With its stunning art deco architecture and glorious beach, South Beach Miami is rightfully known as the American Riviera. The heady mix of art, culture, beach and a vibrant nightlife attracts visitors from all over the world. Celebrities mingle with tourists, spring-breakers and locals giving the place a unique energy. There’s so much to see and do that you need some wheels if you’re going to get the most out of your time here. Bicycles are available to rent everywhere including from most hotels; and if you haven’t already – Join Uber, it will transform your experience. Here’s how I would spend my time if I had only 24hrs in South Beach Miami:
1. Start the morning with bootcamp.
If you like to start your Sunday mornings burning fat and building power, then cycle down to South Pointe Park. Some people prefer to spend their time people watching, coffee in hand, but the dedicated will join the bootcamp held there every Sunday morning. This class is suitable for all levels – you work at your own pace, but don’t think you won’t be called out if you’re spotted trying to take it easy. It’s an epic workout session mixing strength, conditioning and mobility and plyometric exercise that will leave you feeling that you’ve truly earned your breakfast.
2. Feast on Italian pastries from Buon Pane Italiano.
After all the calories you’ve burned off you deserve a treat. Forget the tourist hoardes and the sticky streets of Lincoln and Washington and head to Fifth street where you’ll find the best Italian bakery in South Beach Miami (possibly the world). From the outside this unassuming little bakery looks unremarkable but don’t be deterred. It’s only been open 18 months and it already has a loyal following of locals and Italian ex-pats that flock here (in their droves) every morning to stock up. There’s nothing touristy about this place, the bakers are fresh in from Italy and making things just like mama. Enough said. There’s only a couple of tables but people don’t loiter, an expresso a pastry and then it’s vamos a la playa.
3. Visit Wynwood Arts District for an art fix.
Uber your way to this once run down, crime ridden warehouse district. Wynwood has now transformed to become the arts hub of South Florida. The Wynwood Walls are a permanent outdoor exhibit featuring murals and installations by some of the world’s most renowned street artists. The massive outdoor urban murals are an ever-evolving homage to street art in Miami, walk around the neighbourhood and there isn’t a wall that isn’t covered with colourful paint, be it street-art or graffiti. There’s over 70 galleries and museums, a plethora of cool bars and restaurants and a real vibe that’s sort of like Shoreditch meets Miami vice.
4. Spend time at the Beach.
The clear blue water and the white sand beaches are a must-see for any Miami visitor. There’s 2.5 miles of it to enjoy just at South Beach, or you could follow the boardwalk up to North Beach and enjoy the dunes (and significantly fewer tourists). It’s well managed with numerous loungers and parasols available to help you stay comfortable while you watch the beautiful people go by. You’ll never get bored of it.
5. Grab a sandwich from La Sandwicherie.
This South Beach Miami staple has been serving sandwiches since the 80s to locals and tourists in the know. It’s even a favourite of SITC’s Sarah Jessica Parker. This cheap eatery serves up incredible sandwiches of every description created to your own specification. The salads and fruit smoothies are also pretty epic. Open daily from 8am-5am, so you’ll never be without a sandwich again.
6. Explore Little Havana.
Forget the crazy hustle of South Beach for a short while and head to La Pequeña Habana, the unofficial capital of Miami’s Cuban community. The smell of cigar smoke hangs gently in the air as men wearing Panama hats walk by and Cuban music plays in the distance. The first Cuban exiles set up home here after fleeing Cuba in the 50s, and the numbers greatly increased when Castro came to power. Spanish is the first language here – so get practicing your “holas” and “buenos dias”. It’s a charming, colourful neighbourhood with an interesting history that is definitaly worth exploring. SW 8th Street, or Calle Ocho attracts the most tourists. Most people head straight to Maximo Gomez Park, known locally as Domino Park, to watch the old Cuban fellas passing the hours playing dominos. If that’s not your thing, take a walk, explore the many galleries, quirky shops and interesting bars and restaurants. Look out for Viernes Culturales (cultural Fridays) held on the last Friday of the month to celebrate all things Cuban. You’ll be feeling Cuban before you know it.
7. Find a secret place to eat.
Visa-O1 isn’t the easiest place to find, despite being located just off the bustling Lincoln Road. This small, family operated Neapolitan pizzeria is tucked away in a multistory office building with no signage, so you’ll need a bit of assistance finding it. You can’t access the building without a pass, so look out for the person sat outside waiting to let you in; but if there’s no-one there, have no fear you can always try the fire exit in the carpark. If that fails hang around long enough and someone with a takeaway box will come out, leaving you clear to slip into the open door. There’s only enough seating for 20 people, so you might find yourself queueing for a table. But all good things come to those who wait and after sampling the Star Luca pizza, with ricotta stuffed corners, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
8. Party on Ocean Drive.
The Palace bar on Ocean drive lives up to it’s motto of Every Queen needs a Palace. This long standing South Beach Miami institution celebrates everything fabulous and fun about South Beach’s gay community. Palace is famous for its weekend drag shows and strong cocktails that will leave you entertained, and get you in the party mood. It gets even louder and wilder when darkness falls, so you’ll find it impossible to resist lip syncing along with Miss Ivy as she struts her stuff to Rhianna. If a drag show isn’t your bag, then they also throw weekend tea dances or you could just have a bite to eat and enjoy the happy vibes.
24 hours isn’t enough time to experience everything in South Beach, but with a little bit of advanced planning you’ll ensure every single hour counts,