A dream destination for luxury shopping, haute cuisine and home to world-class design and art, America’s Magic City has more in store, beyond its glitter and razzmatazz.
At the southeastern tip of Florida, a shallow inlet of the Atlantic Ocean indents the coastline. The aquamarine waters lap the shoreline and the sand turns a soft powder-white, forming a stretch of sandy beaches. This is Biscayne Bay, across which the City of Miami was established in 1896.
Within the next few decades, the city would emerge as America’s preeminent hedonistic hub, dripping with glitz, glamour and luxury. An effervescent nightlife, opulent streets filled to the brim with the world’s most coveted superbrands, a crop of extravagant hotels nestled in stunning art-deco architectural marvels, Miami remains the numero uno as the hyperactive playground of the rich and the famous; and its skyscraper-strewn urban space pulsates with an unbridled vitality amid a sun-soaked, subtropical climate that is relaxing and invigorating, at once.
Miami epitomises this extravagant ebullience, and moves beyond to retain its sobriquet – The Magic City – with its uncanny ability to constantly reimagine and refashion its identity. From its splashy international arts festivals to a thriving gallery scene that showcases traditional to the avant garde, and everything in between, Miami has long been a world-class destination for the culturally curious. And in recent years, as more and more startup founders and investors shift their base to this coastal city with a pleasant climate and zero state income tax, Miami is fast emerging as the next tech hotspot.
PortMiami, with its extensive range of cruise brands and impeccably-designed fleet of vessels, is essentially the the Cruise Capital of the World, and can be the perfect base to traverse around the Panama Canal, or set sail for the Caribbean islands and reefs; and even beyond.
For a deeper foray into South Florida’s wondrous beauty, its mouth-watering cuisine traditions and a rich cultural legacy, Miami is the start-off point for a driving getaway to the glamorous Palm Springs or serene Key Largo. A further cosmopolitan escape all the way to Orlando for an entertaining theme-park-adventure remains an eternal favourite.
Change is the only constant in Miami. In concert with its rapidly-changing neighbourhoods and a zestful, ever-shifting culinary canvas, the premier shopping destinations like the Bal Harbour Shops and Aventura Mall, both of which are consistently among the top 10 shopping centres in the USA, undergo periodic transcendence to cater to the aesthetic needs of the well-heeled consumer. With new artwork installations, innovatively designed open-air spaces hosting edgy performances and makeovers of the interior landscapes, the two retail powerhouses have established themselves as art venues, as well as one-stop destinations to go on a shopping spree of iconic designer brands.
Lincoln Road, near Miami’s famed South Beach, is a favourite outdoor shopping stop for the millennials with its formidable collection of flagship brands and fine dining options. The pedestrian promenade oozes a Bohemian bonhomie with a whole slew of artists, photographers and skaters fleeting around the 10-block stretch that houses a dozen art galleries within its mile-long expanse.
Bayside Marketplace, the two-level open air shopping center in the heart of Downtown Miami, is enveloped by the banks of Biscayne Bay. With its exotic live music, a plethora of shopping and dining options, the place exudes a feisty, festive charm and recognized as the number one most visited attraction in Miami.
Miami’s ever-expanding gastronomical scene is mind-bogglingly varied. With celebrity masterchefs and their flamboyant enclaves at one end of the spectrum, and homegrown talents whipping up signature dishes at the other – it is an eclectic dining culture that is exciting and challenging.
The Latin-infused city is a melting pot of Caribbean and Hispanic food culture. Peppered with pan-Latin cuisine, Miami is especially fond of Peruvian fare - ceviche to pescado, and pachamanka to mariscos. La Mar, with its breathtaking views of Biscayne Bay and inventive delicacies designed by star chef Gaston Acurio, offers exploratory choices to delve deep into authentic and diverse Peruvian flavours.
Michelin-starred Azabu Miami Beach, inside the Marriott Stanton South Beach, resonates the spirit of omotenashi, the philosophy of Japanese hospitality. It is a transportive dining experience with cuisine straight from Japan, especially at The Den, the exclusive sushi counter helmed by Tokyo-trained chefs.
When in Miami, a steakhouse experience is a must. And Los Fuegos elevates the steakhouse concept to a different level, where Argentine grillmaster Francis Mallman carries the ancient South American art of flame-fired cooking with a contemporary twist to metamorphose native ethnic recipes into sophisticated savouries.
Hakkasan, another Michelin-starred concept since 2003, has created a new yardstick for Miami’s gastro-scene. The restaurant’s décor, dabbled in lavish design, is as important part of the epicurean experience as its haute Cantonese cuisine, crafted with meticulous blends of herbs, sauces, spices and seasonings.
One of the best known fine-dining experiences in the world, L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon, has an outpost in the Miami Design District. A creation of the legendary chef Jöel Robuchon, who has held more Michelin stars than any other in history, L’Atelier Miami offers a dynamic interactive encounter for its patrons with the chefs in the kitchen. The restaurant offers iconic L’Atelier dishes – with seasonal innovations. The choicest à la carte options come with a delectable spread of tapas-styled tasting dishes, washed down with craft cocktails and some of the finest wines the world has to offer.
Museums & the Arts
When Art Basel Miami Beach was launched in 2002 as the US counterpart of Switzerland’s legendary art fair, Miami squarely clinched its rightful place on the world cultural map. More than 250 of the world's leading galleries participate in the 4-day long event in early December every year, and the 70,000 annual visitors include celebrities, artists, impresarios and jet-setters from across the globe. The most significant art show in the United States for the last two decades, Art Basel Miami Beach has created such a cauldron of creative energy that now every Miami municipality boasts of at least one art gallery showcasing cutting-edge, contemporary artworks.
An intensive artistic vibe is palpable in the Wynwood Arts District where the walls of the nondescript warehouses have been creatively transformed as open-air art galleries showcasing visually explosive graffiti-styled wall art by world’s leading street artists. The mural-splashed, hipster neighbourhood also houses dynamic exhibition spaces like MOCA at Goldman Warehouse and Rubell Family Collection.
Miami’s nuanced cultural canvas has drawn bands of artiste extraordinaire to have a base in this vivacious port town. And Brazilian painter, sculptor and serigrapher Romero Britto perhaps leads the illustrious pack. Britto seamlessly blends elements of cubism, graffiti and pop art in his paintings and sculpture strewn all over Miami. The bold colours and vibrant patterns that define Britto’s visual expressions are synonymous with Miami’s art culture. Park West Gallery houses the artist’s eye-popping three-dimensional relief graphic works. His own art studio in Wynwood, a neighbourhood that perfectly synchronises with Britto’s aesthetics, is where he experiments with his signature brand of art that evokes a sense of hope and happiness.
An art enthusiast with a penchant for architectural treasures must head to the iconic Art Deco Historic District. The neighbourhood has a throbbing party vibe and looks straight out of an old Hollywood movie scene. Walk or rollerblade through the one square mile area that houses more than 800 vibrantly-coloured art deco buildings featuring terrazzo floors, porthole windows, engraved glass details and whimsical structural elements.
An A-List Miami experience is to observe Floridian ocean life up close, sail to beautiful islands, or dance the night away on custom packages onboard ultraluxe yachts. Choices are galore, from fun-filled frolicking adventures to a romantic cruise with secluded anchorages, and everything in between.
With its expansive sawgrass prairies and mangrove-covered river delta, Everglades National Park is a subtropical wetland ecosystem, and a perfect base to spot wildlife like the West Indian manatee, bottlenose dolphins and the elusive and endangered Florida panther. One of the top four US National Parks, Everglades is also the only place in the world where crocodiles and alligators live together. Barely an hour away from Miami, Everglades can be explored on foot, biking through the pinelands, paddling through the marshes or on a canoe trip. A popular way to delve into the recesses of Everglades is by propeller-powered airboats that glide over the grassy waterways with multiple stopovers to soak in the alluring charm of Everglades.
A mile offshore from the Miami coast, a motley collection of pastel stilt houses seem to float above the turquoise-blue waters of Biscayne Bay. This is Stiltsville: a curious group of wooden cabins proferred on concrete pilings on the shallow seagrass flats. The place has a colourful and chequered past. In the 1930s and early 40s, Stiltsville served as a haven for Prohibition-era gambling and drinking for the wealthy and well-connected Miamians. During its heydays in early 1960s, the watery settlement became stuff of urban legends with its invite-only social clubs, and a popular pulp magazine dubbed it as a renegade village on stilts where weekend residents live by their own laws, and the town hall is a floating bikini club.
But being in the middle of nowhere in a Hurricane-prone zone also meant an impermanent existence. Over the years, Stiltsville was ravaged by violent storms and fire, and in 1992, Hurricane Andrew left the last seven houses standing, which are now protected as part of Biscayne National Park. Sadly, one of the houses got burned down in early 2021. The legacy of Stiltsville lives on in the films and literary works where it has been featured and also in the stunning façade of Miami’s Perez Art Museum, whose design it inspired. Accessible only by chartering or booking a boat tour from Miami, Stiltsville now serves as a hideaway from the mainstream bustle: a few evanescent dots on the wide waterscape, waypoints for the flocks of seagulls, all set against the gleaming Miami skyline.
Miami is an exciting spot for a sports travel vacation in style. Home to the Miami Heat, three-time NBA champions, the city has a stupendous basketball vibe, and the swanky FTX Arena is one of the nation’s premier sports and entertainment centre, where socialites, superstars and celebrities flock over to turn this state-of-the-art waterfront arena into a heady concoction of sports and glamour.
For those looking for a tee off in Miami, golf courses are aplenty, with most of the sunny links perched with a stunning backdrop of the blue-bay waters and the glittering cityscape. Some of the 30-odd golf courses are reserved for the pros, while a few others like the rather challenging Crandon Course, beautifully encased with mangrove forests, saltwater lakes and a subtropical lagoon, is more welcoming to have a go with the sticks.
If you are a American Football aficionado, head straight to Hard Rock Stadium, the home of legendary Miami Dolphins, one of the most consistent performers in the annual Super Bowl. In true Miami style, Hard Rock stadium doubles as a global entertainment destination and it is all geared up to play host to the Miami Grand Prix, a significant addition to the F1 circuit, from 2022.
From the bespoke luxury of splurgy resorts to the cosy charm of boutique hotels tucked deep into Miami’s atmospheric neighbourhoods, there are choices in abundance for the discerning traveller in the Magic City. But Miami’s sparkling seaside remains the city’s main attraction. The blithe vibe of the South Beach with its amazing sunsets, the superposh Bal Harbour Beach and the idyllic stretch of the Sunny Isles Beach steal the show among the many beautiful beaches, all of which are lined with over-the-top waterfront resorts.
For a comprehensive list of the best staying options in Miami, follow the BusinessClass.com guide to The Best Luxury Hotels In Miami.
Must buy Souvenir
The coolest souvenir you can bring back from Miami can be alligator taxidermy products that can range from novelties like hide and claw keychains, claw backscratchers and jewellery to alligator rugs, or even half or full body mounts.
The easiest and quickest option to reach Downtown Miami from the international airport is to hail a cab or hop into the Supershuttle. To rent a car, you need to first reach Miami Intermodel Centre by the 24x7 automated shuttle train service that operates between the airport and this fancily named airport transportation hub.
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