With a new crop of world-class hotels, a fast-evolving dining scene, some of the most picturesque beaches in America, and a place on the global art-world stage, Miami has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Read on for two equally satisfying ways to experience Magic City.
Where To Stay
The Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club
When it opened in 1930 as a private club in a Mediterranean Revival building, the Surf Club was a draw for such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, and Ava Gardner. Today, the North Beach retreat is home to The Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club, which opened in 2017. The modernist haven was reimagined by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Richard Meier, who added three towers for the hotel’s 77 guest rooms and 150 residences. Paris-based Joseph Dirand designed the spacious, neutral-toned guest rooms, where cerulean ocean views are framed by floor-to-ceiling windows. Dirand peppers his minimalist aesthetic (Connemara marble from Scotland in the bathrooms) with rustic details reminiscent of a beach bungalow (rattan coverings on the doors). Miamians flock here to dine on ingredient-forward pasta dishes at the first and only outpost of Le Sirenuse—the iconic hotel and restaurant from Positano, Italy—or the Continental menu at the Surf Club Restaurant by Thomas Keller, the renowned chef’s first Florida dining concept.
Price Tag: $900
Eating & Drinking
The eclectic Wynwood Arts District, famous for its colorful wall murals and Brooklyn-esque vibe, feels like the perfect location for Kyu, the pan-Asian restaurant that Chef Michael Lewis and General Manager Steven Haigh opened in 2016. That’s because Kyu attracts an equally diverse crowd, which ranges from twentysomethings celebrating birthdays to entrepreneurs doing business. Take a look at the menu, and it’s no small wonder that Kyu manages to have such broad appeal: There are beef short ribs for meat lovers, tuna tartare paired with crispy fried rice for fish aficionados, and a to-die-for roasted cauliflower in a bed of goat cheese for vegetable obsessives. The evenings in the industrial, art-filled dining room can get sceney and loud, while lunchtime is a serene (and much quieter) affair.
Price Tag: Lunch, $130 for twoWatr at the 1 Hotel Rooftop
There are plenty of places to see and be seen in Miami Beach—and Watr at the 1 Hotel Rooftop is one of the best spots if you want your tropical cocktails and beautiful people to come with a side of ocean views. Set on the 18th floor of the 1 Hotel in South Beach, the neutral-on-white decor provides a cinematic setting for sundowners. The cocktail menu channels the tropical vibe of Miami: The Pink Toucan has hibiscus-infused light rum with crème de noyaux and a splash of coconut water and lemon, and the Ultima Palabra “Slushy” combines mezcal, Chartreuse, Luxardo, and fresh lime. Pair them with items from the Japanese-Peruvian menu—maybe the short rib tostadas, the Parmesan-crusted scallops, or the hamachi tiradito.
Price Tag: Bites and cocktails, $120 for two
The only drawback to winning a season of Top Chef? The extra scrutiny on the newly minted celebrity chef when they open their first solo restaurant. But when Jeremy Ford debuted Stubborn Seed in late 2017, the Florida native charmed skeptical locals at first bite. Ford—who named the restaurant after his own grit and audacity, to which he attributes his success—turns out bold shareable plates from the open kitchen of his hip, concrete-walled South Beach restaurant. While Stubborn Seed’s menu is ever-evolving, recent standouts include celery root with crackling maitakes, American Wagyu beef cheek with Alba white truffle rice grits, and local wahoo fish with snow peas, passion fruit, and a psychedelic green-and-white swirl of habanero yogurt. It’s set to a sound track of vintage rock, which keeps the mood casual and fun.
Price Tag: Tasting menu, $350 for two
If you grow weary of the Art Deco architecture and white-sand beaches that make Miami famous, make haste to the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, located in Miami’s historic, bayfront Coconut Grove neighborhood. A 38,000-square-foot house originally built in 1914 as the winter retreat of a businessman named James Deering, Vizcaya is decorated with a nod to both Italian Renaissance and Baroque architecture styles. The grounds on Biscayne Bay include 10 acres of landscaped orchid- and fountain-filled gardens and 25 acres of endangered native forest. Interiors are filled with frescoed ceilings, stained glass windows and doors, and rare antiques—some of which date back to Renaissance Italy.
Price Tag: $44 for two
Private boxing lesson at the 5th St. Gym
It’s hidden in plain sight behind a sex shop in South Beach, but that’s the beauty of the 5th St. Gym, a relatively under-the-radar spot for some of the best boxing talent in the country. This is not the place you go for a hyper-sleek, eucalyptus-scented boutique fitness experience. This is a place where real champs train—and while you can (quite literally) smell the sweat of countless hours of training, there’s an energy and an authenticity here that make it an electrifying place to fulfill your pugilistic fantasies. The gym opened in 1950, and it has been the training grounds for celebrities, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and, most notably from the pro fight world, Muhammad Ali. You can book a private lesson with co-owner Dino Spencer, whose clients have included Adriana Lima, Christopher Walken, and Michael Phelps. The gym recently started offering lessons in martial arts ranging from Muay Thai to Filipino weapons and empty hand systems.
Price Tag: $175
Bottom Line: $1,894 per day for two people
Where To Stay
Generator—a European hotel brand that’s created design-minded, hybrid hotel-hostels for grown-ups—is proof that you can have stylish digs without blowing your budget in Magic City. Opened in Miami in 2018, the 105-room Generator Miami is centrally located in South Beach along Collins Avenue, and it’s just 100 feet from the shoreline. The hotel got its Miami-inspired look from Argent Design, a London-based group that outfitted the hotel’s modern interiors with touches such as Art Deco–inspired furnishings and palm trees. The hotel offers shared rooms for $25 a night (including women-only rooms), but even the private rooms with en suite bathrooms start at a budget-friendly $95. No more rooms left? See what’s available at the Generator’s elder but equally hip (and equally affordable) sister hostel, the Freehand, located just three blocks away on Collins Avenue.
Price Tag: From $95
Eating & Drinking
Of Miami’s seafood institutions, Joe’s Stone Crab is one of the most famous, expensive, and hardest to get into—à la carte stone crab claws still start at $45 and king crabs start at $90, and you can blow $150 on Royal Ossetra caviar. But few travelers know that there’s a time and budget-friendly loophole at this casual South Beach spot, and it’s the take-out counter. Try the Miami Beach Omelette with stone crab ($14) or the stone crab bisque ($12). If you don’t mind ordering something that’s not of the sea but equally delicious, try the fried half chicken, only $7. Take your meal to the beach, just a few minutes away on foot, or snag a seat at the bar next to the restaurant.
Price Tag: From $30 for two
Yes, you can drop $55 on an entire Peking duck at 1-800-Lucky, a 10,000-square-foot temple to Asian food in Wynwood. But you can also hem in your budget and stick to such items as the tonkotsu-broth ramen (a more budget-friendly $16). Flexibility is the beauty of this multi-concept space: Visitors who arrive strictly for the eating will not be disappointed: Local restaurateurs Sven Vogtland, Alan Drummond, and Gaby Chiriboga have brought in a handful of buzzy international Asian restaurant concepts from Japan to New York City. And those who are simply looking to have a big night out with friends can sip on a taro slushie while rocking out to hip-hop with the DJ in the courtyard till the wee hours of the night. For amateur crooners, karaoke rooms can be rented for a $50 deposit that can be split among friends.
Price Tag: From $32 for two
Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market
For a casual waterside spot with fresh-caught seafood, look no further than Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market, a Miami institution for more than 50 years. Garcia’s seafood is some of the best in the city, thanks to the fact that the restaurant sources a lot of its own seafood with its own fleet of fishing boats. At their two-story, indoor-outdoor restaurant, father-son duo Luis Garcia and Esteban Jr. know how to turn out simple, ingredient-focused dishes such as octopus, snapper, or mahimahi—all grilled, blackened, or fried to perfection (consider the stone crab if it’s in season, between October and May). Some of the best seats in the house are upstairs, where wooden tables offer up views of the Miami River and the yachts that pass through it.
Price Tag: Entrées, from $70 for two
Institute of Contemporary Art Miami
For years, the ICA was housed in a temporary space until it finally opened in its new, permanent Design District digs in time for Art Basel in 2017. Today, the museum is more than double the size of its previous location in the nearby Moore Building. The 37,500-square-foot space, a sleek, metallic cube designed by Madrid-based Aranguren + Gallegos Arquitectos, houses up-and-coming international artists and local emerging voices. They’re juxtaposed with established voices from both the 20th century and today, including Pablo Picasso, James Turrell, and Tracey Emin. Be sure to take a walk through the sprawling sculpture garden, home to works including late artist George Segal’s famous Three Figures and Four Benches (1979), a study of urban social worlds composed of life-size plaster figures sitting on park benches.
Price Tag: Free
The heart of Miami’s Cuban culture can be found along bustling Calle Ocho—a must for visitors to Magic City. And if you find yourself there on a sweltering day and are in need of a pick-me-up, look no further than Azucar Ice Cream Company. (You can’t miss it: On the facade of the shop, there’s a larger-than-life sculpture of a five-scoop cone.) Here, Cuban American owner Suzy Batlle showcases formulas passed down to her by her grandmother. There are a range of signature and seasonal flavors inspired by Miami: platanos maduros (sweet plantains), the café con leche (Cuban coffee with Oreos), Key lime pie. The Abuela Maria is a perennial hit: It’s a whimsical blend of vanilla ice cream with cream cheese, guava, and Maria cookies.
Price Tag: $10 for two
Bottom Line: $237 for two