Miami is always a hot choice when it comes to vacationing year round and the city is always buzzing – from South Beach to Coconut Grove. It has a unique swag defined by tastemakers influencing fashion, art, music and food. It is a haven full of multicultural areas not so off the beaten path and worth exploring by any mode of transportation. It is well worth a pause, a retreat and a refuge from the reality of wherever you come from. Miami will surprise you with its Afro-centric heritage and lure you in to see a side beyond its beautiful beaches.
CULTURE & ART
Miami Ironside is an eclectic, creative enclave in the upper east side with carefully curated design-based businesses such as interior designers, architects, furniture showrooms and boutique retail shops. Also within the community, you will find a boxing gym, restaurants and an ice cream joint, F27 Nitrogen Ice Cream, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream and which instantly personalized for each customer. The green environment has a Zen-like ambiance but if you are feeling a little playful try a little bocce ball in one of the courtyards. Pieces of history are found on the grounds as well with four tall statues taken from the Berlin Wall with graphic artistry by French street artist Thierry Noir.
Take a walking tour in Little Havana and find out how Cuba intertwines herself in the Latin and African Diaspora. Led by Corinna Moebius, a cultural anthropologist, the tour focuses on Afro-Cuban history, music, food, religion and the arts. You will learn about the legendary Celia Cruz, “Domino Park,” the art of cigar making and taste some refreshing fresh-pressed sugar cane and Cuban pastries along the way. Corinna is passionate about her tours and is a local living in the area.
If high-end shopping is your thing then the Miami Design District will not disappoint. Fashion designers such as Cartier, Hermes, Prada and Gucci among others have stores in this neighborhood dedicated to luxury retail, architecture and dining. Restaurants by award-winning chefs Michele Bernstein and Michael Schwartz are open as are a handful of other dining options including a deli, a bakery and a lounge to get a well-needed cocktail after a day of extravagant spending.
The Wynwood Arts District is emerging as the center of art in Miami with stunning murals and more than 70 art galleries lining the streets of this creative neighborhood north of downtown. It also boasts one of the largest open-air street-art installations in the world. There is an art walk every second Saturday of the month and culinary tours are offered daily.
The historic enclave of Coconut Grove (Village West) was first settled by pioneers from the Bahamas in the mid-1880s. Explore the area on your own by taking a “Black Heritage Tour” of the remaining gems including a theatre, a playhouse and the first black funeral home in the Miami area.
If you are in the mood for some hot salsa dancing, check out the scene at Ball & Chain in Little Havana. The historic spot featured big name black entertainers back in the 1950s such as Count Basie and Billie Holiday. Today it offers live jazz sets, salsa lessons, karaoke and various Latin sounds almost every day of the week.
Leave the predictable chaos of South Beach and head to “Big Night in Little Haiti,” a free, once a month street festival with live music, dancing, food and hands-on arts and crafts. It’s a fete for the senses not to be missed.
Where can you find a bowling alley, an ice-skating rink, video games, dancing and drinking all in one place? Basement Miami is that magical place offering a plethora of activities to entertain yourself and your posse. Pinned as a disco, the nightclub has DJ’s spinning music in two separate rooms. The place offers so many types of debauchery for the evening you will have a hard time choosing.
WHERE TO STAY
YVE Hotel Miami, a destination hotel, is designed for savvy travelers with its convenient location in the heart of downtown Miami’s business, financial and entertainment districts and offers unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami. Once recognized mostly for its nightlife, today’s Miami is inspired by art, design and culture, all of which are reflected at YVE. Guests benefit from YVE Hotel Miami’s partnership with local Wynwood gallery Art Bastion which curates hotel installations in the lobby with notable artists from across the globe, in addition to offering guests art tours throughout the city. The hotel also has partnerships with Uber and Mansion Nightclub and provides free transportation to the ports and cruise ships that are a short distance from the hotel. A friendly and helpful concierge will help you rent a scooter or motorcycle to explore the city on your own if you’re the adventurous type.
Combining a European and modern feel, AC Hotel Miami is part of the Marriott brand and celebrates its European heart and soul with its Spanish roots by combining classic modern design with a sophisticated feel. AC Hotel is located in Mid-South Beach and just a couple of short blocks away from the ocean. Amenities include a rooftop pool, gym, library with complimentary use of computers and Wi-Fi, a European style breakfast and a lounge worth a visit for their carefully crafted cocktail program featuring gin-and-tonic specialties and Spanish wines.
Looking for great dining recommendations while in Miami? Check out my article, “Exploring Miami’s Multicultural Food Scene.”
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau launched its Greater Miami & the Beaches Black Visitor Guide (www.MiamiBlackVisitorGuide.com). Here you’ll find information on historic sites and events, as well as other activities such as great dining and nightlife – including black-owned restaurants and festivals and nightlife. The guide also includes the latest arts and cultural program and venues, as well as local services of interest to black travelers.
Photo credit: Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau