So remember all that stuff I wrote about how much we love staying in rentals or Airbnbs when we travel? How, that way, we get to really immerse ourselves in our new environment and are more apt to explore markets and neighborhoods and discover real local flavor? Well, I take it all back — at least for now, while I’m still milking the high from my five-day hotel vacation in Miami Beach. Get this: For the entire duration of the trip, we didn’t cook a single meal, didn’t have to wash a towel, someone made the beds for us every day, and there was a whole staff dedicated to making us feel welcome and happy. Apparently this is what happens at hotels? Did you guys know this? Did I?
I’m, of course, kidding. Sort of. It has been a long time since we had planned a vacation around a hotel — in fact, it was the kids’ first hotel vacation ever — and I guess I had just forgotten how relaxing it can be. I thought you might like to see the week’s highlight reel.
We stayed at The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, right along the main drag. My friend Bonnie and her husband had been there a few times — once on their own and once with their two kids — so I always had it in the back of my mind for a potential getaway. (The deal was sealed when my other friend Liz told me it’s the only place she ever stays when she goes for Art Basel every year.) We loved how it felt removed from the whole South Beach scene, with tons of families hanging out at the pool and beach (above) but it was close enough for us to walk to restaurants and explore the Deco-loaded neighborhoods nearby. (I was, in fact, so enamored of the place that I reached out to them for an instagram takeover — check it out here.)
The girls were out of their minds when they arrived, and could hardly sit still. (I remember feeling that way when I was a kid, too,…being so excited about the hotel room, that I never wanted to leave.) It certainly didn’t hurt that we had this view of the Atlantic.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed this blog that we spent a ton of time walking. Most of that walking took place on the boardwalk outside the Palms which paralleled the ocean. Almost every building along the boardwalk was a hotel and we loved seeing how different they all were — some blasting Pitbull on verandas packed with sequined bikini-clad happy-hour dancers, right next to another shrouded by high tropical shrubs and kids napping poolside in their strollers.
We used that boardwalk for a few great morning runs, but mostly we used it when we were hungry. Our first breakfast was at Rosetta, an Italian bakery with a majorly international clientele. They sold awesome pastries — croissants, cookies, beautiful little apple cakes and fruit tarts, prosciutto brioche sandwiches (above), and a solid cup of coffee.
There was the day we went in search of Cubanos — what self-respecting tourist or Chef fan wouldn’t? — and found them at Puerto Sagua (700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach). We had planned to head into Little Havana for this, but got lazy and when I mentioned this to one of the hotel staffers, he said, “Why go so far? The best Cuban is ten feet away from us at Tropical Beach Cafe” (2891 Collins Ave). We never tried theirs, but the point is, no matter where you are, you don’t have to go very far to satisfy the craving.
On our first night we walked south down Collins and Ocean Drive, wandering in and out of great hotel lobbies like The Delano, The Setai, and The Raleigh (my favorite). But our main destination was My Ceviche, a mini-chain that served the freshest, brightest ceviche bowls (you can pick rice or quinoa as a base). I had heard about it from various instagrammers, and I’m pretty sure it was my favorite meal of the trip, if for no other reason than because it was so uniquely Miami. (Although I did think it was funny when Abby said “If this place was in Brooklyn it would make a KILLING.”) The one closest to us was counter/takeout service only, but there was a bar next door with outdoor tables that you can use as long as you order a drink. We did not have a problem with that requirement.
Just because we didn’t cook, didn’t mean we didn’t visit the grocery stores to check out how the locals shop. (The canned beans aisle was massive.) Yep, file this one under “sightseeing.”
Of course, the kids lobbied hard every morning to just stay put and raid the all-you-can-eat kids breakfast buffet at The Palm’s Essensia. I guess I should be proud that a single strawberry half made the cut here? (The Essensia offered kids’ menus at every meal.)
All of our culture-vulture friends ordered us to check out Wynwood Walls, a giant complex of murals painted by international artists all around the warehouse district. It is INSANE to me that this didn’t exist a decade ago. The whole area has been revitalized by the project, and it was a perfect place to wander one afternoon with the kids.
Naturally, we wandered right into Coyo Taco (next door to the entrance of the central Wynwood Walls complex, you can’t miss it) and ate tacos made with corn tortillas that were hand-pressed right in front of us.
The whole area has been influenced by the project — even cafes and storefronts look like they’re part of the installation.
One night, we Uber-ed to Key Biscayne. My friend Andy, who grew up there and was also visiting, invited us out to paddle board, court manatees, drink some rum runners and watch the sunset. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds.
For her birthday dinner, we celebrated at The Standard’s Lido Restaurant and Bayside Grill. Our friends Adam and Christine — editors at Bon Appetit — both recommended it to us so we figured it was a pretty safe bet. (That might be the understatement of the year.) We shared a bunch of small plates — sliders, empanadas more ceviche — and toasted our fourteen-year-old while overlooking Biscayne Bay. Not too shabby. (Photo credit: TripAdvisor)
Wow, that view already feels like fifteen years ago. Thanks Miami! Hope to see you again real soon.