Vacation Highlight Reel: Miami

 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.

Right in the middle of Lincoln Road Mall was the amazing Books & Books. Phoebe, who turned 14 over vacation, picked out a few birthday gifts for herself.

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)


But mostly, this is what we did.


…And a lot of gazing at this.

Wow, that view already feels like fifteen years ago. Thanks Miami! Hope to see you again real soon.

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24 Comments

Amanda

What a great recap (and love all the photos!)! Makes me want to book a trip ASAP. 🙂

Thanks!

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Charmaine

As a Miamian for the last 40+ years I’m as close to a “native” as you’ll get down here. Glad you had fun and you def choose a great hotel, in the heart of things but less attitude than your usual SoBe hotel, a friend’s son just got married there and it was lovely. Wynwood is fantastic and the explosion of galleries, shops and restaurants is amazing, all of us locals love it. Anyone planning a
visit I hope you also venture out beyond SoBe, we’re a great city with lots to
offer besides the beach!

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kimmie

Ohhhhhhh….those pics!!!!!!!

We’ve been horribly spoiled by my in-laws’ time share. The kids get their own beds….and room….and bathroom.

I could definitely go for no cooking and bed making!!

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susan

Great post and now we need to visit Miami with the kids. Love your thoughts on hotels vs. rental houses. Last year was the first time we had a hotel vacation with the kids and now at least one of our vacations each year must be at a hotel vaca. No laundry, dishes or beds to make! While I love cooking it is a great break and I come back from it ready to cook what I just ate.

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Ann

I love Books & Books! This is an awesome, inspiring post! Next time we go, I will check these places out! Thank you!

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Kate

Sounds amazing!! I’m heading to Miami in April so I’ll have to check out some of your restaurant recommendations. Thanks!

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Krysten

First of all, I love that you mention Chef. The first thing that I would do in Miami is search for a cubano! I love food trucks (I was sous chef on a major one here on the west coast)
Your trip looked so fun and relaxing. Tell your little girl happy birthday! It’s awesome that she wanted books for her birthday. I was like that as a kid.
Thank you for my little trip away from the big city this morning 😛

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Emily

I grew up in Miami but sadly haven’t been back in many years. Did you happen to try Sandwicherie ? A favorite.

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shelly

I know exactly what you mean. I am a bit over airbnb. Too many ba experiences. I decided that it’s better and easier to stay in a hotel if it’s only for a couple of days. Last summer we travelled with the kids for two months and found ourselves stack in apartments that were vacation rentals and not peoples home, which suck because those vacation rentals feels like cheap motels not homey, which is why I used airbnb for in the beginning. Two weeks ago when we were with our boys in Barcelona for four nights we stayed in a hotel. It reminded me why I love hotels!

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Lucy

Wow……Lido restaurant looks really amazing am sure your daughter had a fabulous birthday. The boardwalk is so perfect for a morning run and I love love….all your holiday pics.

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teresa

I was pushing my husband to go to Miami for the kids mid-winter break. We found tickets there for a good price. In the end he and the kids won and we went to Disney instead. Yours was exactly the vacation I envisioned and next time I am pushing to go to Miami. I am now filled with regret looking at all the great things there are to do and so much good food, art, and views. You sold me!

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kimberli simon

Looking at your pictures and reading about your family holiday in Miami takes me back to living on 14th & Ocean during the mid-80″s. Miami Beach wasn’t nearly as hip a place then as it is now, but the water is STILL the most beautiful blue ever. Thank your or the trip down memory lane.

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Christine

Glad you guys had such a great time! I lived down in SoFla for 2 years and spent my own birthday one year at the Standard hotel having dinner at that same spot. And yes, the ceviche is killer!

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Pam

The whole air b&b thing sounds great on paper but, not so great for the poor people who live full time in these neighborhoods. Most of the time renters are on vacation and that means lots of noise from a lot of strangers that could care less about your quiet most of the time home. How would you like to live next to an air b&b nightmare? Yikes!

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Tracey

We took a whole lot of these recommendations! We went to the bookstore – and they were real appreciative of the shoutout. We hit Rosetta’s for brekkies. Delish. Had the Cuban sammy at tropical beach cafe – yum. And hit wynwood walls and coyo taco. Wonderful! Also did a whole lot of nothing at the pool. We stayed at the W, which is pricey, but nice and cool.
Where are you going next?? 😉

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Kathy

My college-student daughter’s spring break plans fell through, so we were left trying to come up with a nice, last-minute alternative. I’ve had your Miami Vacation Highlight Reel post in the back of my mind ever since it first appeared on the blog, and I had been eager to go, so that’s what we did! We took so many of your recommendations, and you did not lead us astray. We stayed at The Palms Hotel and Spa, and we went to Rosetta (twice!), Tropical Beach Cafe, Puerto Sagua, Coyo Taco, and My Ceviche. The boardwalk was awesome, just as you said, and we enjoyed all of the walking, people-watching, lazing on the beach, and eating! Thank you so much for all of the amazing recommendations. (Is it creepy that we based our whole vacation on yours??) Thank you! Keep the vacation recap posts coming!

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