The beauty of Miami's South Beach is that it can be whatever you want it to be. You can come alone orwith people. You can play hard or just relax.
The town is so welcoming I could actually feel the tension in my shoulders ease during a quick 20-minute cab ride from the Miami airport to the South Beach section.
I love that ride from the airport. I roll the windows down and feel the Miami air on my face. I ask the driver to crank the radio and happily forget about home.
You can of course stay longer (and some people actually live there), but here's a primer for a perfect weekend getaway in South Beach.
There are only a few main streets you need to know about in South Beach. Collins and Ocean Avenues run along the ocean. Washington Street is a block in and home to many ofthe great clubs and restaurants. And Lincoln Avenue is the grand promenade perpendicular toCollins loaded with fabulous shops, restaurants and people-watching.
Try to stay at either the Delano or the Hotel Victor. Both will give you an amazing taste ofthe town.
Located at 1685 Collins Avenue,
the Delano, designed by Phillippe Starck, is a favorite spot forbankers and celebs alike. And contrary to popular belief, Madonna does not own the place. Quitefrankly, she never did. She was a part-owner of the Blue Door, one of the hotel's restaurants, fora few years in the beginning, but that's the extent of her involvement. So don't go looking forher.
Morgans Hotel Group (read: Ian Schrager of Studio 54, the Royalton and the Paramount inManhattan) owns the joint now, and just being there makes you feel beautiful and sexy.
If you're really feeling like impressing your sweetie, rent one of the poolside duplexes. They'll run you anywhere from $1,500 per night in the off season to $5,000 a night on a big holiday like New Year's, but you will surely get a taste of extravagance.
If all that sounds too fashionable, then stay at the
Hotel Victor , a super little jewel on Ocean Avenue. Open for a year now, this boutique hotel, designed by ParisianJacques Garcia, will make you feel just as sexy.
Presuming you came in on a late flight Friday night, you don't have much time. So shower andput on your finest outfit (no khakis, please), because you have to get out there and play!
Eat, Flirt and Mosey
First, eat. Stop by Flirt at 947 Washington Ave. for some very provocative sushi. OwnerMarko Radisic recreated his sexy Allendale, N.J., restaurant down in SoBe (what those in the know call South Beach).
Settle into one of his plush white sofas and order yourself the Big Balls and a Latin Lover roll (because everyone needs both of those). Ask for a bottle of
NicolasFeuillatte Champagne (please, offer Marko a glass) to go with your flirtatious meal, and just melt into the atmosphere.
Peel yourself out of there, because the clubs start opening around 11 p.m. Walk up Washington Avenue to
Snatch, a brand-new rock-n-roll-meets-strip-club lounge.
Mirrors with sketches of Jim Morrison and Axl Rose hang on the walls, and poles are available for the dancing brave. The club versions of rock's greatest hits will surely have you partying with the crowd. Then, for atotal change of scenery, saunter upstairs to Suite, check out the Louis XIII deco and sexy dancers, and revel in the superstar DJs.
Saturday morning, take two aspirin (although maybe you should've done that before you went to sleep) and mosey on over to the News Cafe, on the corner of 8th and Ocean Street, for brunch. Get a table outside, ask for a big coffee, and enjoy the Art Deco section of Miami.
The people-watching here is worth the price of your airline ticket. Once you're properly satiated, get up and stroll the street. The old Versace mansion -- now the home of rapper Nelly -- is smack in the midst of it all.
But don't forget about that Florida sun. Get to a pool pronto. If your hotel doesn't have one, dip into your pocket and rent a cabana at the Delano. For $450, you'll get a ringside seat to one on the best pools in South Beach, fully equipped with a flat panel TV (if you reallymust watch the games) and concierge services.
Once you've had enough sun, throw something over your bathing suit (or not) and hit Lincoln Avenue. Stroll, shop, then relax with a drink, and, again, enjoy the people.
If you feel your stamina wavering, go back to your hotel and take a disco nap. Just be sure to set your alarm! You do not want to sleep through Saturday night in SoBe.
To begin your evening, stop for a drink at the
Setai, at 2001 Collins. The lounge is dreamy. Then stay and eat at the restaurant, which offers trans-ethnic cuisine that includes Asian as well as classical French-influenced foods. Oh, and be sure to hit the caviar bar.
But if that's too much for you, call now for a reservation at
Prime 112, one of the best -- buthardest to get into -- steakhouses in town. Located at 112 Ocean Drive, it's a very trendy part of South Beach, so enjoy the Porterhouse and the beautiful people that saunter in and out of the nearby clubs and bars.
If you decide to call it a night at this point, go ahead. You've done a lot.
But if you're up to doing the town, then go!
Hit any and all of the hotel clubs and bars. From the Skybar at
the Shore Club toTommy Lee's Rok Bar down the block, they'll be jumping all night long.
While you will probably need Sunday to recover, if you can muster the energy, my finalrecommendation would be to find a seat on the porch at
Smith & Wollensky in theafternoon. Located at the southern most tip of SoBe, it's the perfect place to recap your weekendand watch the ships come in.
Your Shangri-la weekend might be over for now, but I know you'll be back. And when you do return, be sure to let me know ... we can meet for a drink at the Delano.