South Beach has long been synonymous with Miami cool. And while the restaurants and Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive entice visitors and locals alike, Miami is more than just the SoBe scene. Downtown Miami is thriving, with new residences and bars opening regularly, and further up the beach from the Delano and the like, lies another hotspot.
Downtown Miami, you ask? Yes. For years, it was just a business district with very little happening after hours but with the February 2009 opening of Viceroy Miami and the April 2009 opening of River Lounge, not to mention the action at the American Airlines Arena, more people in the know are flocking to the area.
Historically speaking, a viceroy was someone who commanded a country in the place of an absent monarch (India famously had numerous viceroys working at the behest of Queen Victoria). It’s an interesting choice for a hotel name but the Kelly Wearstler–designed,162-room Viceroy Miami tower on Brickell Avenue certainly commands the downtown skyline. East Asia meets Miami chic with rooms hued in creams, blues and golds, accented with onyx, stone and marble. Accommodations are spacious, ranging in size from just under 450 square feet for standard kings to 1,400 square feet for two-bedroom residences equipped with working kitchens. If you’re a city dweller like me, you’ll probably enjoy the dramatic views of Miami and its environs.
At night, locals and tourists flock to Club 50, the Viceroy’s lounge on the 50th floor, for a fist-pumping good time. Go midday, when the house beats are exchanged for soothing tunes. Grab a good book and your ipod and relax by the pool or daydream over the waters of Biscayne Bay as you sip a herb-infused cocktail. For dinner, the Mediterranean-inspired Eos combines dramatic design and award-winning cuisine on the 15th floor of Viceroy.
If you prefer beachside accommodations, stay at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. A Miami institution, Fontainebleau has been attracting glitterati since 1954. James Bond famously played gin rummy with Auric Goldfinger here. Frank Sinatra crooned and made the ladies swoon in its environs. While hotels further down the beach attracted the most attention in recent years, Fontainebleau was hardly forgotten, even if it did need a serious makeover. After a three-year, $1 billion renovation, owners Fontainebleau Resorts, LLC and Nakheel PJSC reopened the legendary pleasure palace in late 2008. The colossal space is modern and stylish, if a bit overwhelming, what with more than 1,500 rooms, 11 dining spots and a 40,000 square foot spa. Rooms are decorated with muted woods and neutral leathers, with light blue, green or orange accents throughout. Clean palates are always soothing and that’s the case here. Problems do exist—service can be spotty—but given time, these minor snafus should be ironed out.
While a visit to Calle Ocho is a must for Cuban food, Fontainebleau has two of the best dining options in a city known for its distinctive cuisine. Hakkasan, which is a Michelin-starred London hotspot, serves spicy Chinese fare paired with fine wine. Gotham Steak House doesn’t just serve large cuts of beef. Seafood lovers will enjoy chef/owner Alfred Portale’s ceviche, Maine lobster and miso-marinated black cod. For after-dinner drinks, venture to the futuristic, but pricey Bleau Bar. It’s just as exciting as the hotel’s nightclub LIV without the “Jersey Shore” look-alikes and bouncer attitude.
Hakkasan at Fontainebleau
In this economy, it’s tough to justify spending $15 for a simple cocktail or $400 for a standard room. But most visitors to Miami budget for both since the city, much like rivals Los Angeles and New York, is a place to be seen and to make a scene. Make sure you do the same.
485 Brickell Avenue
Miami, F.L. 33131
Fontainebleau Miami Beach
4441 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, F.L. 33140
—Shandana A. Durrani