South Beach, Miami is the land of party lore. For decades, it’s been the hottest spot in Florida (and arguably the whole American south). A haven where the beautiful, the rich, and the famous are easily spotted out at the club, on the strip, and lounging on the beach. What we don’t see as often are the everyday people who live in and around the area, whose culture is just as — if not more — rich and colorful as those running the party scene. While the latter is definitely a draw for tourists, the former is what will keep visitors eager to come back for more.
On a recent trip to Miami, I was fortunate enough to experience just how much genuine culture there is in Miami when the sun is shining. I was there for the re-opening of the Gates Hotel in South Beach — a just-renovated property perfectly situated to showcase Miami’s rich Cuban culture and arts and music scenes, while also giving travelers the ideal “Miami party weekend” experience they’re probably expecting.
For me, the party came first. Walking straight to the pool deck after arriving at the hotel, I found straight up music video vibes — complete with club lighting, cabanas, and an unmatched view of downtown Miami. The in-house restaurant, Agaveros Cantina, offers light bites and assorted tacos and salads at the pool bar. For the hotel’s opening party, the tapas kept coming and the drinks kept flowing as women covered in body paint and other hotel guests mingled and took photos for the #UnlockSouthBeach Instagram hashtag. It was a very visceral reminder that showing the best of Miami may not be all about the party scene, but it does include it.
The Gates was popping and so I partied, of course. “When in Rome,” after all. But before too long, I wandered down to my ten-zillion thread count bed. In order to discover South Beach the daytime, I’d have to actually wake up when the sun was shining.
The morning air has a special feeling in Miami. Literally. It was noticeably cleaner than the air back in my hometown of Houston. That could be because there are fewer pollutant particles per square inch (okay, it’s probably that), but it also might be that the location of the Gates allows the ocean smell to pervade your senses.
Loving the fresh air, I started my first morning in town with a short walk to The Bass contemporary art museum. Besides the colorful pillar outside the museum and the view of the beach from its front yard, one of the museum’s most notable installations is the Good Evening Beautiful Blue installation by Ugo Rondinone, which is actually equal parts dope and horrifying. Depending on your possible traumatic experiences as a child or having seen “It” a tad too early in life (or as an adult), the floor space filled with life-sized clowns in various poses will either excite or terrify you.
I chose the former and took the opportunity to sit and get acquainted with some of the posse.
As I walked the streets of Miami, I stopped in at the Historic Post Office building in Downtown Miami to check out some of the art installations being prepared for Art Basel 2017. The building no longer functions as a post office and was being repurposed to serve as the location for the Young Artist Initiative’s presentation of RAW — a 10-day multi-sensory, 3-floor immersive pop-up experience during Art Basel. Many of the installations were being completed as I toured the building and I got to meet artists knees and elbows deep in supplies and miscellany to add to their artwork before the opening day.