South Beach Miami
World famous South Beach - called SoBe by locals - is known for its spectacular nightlife, fine dining, Art Deco area, trend-setting design influence, annual hosting of MTV award shows and -- of course -- its beautiful beach. As its name suggests, South Beach is the section of Miami Beach
that defines the lower part of the peninsula. With hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants and oceanfront hotels, today's South Beach is considered to be one of the most popular hotspots in the U.S.
Visitors immediately taste its international flavor as sidewalks echo not only English, but also Spanish and German languages. As it becomes a favorite European tourist destination, South Beach has become tolerant of the European custom of topless sunbathing, particularly at Lummus Beach
. Despite the occasional topless sunbather, most of South Beach's sand is open to the public.
Things to do
Lummus Beach - One of Florida's most popular beaches features natural white sand and excellent water quality. Whether you're wave watching or people watching, its sandbars are a great place to kick back and catch some rays.
Mango's Tropical Cafe - One of the hottest clubs on Ocean Drive, Mango's features sexy salsa music. Sizzling salsa dancers strut their stuff on top of its bar.
The Art Deco Area
The Art Deco architecture in South Beach represents rebirth in the 1930's after the tragic hurricane of 1926. Art Deco is an eclectic form of elegant and stylish modernism characterized by geometric and jumbled shapes. Nautical accents like railings and porthole windows are sometimes added. Aluminum, stainless steel, lacquer and inlaid wood are some of the materials used in Art Deco architecture.
Art Deco architecture can be appreciated in many of the hotels that line Ocean Drive. The Clevelander, the Congress Hotel, the Colony Hotel, the Hotel Victor, along with many other buildings that dot the South Beach skyline, are built in the Art Deco style. Although some of the earlier buildings such as the New Yorker Hotel were lost to developers before 1980, many others were preserved thanks to the efforts of a group of activists. The activists persevered to add South Beach to the National Register of Historic Places as a complete unit. To this day South Beach boasts the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world.
With beautiful weather all year round and colorful people to watch everywhere, sidewalk dining is all the rage in South Beach. World-renowned chefs flock to the South Beach area to serve diners an eclectic mix of international fare. Taking a stroll down the beach brings you within arm's reach of alluring cuisine set out for display. During off-peak months, restaurants compete with happy hour specials; it's possible to find not only two- for-one drinks but two-for-one dinners as well.
The restaurant scene has a rich history in South Beach. In 1913, Hungarian Joe Wiess relocated to South Beach from New York for health reasons. He opened a small lunch counter called Joe's Stone Crab
and began to make his own history serving Al Capone and his friends. Today Joe's is known not only for its stone crab, but also for fresh fish, potato dishes, special cole slaw and world famous Key Lime Pie. Some other excellent venues for seafood are Nemo and Grillfish Restaurant
. If you're looking for French or Italian cuisine, try Spiga, Cafe Prima Pasta, Tuscan Steak, or La Sandwicherie (also a good vegetarian restaurant). You can have a Latin culinary experience at Puerto Sagua or El Rancho Grande. For informal dining, try Rascal House deli. South Beach sushi reigns at Sushi Samba Dromo. No matter where you dine, South Beach offers adventurous cuisine and romantic atmosphere.
Amidst the usual shops for t-shirts, mugs and beach towels you'll find familiar names like Benetton, Guess and Polo Sport Ralph Lauren. You can also shop at Richie Swimwear for beachwear or Club Monaco for trendy threads to hit the town. Kenneth Cole has fabulous handbags and you can complete your look with makeup, facial creams, perfume, bath salts and sunscreen at Sephora.
If you want to make a day of it, check out Lincoln Road. Running east and west between 16th Street and 17th Street, Lincoln Road
is considered South Beach's premiere shopping area
. Lincoln Road is a popular open-air pedestrian mall lined with boutiques, shops, retail outlets, sidewalk cafes and bars. It's also a cultural center, with a new state-of-the-art multiplex cinema, a concert hall for the New World Symphony Orchestra, the Art Center South Florida (a collection of studio and gallery space for emerging artists), and the newly restored Colony Theater performing arts center.
To accommodate shoppers, Lincoln Road is now closed to automobile traffic between Washington Avenue and Lenox Avenue. This renovated area has a trendy new appeal; both the latest fashions and a steady stream of street performers entertain shoppers. Not surprisingly, Lincoln Road is now one of the most popular destinations for visitors to South Miami Beach.
Kourtney and Khloe Kardsahian, sisters of Kim
, have opened a hot new boutique in South Beach, located on Washington Avenue, called Dash
. They sell clothing, accessories and more, if you're lucky you might even get to see one of them, they do stop by the shop from time to time.
The party in SoBe never ends; clubs in this area stay open way past the wee hours. Just two streets off the beach, Washington Avenue is packed with some of the world's largest and most popular nightclubs, including Crobar and The Mansion.
For a taste of Rio on the beach, try Mango's Tropical Cafe
on Ocean Drive. A Latin or Reggae band plays at Mango's most nights of the week.
The party at Mac's Club Deuce on 14th Street started in 1926 and is still going strong. Score and Funktion are two more places to check out when you head up to the Lincoln Road area. So go ahead, venture out! You'll find lots of places to dance and party until dawn.
South Pointe Park - Government Cut
South Pointe Park reopened in March 2009, after a 22.4 million redesign that took two years of construction. The new 17.5-acre park is being compared to New York’s Central Park and Chicago’s Millennium Park, it’s that nice.
The Government Cut, the shipping channel between the Atlantic Ocean and the marinas along Biscayne Bay, runs right beside South Pointe Park. There is a 20-foot-wide walkway lined with Florida limestone that runs the length of Government Cut; this “cut-walk” connects with other walkways along the bay and the ocean beach and creates a mile long circuit around the south end of the city.
This pedestrian-friendly path allows you to see all sorts of watercraft, from tiny jet-skis to the largest cargo freighters and cruise ships, passing through Government Cut channel at close range. The walk way also links to the beach walk, and leads to a pavilion with a children’s playground next to it. At the pavilion you’ll find a snack bar, restrooms, meeting rooms and the park offices. They also have places to BBQ and picnic. The playground is wonderful, they have a metal forest of motion activated water-spray jets, several things to climb on and what they call a “sand-dollar spinner”, which is a small merry-go-round that looks like a sand dollar.
At night the walk way is lit by 18 custom-made light towers that glow in different colors, very romantic. These lights are aimed so as not to attract the attention of baby sea turtles that may hatch along the beach who would mistake them for the natural stars and moon and turn inland instead of out to sea, which is very environmentally conscious.
Head east on the walkway and you’ll find yourself in natural sand dunes which have been replanted with native vegetation helping to anchor them and prevent beach erosion. Looking to the north there is a panoramic view of the ocean, to the east you’ll see the jetty and more open ocean. Looking south you’ll find Fisher Island, Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, all residential areas and west along the length of the park you’ll see the skyline of downtown Miami and the Port of Miami.
Also at the west end of the park there is a small inlet where you can look down into the water and actually see growing corals. There is a fishing pier and jetty at the east end of the park where you can walk parallel to the jetty several hundred feet farther east and stand over the water and look straight down at the waves.
If you’re a dog lover South Pointe Park is dog-friendly and provides plastic bags and trash cans for dog waste in strategic places throughout the park, all dogs must be leashed at all times.
South Pointe Park is open daily from sunrise to 10 PM, and the cut-walk is open until 2 AM. Metered parking is available in the parking lot and there is no admission fee to the park.
Places to Stay in South Beach
South Beach is one of the best places in Florida
to stay for the scenery alone and I'm talking about the hotels as well as the beach. Known for it's Art Deco area some of the hotels there are a walk in a past age. Some popular Deco hotels are the Colony, the Clinton Hotel and Spa South Beach and the National and Cadet Hotels. The Loews Miami Beach Hotel is right on the beach in the Art Deco area. Collins Ave. and Ocean Ave are considered to be the heart of the area and are lined with many hotels and resorts such as the Catalina and Blue Moon Hotels. If you feel like a little pampering stay at the Chesterfield Suites and Day Spa or the Royal Palm South Beach Resort. Some more Deco hotels are the Starlite Hotel, Hotel Shelley, the Palms South Beach and the Claridge hotel all located near the shopping, clubs, restaurants and sandy beach that make South Beach an international destination and hot spot.
View South Beach Hotels »
Henry and Charles Lum bought South Beach in 1870 to start a coconut farm; they built the first house here in 1886. In 1894 the Lum brothers left the area and control of their plantation to John Collins. Collins, along with Carl G. Fisher and the Lummus Brothers, started developing the area in the 1910's. Their vision was an oceanfront city of modest single family homes. On March 26, 1915 the three partners incorporated the town of Miami Beach. Three years later the MacArthur Causeway was completed, making Miami Beach even more assessable from the mainland.
In 1920 South Beach's main streets, 5th Street, Alton Road, Collins Avenue, Washington Avenue, and Ocean Drive were all ready for automobile traffic. Thus began the Miami Beach Land boom. Interest in Miami Beach soared, with Harvey Firestone and J.C. Penney choosing to call Miami Beach home, and President Warren G. Harding frequenting the Flamingo Hotel.
The hurricane of 1926 destroyed much of the area but it didn't take long for rebuilding to start. The distinctive architecture chosen in the 1930's would give South Beach its signature: Art Deco. By 1940, South Beach's population had grown to 28,000.
In a move that shocked the industry, Jackie Gleason brought his weekly variety show to South Beach in 1966. This brought even more notoriety to the area. During the late 70's through the 80's, South Beach became more of a retirement community as most of its oceanfront hotels and apartment buildings filled with seniors living on fixed incomes.
Drug culture also expanded in Florida
during this time, along with poverty and crime. But when the popular 80's show Miami Vice began shooting in South Beach, SoBe began to turn around. By the late 80's the fashion industry had moved in, and SoBe became one the wealthiest commercial areas on the beach. It's been estimated that approximately 1,500 models live on South Beach today. It's no wonder -- the area's raw and unique visual beauty makes SoBe a great place for a photo shoot.
Today South Beach is very alive indeed -- pulsing with the beat of not only young America but of young Europe as well.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com