Where to Stay, Dine and Play
in Miami and South Beach
Ahhhhh, Miami. It’s crazy. It’s amazing. And it’s a really big city. There is so much to see and do and even after living here for 8 years, I haven’t even come close to experiencing it all. What I can recommend to you is the best of the best. Check back often because the Magic City is a fickle place and this list of fun stuff to do is probably going to change pretty often. :)
Where to Stay
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Best hotel for hipsters: The Vagabond in the up-and-coming MiMo district (located just north of Downtown).
Best hotel (hostel actually) for broke and single travelers on Miami Beach: Freehand Hotel.
Best hotel for families who want a laid-back beach experience away from the crowds: The Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne or in Bal Harbour.
Best hotel for families who want to stay in the heart of the South Beach action: Loews Miami Beach Hotel.
Best hotel splurge on South Beach: The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach.
Best hotel to see professional athletes, especially NBA players: JW Marriott Marquis Miami.
Best place to stay before leaving for a cruise: InterContinental Miami.
Best hotel for golf enthusiasts: Turnberry Isle Miami.
Best hotel for movie stars: Mandarin Oriental Miami on Brickell Key.
Here are more lists and articles by yours truly that can help you decide where to stay:
- Hot New Hotels Now Open in Miami
- Opening Soon: Brand New Hotels in Miami
- Stunning Miami Beach Resorts with Ocean Views
- Luxury Hotels in Downtown Miami and Brickell
- Hotels in Coral Gables and Coconut Grove
Where to Drink
Best Rooftop Bars in Miami
C-Level Rooftop Terrace at the Clevelander on South Beach
It doesn’t get any more touristy than the Clevelander, but then again, you already know that and you still go. Be aware that the rooftop bar doesn’t open to the public until 7 p.m and drinks are pretty pricey. Views of Ocean Drive and the main downstairs bar are awesome. There’s usually a DJ spinning beats and it’s definitely a high-energy party atmosphere. 1020 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139, clevelander.com.
Area 31 at the EPIC in Downtown
The views here are absolutely stunning: Brickell Avenue skyline to the south and Miami River plus Biscayne Bay to the east. The crowd here is very Miami chic and it’s definitely a trendy scene on Friday nights. Speaking of Fridays, the happy hour specials are pretty darn good: $5 drinks and bar bites at 5 p.m., $6 at 6 p.m., $7 at 7 p.m. and so on until closing. There’s usually a DJ spinning beats on Wednesday – Saturday. 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way on the 16th Floor, Miami, FL 33131, area31restaurant.com.
Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons in Brickell
The food here is a-freaking-mazing. And so are the cocktails. It’s hands down one of my favorite happy hour hotspots in Miami and runs 7 days a week from 4 to 7 p.m. The indoor bar is a cool scene, but I like the outdoor loungy fire pits even better. You can even order s’mores! Be aware that the view here isn’t quite as fabulous as the others on the list because you’d have to walk to the edge of the pool deck to really see much. 1435 Brickell Avenue on the 7th Floor, Miami, FL 33131, edgerestaurantmiami.com.
FIFTY Miami Ultra Lounge at the Viceroy in Brickell
There are no other views like this in the entire city. It’s the 50th floor! Get ready to dance the night away to high-energy beats, usually hip-hop and house music. The club is only open on Fridays and Saturdays and not open during the day. To avoid standing in line, either reserve a VIP table or get there when the doors open at 11 p.m. 484 Brickell Avenue on the 50th Floor, Miami, FL 33131, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com.
Juvia at the Lincoln Road Parking Garage on South Beach
The Miami Beach views here are seriously drop-dead gorgeous. Unlike the Clevelander, Juvia is not a touristy locale, it’s a hotspot for well-heeled locals and the menu gets rave reviews from every foodie in town. The location on Lincoln Road can’t be beat and it’s close to tons of boutiques and outdoor cafes. The entrance to Juvia is a private elevator located on Lennox. 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139, juviamiami.com.
Where to Dine
Best New Restaurants
- Bistrot Bagatelle on Miami Beach
- Coya Miami in Brickell
- Byblos on South Beach
- The Continental on Miami Beach
- The Driftwood Room on Miami Beach
- 27 Restaurant on Miami Beach
Best Restaurants that Are Really Expensive but Totally Worth the Splurge
- Azul at Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key
- Edge Steak & Bar at Four Seasons Miami
- db Bistro at JW Marriott Marquis in Downtown
- Zuma at the EPIC in Downtown
- Prime 112, Prime Italian and Prime Fish in SoFi (South of Fifth on South Beach)
- Joe’s Stone Crab on South Beach
- Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach
- Bourbon Steak at Turnberry Isle
Best Restaurants that Aren’t Quite as Pricey, but Aren’t Cheap Either
- Verde at Pérez Art Museum Miami
- Wynwood Kitchen & Bar
- Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District
- Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on South Beach
- Swine Southern Table in Coral Gables
- Red Fish Grill in Matheson Hammock Park
- Greet Street Cafe in Coconut Grove
- Harry’s Pizza in Coconut Grove and the Miami Design District
Best Cheap Eats
- Coyo Taco in Wynwood
- Lost Weekend on Miami Beach
- Wynwood Diner
- Big Pink in South Beach
- Pride and Joy in Wynwood
- Shake Shack on South Beach and in South Miami
Where to Play
Top 5 Family-Friendly Beaches in Miami
Believe it or not, South Beach isn’t the only beach in Miami. There are actually some amazing beaches in this glitzy Florida beach town that offer a more laid back, family-friendly type of vibe.
And don’t get me wrong. When I’m in a party mood, South Beach is a great stretch of sand where you can hang out with the crowds, sip on a cold cocktail and watch the beautiful people pass on by.
But sometimes I just wanna kick back and not worry about whether my swimsuit is in style for the season or if the party crowd is going to get a little too rowdy that day. And sometimes I just want to enjoy the sun, sand and surf without anyone else around. (Yes, that is possible in Miami!)
In my opinion, the best time to go to the beach is first thing in the morning. Miami is a late-arriving town and that includes beach goers. Show up early (like around 8 or 9 a.m.) and take over your own slice of beachfront paradise all to yourself…and the fam!
1. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is located at island’s end on Key Biscayne, which is about 10 miles from downtown Miami. You have to cross a toll road to get there and just as an fyi, the Rickenbacker Causeway is now managed by SunPass. Then you make the trek through a tropical island village and at the very end of Crandon Boulevard you’ll find the entrance to the park. It costs $8 per vehicle and that includes parking, which there’s plenty of.
If you’re a sucker for crazy-awesome views like me, then climb up the Cape Florida Lighthouse and the panoramic vistas from the top will literally take your breath away. The lighthouse is open at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. every day except Tues. and Wed.
Make sure you walk over to the southwest corner of the park, where you’ll find picnic areas and views of Stiltsville…which I find to be absolutely fascinating. These historic houses on stilts have housed Prohibition era rum-runners and weathered major hurricanes.
There are two restaurants in the park: Lighthouse Café and Boaters Grill. I wish the food was good…I really do, but it’s just not that great. And it’s sad because there’s so much potential! You’re better off bringing your own food and grilling out in one of the picnic areas.
2. Crandon Park Beach on Key Biscayne
Also located on idyllic Key Biscayne, Crandon Park is situated at the entrance to the island and on the opposite end from Bill Baggs. This beach is a hotspot for TV commercials and magazine photo shoots. Sundays tend to be the busiest day, so if you’re looking for less crowds, then go on a weekday or early on Saturday morning. On weekends the entrance fee is $7 per vehicle.
The northern section of the beach is a great area for kite-boarders and it’s not uncommon to see dozens of them soaring across the water on weekends. Miami Kiteboarding offers kiteboarding equipment to rent, as well as lessons, stand-up paddle boards and a snack shop.
The southern section of Crandon Park offers ample picnic tables and shady spots to hang out under palm trees. Wander back into the park and you’ll find what’s left of the old Crandon Park Zoo. While there aren’t any lions, tigers or bears any more, you will find hundreds of different kinds of colorful wild birds. I’ve seen swans, peacocks, ducks and more.
3. Matheson Hammock Park Beach in Coral Gables
If you’re looking for a good way to introduce salt water to a little one, Matheson Hammock Park’s lagoon is the perfect place for children and families. The 630-acre park offers tons of waterfront property to explore and there’s an on-site marina. The entry fee is $5 per car on weekdays and $7 on weekends.
One of my favorite Miami area restaurants is located inside the park: Red Fish Grill. Located on the beach with spectacular water views, this hidden gem offers a menu rich with delicious seafood options. Here’s the catch: they’re only open for dinner and you’ll need to have reservations, so make sure you plan ahead. Oh, and this place was featured in the movie There’s Something About Mary, so ask to sit at Cameron Diaz’s table.
4. Hobie/Windsurfer Beach on Virginia Key
This is the beach you passed on the Rickenbacker Causeway on the way to Crandon Park and Bill Baggs. Blink and you’ll miss it. But it’s a great spot especially if you have a furry four-legged family member that loves the sand and surf. Hobie/Windsurfer Beach (it’s known by both names) is dog friendly! And there aren’t any fees to park. Just make sure you get there early.
You’ll want to bring your own chairs, umbrella, cooler and food. But there are public restrooms along the beach. And if you’re into SUP-ing or kayaking, make sure you check out Sailboards Miami. They’re easy to spot because of the white and yellow trailers located right on the beach.
5. South Pointe Park Beach on South Beach
Usually only the locals know about this section of South Beach, so shhhhhh don’t tell anyone I told you! But South Pointe Park is a picture-perfect oasis on the southernmost section of the beach…far from the party scene near Ocean Drive.
Most of the locals with families opt for this beach because of the kid-friendly facilities including a mini splash and play area, lots of green space, a dog park and a Blissberry frozen yogurt stand.
Here’s what you need to know: parking is hard to find and expensive on the weekends (they charge a whopping $20 or more per vehicle), so show up early to find a spot.