(Bloomberg) -- Nobody goes to Miami to stay inside. If you’re here on vacation, you’ve come to hit the beach or lounge by the pool; if you’re here on business, chances are you’ll start your day with an outdoor run and end it on a rooftop bar.
But thanks to a Zika virus-related travel warning from the Centers for Disease Control—the first in the United States, with, as of press time, six locally-acquired cases in the ultra-hip Wynwood neighborhood since June 15—that sun-loving Miami lifestyle has been upended. The city’s hottest neighborhood is laying low, businesses are temporarily closing their doors, and the city’s bikini-clad locals are retreating to their amenity-packed buildings.
There is, however, a silver lining. Never before has Miami had such a wide range of vibrant cultural sites, nationally respected restaurants, and design-centric hotels. After decades of feeling one-dimensional, the Magic City is living up to its moniker. And the best part is that you don’t have to be outdoors (or in trendy Wynwood) to appreciate its most exciting new upgrades.
If you had scheduled a South Florida weekend before the outbreak, consider keeping your plans. These days, it’s possible to spend your whole trip indoors, barring a cab or two, with no regrets.
Where to Eat (and Stay)
In many cities, hotel restaurants are to be avoided, but not in Miami. Here, they dominate the social landscape for local and visitors alike, and the most recent luxury hotel openings contain the city’s most exciting new places to eat.
The latest of the bunch is in the once-corporate, now-posh neighborhood of Brickell, at the just-opened EAST Hotel—an offshoot of the popular House Hotels in Hong Kong and Beijing. The property may have Asian roots but its restaurant, Quinto La Huella, hails from Jose Ignacio, Uruguay. (Order the entrecôte, made from Uruguayan cattle, with any of the smoke-kissed vegetable sides.)
La Huella isn’t the only big-name South American import in Miami this year. Los Fuegos, the first stateside restaurant by legendary Argentine grill master Francis Mallmann, is a place where the people-watching is as good as the food; when the steak-focused restaurant first opened in Miami Beach’s Faena Hotel earlier this year, it instantly drew an international crowd of sharply dressed visitors and expats.
Mallmann made his name off open-flame cooking in rural Patagonia, which you can’t replicate in Miami Beach. So instead, order the parrillada—a sampling of Wagyu, Chorizo, and rib-eye steaks served on a tabletop grill. (The hotel has an additional top-tier dining spot on its mezzanine level, with a giant Damien Hirst unicorn for a visual centerpiece and an Asian-inflected menu by Austin darling Paul Qui.)
A stone’s throw away is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Matador Room, at the Edition Hotel—it never left the spotlight since it opened in December 2014, partially in thanks to the chef de cuisine’s successful run on Bravo’s Top Chef.
All these are in the national spotlight, but hitting up some of the smaller, locally buzzy places offers a window into Miami’s unique food culture.
Bachour Bakery + Bistro, on Brickell Avenue, is on every local’s lips. Go for breakfast, when you can get guava and cheese croissants and gussied-up Cuban sandwiches. (You’ll recognize all the ingredients, but they’re artisanal, chef-approved versions of what you’d find in Little Havana.) Guava and cheese is a popular combination in Cuban-dense Miami, and you’ll also find it on the menu at the Salty Donut pop-up at the Confidante Hotel, alongside maple bacon and liquor-infused confections.
As much as steak and sweets are trending in Miami, the city will always be characterized by its undying love for sushi. For that, head straight to the 100-seat Sushi Garage, the follow-up to Lincoln Road favorite Juvia.
Where to Get Pampered
Sitting out on the beach has a therapeutic quality, but you can accomplish the same zen feeling with a trip to the spa.
The most indulgent option in this capital of wellness, perhaps, is the Tierra Santa Healing House at the Faena Hotel. In the reception area is an enormous, colorful chandelier that’s made entirely of fish hooks; it’s an indication of how the institution thinks out of the box. Get the Sacred Warrior, a massage that melts away tension with the help of Chilean lapis lazuli, herbal poultices, and South American mud. You’ll wind up in a soaking tub with a view of the Atlantic—which might be better than a towel on the sand, anyway.
Vibration healing is the wellness trend of the moment in South Florida, and you can try it at Tierra Santa. It’s also the focus of 1111 Vibe, a so-called “vibration healing studio” in one of Lincoln Road’s most iconic architectural landmarks. The basic premise: Healers produce harmonic sounds from singing bowls that surround you on an elevated wooden table. If that’s not sufficiently out in left field for you, try the Lucia No. 03 treatment, in which you sit in a leather chair, eyes closed, with a bright light pointed at your face. The light is meant to relax your deep nervous system and naturally produce a reaction that’s akin to a hallucinogenic experience, no chemicals needed.
Where to Get Your Culture Fix
When the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Perez Art Museum opened in 2013, it signified a cultural reawakening for Miami. Its waterfront location near the port was earmarked as the cornerstone of a new Museum Park that’s still awaiting its next addition, a state-of-the-art science museum and planetarium. (Building completion is slated for the end of the year.) For now, the Perez, or PAMM, more than holds its own. On display is a curious collection of Basquiat sketches and poems that was curated with help from the Brooklyn Museum; it is accompanied by Vodou-inspired DJ and dance performances. More joyful is a colorful sculpture collection by modern artist Matthew Ronay, on display now through Jan. 15.
Just as Art Basel has grown its presence each year in Miami Beach, so have the city’s smaller art museums. Formerly a tucked-away gem, the Bass Museum of Art will reopen this winter after a $12-million overhaul. In its inaugural collection: mixed media installations by Ugo Rondinone, Mika Rottenberg, and Pascale Marthine-Tayou.
Until then, head to the Betsy, a beautiful little hotel with a long-standing commitment to the local arts scene. The property has a live jazz festival taking place throughout the month of August, with performances in its palm-tree-filled lobby. It’s the perfect place for both cocktails and culture.
Where to Go Out (Inside)
The nightclub scene is plentiful, consistent, and well-documented in Miami, but new cocktail bars—some with space for a little salsa—are popping up left and right. One of the best newcomers is El Patio, in the Zika zone of Wynwood. Instead, you might opt for its even newer little sister, Punch, which goes for a straight-out-of-Cuba vibe. (The drink to order, no surprise, is a mojito.) Throughout the space are nods to Cuban culture, from the domino tiling around the bar to the punch bowls created in homage of a famous Cuban boxer nicknamed Kid Chocolate. It’s fun central.
NaiYaRa opened in December to much fanfare—it was instantly frequented by local athletes and became better known for its drinks and crowd than its Thai street food-inspired menu. Get the Killer Bee, a frozen lemongrass-and-gin drink that has a slight hint of heat from Thai chilis.
Choose either one, but go to Sweet Liberty first: it’s got one of Miami’s best oyster happy hours, cauliflower-topped tacos by local star chef Michelle Bernstein, and summery drinks that come courtesy of a Delano and Shore Club veteran.
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