Your Miami Beach vacation would be incomplete without a visit to the glitzy Art Deco District at South Beach. SoBe, as it is called, has the largest stretch of surviving Art Deco architecture in the world. Built between 1923 and 1943, the hundreds of apartment blocks, hotels, restaurants, and shops are impressive by day, but at night the neon signs on Ocean Drive and surrounding streets signal a very active club and bar scene. With over 150 hotspots to choose from, a night on the town can become expensive unless you are very selective. And access to nightclubs is sometimes difficult for non-locals without connections, especially in the high season from mid-November to April.
Many SoBe clubs are celebrity hotspots, and the competition from the stars, the ultra chic, and the wannabes can make entry to the coolest places difficult. Bring plenty of money, too, since entry to the more popular nightspots will cost you anything up to $60. You’ll need to spend time, too, since entry to the top places often comes with a wait of several hours. One of the secrets to gaining admittance is to dress fit to kill, since entry is often declined if you fail the visual evaluation of the discerning door staff. But take your time, since most nightspots are open until 5 am, you can look around before you decide. Most tourists flock to Ocean Drive, but Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue are really the best places to go for interesting places that will lead to an unforgettable evening of music, dancing, and gawking.
As well as nightclubs, the area offers great shopping, contemporary galleries with top art on show, cutting-edge theatre, a variety of music venues and an awesome selection of restaurants. The Jackie Gleeson Theater of the Performing Arts, in Washington Avenue, hosts the South Beach Comedy Festival in January, plus a full range of arts events – from ballet and Flamenco dance to theatre. The revitalized Lincoln Road Mall is great for clothing, books and souvenirs. Many shops and galleries trade into the night.
A night on the town
Plan your evening in advance. Regulars understand that club nightlife here doesn’t kick off until 11 pm. It is difficult to list the most popular clubs, because the dynamic and ever-changing nature of venues, means that clubs constantly change owner, decor, and even name. The average club is only open for about a season or less, but on Ocean Drive, bars like the Clevelander and the Deuce have remained popular for years. Another long-termer, Opium, is an Asian-themed club attracting an A-list crowd, where you can enjoy mixed music and a Friday night fashion show. But be aware that they have a tough door.
For an outrageous time, try B.E.D. , a sexy club that serves up entertainment and drinks on luxurious beds. Set in an Art Deco movie theater, Crobar has a huge dance room and a catwalk around the second floor perimeter for easy star spotting. Washington Avenue’s Mansion, a current hotspot, has three rooms playing hip hop, house, and progressive, and features a chic VIP area. The late-night venue, Prive, offers four bars and intimate alcoves lining the dance floor. Be sure to arrive early, at 11 pm, to avoid a prolonged wait for entry. Then there’s Rokbar, in Collins Avenue, where the DJ’s spin 80’s rock, classic rock, new age, funk and hip hop.
You’ll find plenty of accommodation options in South Beach, including budget hostels, apartments, resorts, and hotels of all classifications. But be sure to book well ahead and be aware that many places require 3- to 5-day stays. From May to November you can often save 60 per cent and more with special off-season rates.