I was never more popular than when I lived in a tiny studio apartment on Miami Beach. The bed pulled out of the wall, there was permanent construction in the building, and the neighbors were suspicious. But there was a view of the ocean and it was steps from the hottest strip of South Beach shopping and nightlife.
Needless to say, I had no shortage of guests joining me in that teeny studio. And I was quite happy to show my pals around the beach town I called home.
In fact, I was always trying to entice girlfriends to visit so that I would have an excuse to eat too much, shop too much, drink too much, lie out on the beach all day, and live it up all night.
I had a rotating pack of girlfriends visit weekend after weekend—childhood friends who were still childless, high school buddies who were still unattached, and college roommates who were still unemployed. But it was my mami friends who partied the hardest, stayed out the latest, and held their alcohol the best. It was my mami friends who once drank a bachelor party of Australians under the table and then excused themselves to step outside and call their children to make sure they were in bed and had brushed their teeth. It was my mami friends who took Miami by storm, leaving a wake of destruction in their path.
It always started out pretty calm, but as any Miami an can tell you, so does every hurricane.
WHERE TO LOUNGE
1st through 5th Street Beaches
The best beaches, in my opinion, are below 5th Street, where it is less crowded and less touristy. From here, you can walk to South Pointe Park, where you can watch the cruise ships sail in and out of port.
Standard Hotel Pool
If you want to hang by the pool, you can hit up the Standard Hotel. If you get a spa treatment (I highly recommend their massages and/or pedicures), you get free access to the pool for the day.
WHERE TO GORGE
Las Olas Café
It is a little hole in the wall cafe on 6th Street, but you will find it by the pack of locals lined up during lunchtime. I suggest the Cuban sandwich, the empanadas, and an authentic Café con Leche. Grab it to go, and then head for the beach.
Case Tua dishes out the best Italian food on the beach, but it’s hard to get a reservation. Be sure to book it before you go. Indulge in the pasta with crème fraiche and caviar. And save room for the tiramisu.
This is a legendary, old school coffee shop on Ocean Drive. Good food and good views of the ocean while you eat. This also happens to be the place where Versace was getting his newspaper moments before he was shot. The Versace Mansion is just a few blocks away and any local will point you in the right direction.
This will always be a favorite spot to eat on South Beach, precisely because it is NOT swank or chic. It is a fun diner with great food in BIG American-size portions. Go for the Macdaddy Big Pink Burger or the Mac and Cheese. Go big or go home.
WHERE TO SHOP
Walk up and down Lincoln Road several times to see all the fun shops and people. Be sure to hit up the favorite local bookstore, Books & Books. After perusing the stacks, sit outside at their café and watch the uh, “naturally” pretty people pass by, as your fabulous self relaxes with snacks and drinks.
Bal Harbour Shops
You need a car or a cab to get there, but if you want to go high-end window-shopping, take the drive up to Bal Harbour to check out all of the very chic and very expensive shops. It’s just fun to look. And fantasize. And maybe go a little crazy if your credit cards and conscience allow it.
WHERE TO PARTY
This is a little bar around the corner from Big Pink. It’s an absolute dive, but it is my favorite bar in Miami because it is packed with locals, the drinks are cheap, and there is a pool table in the back. What else do you need in life?
The Delano Hotel
A luxe hotel on 17th and Collins. The lobby and backyard are not to be missed, despite the fact that the drinks are way too expensive ($16 for a cocktail—in a plastic cup!). Still, it’s a true Miami experience. Beautiful design, beautiful people… So very pretentious, so very South Beach…
The go-to spot for great people watching, eating, drinking, and dancing. If you find yourself there when the sun is coming up (it happens), you can stay for an amazing brunch and then roll out onto their beach chairs and sleep away the hangover. Okay, maybe I’ve said too much.