This past week my very generous bosses took our entire company to Miami for a few days for a work retreat. It was a great time and left us all focused and excited for the future – but that’s not what this blog is about! Let’s get to the good stuff – since I’ve never been to Miami before – and as you know by now I live for beaches – below is a review of how Miami as a beach town stacks up against some of my favorites (current favorites include Newport, RI; Montauk, NY; San Diego, CA; and Block Island.) Note, we stayed at the Clevelander in South Beach on Ocean Drive so this review is for that area only!
Actual beach – very nice! I’d give it 4 umbrellas out of a possible 5. (editors note, this is a patent-pending rating system for beaches everywhere. 5 umbrellas means the absolute bluest water, the whitest softest sand, easy accessibility and availability of amenities such as beach chairs, food and drink.)
Restaurants/bars – there were many – and we didn’t sample enough for me to give an official rating here. The places I did eat had good food and drinks aplenty so no complaints there. One random thing about the restaurants at least right along Ocean Drive was there aggressive tactics to lure you in by way of their “5 dollar breakfast special” or “happy hour 2 for 1’s.” Pretty much cafe along Ocean Drive had a barely dress hostess shoving a card in your face and saying something to the effect of “join us for lunch?” Also worth noting is that every place pretty much had the same special, making it errrr – not so special!
Pools – don’t get me started on this one! Apparently in South Beach, pools aren’t meant for swimming but rather are there to serve as a tempting tease of cool refreshment that often times you are literally not allowed to go into. I envisioned the pool area of our hotel (which was heavily promoted on the hotel’s website) to be a sprawling oasis of cool water fun. I even penciled in “lounging by the pool” as a group activity for our team. Little did I know that the “pool” (and that’s using the word loosely) was roughly the size of an oversized bathtub and partially covered by a makeshift dance floor (very safe). Because of this, you actually weren’t allowed to swim in it even if you could find a little corner to dip into (which didn’t exactly stop my group, but I digress…).
Town – Among the pluses was easy to walk to lots of stuff, easy to get cabs to further areas, plenty of restaurants, bars and stores and palm trees and ocean views made for a nice area to stroll. My favorite time of day for “exploring” the town based on the 3 days I was there was roughly 8am on a weekday. At that time, the town was quiet and all the Miami meatballs (we’ll get to them later) were definitely not awake yet. The only people up were the pleasant locals serving up coffee and breakfast (for a cute local coffee shop check out Pinocchio cafe just off Ocean Drive for homemade pastries and a friendly Italian owner). Among the minuses was a lack of unique shops (most shops were chain stores or cheesy souvenir shops) and the lack of a good old-fashioned ice cream parlor (a MUST in any beach town if you ask me). Luckily we were able to satisfy our ice-cream craving with some surprisingly delicious Gelato from Lecca Lecca cafe. Not familiar? It’s the same place Snooki and friends works on the Jersey Shore’s Miami season. Nuf said.
People/Scene – Now here’s where South Beach just can’t stack up to my most beloved beach towns. Without stereo-typing, the crowd that frequents SoBe is for the most part…how should I say this…ummm, not my type. Some (ok a lot) of them could have very easily been a castmate on the Jersey Shore. The general vibe of Miami was not laid back like other beach towns but actually pretty fast-paced with a big focus on drinking giant margaritas the size of your head (literally) often with two Coronas as “garnish.” The bar scene echoed this same sentiment with most drinking establishments being fist pumping dance clubs. My perfect bar (especially in a beach town) encourages drinking while comfortably seated in a booth, on a bar stool or better yet on a comfy outdoor couch on a patio (this is due largely to my recent revelation that I am in fact, a TERRIBLE dancer and being 30 comes with the added bonus that I no longer have to pretend I’m good or even dance at all if I chose not to). My perfect bar also ideally has a juke-box packed with country music, oldies and other fun hits to sing along too. A live band or opportunity for karaoke is equally acceptable.
Cool Activity Alert – Miami is a really beautiful place from a scenery standpoint. Clean, blue-green waters, pretty art deco style buildings and palm trees and waterways galore. It’s actually a pretty large city and there is much more to it than just the South Beach strip area. We were able to see a good chunk of it on our way to and from the brand new Marlins stadium (awesome) and then going on a boat tour around Miami and particularly Star Island. We took a Thriller Miami Speedboat tour and I’d highly recommend for a pure adrenaline rush and for some celeb mansion scoping.
As a whole, I’d give Miami 3 our 5 umbrellas. A nice place to visit with some beautiful beaches but not going to creep into my top 5 any time soon!
I’m curious, what are your thoughts on Miami? Is it one of your favorite vacation spots and if not, what beach towns are?
(Note – I wrote this post from an airplane but I will add photos to it soon!)