1. This may seem like an obvious comment, but avoid Miami during hurricane season. Officially hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, but you won’t want to be in Miami during the summer because it’s too hot and humid. By the time September through November rolls around, you’re dealing with the possibility of rain on any day and it’s going to kill your vacation. (I was there for 4 days last September and it rained for two of them.) The whole point of going to Miami is for warm weather, right? The best time to go is from March to May. You’ll get warm weather and warm water. There will also be plenty of people there looking for a warm weather vacation, so there’s a scene to be had.
2. You want to stay on South Beach. Brickell is a nice area if you're living full-time in Miami, but South Beach is where you need to be if you’re visiting for the weekend. Brickell and other areas of Miami are farther away from South Beach and you don't want to waste your time and money going back and forth.
3. Depending on the time of year, you can get a decent deal at one of the boutique hotels on South Beach as opposed to dropping big bucks on an elite hotel. You won't be in your room much anyway. Since there are so many boutique hotels, you can choose a low-cost option to save on some cash like the Collins Hotel or the Fashionhaus. If you want to step it up a notch, but still not overspend, places like The Surfcomber, The Pelican, and Essex House should work out well and 2 of the 3 have pools.
4. Wanna ball out a little? You can do that and not go overboard by staying at Eden Roc. It’s a nice hotel and neighbors the famous Fontainebleau, so you can roll next door and use all the hotel’s restaurants and amenities. (Although it will cost you.) Finally there’s the Fontainebleau itself. It’s baller, it’s expensive, but it makes things easy. The best pool scene is there. (You’ll want to try to get there at leat for one day even if you’re staying elsewhere.) The best club in town, LIV, is there. Some of the best restaurants are there. The new SLS and the Delano will have scenes of their own as well.
5. If you’re sticking to a budget, you’ll need some lower priced food options. You want to be stuffing your hungover face with anything breakfast/lunch on the menu at Big Pink. The French toast, the omelets, the nachos, the tuna melt, or the burgers come to mind. They’re all good. (Don't forget to order a milkshake as well.) I’m incredibly partial to the situation at Big Pink, but you will also be satisfied with breakfast/lunch at the Van Dyke Café on Lincoln. (Anywhere on Lincoln Road is good for food and great for people watching.) Enjoy the weather and cheap drinks outside at Monty’s while you chow down on seafood like oysters, conch fritters, and all the crab you’ll need. Everyone loves Mexican, so head to Lime if you’re in the mood for that. While it is a chain, it’s a good one and unfamiliar to vast portions of the country. News Cafe on Ocean Drive is also good for people watching and the food is good enough. The item of choice is the nachos. Nearby, Lario's On the Beach offers the same people watching along with authentic Cuban food on South Beach and it's always busy.
6. Like with hotels, you can ball out with your food as well. Jumping to dinner at a restaurant owned by the same group as Big Pink, you're doing yourself a disservice if you're not grabbing a nice steak and a big Kobe meatball at Prime 112. Anyone who’s been to the area and eaten there will tell you it’s worth the trip. Their Italian spot, Prime Italian, across the street holds up the owners’ reputation as well. Balans gives you the aforementioned people watching on Lincoln with a generally well-received and diverse menu. There are plenty of great New York restaurants that have opened up new locations in Miami. The menu at the Dutch is different than the New York location, but you can’t go wrong with some oysters followed by the jerk chicken or “al pastor” pork chop. Like in Vegas, Scarpetta, located at the Fontainebleau, gives you a taste of some of the best tomato sauce in New York. You can never go wrong with the free popovers at BLT Steak and the steak there is rather good too. (The Crêpe Soufflé for dessert is also bad ass.) You can't forget about local favorite Joe's Stone Crab either. It’s always packed and it may be more landmark than food, but a trip to South Beach is lacking something if you don’t make it there. Look out for the celebs while you're there. You might be eating a crab cake next to Johnny Depp.
7. The nightlife scene is on par with anything you'll get in the world. A night with bottle service at LIV should be tops on your list if you like clubbing. It deserves a bullet point all to itself. LIV brings in some of the best DJs in the world every weekend. They're bigger dicks about you being required to enter with girls already with you than any Vegas club, but the scene inside is out of this world. Besides, how hard is to find some girls in the lobby of the Fontainebleau and tell them they can drink your alcohol for free if they enter with you and hang at your table for a while? Like with Vegas, it’s very helpful to have a VIP host who can set you up and hopefully you can get a referral from a friend who has been there before. There’s also a VIP owners table on the back of the first floor where you can pay something like $300-400 a head and drink in the table area all night. The promoters find some of the best looking girls in town, invite them to party in the area all night and drink for free. The major problem there is that these girls don’t have the same desire to take their clothes off for you at the rest of the night as if you’re inviting them over to your table normally. (Vegas works much better in this respect because everyone there is visiting while in Miami you’re dealing with a lot of locals.)
8. You can find other club scenes than LIV, but none of them are as good. Places like Cameo, Mansion, and Set are decent, but none of them compare to LIV. There’s no point in doing a Club night in Miami and not going to LIV as long as you’re ok with putting up with their bullshit. (And you generally should be.) Club Space, however, is the place you should be rolling to at 5 a.m. to keep raging. On the non-club front, you can always find entertainment at the Clevelander. They’ve got some reasonable happy hour specials and there are always people there. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but you’re a tourist if you’re visiting Miami anyway. The Delano has its legendary bar, which is a more low-key approach to your Friday and Saturday night. Nikki Beach has the club aspect, but its beach party on Sundays is where you should be focused. The regular locals living on South Beach love Ted’s Hideaway. It’s a standard run-of-the-mill bar, but those don’t exactly exist elsewhere on South Beach. If you’re looking for something a little classier, check out Foxhole. The drinks are reasonably priced, there’s no cover, they have a wide beer selection, and it gets busy on weekends.
9. If somehow you ended up in Brickell instead of South Beach, here’s your one bullet point. Fado is the Irish bar you’d expect to find anywhere else in the world and they even cram in a small dance floor. Blue Martini across the street is an interesting dynamic because it wants to be a club and takes advantage of people’s desire to go to such places in Miami. There’s at least some area to drink outside while you’re there, but it helps if you bring your own girls. Brother Jimmy’s (of New York City fame) recently opened up a location in the same area. The food is reliable barbecue and the bar situation is filled with a younger crowd who wants to hang out and drink. Remember Balans? There’s one in this same complex to get yourself some grub too.
10. There are also two other main food things worth mentioning for areas in Miami proper. If you're drunk and looking for late night munchies, head over to La Moon for an arepa burger. (Just trust me. You won't be disappointed.) Secondly, head to Versailles if you’re looking for the best Cuban food around by far. It’s not trendy, but it’s famous. The presidents even know to go there when they come to Miami.
[Miami image via ShutterStock]