Posted Sept. 24, 2012
By BOLTON LANCASTER
SOUTH MIAMI, Fla. — When people think of shopping malls, the image of vast, rolling parking lots jam packed with cars and an interior space with dark, dirty floors is often the image that comes to mind. But In South Miami, things are done a little bit different.
In the middle of the Shops at Sunset Place, an outdoor shopping mall located off of U.S. 1, is a stone staircase lined by ferns leading all the way up to the top.
Light posts supporting hanging flower baskets help light the center plaza in the evening. On the second floor, there is a waterfall going down to the lower level to form a pool of water and a grotto beneath the staircase, adding to the aesthetic beauty of Sunset Place.
South Miami, located about 15 to 20 minutes away from downtown Miami, is home to this unique shopping center. As people first enter, they notice that there is no conventional roof. On nice days, shoppers have the ability to multi-task: search for the store they want while getting a bronzed body as they walk along the cobblestone pathways. When a frequent South Florida storm strikes, people simply elect to walk along the sides of the mall where the walkways are covered.
Many of the shoppers are from the Miami area and choose to keep on coming back, while others have grown up elsewhere and were initially surprised by the outdoors shopping center.
“It’s a good spot to be, and it offers a lot of different options as far as what you’re in the mood for,” said Alyxa Walker, who is originally from Seattle but is going to school at Miami Dade College.
Before coming to Miami, she was primarily accustomed to outlet malls, but said she enjoys the design of Sunset Place.
“The most unique thing about this mall is that it’s outdoors,” Walker said.
One of the popular attractions at the outdoor shopping center is the AMC movie theater, which provides IMAX screens for moviegoers who look to experience movies on a screen roughly 72 feet wide and 52 feet tall.
Another hot spot in the mall is a unique bowling alley called Splitsville Luxury Lanes. As people walk in and see the dim lights reflecting off the spotless tables as well as a fully stocked bar, they immediately recognize that it is not a typical bowling alley.
“We try to stay away from traditional bowling alley things. We don’t do pitchers of beer: we have 18 ounce schooners,” said Ray Mee, who has been an assistant manager at Splitsville since it opened in October of 2008. “You can sit at the bar and not even feel like you’re in a bowling alley.”
In an attempt to appeal to young adults, they encourage “evening casual attire” after 8 p.m. and only let in people ages 21 or older. They are designed to serve as both a bowling alley and a nightlife destination in South Miami.
The mall is not the only attraction that the area boasts, with a number of popular restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern provides live music five nights a week and is helping contribute to the growing nightlife scene. The dark wood floors and ceilings give Bougainvillea’s the ambiance of an old Florida traditional pub, while the dark red lighting and loud music also help set the mood.
Cervezas is another bar right next to Sunset Place that offers more than 350 types of beer. Managers and staff take great pride in their immense variety of drinks, illustrated by a giant refrigerator nearly 20 feet long behind the bar that is completely stocked with bottled beers. The white brick pillars and granite countertops suggest that it is a bit more upscale than Bouganvillea’s, but the flat screen televisions also imply that it is a popular sports bar.
“I’m impressed by the beer selection, for sure,” said Eddie Leon, a first-time visitor who is a home brewer. “It’s quite an extensive list to choose from.”
Leon went to the bar primarily to be “inspired” by trying some of their beers, although he admitted that most of them are very complex and would be difficult to brew.
“I really couldn’t care whether there was one or 100 people here. It’s all about the beer,” Leon said.
In addition to bars and restaurants, there is also a wide range of boutique-style shops on Sunset Drive, from Michael Kors to jewelry repair and smoke shops. South Miami is a well-established area that continues to grow around Sunset Drive, providing a number of goods and services to the diverse group of patrons that walk its streets.
IF YOU GO
- The Shops at Sunset Place are located at 5701 Sunset Dr., South Miami. It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
- The AMC movie theater, located inside the mall, does not follow the same hours as the rest of the mall and frequently has movie showings past midnight.
- Splitsville, located inside the mall, is open from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.
- Bougainvillea’s Old Florida Tavern, located at 7221 SW 58th Ave., South Miami, is open from 4 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.
- Cervezas, located at 5835 Sunset Dr., Miami, is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
- Parking for all of these locations is easily accessible within the parking garage at the mall, which $1 for up to an hour and $3 for one to three hours.