Miami’s Small Business & Local Flavors
Up until a few years ago, Downtown Miami seemed like a ghost town that existed only to connect Brickell and Coral Gables with North Miami. Then came Wynwood, the rebirth of the Design District, and then the gentrification of Downtown proper. Most will tell you about the latest and greatest restaurant-cum-lounges, but here’s what you don’t want to miss:
You can’t say you’ve been to Miami until you’ve set foot on Calle Ocho or Little Havana. Hoy Como Ayer is an institution and great Cuban food can be found beyond Versailles at El Mago de las Fritas, La Carreta, and Islas Canarias.
A tad north, you’ll bump into what is now considered the small pocket of big fun: American Airlines Arena, Bayfront Park Amphitheater, Perez Art Museum Miami (see image), Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Olympia Theater, Club Space, and loads of high rises. There’s also one of our favorite seedy bars that basically never closes, The Corner, and two new additions to the bar landscape: Libertine and 1306. For a fun free ride, get on the Metromover.
Wynwood is where street artists found a home when it was a dump and no one came here. Until the circle of life made it cool. What followed? Galleries moved in, then the shops, and then came corporate sponsors and tourists. Sure, call us bitter because our favorite playground is not underground anymore, but it’s a lot safer today. Local heroes in our books are Panther Coffee, Zak The Baker (pictured), Gramps, The Electric Pickle, and Coyo Taco.
This is Wynwood’s more buttoned-up older brother who took a desk job and sold out–but kept his inner free-spirit alive deep down inside. There are more restaurants than Midtown residents, we dare say. This neighborhood sits tight, just south of the Design District and north of its noisier, hip counterpart, Wynwood. A neighborhood favorite, Bardot, is great for a night out.
In the past couple of years, the Design District has reemerged from its ashes. High-end fashion brands like Hermés, Céline, and Givenchy fled the older, North Miami Beach malls for a more central and walkable area. The result is like a miniature Beverly Hills, minus the crowd and selfie sticks. Although tourists may not have caught wind of this strip yet, it’s only a matter of time. More design, furniture, art, and restaurants set-up shop as months go by. We are eagerly awaiting the new Institute of Contemporary Art inside the gorgeous Moore Building. Do yourself a favor and enjoy an outdoor meal at the picture-perfect, tastebud-pleasing restaurant, Mandolin. You won’t regret it.
Where to Stay
Miami’s vibe can change from block to block. Because of this, picking a hotel that best suits your mood is crucial. We singled out a few of the best hotels to get you going.
Kimpton EPIC Hotel
While most people consider the beaches of Miami to be the area’s biggest draw, Kimpton’s EPIC finds beauty in the Downtown skyline. What makes EPIC special? The intersection of clean lines, bay views, style for days, and super easy access to Downtown. Wynwood, Brickell, and the Design District’s restaurants, bars, and cultural centers are just moments away. Take this as your chance to get closer to the real Miami without breaking the bank.
InterContinental Hotels are synonymous with luxurious living, and here’s your chance to experience that in Downtown Miami. They were one of the first to open a hotel in this once rundown area, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it isn’t an impressive place to stay. Expect top-of-the-line amenities at this spot, including a spa, gorgeous bay views, and conference areas galore.
YVE Hotel Miami Downtown
YVE Hotel is uncomplicated, fresh, and has a touch of minimalism. And of course, clad in marble and glass. It seems to bring the outside in–with flooding sunshine, blue skies and warm Miami air (don’t misconstrue that as a lack of A/C, which they have plenty of). As part of Downtown’s finest, they offer a more personal approach, with a trusty staff that knows the city’s best spots.
The Langford might be the only hotel in the Downtown area that isn’t a glass high-rise tower. Instead, it captures the charm of old Miami–considering that it’s housed within the old Downtown Bank building. Rich colors and textures are accented by gilded details that make this the most sophisticated, yet understated, option in the area. Save some time for a bite or drink at PB Station and Pawn Broker within the hotel.
Comin’ in hot with a massive tower development and a new walkable shopping area, EAST Miami is here to give you a superb hotel experience. Brickell City Center promises to breathe new life into the city’s financial district with Eataly, Santa Maria Novella, and even their own Metromover station–which makes getting around Downtown a (free) breeze. Their accommodations are stunning, and we insist you try something–anything–off of Quinto La Huella’s menu.
For something different, the Vagabond Motel offers a fully revamped, flashback experience to a seriously sixties vibe. This once famous spot had been left to decay until a major overhaul brought both the hotel and restaurant back to life. It’s the perfect spot for those who prefer an authentic, retro, local experience, and it’s just a short cab ride away from Wynwood.