a chance of winning, enter here.
The Hg2 Edit; 3 Days In Miami
But what to do for those three days in Florida’s most famous city? There are more than enough recommendations in our guide book to keep you entertained, but below we’ve edited it down for the perfect three-day break — with tips on where to eat, drink, dance and relax while you’re in town. As always, you can leave it to Hg2 to show you around in true superstar style.
You’ve arrived in Miami (thanks to us — if you won!), but you still need to make your way from the airport to South Beach. We recommend rocking up in the comfort of a Hummer limo — nothing turns heads quite like one. With fully-stocked bars and entertainment systems crammed inside, it’s the only way to arrive. We recommend a super-stretch one from A1 Limousine (www.a1limobus.com) — you only live once.
If you won the competition, you’re already got your accommodation sorted — so check-in to Fontainebleau Miami Beach (www.fontainebleau.com) at 4441 Collins Avenue. She’s in her fifties, and, understandably, much bigger than she was when she first debuted. But, after her multi-year $1-billion touch-up, the Fontainebleau is back and ready for her close-up. She’s had a taste of glamour before, co-starring with James Bond in Goldfinger, as well as playing the perfect hostess to the Beatles, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. in the 1950s and 60s when Miami Beach was the U.S. equivalent of Europe’s Côte d’Azur. The cool linens, flat-screen TVs, high-tech sound systems and iMacs in each room create a cocoon experience for agoraphobics — a difficult achievement for a property the size of the Fontainebleau. Post-flight hunger? Grab a quite bite at La Côte, one of the hotel’s more casual in-house eateries; located poolside, the two-tiered, open-air restaurant serves quick and easy seafood in the sun. The kind of effortless dining you’ll appreciate a few hours after touching down.
Once you’ve settled in and unpacked your designer wares, it’s time to hit the beach — South Beach, of course. It’s here that Miami‘s most plastic and most fantastic frolic in the surf, sprawl in the sun on the sand and slurp mojitos like they’re going out of fashion. But it’s not all rest and relaxation; there’s work-out equipment right on the sand, just in case you want to work off those calorie-filled cocktails. After all, perfect abs will get you everywhere here. But if it’s more calories you’re after, then prop up the bar at La Sandwicherie (www.lasandwicherie.com) found at 229 14th Street; its renowned for beautiful beach picnics, such as baguettes crammed with turkey and camembert, but you can also order refreshing smoothies and vegetable juices to take back to the sunlounger with you.
Once you’ve had your fill of sun and have returned to the hotel to get your glad rags on (labels only, please), hop a cab to Casa Tua (www.casatualifestyle.com) at 1700 James Avenue. Any mention of this sleek Italian restaurant will provoke a gentle nod of approval from anyone who knows about dining in Miami. Casa Tua is a 1925 two-storey Mediterranean villa nestled away behind hedges and an iron gate. The owner is an ex-polo patron from a wealthy family whose surfer wrist bands still poke out from the cuffs of his Armani blazer. He and his stunning hostesses happily welcome the wealthy clientele, whom they seat at a smart communal dining table or at one of the few tables in a flower and herb garden. The kitchen produces impeccably turned-out pastas and delicate Mediterranean dishes. It’ll smash your Miami budget to pieces, but trust us — it’s worth it.
Wrap up your first day in Miami with a drink and a dance at Skyline (www.skylinemia.com), found at 645 Washington Avenue. Once you enter through the vacuum-lock emergency door, proceed along the lighted walkways to the bar — outfitted with replica twin turbo-propeller engines so you don’t miss it — and ask the ‘flight crew’ for something to drink (these are probably made with some of those snack-size liquor bottles — they’re tiny and strong, served in flimsy plastic). Lazy passengers can sit in actual aircraft seats around a (non-foldaway) Formica table, while VIPs get a larger setup with a ‘personal stewardess’. Tired of sitting? Dance before the nose of a dissembled commercial jet, from which, naturally, the DJ directs the mood of patrons and shoots lasers.
There’s no rest for the wicked — and that’s certainly the case at narcissistic Nikki Beach (www.nikkibeach.com). Located on the southern end of South Beach at 1 Ocean Drive (quite the address), it was once dubbed the sexiest place on earth. Now it’s more mature, but it’s still the sexiest place in Miami. Not just a beach club, but a luxury spa and restaurant, you could spend the whole of your second day and most part of the evening lounging here. If it’s a Sunday morning, the brunch buffet with Beglian waffle station and a smoked salmon carver is worth getting out of bed early for; if it’s a Saturday, expect hypnotic house beats being pumped out by the resident DJ. But whenever you go, you’re guaranteed a plethora of oversized, four-poster beds on which to laze, with crisp white parasols shading you from the midday heat.
After a day of luxe lounging, head straight next door to Joe’s Stone Crab (www.joesstonecrab.com) at 11 Washington Avenue (come as you are — flip-flops and beach attire welcome). As Miami‘s monument to informal fine-dining, it’s no wonder the likes of Al Capone, J. Edgar Hoover and the Kennedys used to hang out here. The seasonal stone crabs are served in a delicious mustard sauce, the recipe for which is apparently as secret as the formula for Coca-Cola. For non-crab lovers there are other dishes, but it would be a shame to ignore this restaurant’s signature dish. This is not an intimate dining location, but the atmosphere and ultra-efficient service make for a satisfying outing. They don’t take reservations, so it’s first-come, first-served, and some will wait for hours. Touristy, yes, but the food is too good to ignore.
After a day out and about, return to the Fontainebleau for a more low-key evening. That is, as low-key as Miami will allow. Just because you’re in the confines of the hotel, it doesn’t mean you need to hold back. Its on-site club, LIV (www.livnightclub.com), offers everything a stand-alone club does — and more. The premises are indeed stunning, taken in as you descend the branched arcing staircase like the royalty you imagine you are (remember to bow down to the DJ in his turntable fortress in the centre). The cavernous space is capped with a big top/planetarium dome ceiling radiating light, and which supports the killer metal spider that holds the high-tech lighting scheme and random glitter globes. Open cubes frame visiting VIPs high above the masses, who move absentmindedly to the succession of Ozzy remixes, pop and hip-hop that emanates from the ridiculously complex sound system. When the drinking and dancing are done, forget hailing a taxi and ping up in the lift to your room — all within stumbling distance.
Your third and final day in Miami is here, and you’re tanned enough. Eschew the pool and beach in favour of some culture — it’s a myth that Miami doesn’t have any. Aside from the Art Deco architecture that lines the streets (think porthole windows, terrazzo floors, a sense of symmetry, stepped roofs, neon signage and more curves than Kim Kardashian), it’s a city positively brimming with cultural juice. Highly recommended is the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (www.vizcayamuseum.org), a European-style mansion filled with age-old antiques and flanked by 10 acres of landscaped Italian and French gardens. But that won’t take up all morning; spend the rest of it perusing the cheeky items on show at the World Erotic Art Museum (www.weam.com). It wasn’t easy, but WEAM was given license to open in 2006 to show the collection of erotic art and artefacts of Naomi Wilzig. The Holocaust survivor grandmother started the journey more than 20 years ago when her son asked her to seek out some ‘erotic conversation pieces’ for his apartment. Wilzig began amassing the treasures for herself, and the assortment is now valued at more than $10 million. If you let them, they can occupy you for several hours (and serve as quite the conversation-starter back home). Tours are available; if Ms. Wilzig is in residence, seek her out – she’s a hoot.
Spend the afternoon shopping, Miami-style. We suggest heading to Bal Harbour Shops (www.balharbourshops.com), a high-fashion Mecca that’s home to pretty much every U.S. and European designer one might imagine — all the big boys are here, from Armani and Valentino to Dolce & Gabbana and YSL. Once you’ve pounded the plastic, stop for lunch between stores at the mall’s modern Japanese restaurant, Makoto. Here Stephen Starr serves up sushi and sake in sleek, Asian-inspired surroundings — the perfect light-bite before your luxurious last-supper.
Pamper yourself before your last night out on the town. We suggest The Spa at The Standard (www.standardhotel.com), found at 40 Island Avenue. The hotel’s entire property is based around the spa, which has a globally-inspired treatment menu. Hence the Turkish-style Hammam and scrub room, the Roman Waterfall hot-tub, Arctic plunge pool, aroma steam room and cedar sauna. Mud baths, spa treatment rooms, a skincare clinic and holistic massage therapies are all available, making this the ultimate healthy retreat from South Beach. If you can’t rest, relax and rejuvenate here, then we’re all out of suggestions.
Make your last meal in Miami count at The Villa by Barton G (www.thevillabybartong.com) at 1101 Ocean Drive. It opened in March 2010 after Barton G. Weiss turned a stint with Casa Casuarina’s current owner Peter Lofti into a deal to establish and oversee a hotel and restaurant – how’s that for career advancement for someone who expected to retire 15 years ago? Mr. Weiss’ hand here is much more careful than at his namesake restaurant; consider this the multi-part classical concerto to Barton G.’s rock opera prelude. Much like the property it’s housed in, the focus at the restaurant is really on impeccable service. Each diner at the table is served simultaneously by a team; your silverware is replaced about two dozen times during your meal; and the head waiter for the ten tables is polished and charming (he’ll even dig up reading glasses for you to peruse the menu if you’ve forgotten yours). The culinary experience is mostly centred on classic preparations (Wagyu beef with Madeira glaze, tea-smoked squab, a perfectly seared Ahi tuna starter) with the occasional dramatic touch (such as the frozen Caesar salad, where the dressing arrives smoking from its liquid nitrogen bath and proceeds to warm up and coat the greens). Given the sumptuous setting, you may be pleasantly surprised when the final bill is presented to you in its cream-colored envelope.
Wash all that food down with a drink or three at Sky Bar (www.shoreclub.com) at 1901 Collins Avenue. A series of carefully constructed indoor and outdoor settings conspire to form the space, one of the Shore Club’s top draws and a mainstay of the South Beach social tableau. The four areas — Redroom, Redroom Garden, the intimate Sandbar and Rumbar, with 75 versions of the spirit available — are connected by a chain of leafy garden mazes, and each has cosy alcove sections, secret passages and separate yet interlocking moods. Around midnight or so, the activity gravitates toward Redroom with its North Africa-meets-the Hamptons vibe and Moroccan-style lanterns for lighting flavour. It is open to hotel guests and the public at large, but the party police at the door do exercise a selective door policy (there’s never a cover, but a table reservation with a minimum spend per person will guarantee entry).
Finally, finish your night at Tantra (www.tantra-restaurant.com) at 1445 Pennsylvania Avenue. In dog years, this South Beach stalwart may be ancient, and even compared to the normal Miami nightspot lifecycle it’s ‘mature’. But Tantra shows no signs of letting up its death grip on the club scene — its Monday night parties have been etched into the socialite calendar for more than a decade. It may have something to do with the setting, which is punctuated with furniture and art pieces gathered from the owner’s travels in Asia, and results in an undoubtedly sensual vibe. You can dine here (on tempting but expensive aphrodisiacal cuisine), but the raison d’être is imbibing and dancing on the tables. The crowd is ridiculously good-looking; models of all ethnicities drink as many cocktails as possible without falling down on the grass-covered area next to the bar, while ex-frat boys gone wild ape the stars of MTV’s Jersey Shore (who popped up here regularly on the show). Just don’t drink so much that you miss your flight the next morning. Or do, if you don’t want to leave. Trust us — you won’t.