When my friend Allison suggested I meet her in Miami at the beginning of June I couldn't say yes fast enough. As 30-somethings on a budget that still likes fancy things, we prioritized staying at places that were a good deal, with one splurge. That broke down to three nights in Wynwood in a reasonably cute condo with a kitchen (that we didn't end up using ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) Then our "splurge" night at the Standard Miami Beach. Finally, we spent the last two nights at the Hotel Astor in South Beach. A place I would totally stay at again but it's nothing to write home about; two blocks from the water, in the Historic Art Deco neighborhood. Which, I was stoked on solely because that's where the beginning Ace Ventura was filmed.
First stop - Wynwood. I literally dropped my stuff in the lobby of our condo and started wandering around my new home for the next three days. Turns out we (Alli) couldn't have picked a better location! JEtlagged from my redeye, I grabbed an iced coffee (I wouldn't mess with most cold brews in Miami) and found myself in one of the most awesomely curated galleries I've even set foot in, the Gary Nader Art Centre. Established in 1985, it was started to promote Latin American artists and just wow! Obviously (from the pics above) it's expanded to a lot of modern artists like Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana, but at its core, it celebrates Latin artists such as Fernando Botero, Picasso, and Diego Rivera. I don't know much about art, but I think most would be impressed if not all. CONSENSUS: You HAVE TO go to this Gallery if you visit Wynwood.
Wynwood is THE BEST!!! Great shopping and the best bars, coffee and all around vibes. If you're looking for the hippest neighborhood in Miami - it's Wynwood. It's known for its street art, but around every corner is rad painted house, apartment or even sidewalk. I couldn't stop taking pictures, it was all too cute. Some places that I frequented were Panther Coffee - great cold brew and made me feel like I was back in Portland. Dr. Smood - a super cute, certified organic, kosher, non-GMO restaurant. And SUPER DUPER DUPER lucky for me, since it's my fave we got to chill out in a Reformation pop-up and shop while they poured me Veuve. Also if you see the cute poem guy, get one, it touched our hearts and was totally worth the $10 we venmo'd him. We tried a few different bars but as a Portlander, I have v high standards, the only one that made the cut in that hood was Gramps, our first night was on Tuesday which is their trivia night, it was a blast. They had great slices rom Pizza Tropical out back and after trivia we found ourselves chopping it up with some 22-year-olds. We were just about ready to turn in but were inquiring about where we can dance that isn't your typical South Beach style "discotheque." They let us know the Electric Pickle was THE place to go, so we said cool and were saying goodbye when they said, no no no, tonight is THE night to go. Apparently, Tuesday is their 90s night. "The Love Below" night to be more specific. More than anything else that happened this vacation, I'm so glad we struck up a conversation with those kids. They didn't lead us astray, it was probably one of the most fun nights I've ever had dancing. The DJs were amazing and they had the best disco ball I've ever seen, see pic above. And as a street style photographer, it was truly one of the most interesting, and adorable crowds of people I've ever seen! CONSENSUS: our first night in Miami and we never want to leave! GO TO ELECTRIC PICKLE ON A TUESDAY, I can't stress this enough.
The food highlight for both of us was eating at plant-based restaurant aptly named...Plant. Everything was so incredibly delicious that I would have no problem telling non-vegans to eat there. Musts: the kimchi dumplings and the Ciaco E Pepe, while the zucchini lasagna was also killer I might suggest skipping it if you're not really into marinara. They're more than willing to give you a tour of the facility after you eat and it's the nicest staff! Afterwards, the host gave us a list of things to do in the area. One of which was heading to Lagniappe, which is another place that you have to go to. It's got the most old world Euro charm. You can sit in the back on a nice night, people watch, sip wine, and enjoy your company, which is exactly what we did. CONSENSUS: I will probably eat at Plant and chill at Lagniappe every time I visit Miami moving forward.
When in Rome. All the books and websites say you gotta go to Little Havana. More specifically Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) and Maximo Park (yes like the shitty band.) And you've got to go to Versaille for a Cubano. While you're down there, hit up bar Ball & Chain where there's always live music. Lastly or really firstly (not a word?) get a Cuban coffee from a coffee window. You can see me holding mine quite hungover. Which leads me to my mood while doing this touristy part of the trip, which was...not the best. Alli didn't want to do this at all and I dragged her. She's way more into the trendy restaurants and shopping and I said, "Hey we're doing something with culture goddammit!" and she said, "ok." Here's my word(s) to the wise if you do this. DON'T: drag a friend reluctantly, truth be told I would've had more fun doing this alone. DON'T: bother with a Cubano or Versailles at all if you get weirded out by meats...just because all the travel books tell you to eat there doesn't mean you have to. DO: go see the cute old men playing dominoes in Maximo Park, it's really like nothing you've ever seen and it's worth a 5-10 minute gander. DO: have a quick drink at Ball & Chain, the live music alone makes it worth it. DO or DON'T: depending on how you look at it, plan on spending more than an hour there. In and out is the name of the game. CONSENSES: I'm really happy I checked it out, but next time I'm in Miami I won't need to see it again.
What's not to love about a Standard Hotel?! The Miami one is super 60s MCM, at least I think, I'm no interior design expert. It was cute ok! The Pina Coladas were on point. They put that Radiate Kombucha in them. Fucking to die for, for reals. Alli also thought the toilet was cute...it was...that's her taking a picture of it. That's also her at the complimentary spa. You can steam and sauna all you want while you're staying there. We swam, ate, drank, ate, spa'd and swam. We took this mid-part of our trip to regroup and enjoy our friendship. We ate dinner on the patio and then went back to the room and ordered vegan chocolate cake for dessert. It was perfect, the next day it was on to South Beach. CONSENSUS: I will always stay at a Standard in whatever city I'm in and DAMN I miss those Coladas...and the cake.
Obligatory pics of the Historic Art Deco neighborhood. The buildings are tight, made tighter by aforementioned Ace Ventura nostalgia. That being said, walking around this area really turned me off to South Beach. It's rowdy af and honestly not my cup of tea. A little discouraged we went back to our hotel to regroup. CONSENSUS: stay off the main strip except to take photos of the Art Deco buildings.
After figuring out what we wanted from our first night in South Beach we ended up having a great time. We met some new friends in our hotel bar (our hotel complimentary drink tickets) and they took us to Twist. Twist is everything you want a gay bar to be, lots of large packages in speedos, cute guy everywhere, Britney and Madonna pictures framed living next to each other in perfect harmony. We didn't stay long. I'm a dive bar type of girl and Anthony Bourdain (by way of an article about Miami) told us to hit up "the oldest bar in Miami" - Mac's Club Duece. So we did, tbh, it wasn't anything I'd go back to, but thank GOD we went because it was across the street from the best place ever (I love sandwiches) Le Sandwicherie. This place is a godsend, it's perfect, would go back 10/10 and did. Kill Your Idol is also a pretty cool bar to check out if you're in the area. Peep the photos to give you an idea of the sort of homage to the No Wave movement of the late 70s they're going for. If you're not into the club scene this is an oasis amongst the craziness that is South Beach. CONSENSUS: I went to bed early with a sandwich.
Just when I was about to give up on South Beach it went and totally redeemed itself! Having a good nights sleep we got up and hit a place we were debating checking out the night before. I'm glad we decided to go for brunch instead. Well, technically there are a bunch of places inside this adorable hostel that is part of a group of hotels called Freehand. We were going to check out the Broken Shaker at night but instead, we decided to check out 27 Restaurant for brunch and it was awesome. My friend doesn't drink but I went ahead and had quite a few mimosas, bought a pack of smokes, and we continued our morning hanging by the pool they so kindly let us enjoy until Broken Shaker opened. Hey, it was my last day of vacation, I'm allowed! I apologize for all the selfies but clearly, I was feeling my vacation glow. After pool hangs Alli needed a nap but I had my day buzz on and was ready to shop. Kith is walking distance from the hostel so I made my way over there. Cool that on my walk I was able to catch the Ugo Rondinone Miami Mountain. I shopped around Kith but the only thing I bought was an ice cream. I went with The Witness. I ate it on my walk back to my hotel, where I knew Alli would be waking up from a nap hungry since it had been hours since breakfast. I came bearing gifts, Le Sanwicherie (did I mention I love sandwiches?) She was beyond stoked. After that she turned to me and said, if we want to go in the ocean we better do it now. And just like that, we popped up quick like and hauled ass to the beach. I couldn't even tell you the last time I swam in the Atlantic but it was awesome, see post swim/blissed out selfie for proof. CONSENSUS: next time I'd stay at the Freehand Miami when in South Beach. AND I WANT TO GO BACK NOW ALLI!