Miami is hands down one of the most Instagrammable cities in the United States. We turned to experts at Four Seasons Hotel Miami, lofted 70 storeys above the city streets, and Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club – a favourite of Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra – for insider tips. Here, their recommendations on what to see, do, eat and shoot on your next Miami getaway – including an estate inspired by Italian Renaissance style and pies baked by a fireman – as well as the experiences photos can’t do justice.
Miami’s Wynwood neighbourhood is famed for its Wynwood Walls graffiti murals, but Plant the Future, a boutique across the street, is less photographed and even more visually arresting. The shop is chock-a-block with unexpected delights such as walls lined with preserved moss and mobiles made of trailing plants. Pick up a succulent terrarium or, in season, a butterfly cocoon you can take home to hatch.
Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Enjoy a wood-fired Asian-fusion dinner at KYU, where you can watch chefs churn out edible art in the open kitchen. “KYU is currently one of the top restaurants in Miami,” says Mark Warren, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club Guest Relations Assistant Manager, who recommends the restaurant’s roasted cauliflower, served with shishitos and goat cheese. “Reservations are tough, so happy hour is an excellent way to check it out.” The “hour” is 4:30 to 6:30 pm, Monday through Saturday, and you shouldn’t miss the pork and duck sausage buns with Japanese mustard, best paired with a glass of luxe Junmai Daiginjo sake.
Travellers from around the world flock to see the contemporary art collection at The Bass on Miami Beach, reopened after renovation and expansion. “During Art Basel, a festival that always brings amazing artists to Miami, the museum will feature the Haas Brothers – I predict it will be a hit,” Warren says. “You can explore the museum on your own, but I think the best way to see it is through a complimentary tour,” arranged by the Hotel. Look for the particularly eye-catching fluorescent sculpture by Ogu Rondinone, Miami Mountain, on long-term view in the garden.
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Stop by Sweet Liberty bar – voted the best in Miami by Time Out magazine – for one of the city’s most inventive happy hours. “I love Sweet Liberty; it’s a fun place that always has live music,” says Bar Manager Jacopo Rosito of Le Sirenuse Champagne Bar at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club. “Ask for the special table behind the bar, where you can watch the bartenders at work, and order the pina colada that’s made with an unexpected ingredient: Jamaican coffee beans.”
Even utilitarian structures get a rainbow-bright upgrade in Miami: “All of the lifeguard towers from First and Ocean Drive to 15th and Ocean Drive are unique and picture-perfect,” says Damion Richards, Four Seasons Hotel Miami’s Chief Concierge. “Visit in the early morning at about 6:00 am to catch the sunrise.” That’s when the towers – most of them painted in bubblegum pink, Hermès orange, or candy-cane red and white – are at their most photogenic, and tourists are nowhere to be seen.
Four Seasons Hotel Miami
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Enter a 2.6-acre (1.05-hectare) tropical paradise at Miami Beach Botanical Garden, a former mango and avocado grove that’s now a fragrant manicured sanctuary of frangipani trees, vanilla orchids and even edible flora like pineapple, pomegranate and coffee beans. Look for a black-and-white-striped Zebra Longwing butterfly, known for flitting around Miami Beach in tuxedo-like splendor.
At the Pérez, beside Biscayne Bay, “hanging gardens appear to grow from the ceiling year round,” Richards says. The 200,000-square-foot museum, festooned with tropical plants, is home to Picasso’s 1932 Femme à la montre and an installation of floating ships by Edinburgh-born artist Hew Locke, For Those in Peril on the Sea.
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Continue your creative afternoon five blocks away at Microtheater Miami, where 15-minute plays are held in 160-square-foot shipping containers and presented in both English and Spanish. With only 15 audience members, each play is as intimate as they come; mingle afterwards on the patio, sangria in hand.
Just an hour and a half south of Miami by car, Everglades National Park is the place to “escape the clamour of city life,” Richards says. “You’ll begin to appreciate the sounds of nature – the wind rustling through the river grass and the chorus of amphibians.” Stretch your legs on the half-mile Mahogany Hammock trail, which winds past air plants, gumbo-limbo trees and the largest mahogany tree in the country – more than 70 feet (21 metres) tall and reportedly 500 years old.
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: On your way back to Miami, stop by Robert Is Here fruit stand in Homestead, Florida, for a fresh-made Key lime milkshake and some Florida produce, like black sapote (which tastes like chocolate pudding) and antioxidant-packed jackfruit.
Built on a mangrove swamp in 1910 as the home of business magnate James Deering, the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens draws Instagram influencers in droves, thanks to its manicured landscape and ornate architecture inspired by Renaissance Italy. The camera-friendly Fountain Garden was originally designed circa 1720 for the Pantheon in Rome.
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Richards encourages guests to “salsa the evening away with live, upbeat music” at Ball and Chain, open since 1935 in Little Havana, where the stage is shaped like a pineapple. “It’s a Havana Nights setting,” Richards says. Stars like Billie Holiday and Count Basie once took the stage here; on karaoke nights, you can too.
The occasional food photo has been known to rack up likes, especially when the dish in question is as stunning as the toothsome offerings at Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop, a beloved café co-owned by a City of Miami firefighter who moonlights as a master baker. Richards recommends the salted caramel pie, with a warning: “One bite will have you hooked.” Other divine offerings include guava berry pies and the signature red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and a chocolate-drip shell.
OUTSIDE THE FRAME: Richards has one delicious directive for the Veza Sur Brewery patio nearby: “Pair a crisp Double IPA or flavourful Mango Blonde Ale with some Latin-inspired bao buns from the Baja Bao House food truck while a local band plays. Top off the experience with a free behind-the-scenes brewery tour.”
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