Miami, W South Beach
The lowdown Remember the 1998 Will Smith Miami video? Before a month ago, this was my only experience of the ‘Magic City’. So, in my head, it was all palm trees, speedboats, partying ‘til dawn and Eva Mendes driving a convertible Cadillac. Well, apart from the Eva Mendes bit, it turns out the video was pretty accurate.
The cool, sleek lobby of the W Hotel on South Beach is like a Miami microcosm, and you immediately get a sense of what it’s all about; bikini clad girls en route to the pool, party people ordering rounds of cocktails at the Living Room Bar and celebs trying to look inconspicuous behind enormous sunglasses (first spot: Mark Wahlberg, who apparently has booked out a suite in the W South Beach for the entire summer while he’s filming nearby). Set oceanfront on the corner of Collins’ Avenue and 22nd Street, the location of the W couldn’t be better. South Beach is 30 seconds from the hotel (or stay poolside for some seriously good people watching) and the fabulous shopping on Lincoln Avenue is a five-minute walk away – stop by J Crew and Victoria’s Secrets to stock up on fab basics.
The rooms The 408 rooms at the W South Beach are beautifully designed. Decorated in a palette of cool greys, with statement prints and plasma TVs adorning the walls, crisp white linen bed sheets and sleek leather chairs. Every room has a balcony overlooking South Beach, a Bose sound system and an iPod docking station. The attention to detail is striking – from the gorgeous mini Bliss products to enjoy in the bathroom, to a super handy welcome box, including everything from chocolate and crisps to a powdered hangover cure: only in Miami. It sounds obvious, but book a room on the fifth floor or higher – the view just gets better and better.
Out and about There’s so much to do at the W, you could very easily spend a week without leaving the confines of the hotel - chilling by the pool, playing tennis on the rooftop court, sampling treatments at the fabulous in-house Bliss Spa and clubbing at the adjoining WALL nightclub. But if you fancy venturing further a field, try the Shore Club (1901 Collins Avenue (001) 305 695 3100), the Mondrian (1100 West Avenue (001) 305 514 1500) or the Delano (1685 Collins Avenue (001) 305 672 2000) for sunbathing and the best of the daytime parties. Head to Mynt (1921 Collins Avenue (001) 305 532 0727), Liv (4441 Collins Avenue (001) 305 674 4680), or Baoli (1906 Collins Avenue (001) 305 674 8822) after dark to party the night away. Fashion addicts should head to the Bal Harbour shopping centre (655 96th Street Bal Harbour, (001) 800 847 9222), where you can enjoy some serious fantasy shopping at stores including Bulgari, Chanel and Dior. If you’re feeling flush, make an appointment at the Saks Fifth Avenue club ((001) 305 865 1100), where you can relax in a private dressing room, glass of champagne in hand, while a personal shopper brings the clothes to you – heaven. Satisfy cultural cravings with an afternoon spent soaking up the stunningly beautiful architecture in Miami’s Art Deco Historic District. Recognised as the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, there are over 800 hotels, apartments and other structures built between 1923 and 1943 to see. Book a 90-minute walking tour through the Art Deco Welcome Centre ($20, 1001 Ocean Drive (001) 305 763 8026) to see the curvy pastel and chrome Deco highlights.
Eating and drinking Pre-dinner, pop downstairs to W’s Living Room Bar; barman Tom mixes the best cocktails around. Make a reservation at Mr Chow’s (adjoining the W, (001) 305 695 1695); it takes dining to a whole new level of glamour – you’ll never have eaten Chinese in such opulent surroundings! - and you’re guaranteed to spot a famous face or two. For a more low key (and less pricey) alternative, try The Dutch ((001) 305 938 3111), located next to the Living Room Bar. It has a fun, relaxed vibe, and delicious modern American menu. For lunch, you can’t beat Carpaccio (9700 Collins Avenue (001) 305 867 7777) – the fresh salads are light relief from the generally heavy food, and the huge plates of fish and beef carpaccio are delicious. For an all American experience, head to Smith & Wollensky (1 Washington Avenue (001) 305 673 2800) the fresh seafood and juicy steaks are divine.
The details Doubles at the W Hotel South Beach start from £290 ($449) per night, based on two adults sharing. For further information and reservations call (001) 305 938 3000 or visit starwoodhotels.com