48 Hours: Quintessential South Florida vacation found in youthful South Beach

Posted November 28, 2016


If you’re looking for a quintessential South Florida vacation, South Beach is the neighborhood to visit.

View from the rooftop of the Essex House hotel in South Beach. Photo credit: Jeanette Hamilton.

View from the rooftop of the Essex House hotel in South Beach (Photo by Jeanette Hamilton).

With hopping night life, a gorgeous beach and that classic Art Deco aesthetic, SoBe is the weekend party getaway about which you will be bragging to your friends for months to come.

Stretching below Dade Boulevard, the Miami Beach neighborhood is popular among young adults, the LGBTQ+ community and plenty of celebrities. Head to South Beach if you want to experience a vibrant cultural scene, relax on the beach and dance salsa while you party the night away.

Friday Afternoon – Noon to 5 p.m.

Your first stop in SoBe has to be Ocean Drive. This is the Miami Beach main street you’ve seen in all the movies and TV shows. It runs along—you guessed it—the ocean, which makes it the perfect place to people watch. You can see all those beautiful, tan people while you’re exploring Ocean Drive’s many upscale shopping options, including name brands you know well and chic boutiques you won’t find anywhere else. Stop in at any number of ocean-front cafés and restaurants for a bite to eat. Just be sure you don’t miss News Café, where SoBe culture was really started. This historic café is busy due to its history; it was the first business to open on Ocean Drive during SoBe’s revival in the 1980s and was frequented by Gianni Versace. But don’t worry, because News Café is open 24/7.

Friday Evening – 5 p.m. to Midnight

Plan for a late dinner Friday evening so you can eat at Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe’s serves seasonal crab from October to May and plenty of other delicious dishes throughout the year. That’s what makes it one of SoBe’s most famous and most popular restaurants. They don’t take reservations, so get your name on the list early and plan to eat late. After dinner (or maybe while you wait), check out the World Erotic Art Museum. This collection of erotic art is unique to SoBe and displays the work of such artists as Rembrandt and Picasso. Only those 18 and older are admitted, for obvious reasons. Admission for adults is $15, for students with ID is $13.50 and for seniors is $14. The museum is open until midnight on weekends.

Saturday Morning – 9 a.m. to Noon

Allow yourself a later start to the day on Saturday morning by taking the Art Deco Walking Tour, provided through the Miami Design Preservation League. Meet up at the Art Deco Welcome Center around 10:15 a.m. to purchase your tickets—$25 for adults, $20 for seniors, veterans, and students—and set off at 10:30 a.m. on a 90-minute tour of the Art Deco architecture throughout SoBe for which Miami is so famous. You don’t need to book in advance, but you can purchase tickets on their website, print them and bring them with you to skip the line.

Saturday Afternoon – Noon to 5 p.m.

As any local will tell you, Saturday afternoons in Miami are for relaxing on the beach. SoBe’s public beachfront, Lummus Park, stretches between 5th and 15th Streets along Ocean Drive. While there, you’re welcome to use the beach volleyball courts, rent a bike—Miami Beach Bicycle Center has single-speed beach cruisers available for $5 per hour or $18 per day—or simply lounge and enjoy the soft sand, cool water, and seemingly omnipresent reggaeton beat. Whatever you choose, remember to apply and reapply your sunscreen.

Saturday Evening – 5 p.m. to Midnight

You cannot visit Miami Beach without dancing the salsa. It’s actually a law, or it might as well be. You can make sure you salsa, and salsa correctly, with a lesson from Salsa Mia at the famous Mango’s Tropical Café. The lessons are in their upstairs Mojito Room, offered at 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Students of all experience levels can learn salsa to the music of a live band. The lessons cost $35 per person alone, but only $25 per person when added to the “Dinner & Show” reservation. The price includes admission into Mango’s, one of SoBe’s most exciting and extravagant night clubs, and one lemon drop shot to really get your Saturday night going.

Sunday Morning – 9 a.m. to Noon

Sunday morning, of course, calls for brunch. And the best place to treat yourself is Nikki Beach. Nikki’s champagne Sunday brunch is a splurge at $50 per person, plus $7 drinks. But that price doesn’t just cover food. It also covers entertainment from the house DJ and live acts performing on the beach. You also get the choice to sit in the dining room or on lounge beds in a cabana. Brunch runs from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so it’s a perfect way to keep the party going from the night before.

Sunday Afternoon – Noon to 3 p.m.

Bring your SoBe visit full circle with some shopping at Lincoln Road Mall. Running between 16th and 17th streets, this open-air shopping and dining plaza features a mix of national chains and local specialty stores to explore. You can grab a bite to eat before heading home at one of the many casual cafés or inspired restaurants, most of which have outdoor seating available. Visitors love to people-watch as they dine on gourmet food under shady patio umbrellas. Parking is available on 17th St. for this flavorful shopping mall.

If You Go

  • News Café
  • Joe’s Stone Crab
    • 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, Fla., 33139
    • Hours:
      • Lunch served Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
      • Dinner served Sunday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m.
      • Dinner served Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m.
      • Bar opens daily at 4 p.m.
    • Website: http://www.joesstonecrab.com/
  • World Erotic Art Museum
    • 1205 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, Fla., 33139
    • Hours:
      • Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
      • Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to Midnight
    • Website: http://weam.com/
  • Art Deco Welcome Center
    • 1001 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Fla., 33139
    • Hours:
      • Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
      • Closed Saturday and Sunday
    • Website: http://www.mdpl.org
  • Miami Beach Bicycle Center
    • 746 5th St., Miami Beach, Fla., 33139
    • Hours:
      • Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
      • Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Website: http://bikemiamibeach.com/
  • Mango’s Tropical Café
  • Nikki Beach
  • Lincoln Road Mall