Within one historic square mile of Miami Beach – the Art Deco Historic District, a.k.a. South Beach – you can find a microcosm of all that makes Miami so memorable. You can swim, snorkel, Jet-Ski and more thanks to ten blocks of public beach access. You can take a guided bicycling tour of the restored buildings, originally designed by the likes of Morris Lapidus and Henry Hohauser. Ocean Drive and its restored Art Deco hotels. — Photo courtesy of User:Cacophony
You can stroll on Lincoln Road, a pedestrian mall lined with shops, art galleries, ice cream parlors and coffee shops, that runs perpendicular to the beach and Ocean Drive and Collins and Washington avenues, all of which are parallel to one another. There, munch, lunch and dine as casually as you want at places like The Cafe at Books & Books, a creative, chef-manned offshoot of the famed independent bookstore, whose owner Mitchell Kaplan is the innovator behind the Miami International Book Fair.
In fact, because there are so many options – including yoga, Pilates or spin classes at local gyms like Crunch or, alternatively, in your hotel – it isn’t a bad idea to have a theme. For instance, if you enjoy an active day, you can start with a class (yoga on the beach!). Yoga on the beach – it doesn't get more relaxing than this! — Photo courtesy of karpidis Then have a relaxing brunch at Balans, then rent a DecoBike for touring the town. Wind up at Flamingo Park for a sunset tennis game before hitting a restaurant like the award-winning Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, where you can tell yourself that as long as you eat protein – even if it’s fried – you’re staying within your diet.
If you’re curious about the driving ethnic influences that inform Miami, South Beach hangs from various pegs. Visit the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU on Washington Avenue to learn how early Jewish settlers were treated and assimilated. Lunch at David's Cafe or Puerto Sagua for an introduction to Cuban cuisine. The Cuban sandwich is iconic – and delicious. — Photo courtesy of David Weber Wander the local shops and bodegas for guayaberas (men’s lightweight shirts) and fedoras, cigars and popular Caribbean fruits like papaya (called fruta bomba), dragonfruit and black sapote. Then dine at star-studded places like The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS Hotel to discover how modern Spanish influences trickle down and affect everything from clothing to cuisine.
Culture aficionados also have a superb number of choices. The Bass Museum of Art on the northern end of the Art Deco District hosts a terrific collection of classical arts, including centuries-old paintings and tapestries, as well as contemporary works. The Bass also features events such as “Beats after Sunset,” which combine music with art. The Miami Beach Ballet has its enclave nearby, and only a few blocks south at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, the New World Symphony, America’s premier training orchestra, projects all its concerts on a 7,000-square foot exterior wall. The Soundscape concerts are free and open to the public, who bring picnics – we recommend grilled octopus tacos and ceviche from My Ceviche – for their palates to appreciate while their minds are likewise stimulated. Picnickers bring any number of delicacies, including these grilled octopus tacos from nearby My Ceviche, to entertai their palates while listening to the New World Symphony. — Photo courtesy of My Ceviche
Indeed, the choices for a first day on South Beach are not only truly limitless, they’re yours to make.