Navigating Miami, District-by-District

Welcome To Miami (Bienvenido a Miami)

It was sun and sand to many for years. Now it's art, culture, architecture, beer, coffee, and fashion. Where should you go?


By Elaine Glusac
Photos by Graciella Cattarossi

Originally appeared in September 2015 issue of Virtuoso Life

Blessed with beaches and seasonless sunshine, Miami grew up as a resort destination, but has lately matured to become an international capital and easy, bilingual bridge to Latin America. Art aficionados flock to Art Basel Miami Beach, the annual contemporary art market that has lifted the city’s cultural profile since it began in 2002 (this year it’s held December 3 through 6). South Beach remains the tourism epicenter, but new neighborhoods have emerged that reflect the city’s increasing sophistication.

“That’s the thing about Miami,” says New York City-based Virtuoso travel advisor Lia Batkin. “You can get so much diversity from the destination. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always exciting.”

Miami-based Virtuoso advisor Carol Press agrees: “We’ve got beaches, pools, and good weather all year long – there’s everything here. I don’t know what’s not here, except snow.”

Here’s a look at Miami’s most magnetic neighborhoods, ranging from refined to raw.

SoFi (South of Fifth)
A dining draw in Miami Beach's newest high-rise district

At the southern end of South Beach, the landmark restaurant Joe’s Stone Crab was long the sole reason to venture below Fifth Avenue. Joe’s remains, but a forest of gleaming high-rise condos has created
a vibrant residential and restaurant district.

Don’t Miss:
The mostly small-plates Asian menu at convivial Red Ginger (736 First Street; 305/433-6876) focuses on Japanese bites from the robata grill and the sushi bar.

The 40-seat Izzy’s Fish & Oyster Bar (423 Washington Avenue; 305/397-8843) pays homage to New England
seafood. Chef Jamie DeRosa also helms the nearby American tavern Tongue & Cheek (431 Washington Avenue; 305/704-2900).

Casual-chic Cibo Wine Bar (200 S. Pointe Drive; 305/987-6060) serves pizzas, pastas, and antipasti paired with an Italy-centric wine list.

Both foodies and calorie-counters acclaim the marinated fish salads from modest-but-mighty My Ceviche (235 Washington Avenue; 305/397-8710).

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

South Beach
The must-see Art Deco District gets a contemporary update

Though the classic pastel-painted Deco District remains a visitor favorite (the Miami Design Preservation League’s walking tours are a must), architecture lovers now flock to Lincoln Road Mall. The pedestrian thoroughfare, originally designed by midcentury architect Morris Lapidus to include his signature cantilevered shade pavilions, is now backstopped by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron’s open-frame parking tower, known as 1111 Lincoln Road. One block north, Frank Gehry contributed the New World Center (500 17th Street), cavernous home of the New World Symphony, with innovative programs ranging from 30-minute mini-concerts to events simulcast on the exterior wall that draw picnic-toting patrons.

Don’t Miss:
Skyline views, along with sushi or pan-seared duck, from atop Lincoln Road’s latest landmark, on the rooftop patio at French/Japanese/Peruvian Juvia (1111 Lincoln Road; 305/763-8272).

The first spin-off of New York’s Quality Meats (1501 Collins Avenue; 305/340-3333) just opened in a former art deco hotel, showcasing house-cured, -smoked, and -aged butchery, with the former front desk serving as a charcuterie counter.

Drawing Room Bar & Lounge (1801 Collins Avenue; 305/531-1271), from celebrated Austrian mixologist Albert Trummer, features his house-made herbal tinctures, as well as his flair for the dramatic, including sabering Champagne bottles.
A glass box inserted into the fifth floor of 1111 Lincoln Road, Alchemist (1109 Lincoln Road; 305/531-4653) lives up to its setting with gallery-like arrangements of clothing by the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Dries
Van Noten.

Housed in a classic 1939 art deco building, The Webster (1220 Collins Avenue; 305/674-7899) sprawls over three levels and 20,000 square feet with men’s and women’s fashion from denim to special occasion.

Morris Lapidus designed the original wing of the 375-room Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, including the atmospheric lobby bar, of this spacious resort at the foot of Lincoln Road. Doubles from $239, including breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

The Setai, Miami Beach has three pools regulated at three different temperatures and 125 rooms divided between an art deco landmark and a glass high-rise. Doubles from $500, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

Madame de Pompadour inspired designer Philippe Starck’s lavish SLS Hotel South Beach, with 140 rooms and a pool deck that morphs into a club. Doubles from $250, including breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

The 345-room W South Beach has a rooftop tennis court and a basketball court, plus see-and-be-seen Chinese at Mr Chow. Doubles from $449, including breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

Mid-Beach (north of South Beach)
Midcentury modernism goes breezy Miami

Mid-Beach grew up in the postwar era of big cars and bigger destinations designed to attract them. Driving up Collins Avenue provides a gapers’ tour of midcentury architecture as adapted to the beach, with porous concrete brise-soleil passages and cheese-hole facades. “Mid-Beach is still up-and-coming,” says Virtuoso travel advisor Lia Batkin. “A lot of these big, beautiful hotels are creating destinations within the destination.”

Crowning Mid-Beach’s comeback, this fall the $1 billion Faena District Miami Beach will open on six beachfront blocks with an art center designed by Rem Koolhaas, residences by Norman Foster, and a hotel by film director Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin in collaboration with Alan Faena.

Don’t Miss:
Miami celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein just opened Seagrape (4041 Collins Avenue; 786/605-4041), a locavore Floridian brasserie in a vintage-tropical dining room. Don’t miss the chili-oil-and-orange ceviche or local Wagyu steak.

Globe-trotter Andria Mitsakos packs her jewel-box shop Wanderlista (3720 Collins Avenue; 305/938-1145) with beach-chic wares: Dea Rosa bags, Tess Giberson dresses, and Frescobol Carioca swim trunks.

Housed in a midcentury restoration, the 110-room Carillon Hotel & Spa serves as an urban destination spa, with a 70,000-square-foot facility offering indoor rock climbing and programs devoted to stress relief, mindfulness, and more. One-bedroom suites from $349, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

This fall, the 169-room Faena Hotel Miami Beach debuts director Baz Luhrmann as hotel designer. Argentine celebrity chef Francis Mallmann will import his love of wood-fired foods, and a 12-treatment-room spa will include a raw juice bar. Doubles from $699, including breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

A thoughtfully restored art deco landmark now houses the 74 mint-hued rooms of Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach, featuring a lobby-level gin bar, seafood-focused restaurant, and rooftop pool. Doubles from $379, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

Downtown and Brickell
The city core has been revived by the arts – performing and fine – and a boom in residential high-rise construction

Downtown Miami used to empty out after 5 PM, but the 2006 establishment of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Boulevard), not to mention the Miami Heat’s success at nearby American Airlines Arena, has sparked a revival. Located between them, the 30-acre waterfront Museum Park hosts the blockbuster Pérez Art Museum Miami (1103 Biscayne Boulevard), a contemporary collection designed by Herzog & de Meuron. Hanging gardens and a mammoth wraparound porch make it an inviting destination, to be joined next year by the neighboring Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

Residential development has headed south along Brickell Avenue, including the $1 billion Brickell City Centre, home to residential high-rises, shops, and restaurants that will begin opening this winter. Says Miami-based Virtuoso travel advisor Louise Ramirez, “This is Miami’s answer to Manhattan, but it’s clean and shiny.”

Don’t Miss:
A branch of the born-in-London Zuma (270 Biscayne Boulevard Way; 305/577-0277) resides downtown, a destination for lovers of Japanese food, from the sushi counter to the robata grill.

Peru’s most famous chef serves ceviche and grilled skewers, as well as Peruvian-Japanese hybrid dishes such as snapper sushi in pepper sauce, at La Mar by Gaston Acurio, located in the Mandarin Oriental, Miami.

The 221-room Four Seasons Hotel Miami towers above Biscayne Bay on Brickell Avenue. The two-acre, two-pool property includes one pool sprouting palm trees with hammocks strung among them. Doubles from $259, including breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

The only hotel on offshore Brickell Key, the 326-room Mandarin Oriental, Miami combines an urban location with a private bayfront beach. Glass-walled treatment suites in the bilevel spa let you steep in the panorama, and locals hit the MO Bar + Lounge for live Latin music. Doubles from $259, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

This former warehouse district now displays vibrant murals from celebrated street artists and hosts art and wine walks on the weekend

Low-slung warehouses occupied Wynwood until Goldman Properties’ founder, the late Tony Goldman – who also helped revive South Beach – reenvisioned the plain, squat buildings as canvases for street artists in 2009. The resulting Wynwood Walls has been a catalyst for development in the neighborhood, drawing artist studios, restaurants, and shops.

“We’re not just curating art, but tenancies,” says his daughter, Jessica Goldman Srebnick. “We want Panther Coffee over Starbucks – specialized businesses you can’t find anywhere else.”

Art remains the principal attraction. “Go on the second Saturday of the month: The art galleries open at night
for an art and wine walk,” says advisor Louise Ramirez. “It draws a great cross section of people.”

Don’t Miss:
Big names such as street artist Shepard Fairey have contributed to Wynwood Walls (2520 NW Second Avenue; 305/531-4411), now some 80,000 square feet of murals by more than 50 artists. The wildly vivid outdoor gallery features a series of painted garages called Wynwood Doors.

Exhibits at The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse (591 NW 27th Street; 305/576-1051) showcase works owned by renowned collector Martin Z. Margulies, including pieces by Anselm Kiefer, Isamu Noguchi, and Richard Serra.

Ascaso Gallery (2441 NW Second Avenue; 305/571-9410) specializes in Latin American artists, including Oswaldo Vigas and Fernando Botero.

Bask in the surrounding murals inside the restaurant and out on the patio at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 NW Second Avenue; 305/722-8959) while nibbling on small plates.

Even carb cutters line up for sourdough and a daily café menu at Zak the Baker (405 NW 26th Street; 786/347-7100).

Miami’s cult coffeehouse Panther Coffee (2390 NW Second Avenue; 305/677-3952) roasts its beans in small batches on-site.

Take home artsy kids’ toys, desk accessories, and recycled plastic handbags from Elemental (2399 NW Second Avenue; 786/276-5955).

Whimsical terrariums and moss- and orchid-filled planters offer green inspiration at Plant the Future (2511 NW Second Avenue; 305/571-7177).

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

Design District
Art galleries, furniture showrooms, and fashion ateliers populate the retail-centric quarter

Interior designers have long feathered their clients’ nests from the art galleries and furniture shops in the 18-square-block Design District, nearly three miles north of downtown. Couture brands, including Tom Ford and Versace, have lately moved in, expanding its retail appeal.

Public artworks – including the recently installed Fly’s Eye Dome by the late Buckminster Fuller and architect Zaha Hadid’s installation in the atrium of the 1921 Moore Building – now bolster the district’s sophistication quotient.

“You could do the Design District in a couple of hours,” says Virtuoso advisor Lia Batkin. “It’s not that big, but it’s fun.” (Plus, the shops ship.)

Don’t Miss:
Miamians Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz share their significant art holdings and commissioned installations at the de la Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space (23 NE 41st Street; 305/576-6112).

Founded by a trio of Miamians, the nonprofit Locust Projects (3852 N. Miami Avenue; 305/576-8570) exhibits site-specific installations from international artists.

Markowicz Fine Art (110 NE 40th Street; 305/308-6398) deals works from a roster of A-list modern and contemporary artists, from Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol to street muralists.

Farm-to-table champion Michael Schwartz runs the go-to Design District restaurant Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (130 NE 40th Street; 305/573-5550), showcasing local ingredients from spear-caught fish to free-range pork on the daily menus.

Campania (4029 N. Miami Avenue; 786/615-3301) serves rustic fare, including wood-fired pizzas, from its namesake southern Italian region.

To continue navigating Miami neighborhoods, use the arrows. To work with a Virtuoso advisor on your next trip(s) – Miami or not – connect below.

Bal Harbour
The country's richest shopping mall, with good looks on the racks and in the courtyard

A former army barracks was razed to build the country’s first all-luxury-tenant mall, Bal Harbour Shops, which opened in 1965. Its cachet encompasses the residences and hotels that grew up around it. “Bal Harbour is nice because it’s away from the craziness, but still close to South Beach if you want to go to a restaurant there,” Batkin says.

Don’t Miss:
Established to bring Miami a class of department store then otherwise solely associated with NYC’s Fifth Avenue or Paris’ Champs-Élysées, Bal Harbour Shops (9700 Collins Avenue) celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with updates that include concept stores from Chanel and Prada. Purportedly the most productive mall in the country, it’s anchored by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and also hosts a branch of local independent favorite Books & Books.

At his eponymous Makoto (9700 Collins Avenue; 305/864-8600), Makoto Okuwa, a protégé of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, prepares meticulous sushi for the fashionistas at Bal Harbour Shops.

Most of the 124 rooms at The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami overlook the Intracoastal Waterway and the beach. Freestanding bathtubs face floor-to-ceiling windows. Doubles from $239, including breakfast daily and a $100 resort credit.

Set on nine acres with glittering public spaces, The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort offers oceanfront balconies in each of its 227 guest rooms. Doubles from $709, including breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

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