No longer known for just its sand and surf, Miami has moved beyond its reputation as a winter destination for snowbirds. The growth of Miami as a cultural destination has turned the city into a thriving year-round retreat with much of the attraction focused on the transformation of its urban core. With the addition of the new Museum Park, plus more than 400 restaurants, 20 hotels, 30 cultural organizations and 2.5 million sq. ft. of retail, downtown Miami has come to the forefront as one of city’s top attractions. While the winter usually receives all of the media attention, the summer is a great time to visit Miami like a local. For any summer coverage you may have in the works, please consider the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s top picks for a “hot” Miami experience this summer.
1. Go all artsy: See the hip side of downtown at PAMM Third Thursdays, a free outdoor live music series overlooking the bay at the new Perez Art Museum.
2. Be a foodie: Take a culinary road trip through the streets of downtown on the cheap with Miami Spice, a seasonal program that features a pre-fixe menu for just $39 at participating restaurants. Be sure to check out our favorite Toro Toro at the iconic downtown hotel, the InterContinental Miami.
3. Take time to relax: Experience the best spas in town for just $99 with Miami Spa Month, another seasonal program that features some of the best spa experiences in downtown Miami at a fraction of the price. Our top pick is the Kundalini Journey treatment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental. Tell them we sent you!
4. See the characters: Enjoy downtown Miami’s most talked about seasonal series, the Summer Shorts at the Adrienne Arsht Center.
5. Listen to the sounds: Sure the Miami Sound Machine brought the beat to this city, but it’s the American Airlines Arena and Bayfront Park Amphitheater that keeps the music going. Together, they have a fantastic lineup this summer featuring Sublime on Aug. 15
To top off the round-up, we can’t forget to mention all of the public transit options in downtown that make it easy to get around and explore the destination. To take a break from the heat by hopping on the free downtown street trolley or the popular Metromover to see the sites of the beautiful city.
COMO Hotels and Resorts will open its first US property, Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach in December. If you’re not familiar with their properties in Turks & Caicos, Bali, London, and beyond… take note. This 74-room hotel occupies an original 1930s building in the heart of the city’s Art Deco District and will have direct access to the beach and a private swimming pool, two restaurants, and a COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa. A daily schedule of complimentary yoga and Pilates will also be available to guests, reflecting the company’s commitment to wellness. Pst… they’re famous for their spa, y’all.
Located on Collins Avenue and 24th Street, the property has views that stretch across the Atlantic to the east or the Intracoastal Waterway to the west, flooding rooms with light. Interiors are by the Italian designer Paola Navone, who preserved the hotel’s Art Deco heritage and contrasted it with an urbane, contemporary spirit in shades of peppermint green and dusky grey, with surfaces of cool white marble and shining chrome.
The hotel will feature two restaurants. The Traymore, the headline restaurant, will showcase Floridian seafood, with an emphasis on fine dining and traditional service; the poolside restaurant will be more relaxed, with wood-baked pizzas and easygoing pick-up food to enjoy during the day. The Met Bar will offer premium spirits and Champagnes, while the rooftop COMO Shambhala juice bar will be a space to revitalize with a bespoke juice blend after a workout, beachfront run, or massage. Love ‘bespoke’ juice.
Metropolitan Miami Beach is the first stateside venture for COMO Hotels and Resorts, which owns, among other properties, two other Metropolitan hotels in London and Bangkok. The Singapore-based company also owns the private island resort of Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks & Caicos. Parrot Cay is a direct 90-minute flight from Miami, allowing for a perfect pairing with this opening, we think.
Now, hotels are jumping into the game with lifestyle apps for guests who want a bit more of an immersive tech-inspired guest experience (that’d be me, y’all). With SLS Hotel South Beach’s new lifestyle app, guests and fans of the property are served up dynamic online content including drink recipes, urgent champagne delivery, customized itineraries, and hotel concierge access. Developed by leading hospitality software platform Runtriz, the app is downloadable for free on iPhones, Androids, and also runs on all SLS Hotel South Beach in-room iPads.
Here are just a few of the sexy features of the SLS Hotel South Beach app:
Shake a Drink – Tap the “Shake a Drink” button to stir up a killer cocktail in the comfort of your Philippe Starck-designed room, or view specialty cocktails made by the hotel’s on-site mixologists at Katsuya, Hyde Beach and The Bazaar by José Andrés. Guests can raid the mini bar and stir up their own cocktail from the comfort of their room.
Bring Me Bubbles – Guests can rush order Champagne, ranging from a $50 Avinyo Cava to a $148 Lanson Ivory Label Demi-Sec Champagne, to be delivered to their rooms in less than 20 minutes (because sometimes bubbles is a real emergency).
Hotel Concierge – In-room iPads deliver unique hotel services to guests with a touch, including dinner reservations at The Bazaar and Katsuya, in-room dining and on-demand services. Guests can take advantage of the expert concierge team, who have created “Perfect Day in South Beach” sample itineraries from Lenny Kravitz and more. Concierge services through in-room iPads (also projected on TV flat screens) also provide detailed information on local Miami attractions, South Beach weather, as well as print traveler’s boarding passes.
My personal favorite?
It’s a toss up between Bring Me Bubbles and Shake a Drink, of course, because who doesn’t want a little bubbly or cocktail recipe delivered at the push of a button when on vacation? Kickstarting good times by encouraging guests to interact with SLS’ award-winning mixology program is clearly the way to anyone’s heart.
When I was invited to cover the grand opening of Elle Magazine’s first foray into the spa business, you can probably guess no one had to twist my rubber arm. The ELLE Spa, launched in Miami’s famed Eden Roc hotel, promised to be both luxurious and relaxing. Although I’d never set foot in the Eden Roc, I did know the name. Who doesn’t? For more than 50 years, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach has graced Miami Beach’s Golden Mile at 45th Street and Collins Avenue. Its 1950s and 60s heyday established it not only as a legendary landmark, but as South Florida’s premier resort property sought by many of the nation’s top entertainers and celebrities.
Today, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach continues its reign as the Grande Dame of Miami Beach, successfully luring the happening crowd away from South Beach, according to New York Magazine. As with most great monuments, it is surrounded by a tremendous amount of history, and in some cases, controversy.
Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach was originally designed by famed architect Morris Lapidus, who also designed the Fontainebleau next door as well as the Americana Hotel, now the Sheraton Bal Harbour. Lapidus was a virtual newcomer to hotel design, specializing in the design of retail storefronts. His curvy, innovative hotel designs were widely criticized and, though considered daring at the time, later earned the 96 year-old Lapidus national acclaim in which he always insisted his best revenge on his critics was outliving them. That’s when Harry Mufson came along and bought the Warner Estate (which belonged to one of the Warner Brothers) with a promise to build an even grander property: Eden Roc. Lapidus was commissioned by Mufson to design the Eden Roc and said, “I don’t want any of that French stuff you used at the Fontainebleau. That’s for kids.” Gotta love a man who can crack a funny joke about the French…
As research for this project, Lapidus traveled to the Eden Roc in France; a favorite vacation spot for The Kennedy’s. While touring Europe, he purchased statues, marble, and Venetian glassware for use in designing the hotel that would later be deemed a vision of the Italian Renaissance. Completed in 1956, Eden Roc was Lapidus’ most lavish design, attracting a stream of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ann Margret. It became the favorite on Miami Beach, successfully claiming the limelight from the Fontainebleau next door.
Located just off the pool deck was Harry’s American Bar. Named after the property’s owner at the time, Harry Mufson, this became the hottest nightclub in town where elites such as Katharine Hepburn, Joe DiMaggio, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and Ernest Hemingway frequently danced the night away. Painter Al Hirshfeld captured the essence of these entertainers at the popular nightclub in a famous celebrity caricature mural on the walls of the establishment.
Today, with the completion of its lavish restoration, Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach is shining brilliantly once again with it’s spacious 631 guest rooms, three 2,500 sq. ft. penthouse suites, 18 oceanfront one-bedroom suites, and 15 bi-level bungalow suites with floating staircases. All rooms feature flat-screen HDTV’s, iPod stations & Wi-Fi high speed internet. Their lobby bar is also one straight from the movies with sparkling glass, marble, and Brazilian rosewood columns. Beware of their delicious cocktails (which I happily slurped down with a side of shishito peppers) alongside Marysol from the Real Housewives of Miami, writers from Spa Magazine, and other fun, very Miami-based celebs. And the food at 1500 Degrees, their signature high-end dining establishment…delicious.
Under the direction of Exec Chef Paula DaSilva, 1st runner-up in Season 5 of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, hand-crafted artesian dishes demonstrate ‘fresh flavor combinations that accentuate the unparalleled flavor of fresh farm ingredients’. Sorry, couldn’t have said it better myself. The menu changes daily according to season and features local food products from farmers she actually knows. Small plate offerings ($6-$9) range from roasted beets with seared goat cheese and jumbo lump crab cakes with cilantro slaw and Old Bay aioli, to charred baby Brussels sprouts with mustard sauce and teriyaki beef skewers. Main plates ($25-$42) include: Florida red snapper with mushroom risotto, wilted arugula and aged saba vinegar; locally-raised half-chicken, cooked on the rotisserie, served with Carolina rice, black bean puree and mustard greens; hickory rubbed Palmetto Creek Farms pork loin chop with creamy polenta and roasted lobster with celery root puree, hearts of palm and Florida fruit salsa.
The ELLE Spa, which I was first and foremost there to enjoy, was designed by the owners Paola Chapur, Paloma Ardid, and Tim Williams, the spa director. This joint venture — the first for ELLE and an unprecedented partnership between a media property and a luxury resort — offered a once‐in‐a‐lifetime experience combining the unparalleled history and service of the Eden Roc Renaissance with the style of ELLE and the swankiness of Miami Beach. With floor‐to‐ceiling windows overlooking the hotel’s lushgardens and ocean, four infinity pools and sweeping seascape, the space boasts design and décor inspired by the Mediterranean coastline. High‐coved ceilings, whitewashed walls, natural stone, water and wooden elements create a calm, chic environment for the ultimate spa escape. My favorite part? Free yogurt covered pretzels, copies of Elle Magazine, and a faux fireplace to keep things warm and toasty.
The ELLE Spa offers a range of treatments that come to life through elite, editorially‐inspired treatments such as ‘Doctors’ Orders’ and ‘Forever 25’ –replete with inspiring oceanfront views, rooftop dining, chocolates, champagne, a shared whirlpool tub, rain shower, and cozy beds. Depending on their schedule, guests can spend less than an hour or a whole day experiencing wet spa areas with hot whirlpools, cold plunges, steam sauna and hydro‐experience showers before being escorted to the decadent relaxation lounge.
ELLE Spa visitors can also take advantage of an expansive rooftop deck with VIP cabanas, light dining and beverage service. A retail boutique offers the ultimate selection of luxury products, handpicked by ELLE editors. This spa shop is one of the best I’ve seen. So much so, I bought a bracelet and a necklace. The prices, for the quality of the goods, are also completely reasonable.
A range of exclusive products and treatments, curated by skin and beauty experts including Tammy Fender, Yael Alkalay of Red Flower, and Essie feature exclusives from Red Flower, including massage and body treatments and a customizable scrub bar, all which incorporate the signature ELLE Spa scent. In addition, Essie has developed eye-catching custom nail colors—the neon-pink “Eden” and can’t-miss-it-coral “Roc” —to be sold only at the ELLE Spa.
All in all, the trip was amazing. Live music at the beachfront cabana restaurant, rooms with ocean views, high quality in-room flatscreen TVs and the ELLE Spa, made for the perfect balance between relaxing after an evening of Miami’s nightlife and revitalizing myself from a day at the beach under the sexy Miami sun.