I’ve passed through en route to Central America and the Caribbean many times, and always wondered about the land of Latinos, luxury and neon pink. My perception of Miami was derived from a combination of The Birdcage and the Golden Girls – gaggles of gays and grandmas sipping Mai Tai’s under swaying palms. That’s not too far off the mark, actually, but the real Miami has way more depth than one would expect.
Sure, you’ll find a sea of hard bodies strutting down Ocean Drive trying to conger up as much attention as possible. And yes, neon never went out of style after the 80’s in this town and the gay community is thriving! But Miami is an artist’s town, through and though. Whether you’re a writer, painter, dancer, musician or all of the above, Miami has a sexy, creative vibe that is hard to resist. Come on, shake your body baby, do that conga. You know you can’t control yourself any longer.
Lucky for me, my fabulous BFF decided to escape the Vancouver chills and live in Miami for the winter. His pretty art deco pad is perched perfectly near Washington Ave and 14th Street, which is in the heart of South Beach. If you’re making plans to visit, this is an ideal neighborhood to situate yourself. I don’t think I came across a single roach (the insect variety), but there are loads of lizards and birds, adding to the ‘wild’ atmosphere.
Miami has no shortage of celebrity sightings, either. We decided to check out the Gala Opening party for the Miami International Film Festival, which is where I met – wait for it – Rodrigo Santoro. You’re probably thinking, who the fuck? He played Karl in Love Actually. And he’s absolutely lovely. They were also filming an episode of the Real Housewives of Miami during the party, but I’d rather poke my eyeballs out than engage one of those old cougs. My BFF had a run in with Joe Jonas in a men’s washroom, to where he explained, you look just like one of those brothers from that boy band. The Jonai confirmed his identity, bemused. Then during a MIFF screening of Magic City (think Mad Men set in the 50’s in Miami) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who played Denny Duquette on Grey’s Anatomy, was in attendance for Q&A. I died.
Ok possums, here are my top picks for visiting North America’s sexiest city…
The Perry Though I was livin’ la vida loca with my BFF, we did frequent The Perry hotel, a short walk away on Collins Ave, to lay by their roof top infinity pool overlooking Miami beach. The locale is unbeatable and the staff were helpful and a lot of fun. Don’t forget your 5 inch wedge heels and sequined beach cover-up.
Let’s start with Lincoln Ave, a long boulevard of luxurious shops, spas and restaurants. We loved the Van Dyke Cafe for the intimate atmosphere and live music or Il Bolognese if you’re looking for authentic Italian cuisine or to settle in for several hours and really indulge. For brunch, you must hit up The Palace on Ocean Drive, famous for their over-the-top drag shows and – at least when we were there – bottomless mimosas. Nothin’ beats a mid-day buzz while watching a 7 foot tall drag queen doing the splits in stilettos. You have to see it to believe it. While biking from South Point along the marina, we stumbled upon Monty’s Raw Bar – a restaurant on one side, pool bar on the other with an open grill serving up fresh seafood. They also serve what they call the Painkiller cocktail in which you choose the severity of your ‘pain’, 1 through 3. Go easy if you choose 3. Trust me. Also in South Beach is the charming Espanola Way, a super cute pedestrian street lined with restaurants and cafes. We tried a few different restos here, but I’d recommend Tapas & Tintos for authentic Catalonian fare. Lastly, if you find yourself strolling the touristy Bayside area downtown, check out Lombardis. You’ll get an eye full while people watching, at the very least.
Before heading to Miami, more than one person suggested I check out the Delano. I’m always intrigued by a good hotel bar, especially when it involves an enchanted garden and beautiful people to mingle with. There’s definitely something mystifying about the Delano. Like being transported back to a time where the Miami elite were extremely wealthy and the nouveau riche were lighting up the scene. This place has status written all over it. What it doesn’t have, however, is good service – not at all. So much so that after indulging in a series of fabulous cocktails we couldn’t find our server to save our life. So we left. I suppose the next drink’s on us, D.
South Beach really revs up around midnight, when everyone is heading to the club. If you’re looking to shake a tail father, check out The Clevelander on Ocean Drive, an open-air nightclub and cocktail bar surrounded by pretty plunge pools and scantily clad party goers. If you really want to meet some Miami locals, head on over to Twist – a giant gay bar comprised of 9 different rooms with DJs spinning everything from house to salsa. Be sure to check out the Cabana room first (which we dubbed the Petting Zoo) to watch the gorgeous go-go dancers in their teeny-tiny undies entertain the crowd. Ay papi!
If you have the time, rent a car and head south to the Florida Keys. Stop en route for a fruit smoothie at one of the kitschy roadside stands in Key Largo before making your way to Key West, an ultra touristy spot with a few hidden gems. The moment you arrive, rent a bike and head over to the National Park to find a beautiful stretch of beach, wildlife, snorkeling and a charming little beach bar. Make your way back into town for happy hour and take in some live music.
Miami seems to have a different festival going on each week, so check out what’s happening in town before you go. Forget buses and taxis – spend only a few bucks to rent a Deco Bike from one of the many communal bike stands around the city. And don’t forget to stroll down Ocean Drive to take in all the beautiful old deco buildings. You’ll fall in love with this crazy town, just as I did.