Travel Story: 5 Things to Do in Miami Beach
What crossed your mind when you think of Miami? The famous tattoo parlor Miami Ink? The ever so popular CSI Miami? Or the hit TV series about two plastic surgeons Nip/Tuck? If you answer yes to one or all three of those, it just goes to prove that most of our references for Miami actually came from television. How sad, right?
But anyway, before getting the news that I was going to fly to Miami to attend Mercedes-Benz Miami Fashion Week Swim 2013, I too didn’t know much about this city, except that it was located in Florida, and is the second largest Spanish speaking population in the United States. But when I was finally there, I realized there was so much to discover from this place that one week was barely enough.
When you talk about Miami, usually we think of the beach. Actually, Miami Beach and Downtown Miami are two different places and they are separated by the Biscayne Bay. Miami Beach is where the famous South Beach is located and the popular spot for tourists from all over the world. Whereas Downtown Miami is major center of commerce, finance and entertainment activities. I spent the majority of my time in Miami Beach so unfortunately I can only share my experience around the area, but I think South Beach is not lacking in fun at all. So here they are, my 5 things to do while in Miami Beach:
1. Stay at The Raleigh Hotel
The hotel entrance surrounded by lush tropical garden
I can’t rave about this hotel enough but really, one of the highlights of my Miami trip was staying at this fabulous hotel. Located in the heart of South Beach (or SoBe as it is known by many), you can’t go wrong with The Raleigh. I always have a weakness for all things retro and I also like my hotels to have a bit of a personality and this hotel has them all. The art deco building, the impossibly chic retro swimming pool, the vintage furnitures – it has the perfect mix of style and warmth.
Everything in the room is so retro and chic!
This pool has been dubbed America’s best hotel pool so many times!
The staff were all professional, helpful and friendly and The Royal restaurant right next to the pool serve delicious food. My favorite thing to do while staying there was going to the pool early in the morning, lied on one of the chaise lounge and soaked up the sun, followed by sumptuous breakfast at The Royal. This hotel also has a private access to the beach where pastel-colored chaise lounges, umbrellas and plush towels await you. If you’re feeling hungry or thirsty while on the beach, you can also order some refreshments right from your chaise!
Oh and did I tell you that the bathrooms in this hotel are stocked with Kiehl’s products?
Did I slip these into my toiletries bag when I checked out? You betcha!
2. Visit Art Deco District
Art Deco district is in my opinion what makes Miami Beach special. As I strolled along Ocean Drive, my eyes were spoiled with so many gorgeous pastel-colored buildings dating from the 1920s to 1940s. You could take a walking tour which you could join at the Art Deco Welcome Center, but when I went there, it was too late in the afternoon so there was no more tour available. Doesn’t matter though, walking around on your own was enjoyable enough, and you can also have a drink or a bite in one of the restaurants or cafes lining the always busy street.
Ocean Drive, the whole stretch is lined with these eye candies.
If you have a chance to visit, I strongly recommend you to stop by at the Art Deco Gift Shop. Not only you could find the coolest art deco knicknacks – from posters, coasters, figurines, lamps, etc – this place is also a haven for vintage jewelries. Not just any kind of vintage jewelries, but art deco jewelries! I could easily spend half a day in this shop, I was so mesmerized by the pretty glittering things I saw from the glass counter. In the end, I settled for a gorgeous pair of vintage earrings. I made it a tradition to buy a piece of vintage jewelry whenever I travel, so happy I could bring something from Miami!
A gift shop so full of kitschy products I wanted to give to myself as gifts
Vintage jewelries. My vice. *sigh*
One of my “off-duty” TO pics taken on the Ocean Drive
H&M coverup / Old Navy shorts / Niconico tankini / H&M sandals / New Look panama hat I got as a birthday present from the office girls / Daniel Wellington watch / some freebie beach bag I got from the fashion week
3. Do nothing and everything at South Beach
Well, when you visit South Beach, you must spend at least a few hours doing nothing by the beach. At least that’s what I did! Actually I came to the beach almost every morning while I was there. Believe it or not, if I came down at 8 am, there was almost nobody there, because Miami is such a party place, I assumed people were still asleep at that hour But for me, it was perfect because all I wanted to do was lie on one of the chaise lounges and stared at the blue ocean. South Beach may not be the most beautiful beach I’ve seen (come on, we are from Indonesia!) but it is definitely a special place – I could even say it was a very stylish beach. With retro colored umbrellas decorating the warm golden sand and beautiful people walking around.
White sand. Azure water. Pastel-colored umbrellas.
If you came later on the day, the beach will be filled with people sunbathing, swimming, playing beach volley balls, riding bikes, line skating or just to see and be seen! There’s definitely something for everyone, just be sure you put on plenty of sunscreen and reapply often. Despite preaching about the importance of sunscreen endlessly on Fashionese Daily, I actually made the rookie mistake of going to South Beach for the first time without putting on sunscreen first, because I thought I was going to stay for a few minutes only (we were going to a dinner party later that day). Big mistake! I was baked within a few minutes and my skin just got progressively darker during my stay in Miami, as you could see on my pictures.
Ahhh, this is the life
4. Shop and dine at Lincoln Road Mall
Not just any other mall, Lincoln Road Mall is a pedestrian-only mall lined with outdoor cafes, galleries and shops located between Alton Road and Washington Avenue.
Shop. Drink. Dine. Or just sit down and people watch.
I only spent a couple of hours here on the second day, and most of them was sitting in one of the cafes eating very late breakfast. I thought about coming back here to check out the shops but never got the chance to. But from what I saw, Lincoln Road Mall offered quite a good selections of shops, from brands such as Anthropologie, American Apparel, Macy’s, Pottery Barn, Club Monaco, Sephora and many more. The only store I went into was an H&M pop up store But anyway, even strolling around Lincoln Road and did a bit of people watching was still a pretty cool experience because it’s always busy with people from all walks of life.
The only store I came into for a quick shopping.
Look how small my shopping bags are! Wearing white tanktop from Bali / Geulis skirt / New Look Panama Hat / House of Jealouxy necklace / Charles & Keith sunnies / Etienne Aigner bag/ H&M sandals / Daniel Wellington watch
5. Spend half a day in Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Vizcaya museum taken from the east entrance, overlooking Biscayne Bay
This is the only place I visited that was NOT located in Miami Beach, because Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is actually located in Downtown Miami, around 20 minutes taxi ride from where I was staying. Many people recommended this place in Trip Advisor, so I decided to check it out on my last day in Miami and I’m really glad I did! Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is the former villa and estate of a businessman named James Deering. The sprawling estate facing Biscayne Bay was built in 1916, a time when America’s wealthiest industrialists created lavish homes inspired by the palaces of Europe. At the time of Vizcaya’s construction, Miami’s population was around 10,000. More than 1,000 workers were employed in the Vizcaya project, including laborers and craftsmen from the Caribbean and Europe. Imagine that!
The stone barge. This was used to act as breakwater against tidal surges. But it was said that the Deerings used to host tea parties here while waiting for their international guests’ ships to arrive. How fabulous, right?
In 1952, Deering’s heirs generously conveyed the main house and formal gardens to Dade County, for a sum below the actual value. In 1955, The County exercised an option to acquire the village as well. Deering’s heirs donated the estate’s substantial furnishings and art to the County on condition that Vizcaya be used as a public museum in perpetuity.
The house was intended to appear as an Italian estate that had stood for 400 years and had been occupied and renovated by several generations of a family. It has 34 decorated rooms with 15th through 19th century antique furnishings and art objects. Not less impressive as the house was the massive Renaissance Italian and French style garden. It was so huge that I spent more than hour just to walk to (almost) every corner of the garden.
One corner of the impressive Vizcaya garden
There are many gardens inside the Vizcaya garden. This one is called maze garden and it is often used as a location for filming an photo shoots, as you can see in this picture. Can you guess what kind of production it is?
My favorite part: the secret garden. I took this from the stairs and you could see Biscayne Bay from this spot. It’s a beautiful place.
It was a bit hard to imagine this European style mansion is located in Miami, Florida. I had a great time here, enjoying the beautiful gardens, sculptures, as well as walking from one room to another, looking closely to the details of the furnitures, interior, silverware, arts, paintings..even bathrooms and powder rooms! I imagined what it was like to be the Deering family who lived in this glamorous house, with their servants and equally glamorous parties – I was a having a bit of Downton Abbey moment there Too bad we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house, but you can take a look at the photo galleries on their website.
One of the challenges of traveling solo is getting someone to take a picture of you. This one was taken by a couple of old ladies from Cuba who kept on shouting “Smile, young lady! Smile!” that it made me laugh out loud. Too bad, the picture came out a bit dark and they didn’t take a picture of the whole outfit Thankfully when I walked out of the estate, I ran into a woman who didn’t mind taking a photo of me right in front of the entrance.
(X)S.M.L top / Old Navy shorts / J&M shoes
But I met those Cuban ladies again outside as I was waiting for my taxi and we had so much fun laughing and chatting. They were in their late 70′s and 80′s, still strong as ox, beautiful skin, fun and were healthy enough to travel just the 2 of them! When I told them, I want to be like them when I grow old, one of the ladies gave me a hug and said “You will, girl. May God bless you always.” :,)
Anyways, that story was just one of a few wonderful experiences and people I encountered during my trip to Miami and New York (stories coming up!). No matter where I travel, having these kinds of experiences and meeting people from all over the world and share some moments with them – no matter how short – is really what I treasure the most. To me, it is the ultimate souvenir that will never be lost or broken because they will always stay in my mind for as long as I live