The icon of Miami: South Beach. It’s life from a postcard, steps from a beach unlike any other, bustling with locals and visitors from around the world, brimming with creativity and unique places to explore. And beneath its beautiful surface, South Beach has an entire world of secrets most people never see. As Morgan shows us, life here can be exceptional, if you know where to look. Here’s a curated guide to seeing South Beach like an insider, built with suggestions from hundreds of locals.
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Launched in 2014 by the Miami Design Preservation League, the Art Deco Museum chronicles and explores the history of Miami Beach’s world-famous collection of Art Deco buildings. MDPL offers a variety of tours that depart from the museum, from food to architecture. The organization also programs the annual Art Deco Weekend, which celebrates the city’s unique history each January.
Miami Beach demands at least one excursion in high style, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Basement Miami at the Edition hotel is the prime example: a nightclub with inclusive character, “about dancing like nobody’s watching.” And if dancing’s not your bag, Basement also includes a full bowling alley (shoes and all), and a mini ice-skating rink. There’s no excuse not to let loose.
All of Ocean Drive is world-famous, but nowhere does it showcase its elegance like at the Betsy Hotel. Built in 1942, the Betsy is the last standing example of Florida Georgian architecture, and a crown jewel in South Beach’s singular collection of Art Deco buildings. Inside is a hotel with a deep historical connection to the local community. Today, The Betsy runs its PACE (philanthropy, arts, culture, and education) program in partnership with local organizations like O, Miami Poetry Festival and the Miami International Film Festival, bringing art programs and performances to the hotel every month.
Beachcraft at 1 Hotel & Homes
Former Starwood Hotels Founder & CEO Barry Sternlicht launched 1 Hotel & Homes with the goal of “re-inventing the industry standard for socially responsible hospitality.” The idea: environmentally sustainable, low-impact practices, from natural products to eco-friendly construction materials to efficient lights and fixtures. The concept comes to culinary life at Beachcraft, from Top Chef host Tom Colicchio and local chef Michael Fiorello. The menu uses locally caught fish, antibiotic-free meat, and seasonal local produce.
For late night adventures, Lost Weekend is Miami Beach’s best kept secret. The smoky pool hall and its dive neighbor Kill Your Idol are unassuming from the outside. Inside, though, is a different story—a friendly collection of locals, an impressive beer selection, and The Alibi, an unlikely gourmet eatery serving the best cheesesteaks this side of PA. Hand-cut fries and tater tots (with spices like ranch dust) complement a proper Philly, with sliced ribeye and Amoroso rolls shipped from Philadelphia.
Miami Beach Botanical Garden
Originally created as a city park in 1962, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden had fallen into disrepair in 1996 when a group of residents proposed creating the Miami Beach Garden Conservancy, to care for the park and create a true botanical garden. Today, it hosts hundreds of local trees and plants, a Japanese garden, edible fruits and vegetables, and water features—plus regular tours, educational programs, and public events from yoga to dance parties.
The restaurant that launched a local empire, Pubbelly is an “Asian-inspired gastropub” that blends Eastern flavors like miso salt, pork belly, and ramen with Miami touches like mofongo, amberjack, and cochinillo. Neighboring Pubbelly Sushi offers inventive local takes on Japanese favorites. It’s a worthwhile trip to the bustling Sunset Harbor neighborhood.
Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel
A refined evening on South Beach isn’t complete without a good cocktail. The small but inviting Regent Cocktail Club, nestled in the back of the Gale Hotel, is an essential choice, replete with luxurious decor, chill atmosphere, and creative mixology that takes on classic and new cocktails. Live lounge music is on offer most weekend nights, and you can escape down to Rec Room, the Gale’s underground dance club, for a more raucous nightcap.
Historic hotels are many on South Beach, but The Raleigh lives up to the idea inside and out. From the elaborately designed pool to the classic cocktail menu to the historic key fobs given to hotel guests, The Raleigh is living history in alluring fashion.
The recently refurbished South Pointe Park offers one of Miami Beach’s most extraordinary views, east to the ocean and west to Miami’s busy port and glowing skyline. Bike and running paths converge on the South Pointe Pier, where you’ll find locals fishing and walking dogs, and visitors exploring sweeping views. South Pointe also features a small water park, a dog park, and light refreshments on the way to the beach.
The Wolfsonian Museum at Florida International University is an unparalleled chronicle of the world’s art and design. With a collection of more than 180,000 objects from the 1850s to the 1950s, the museum explores how manmade design has shaped our social, political, and technological history. It’s a tactile experience that can easily consume an entire day among exotic furniture, industrial objects, rare books, and publications from transformative cultural moments.
It set the restaurant world ablaze (and took home at James Beard best new restaurant award in 2012), and it’s easy to see why when you’re sitting in front of a spread that includes Lewellyn’s Fine Fried Chicken with honey hot sauce, classic buttermilk biscuits with pepper jelly, fried green tomatoes, and a blackberry bourbon lemonade. Yardbird offers brunch, lunch, and dinner—and if you run into a short wait, hop next door to the Abbey for a locally made beer.