Welcome to MarieClaire.com's new series on weekend travel—a smart girl's guide to making the most of those glorious two days off.
Miami is a place where the moment you land you feel exhilarated *and* relaxed, somehow at the same time. It's the perfect weekend escape because it has everything you want—pretty views, great food, good drinks, cool nightlife, culture, and—perhaps most importantly—beaches. It's also great for solo travel (#beentheredonethat), couple getaways, friend vacas, and, of course, bachelorettes. Here, a guide to the city.
Where to Stay
If you're staying in South Beach, my favorite hotel (like, ever) is 1 Hotel South Beach. The light woods, whites, and light blues immediately put you at ease, and the customer service is just the best. (I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.) If you can, splurge for the ocean front room. It is worth it.
More into South Beach's art deco vibe? Try staying at the classic Delano or the Estefan-owned (yes, as in Gloria and Emilio) Cardozo Hotel, which is currently in the midst of a renovation and will be ready to go in the fall of 2016. If you want/need to stay in downtown Miami (hello, business traveler), the Mandarin Oriental is elegant and has an amazing spa.
What to Do
Beach and poolside lounging is a must. I mean—why even come to Miami if not for that (preferably with a blended alcoholic beverage in hand)? Once you get your fill of #loungelife, head to Wynwood and The Wynwood Walls to check out the amazing street murals. The Miami Design District has cool sculptures, galleries, and artsy stores to peep, while a boat tour (there are a couple to choose from) can give you a cool look in the Everglades.
But honestly, Miami is all about the nightlife scene, even during the day. Hit up hotel pool parties starting around 2 p.m. for drinks, music, and poolside dancing. If you're not staying at the specific hotel, you may be asked to have a reservation or pay a day rate—just call the place you have your eyes on (check Yelp and Eventbrite for some ideas) to get the gist.
If you're avoiding the club scene, there are plenty of fun bars to check out at night—my favorites include the outdoor Broken Shaker (a James Beard Award semi-finalist with a cool, Brooklyn-esque vibe located at the Freehand hostel), Craft Social Club (a dance-y bar with great cocktails—essentially the best of both worlds/the go-to for people who can't decide between a club or a bar), Ball & Chain (which often features live music like jazz and salsa), and Bunbury (a great Argentine restaurant that features an outdoor space perfect for sipping wine). Into clubs? LIV is the traditional go-to (make sure you go early, are women, or have a reservation for a table), while Basement, Story, and Trade all offer music, dance floors, and the *exclusivity* factor that people want from a club.
Where to Eat
First, make a reservation at Yardbird (you'll need it, the wait times are crazy!) because it's just so damn good. You *must* order the chicken and waffles, and if you have room, the maple-bacon donuts are the fluffiest, most holy-shit-i'm-eating-a-million-calories-but-it's-worth-it things.
For lunch or dinner, check out 1 Hotel's newest restaurant, Watr. It's outdoor, on the rooftop, next to the adults-only pool, and with views of the ocean. The poke is their standout (I recommend getting it over quinoa), but they have amazing sushi, a tuna tartar flatbread that's just ugh so good, fried rice, salads...literally nothing disappoints. (Shoutout to the head chef Catalina Ucros!). The restaurant also features a cocktail menu to pair perfectly with the eats, led by beverage director Charles Steadman. Think "Pimm's Goes East" (a Pimm's cup with hints of cucumber and shiso leaf), their signature cocktail "Golden Watr" (with apple and gold flakes), and—of course—adult slushies, AKA frosé (frozen rosé cocktails).
Bunbury (mentioned above) also has amazing empanadas and argentine eats, while Cvi.che 105 has some of the best ceviche around. Blue Collar is a great, diner-like spot for comfort food, and El Mago de las Fritas has (you guessed it) the best fritas. Go to Versailles for the classic Miami Cuban hotspot. If you're up for it, head to the fun day-drinking brunch at The Palace, where drag queens perform as you sip mimosas.
1. It might sound dumb, but you'll want at least two swimsuits for your Miami vaca—one for the beach/being active, and one that's comfortable for pool naps. (If anything = more drying time.) Another fashion saver? Headscarfs and turbans (this Cult Gaia one gave me life) that can protect your beachy 'do and save you from sweaty hairlines.
2. Most vacationers head to Miami in the "colder" months (AKA January through April), meaning summer is great for better rates. Hurricane season is technically June through November, but don't get spooked—as long as the weather's good, the city is open for business.
3. Miami often includes gratuities automatically at bars and restaurants—anywhere from 18 to 20 percent. Make sure not to overtip by checking the receipt before adding any additional gratuity 💰💰💰💰.
4. Nightlife starts late, so get a jump on where you want to go (and no lines!) by arriving early to your bar of choice—between 9 to 10:30 p.m. You'll get seats, get drinks, and be ready and primed for people watching.
For more travel ideas, head to MarieClaire.com/travel-guides.