Glamorous Miami Beach: A-List Haunts and Hideaways
Cosmopolitan and tropical, Miami Beach defines cool and hot! There’s definitely an energy here that is palpable.
Miami Beach is actually a barrier island connected by three bridges to mainland Miami with Biscayne Bay in between. Its southern end, South Beach, is famed as a destination for celebrities and models and its Art Deco Historic District with 900 preserved buildings dating from the 1930s. Ocean Drive is at the heart of the action by day and by night attracting locals, tourists and jet setters alike.
The Villa Casa Casuarina is Gianni Versace’s former mansion located right in the midst of all the action on Ocean Drive. With just 10 opulent suites, it is the most exclusive hotel in South Beach. The house was built in 1930 in Mediterranean Revival style. After the original owner died, it became an apartment building known as The Amsterdam Palace from 1937-1992 when Gianni Versace purchased it to become his residence in South Beach. He restored, redecorated and expanded the building by adding a south wing and a pool. Since Versace’s death in 1997 his mansion now operates as a hotel, restaurant and event location owned by the Nakash family of Jordache Jeans fame. Each suite is unique and different. The Venus Suite with massive double-queen size bed and balconies overlooking the beach and the Thousand Mosaic Pool is Donatella Versace’s favorite suite. Here you can sleep in the same beds that Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Beyoncé have slept in. Even if you don’t stay here, a dinner at Gianni’s is a must. Ask Israel the bartender to make you “Medusa Bubbles” cocktails and then have dinner on the terrace overlooking the pool for an experience to remember!
If you prefer a more tranquil location off of Ocean Drive, The Setai, also owned by the Nakash family is a beachfront oasis of luxury and serenity on Collins Avenue a few blocks north of all the action. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, this five star hotel combines a landmark Art Deco building built between 1936 and 1938 with a modern, 40-story glass residential tower featuring The Ocean Suites at The Setai. Walking into the lobby instantly transports you to a serene world of Asian design where you are welcomed with a tea ceremony. For fans of Aman resorts, the hotel feels just like one. A stay in the historic Art Deco wing is a one-of-a-kind experience in Miami Beach. The Asian theme continues in the courtyard with expansive fountains and lounge spaces, as well as in the restaurant, bar and spa. Offering the finest personalized services and amenities for its discerning guests, The Setai leaves no request unfulfilled, hence its popularity among the international jet set.
Just two blocks north of The Setai, is another completely unique and luxurious hotel experience – the 1 Hotel South Beach. Previously The Gansevoort hotel, the property closed for three years for a total makeover reopening in March 2015. From the gorgeous lobby to the spacious suites with floating beds, and the adults-only rooftop infinity pool, you’ll find a mindful, eco-conscious vibe. With hotels in Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, and South Beach, 1 Hotels likes to think of themselves as a “mission” rather than a brand, where nature inspires everything they do. The lobby is a whole eco-system in itself with beautiful naturally occurring sculptural trees and reclaimed wood coffee tables where furniture is art and art is furniture. Their “Day life” concept includes mind and movement with yoga, workouts, meditation… they will soon be opening the first Bamford Spa in the U.S., the first Spartan Gym, and a Vegan restaurant by Matthew Kinney. Swim, sun and recharge on 600 feet of white sand beach at the Beach Club and bring your precious pet, because the hotel is animal friendly, too!
In the Mid-Beach area about two miles north of South Beach, you’ll again find excitement and nightlife at Miami Beach’s famed Fontainebleau. Here you don’t have to bring anything with you and you never have to leave the resort because the 1,504 room property is completely self-contained with everything you could possibly want from boutiques to buy swimwear and high-end clothing to nightlife to exotic car rentals and everything in between. A playground of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in the 1960s and these days for models, A-list celebs and the Miami Heat, the expansive resort has also been featured in many films including the James Bond classic “Goldfinger.”
Fontainebleau Miami Beach grand opening video
The iconic, curvilinear building was designed by Morris Lapidus in 1954 and was bought by the Soffer family in 2005 going through a $1 billion dollar makeover and reopening in 2008 with a star-studded celebration including Mariah Carey and the Victoria’s Secret Angels. (Jeffrey Soffer is married to supermodel Elle MacPherson) The main lobby features Lapidus’ signature bowtie pattern set in the marble floor, a grand staircase to nowhere, three crystal chandeliers worth $1 million each, and a modern, space-age style bar. Three new towers were added to the property with the crown jewel of accommodation being the Penthouse in the Sorrento building spanning almost 10,000 square feet, with expansive balcony, outdoor pool, and Jacuzzi. You can even dock your yacht just across the street in the Fontainebleau marina.
Last but not least, if you’d like an exclusive, tranquil setting with easy access to all the restaurants, nightlife and shopping that the Fontainebleau has to offer, the Soho Beach House with just 50 rooms is a hidden oasis right next door. Even though it is a private club for the film and creative industries, you can still book a room here. The property boasts a ground floor drawing room with grand piano, a 100-foot main pool flanked by loungers and lush gardens, a tiki bar and Cecconi’s, one of Miami Beach’s best restaurants. On the second floor is the Club Bar — an homage to 1940’s Cuba serving food and drinks all day. There’s also a cozy screening room and a signature Cowshed spa and gym. Guest rooms on the upper floors are South American-influenced and boast one-of-a-kind antique furnishings and rain showers. On the top floor is the library lounge, rooftop taqueria and plunge pool with breathtaking ocean and sunset views. You don’t have to be a celebrity to stay here, but it certainly makes you feel like one!
What to see and do
Art Deco Museum and Walking Tour – This 90-minute walking tour provides an introduction to the Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and Miami Modern (MiMo) styles found within the Miami Beach Architectural Historic District. Explore hotels, restaurants, and other commercial structures with a visit to a number of interiors. Tours depart from the Art Deco Welcome Center at 10th Street & Ocean Drive at 10:30am each day, no reservations required.
Wolfsonian-FIU Museum – The museum’s collections comprise objects from the 1850s to 1950s—the height of the Industrial Revolution through the aftermath of the Second World War—in a variety of media including furniture; industrial-design objects; works in glass, ceramics, metal; and more.
Bass Museum of Art – Located across the street from The Setai, the Bass Museum is the only fine art museum on Miami Beach and connects historical collections with contemporary art. In addition to world-renowned temporary exhibits that pass through its doors, the Bass Museum features an impressive permanent collection of Antiquities, Renaissance and Baroque art exhibitions, as well as educational and scholarship programs.