Out's Favorite Spots To Play In Miami
By Andrew Belonsky
Above: Lords South Beach, lobby and room detail
Miami Beach was made for a party. Literally. Originally an outpost for those shipwrecked off Florida's coast, and later cultivated for crop growth, the island hot spot we call Miami Beach was developed from the ocean up around 1915 to cater to the growing leisure class and soon South Beach became an irreplaceable, incomparable retreat for rich and poor alike. Celebrities, politicians, pedestrians and criminals sang, danced, drank and found love among the ever-expanding horizon of sun-drenched art deco. Miami Beach was and remains an endless party.
Magic City, as it is affectionately called, has always had a vibrant gay and lesbian culture, but that culture hit a real boom with a fresh round of gentrification in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, South Beach is often referred to as the Gay Riviera, and it has drawn us to its shores more than a few times. Below are some of our favorite restaurants, bars and other places to pop into when down in town.
Lord's South Beach is one of our favorite places to stay when in town, and not just because it's the gay boutique hotel of our generation, welcoming all LGBT people with open arms. Bold colors, a playful spirit — a nine-foot polar bear sculpture resides in the lobby — and a welcoming, never pretentious attitude help this hotel stand apart from the pack. So too do the flat screen televisions, luxe linens and the price: there are poolside Cabana rooms for under $150, though those willing to spend more can of course reserve a penthouse with a private terrace. We recommend, however, that you stay in one of Lords' Rooms that Matter: 10% of the proceeds go to LGBT charities. And don't miss the in-house restaurant, the Cha Cha Rooster Bar.
The Tides South Beach, part of the King & Grove family of elegant hotels, has been a favorite of Out Traveler's since it reopened in 2007. The renovation, overseen by Top Design judge Kelly Wearstler blends the sand-blown glamor of beachside living without being standoffish. It aims for nostalgic design, not off-putting aesthetic deviation, and features plenty of rich leathers and natural woods in the airy, sun-filled rooms.
You'll also probably want to at least pop into perennial gay favorite The Standard Miami for one of its many decadent spa treatments - the restorative Soul Temple treatment can't be beat — or perhaps a bite and bevvie at the hotel's Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill.
Another luxurious hotel stay can be found at Ian Schrager and Phillippe Starck's long-running collaboration, Delano. It's trendy, super modern and a bit otherworldly, but it's also welcoming and warm, and its Rose Bar and eponymous Beach Club nightspots mean you won't have to travel too far for an attractive crowd, strong drink and, one hopes, some adventure.
Elsewhere in South Beach, the 45-rooms Edgewater South Beach, housed in a 1939 art deco facade and conveniently located next to the gayest section of oceanside property, offer a more modern design than The Tides but no less of the exquisite service. And Greenview Hotel on Washington Avenue serves budget-friendly Parisian flavor.
Down the road from Greenview there's Hotel St. Augustine, which recently renovated its 24 loft-style rooms to give guests a more spa-like experience. Tangerine Bar in the basement doesn't have a liquor license, though, so bring your own beer, or whatever it is you want to sip on.
Also along the spa spectrum, though on the far, more luxurious end, is the Loews Miami Beach, a resort decorated like a beach house with a 20-foot shark-filled aquarium, homemade organic ice cream shop, frozen grape kabobs and even room service for your dog. This place is perfect for singles and families alike.
For those on a tighter though not entirely stringent budget, may we suggest the mid-range Avalon? Also located in South Beach but with less of the glitz and glamour, this art deco lovers' dream has uncomplicated yet comfortable rooms and a killer seafood restaurant, A Fish Called Avalon.
An even more affordable option may be the Deauville Miami Beach, a long-running North Beach institution known best for hosting a Beatles concert in 1964. It hasn't lost its charm or focus on the guest over the years. And the tightest budget may require a stay at Miami's only bed and breakfast, the Miami River Inn on the mainland. But this being Miami, this gem has plenty of memorable flair and history -- it was built between 1906 and 1910 - and all the money you save means you'll have more to spend on the city's incredible restaurants.