December in Miami means it's time for Art Basel. A four-day extravaganza (Dec. 6 to 9) of the world's leading art galleries and highbrow collectors descends on the city for a nonstop soiree of dealmaking and decadence. Already known as a party city, Miami comes alive with a pumped-up social scene of velvet ropes and hush-hush guest lists. Here is a closer look at where this year's elite should be resting their heads, securing seats and dancing the night away.
The Art of Sleeping
Hotels book up months in advance and close their otherwise open lobbies and beaches for private parties hosted by collectors like Jeffrey Deitch. With a Cipriani Hotel in the works and Gansevoort South slated for a February '08 opening, the city's hotel scene is more varied than ever. Regardless of whether you're a first-time collector or regular on the Christie's auction floor, these are the addresses that really matter.
Party Central. Andre Balazs' beach landmark should be the first call when looking for a reservation. The power hub of Art Basel elite, the hotel's pool area is a who's who of gallery owners and art connoisseurs who book up suites a year in advance.
And you thought they only did lunch. Miami's hottest restaurant offers a coveted five-room boutique hotel attached to chic Casa Tua. Each room is individually designed, but the Hermes Suite with its white canopy bed dripping in Loro Piana cashmere is the most coveted.
Bali in South Beach. With two separate hotel buildings, the Setai's all-suite tower is where you want to be. Six-star luxury attracts black-card-flashing billionaires and collectors like Samantha Rosen who opt for two-bedroom suites complete with kitchens and on-call spa services.
Are you a hotel guest? The birthplace of South Beach chic is alive and well as long as you land a suite and not one of the tiny guest rooms. It's popular with the superstar set: Kate Moss and Dita Von Teese usually snap up one of the poolside bungalows with a bi-level living area and a private cabana overlooking the infinity pool.
The Art of the Cocktail
Not restricted just to happy hour, cocktail time perks up around 1 p.m. as the pool loungers of the city's hottest hotels start to fill up. When the sun sets around 5 p.m., the action migrates to a handful of area bars and lounges for two-handed cocktails and flirtatious hobnobbing that lasts well into the evening.
The Shore Club
Party all the time. Despite having a Nobu and a Sky Bar, it's where you want to party and not where you want to sleep. The boho-chic patio and pool bar are popular for impromptu performance art and parties that linger 'til 4 a.m.
A less clubby, more sedate vibe. This elegant second-floor cocktail lounge along Lincoln Road lures South Americans in half-buttoned dress shirts and NYC girls too posh to club. Try to score a seat on the open-air terrace or in the glitzy front lounge.
Tiki-chic. Located in the super-hot Design District, this Polynesian-themed lounge features an open-air bar and cozy cabanas covered in thatched roofs. A swift walk past the velvet rope deters the clueless doorman on most nights.
The Art of Eating
By day, the gallery circuit hits the Miami Beach Convention Center and various art installations assembled throughout the city. The art-elite descend on the city's hottest restaurants that fill up with an international crowd of fussy foodies looking for the best Miami has to offer.
Twin brothers master a Northern Italian menu of homemade pasta and regional cuisine. Opt for a spot along the terrace for Lincoln Road's best people watching, or simply hit the rear bar for a fuss-free dinner.
It's the power-lunch spot where under-the-radar art-deal negotiations happen. After lunch, bring your best arm-candy to the upstairs member's lounge; frequent guests at the lounge include Elle Macpherson and Ricky Martin.
Maison d' Azur
Located at the new Angler's Hotel, this glamorous seafood brasserie brings Cote d'Azur sexy to South Beach. A full-time DJ spins moody lounge anthems.
It's the most coveted dinner reservation, with good reason, and fills up even more quickly during Art Basel. Chef Michelle Bernstein of Top Chef fame cooks up a Cuban-fusion menu that many say is one of the best dining experiences in the Southeast.
Two new restaurants are taking the Design District by storm. Domo Japones, by art collector Amir Ben-Zion, is a hip Japanese bistro located in a former post office. The other, Brosia Miami, is a glittery Italian eatery with mosaic-tile walls and a patio shaded by tall trees.
The Art of the Party
Miami is a city born to have fun. Things get going at 11 p.m. -- no earlier -- as a dressed-up crowd in Dsquared2 heels and untucked dress shirts begin to fill the streets. Miami is still a city segregated into those in front of, and behind, the velvet rope. For sure-fire entry, keep a cute crowd and book premium bottle service in advance.
Are you on the list? The owners of Prive and Mansion opened this Hollywood-style VIP lounge on Lincoln Road that makes its Art Basel debut. If they don't let you in on first look-over, hit-up one of the cozy bars further up Lincoln Road.
Suite gets its sexy back. When you've just got to dance, this resurgent club is where celebrity heavyweights like Justin Timberlake and Scarlett Johansson burn the 3 a.m. oil. Larger than most SoBe clubs, the line is easier to crack before midnight.
Got the look? This 200-person VIP dance club is the toughest door in Miami, with a high-end following of Ford models and Roc-a-Fella execs. A good concierge like ones at The Raleigh or Setai can get you on the list, but not always through the door.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.