Miami’s trendy South Beach (SoBe) is a trifecta for cruisers: A top-ten beach populated by the bronzed, buffed and beautiful; a non-stop party with days at the cafes along Ocean Drive and Lincoln Mall, and nights at chic restaurants and clubs fueled by 5 am last calls; and alongside all that sun, surf and revelry, there’s a lively, dynamic world-class cultural scene.
Two top-drawer marinas bookend SoBe’s famous Art Deco historic district making this a perfect destination for an arts-centric layover with plenty of opportunities for beach breaks, people watching, shopping, food foraging, and bar hopping. Just a few blocks northeast of the Miami Beach Marina and southeast of Sunset Harbour Yacht Club, the district pulses with historic and contemporary architecture, visual arts, performing arts, and culinary arts, all of which is oh, so close to some of the best sand in the U.S.
December’s celebrity-packed annual Art Basel Miami Beach hails as one of the most electrifying art events in the country, attracting over 200 top art galleries from North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. More than 50,000 visitors flock to the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC), including the international art world’s top collectors, dealers, curators, and critics.
Book a guided tour of the 500,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with an overwhelming display of paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, films, and works by 4,000 artists ranging from emerging to museum caliber. Art Basel sprawls beyond the MBCC into the streets, along the beach and into both Collins Park and SoundScape Park (just north of Lincoln Road) with special presentations, performances and more guided tours. artbasel.com
Food and Wine Fest
February’s Food TV Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF) delivers a star-studded, four-day extravaganza that showcases chefs, culinary personalities and wine and spirit producers to benefit Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center. sobefest.com
Art appreciators, rejoice
Even if you don’t hit one of these hot events, cruisers with an appreciation for art have their choice of venues. Start your visit with the highly rated Art Deco Walking Tour sponsored by the Miami Design Preservation League. Local historians and architects provide an introduction to Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and the Miami Beach Modern (MiMo) in a fascinating ninety-minute trek from the Art Deco Welcome Center along Ocean Drive and beyond. mdpl.org
Alternatively, pick up the iPod-based, self-guided tour and walk at your leisure. Espanola Way—edged with Mediterranean Revival circa 1925—becomes an impromptu crafts market on weekends.
At SoBe’s south end, the Jewish Museum of Florida (now part of Florida International University – FIU)—housed in a beautifully restored 1936 synagogue—tells the story of 250 years of Jewish culture, arts and heritage in Florida through book discussions, lectures, films, food tours, poetry readings, and concerts. jmof.fiu.edu
A one-of-a-kind gem, Wolfsonian-FIU hosts the Mitchel Wolfson, Jr. collection in an Art Deco, landmarked building. A comprehensive survey of the persuasive power of art and design includes furniture, industrial design objects, glass, ceramics, metalwork, paintings, textiles, Egypt’s King Farouk’s matchbook collection, and thousands of medals. The Wolfsonian exhibits draw from over 70,000 artifacts. wolfsonian.org
The adults-only World Erotic Art Museum features over 4,000 erotic sculptures, paintings and ceramic artifacts dating from 300 BC to the present. weam.com
A Miami Beach cultural pioneer, ArtCenter/South Florida has been home to 42 artist studios and four exhibition spaces since 1984. Originally 21 storefronts in a dilapidated and abandoned section of Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, ArtCenter is credited with the phoenix-like rise of the now trendy Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall, which runs east and west from the Atlantic to Biscayne Bay.
Today the 60,000 square foot campus is open to the public, offers classes, and the First Saturday Lincoln Road Gallery Walk (7-10 pm) gives visitors an opportunity to visit all the juried artists-in-residences in their studios as well as five other galleries along the strip. artcentersf.org
More than forty restaurants (Cuban to Fusion Haute)—a half dozen with sidewalk cafes—and a dozen bars and clubs edge Lincoln Mall alongside a hundred or so shops, boutiques and upscale chains, making it easy to pick your favorite alfresco dining spot to enjoy the people watching here (some say it’s better than Ocean Drive). For those with a penchant for retro clothing and mid-century furnishings, Lincoln Road is also home to the Outdoor Antique and Collectible Market on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month from October to May.
The performing arts are also well represented in the Lincoln Road area. The beautiful Art Deco Colony Theater originally opened in 1935 by Paramount Pictures and is the beneficiary of a $6.5 million renovation, hosting a wide variety of programs including music, dance, theater, opera, comedy, performance art, and film for present-day enthusiasts. Just north, the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater (between the MBCC and Lincoln Road) is a venue for concert tours and dance performances managed by Live Nation.
Designed by Frank Gehry, Miami Beach Soundscape Park is the New World Center’s striking edifice that hosts the New World Symphony—America’s orchestral academy. A springboard for some of the finest instrumentalists on the planet, the post grad curriculum includes wide-ranging, eclectic, inexpensive, open-to-the-public performances including the very popular wallcast concerts. Far from your run-of-the-mill student recitals, these musicians are heading to positions in the finest orchestras in the world. nws.edu
Just a few blocks beyond and close to the Miami Beach Convention Center—Kenneth Treister’s powerful and haunting Holocaust Memorial of Greater Miami dramatically conveys the unthinkable and unimaginable. In the Meditation Garden, a lily pond surrounds the Sculpture of Love and Anguish, a four-story arm that reaches for the sky. holocaustmmb.org
The nearby Bass Museum of Art is housed in the 1930 Miami Beach Public Library & Art Center designed by Russell Pancoast, a grandson of Miami Beach pioneer John A. Collins. The 500-piece founding collection of Renaissance and Baroque old master paintings, textiles and religious sculptures—gifted by John and Johann Bass in 1963—has grown to 3,000 works, including European painting and sculpture from the 15th century to present plus 20th and 21st-century North American, Latin American, Asian, and Caribbean pieces. bassmuseum.org
Seeing it all is both easy and relatively inexpensive. The South Beach Local bus (#123) loops SoBe passing by both marinas and most attractions. The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Miami Museum Mile Cultural Pass covers admission to the Bass Museum of Art, the Wolfsonian, the Jewish Museum of Florida, and the World Erotic Art Museums for $25 with a bonus of 15% or greater discounts at over 20 popular Miami Beach restaurants (good for 30 days, adults only).
By Beth Adams-Smith, Southern Boating, December 2013
Photos & Video by John Lambert