A lot of the things we associate with Miami—Art Deco hotels, ultra-trendy, high-octane nightclubs, and golden beaches dotted with impossibly beautiful bodies—are actually features of Miami Beach, a small barrier island set between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. Though it’s just 10 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, the island’s picturesque setting and party-centric atmosphere have made it the stuff of legend.
While you can find fun things to do in each of Miami Beach’s three neighborhoods—South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach— the liveliest and most famous spot is, of course, South Beach. People from all over the world come here to lounge on perfect beaches, shop at high-end boutiques, and dance into the wee hours at the see-and-be-seen nightclubs it’s known for.
Hit the Beach
The beaches here feel straight out of a movie, with golden sands, swaying palm trees, and gorgeous sunbathers. You’ll find people enjoying the ocean no matter the season, thanks to sunny weather and average temps that rarely dip below the 70s.
- Lummus Park beach: This sandy spot in South Beach is one of the best places for people-watching, according to Frommer’s. Get here early—the beach usually fills up by mid-morning.
- The boardwalk: Joggers and roller bladers flock to the Miami Beach Boardwalk, which runs more than 3 miles through South Beach and Mid Beach.
- Fresh seafood: A few blocks from the water, Joe’s Stone Crab has been serving up crab claws for more than 100 years. Fans of the restaurant’s locally caught offerings have included Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Jennifer Lopez.
- Where to stay: Metropolitan by COMO is an oceanfront luxury hotel boasting an art-deco design by Italian architect Paola Navone.
Shop ‘til You Drop
The unofficial uniform in Miami Beach seems to be itty-bitty bikinis during the day and skin-tight minidresses at night. In other words, expect to see a lot of skin. You can pick up fashions for yourself, whether risque or demure, in the independent boutiques lining Ocean Drive or in any of the island’s larger shopping complexes.
- Bal Harbour Shops: Prada, Oscar de la Renta, and other luxury boutiques line tropical walkways in this open-air shopping complex located just north of North Beach.
- Lincoln Road Mall: A pedestrian-only street in the heart of South Beach with a more accessible lineup of shops, restaurants, and sidewalk cafes. Be sure to try the gourmet tacos at Huahua’s Taqueria.
- Where to stay: In 2013, Condé Nast Traveler named the AAA Five Diamond St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort one of the hottest new hotels in the world. It’s within walking distance of the luxe Bal Harbour Shops.
Arts and Culture
South Beach may be best known for its chiseled beach-goers and all-night parties, but it has an artsy side, too. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Art Deco District is the best-known example, with hundreds of candy-colored buildings built between 1923 and 1943.
- Architectural walking tour: Book a mid-morning stroll with the Miami Design Preservation League to see hundreds of Art Deco buildings, including Versace Mansion—a 1930 manor modeled after a palace in the Dominican Republic that belonged to Christopher Columbus’s family.
- Bass Museum of Art: The permanent collection includes works from Rubens and Botticelli. Temporary exhibits focus on contemporary art.
- Where to stay: The iconic Esplendor Hotel Breakwater South Beach is located in the heart of the Art Deco District on Ocean Drive, within walking distance of beaches, shopping, and nightlife.
The clubs of Miami Beach are legendary for their boisterous, all-night blowouts, and for good reason—between the rum-soaked mojitos, colorful neon signs, and dressed-to-the-nines crowds, it can feel like an endless party. Hotspots vie for the limelight by offering VIP service and celebrity DJs.
- Ocean Drive: The red-hot center of South Beach nightlife, Ocean Drive is packed with underground live-music spots, rooftop bars, and upscale lounges.
- Mansion: Big-name celebs host parties until 5 a.m. at this sprawling South Beach club along Washington Avenue, which features a technicolor dance floor and VIP table service.
- Where to stay: The oceanfront Clevelander Hotel is party central. Offerings include daily live music, poolside bars, and rooftop terraces with bottle service.