As originally posted on my Tumblr site while travelling around the USA in 2011…
Final road trip and the car safely returned, it was time to see what Miami had to offer. I stayed in South Beach in Miami, which is its main holiday destination but is frequented by locals too so not a “tourist ghetto”. It’s also where the Art Deco district is and I stayed in a great Art Deco hotel there: really well preserved, fantastic pool, private beach behind and the hotel interiors made you feel like you could be in an episode of “Mad Men”, especially the impressive lobby and martini bar.
I did get out and explore other parts of Miami though, including a boat trip around Biscayne Bay that was pretty good and very funny. About half of it seemed to consist of going round this exclusive island where many stars live or have lived. Our guide would point these out and then a blast of music would play out: for example “here is Ricky Martin’s house, he likes living La Vida Loca” (cue music). This was very funny every single time it happened. We also saw Gloria Estefan’s house, someone I had totally forgotten about but it would appear that Miami Sound Machine are to Miami as The Beatles are to Liverpool. The piece de resistance though was seeing Tony Montana’s house from Scarface, accompanied by “say hello to my leetle fren” and sounds of machine gun fire. Obligatory photo of the house shown below.
I did also spend a fair bit of time just hanging out by the pool and on the beach and this is where the flip flops I’d bought earlier really did their job, but are unlikely to be seen again on the rest of my trip I reckon. The beach was great fun in particular and as it was the first time I’ve been in the sea since having laser surgery on my eyes, it was excellent to be able to actually see what was going on and also look back at the impressive vista of hotels behind me.
One abiding thought probably sums up my main observation about Miami: this is the most ‘80s place I have ever been to. I think this is partly to do with cultural signifiers such as Miami Vice, Scarface, GTA Vice City and the Miami Sound Machine of course all being rooted in that decade, but also just the general soundtrack you hear wandering around. For example, I heard “Self Control” by Laura Branigan not once but at least twice while there and don’t think I’ve heard it once in the last 20 years before that.
As for nightlife, Miami has a good reputation for clubs and bars and so I was looking forward to seeing how this measured up. It is indeed pretty good, although a little “dressy” in places and it reminded me in certain ways of Ibiza, Las Vegas and (dare I say this) a smidgen of Essex too. The Ibiza comparison is pretty standard and you can see why; both places have large clubs, beaches etc. However, for those familiar with Ibiza, the main clubs in Miami all seem to be closer to the likes of Pacha rather than my personal favourite Space and certainly not DC10.
Regarding Las Vegas, again the fact that dress codes and the like were in force in Miami reminded me of the larger clubs there. Some of the hotels and pools were also reminiscent of Vegas on a small scale; you can certainly see that some of Vegas’ hotels may have drawn a bit of inspiration from Miami and then ramped this up to Vegas levels of size and glitz. As for my controversial Essex comparison, again this mainly comes back to the way some people were dressed and just as I was thinking this, I came across Essex House (see the picture below) so it is definitely factually true to say that there is a bit of Essex in Miami!
Miami is a really late city when it comes to going out, with most places not really getting going till 11ish at the earliest so I needed to ration the preferred English early start. As the clubs were not particularly for me, I did have more luck in a few of the pubs there (although these aren’t as widespread as in some other cities) and also discovered that it was worth checking out some of the hotel bars as well. So getting local knowledge as I went around chatting to/annoying assorted locals really helped out here as usual and I ended up having some great nights out. Next up is Boston as I leave the South behind and head North East, the only internal flight I’ll be taking…
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