Posted September 24, 2013
By KARLA DURANGO
MIAMI, Fla. – While it was once an area frequently known for its white-sand, blue-wave beaches, bikini-wearing rollerbladers on Lincoln Road and trendy nightclubs, Miami today, holds a more complex and esteemed reputation; It is a booming conurbation with an unquenchable thirst for growth.
During the last two decades, residents and vacationers alike have witnessed the city’s transformation into one of the world’s most popular luxury travel destinations with a lot more to offer beyond its beautiful beaches.
“Miami has undergone a vibrant renewal and is now able to provide a vacation experience that can satisfy many types of interests,” said Maria Saavedra, a sales and marketing executive for the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. “For one, Miami has become a popular destination for culinary tourism,” she pointed out, a fundamental component of the tourism experience.
She said that Lure Fishbar in New York City, which garnered a spot on Forbes’ 2010 list of “All-Star Eateries” along with restaurants like Gotham Bar and Grill and Scarpetta (now at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach), is coming to the Loews Hotel this fall.
“Today the best chefs from around the world are opening their restaurants locally,” she added, citing the leading London Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, and internationally acclaimed chef José Andrés’ The Baazar, as some of her top picks.
Andrés, who was credited in Condé Nast Traveler in 2011 for introducing American audiences to both “avant-garde” and “traditional” Spanish cooking, brought his latest culinary venture to the SLS Hotel South Beach in 2012.
Now teeming with chic-eateries and premier renovated deco-era hotels such as the Fontainebleau, which once again opened its doors to the public in November 2008, the city has also witnessed a cultural renaissance of sorts and become internationally recognized for a leading-edge art scene.
With the introduction of Art-Basel in 2002, an annual contemporary art fair that was inaugurated in Switzerland, art lovers and connoisseurs from all over the world now travel to Miami to witness the high profile affair.
“Art Basel gave Miami a push in the right direction,” said Patricia Chaparro, a local artist and longtime Miami resident.
Since the art-festival was launched locally, she mentioned that the city began to experience an “arts revival.”
Gradually, the city saw a rise in the popularity of the Design District, now renowned for its design showcases, observed an upturn in the local theater scene with the opening of The Carnival Center, Florida’s largest performing arts center, and experienced the rebirth of Wynwood, an industrial neighborhood now dubbed Miami’s art district.
Wynwood has quickly established its persona as a living and breathing art village containing more than 60 different galleries, art collections and museums, said Chaparro, who was also the former owner of Once Art Gallery in Wynwood. The young and vibrant neighborhood has also become a local hotspot as it is home to some of the best restaurants, known for their live music and eclectic menus, and the some of trendiest shops in the city.
“This is the perfect destination for visitors to experience Miami as the locals do,” she noted, “it is the chance to see another layer, the Miami more … underground.”
Navigating to another popular vicinity, South Beach is no stranger to labels, one of which being that it is the spot for “sun, sand and vice.” However, another factor has helped raise the caliber of Miami Beach’s most southern point: South Pointe Park.
“This park was part of a $22 million project that started in efforts to improve the area,” said Juan Carlos Bueno, a Miami-based real estate broker that has also been a local for 25 years.
The park was completed and opened in 2009. Approximately 17 acres, it helps to give the area south of Fifth Street or SoFi, as it been nicknamed, “a relaxed yet chic vibe,” he added, quite the contrary to the “summer madness” people experience in the middle of Lincoln Road or Ocean Drive.
During the day, you can catch young families going for a stroll or yogis meditating in the shade, as well as bikers, skaters and dog walkers among many others, visiting the park.
“I love coming here in the mornings to do a little exercise and walk around,” said Liliana Davidson, a SoFi resident.
“There is not a bad view in sight,” she pointed out, “we are a little spoiled here in Miami.”
The surrounding views are indeed, sure to catch your eye from any perspective; if it is not the multimillion-dollar apartments to the left of the park, true testaments of architectural greatness, it is the sight of the majestic cruise ships entering or leaving the world-famous port just a few feet away from you.
Though the park closes 10 p.m., 18 neon lit towers illuminate the walkway adjacent to the water’s edge. This area is open to visitors until 2 a.m. but typically tends to draw in the more romantic adventurers.
“It’s a very different scene from frenzy that goes on in the heart of South Beach on late nights,” said Nate Jaxon, a regular visitor of the park, “it is a safe and quite place to hang out with friends and take a stroll along the beach.”
With that said, one of Miami Beach’s most high-end and exclusive of restaurants also resides within the park’s grounds.
Smith & Wollensky, invites a more sophisticated clientele to a five-star meal along with “perhaps one of the best views of the Miami Skyline,” says Bueno, who often dines there with his wife.
If it hasn’t become evident by now, Miami has definitely stepped up the game. Whether you’re a sun and sand hog, a gastronome or a romantic voyageur, a club hopper or an art aficionado, you’ll agree that Miami has something to show you.
“You have many different communities within Miami with something especial to share,” Saavedra said, “this city has something for everyone and is gradually becoming a top-notch travel destination if it isn’t one already.”
If You Go
South Point Park
- Hours: The park is open from sunrise to 10 p.m. (cut-walk is open until 2 a.m.)
- Directions: The end of 395 (A1A MacArthur Causeway) becomes 5th Street. Continue east on 5th Street for six blocks until Washington Avenue. Turn right on Washington Avenue. South Pointe Park is located at 1 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, Fla. 33139.
- Parking: When visiting the park, parking is very easy, there is a lot situated right at the entrance. The rates for parking in this location usually go by the hour. On most week days, you can “Pay to Park” for which the rate is $1.75 per hour. During special events however, there is usually a flat rate ranging from $15 to $20 to be able to park in the area. There is also a valet parking service available at the restaurant Smith & Wollensky, which is located directly to the right of the parking lot, before the park grounds begin.
- Wynwood Walls: The walls are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. On the second Saturday of the month is Art Walk and the Walls remain open until midnight. Sunday hours are from noon to 6 p.m. Wynwood Walls are open to the public free of charge
- Directions: Wynwood Walls are located at NW 25th St., Miami, Fla. 33127. They are situated on NW 2nd Avenue between Joey’s Italian Café on 25th Street and the lively restaurant, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar on 26th Street.
Notable Restaurants in Miami
- The Bazaar is Located in the SLS Hotel Miami Beach at 1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Fla. 33139.
- Hakkasan offers a fine-dining experience at the chic Fontainebleau Hotel and Resort at 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Fla. 33140.
- Barceloneta is a modern take on Spanish and Catalan cuisine. It is located at 400 20th St., Miami Beach, Fla. 33139.
- Rosa Mexicano is located at 900 S. Miami Ave., Miami, Fla. 33130.
- Juvia is located at 1111 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Fla. 33139.
- Jimmy’s Kitchen in Wynwood is at 2700 N. Miami Ave. Miami, Fla. 33127.
- Wynwood Kitchen and Bar is at 2555 NW 2nd Ave., Miami, Fla. 33127.