If you haven't been to Miami recently, it's guaranteed to be much-changed since you last visited — and for the better. As LGBTs descend upon Miami Beach for this weekend's Pride celebration, they will notice there's more to do in this cosmoplitan center than sun yourself and drink daiquiris. More than ever, Miami is a place for those who value cuisine and culture. The new Perez Art Museum is a new institution, the annual Art Basel Miami event attracts visitors from around the globe, and downtown, Brickell, and the Design and Arts districts feature high-end restaurants, shops, and some of the nation's best street art. The entire metropolis is also easier to access, with a new direct rail connection to Miami International and a much-loved bike share system in Miami Beach. There might even be a new soccer stadium, courtesy of David Beckham. All these changes haven't come at the expense of the area's sizzling nightlife, and the numerous fun-filled LGBT events held there, like White Party and Winter Party.
EAT: More Fish than Sea World
The people walking along Ocean Drive on Miami Beach may be pin-thin, but don't mistake that for a citywide eating aversion. Getting a seat at the hottest new restaurant is part of Miami's DNA, and there is no shortage of talented chefs, especially those with a knack for seafood and Southern cooking.
DAVID'S CAFE CUBAN CUISINE: This South Beach coffee stand and diner is open 24 hours, a perfect place for a filling breakfast or post-clubbing eats. Their guava pastries are heaven and the sugary and strong Cuban coffee will forever remind you of Miami's allure. (1058 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach more info)
THE FEDERAL, FOOD, DRINK & PROVISIONS: Looking for some good 'ol Southern food? The Federal is your place. "Nestled in a dimly lit strip mall," the Federal is a hipster-ish take on 20th-century Americana, but not in a hokey, '50s diner kind of way. Think smokey fried chicken, truffled egg and butter dumplings, and golden baby conch salad. (5132 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, more info)
JOE'S STONE CRAB: A Miami Beach institution, Joe's Stone Crab is a seafood-lover's paradise. JSC is reliably crowded, so put your name on the list and enjoy a drink at the beautiful bar that harkens back to Miami's glamourous past (the restaurant just celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1913). If you're not feeling their oysters on the half-shell, conch fritters, coconut shrimp, or mahi-mahi, there are plenty of steaks and chicken for your tasting. (11 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, more info)
NAOE: This very exclusive (eight seats!) sushi restaurant is run by handsome chef Kevin Cory. Miami really is the place for fresh fish and Naoe's is the best (their website declares, "it's not fresh…. it's Alive." (661 Brickell Key Drive, Brickell Key, more info)
WYNWOOD KITCHEN + BAR: In the heart of Miami's emerging Wynwood arts district, this small-plates restaurant honors the area's artistic cred. An airy main room is decorated with murals by Sehpard Fairey, paintings by German artist Christian Awe, and an 11-foot-tall sculpture by David Benjamin Sherry. An outside courtyard is just as colorful and the Latin/Mediterranean cuisine is phenomenal. (2550 NW Second Avenue, Miami, more info)
SLEEP: Art Deco Heaven and More
There are so many hotels in greater Miami, from glittering high-rises in downtown to beautiful Art Deco masterpieces in SoBe to mammoth properties in Mid-Beach, it can be overwhelming to choose just one. We're here to narrow the playing field.
GALE SOUTH BEACH: A classic Art Deco favorite in SoBe, the Gale recently renovated itself, but kept its historic touches intact. The rooftop pool and cocktail lounge recently received accolates and a new expansion, Gale Suites at the Kaskades, is coming soon. A perfect SoBe spot. (1690 Collins Avenue, more info)
THE GAYTHERING: South Beach's only gay-owned and operated hotel is a trendy outpost, reminiscent of properties like The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The owners say they wanted to create a gathering spot for LGBT visitors, and Miami residents, to get together and feel comfortable, hence the name. The singular aesthetic of the hotel was created by the owners themselves and reflects their hip vision for the "straight-friendly" hotel. (1409 Lincoln Road, more info)
FOUNTAINBLEAU: North of SoBe's action is Miami's most famous hotel, the Fountainbleau. A mid-century marvel designed by Morris Lapidus, the Fountainbleu has been the Miami home to mobsters, celebrities, and royalty. The lobby is like a museum and the pool would make William Randolph Hearst jealous. A recent renovation only added to the Fountainbleau' allsure. If you can afford it, this is your place. (4441 Collins Avenue, more info)
VICEROY MIAMI: This glamour-infused downtown resort juxtaposes elite residential necessities with fine dining, rooftop nightlife, and a fierce pool that provides amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Brickell skyscrapers. The design, from Kelly Wearstler, is as cosmopolitan as it gets. (4441 Collins Avenue, more info)
EXPERIENCE: Morphing Metropolis
If you only lay out and party while in Miami, you're doing yourself a disservice. Far from a cultural wasteland, Miamians are pouring millions into new cultural institutions and formerly decrepit neighborhoods. The city also has a fascinating history that includes the changing fortunes of Cubans, seniors, gays, and celebrities; make some time to learn about how far the city has come.
MIAMI DESIGN DISTRICT and WYNWOOD ARTS DISTRICT: These two centrally-located Miami neighborhoods have come alive in the past decade. The former, once the site of abandoned factories and low-slung businesses, is now an urban, luxury outpost, with stores like Louis Vuitton and Design Within Reach; the restaurants are just as upscale. The Arts District is less about shopping and more about Miami's growning embrace of art. Major collection houses like the Rubell Collection and the Margulies Collection house paintings, sculptures, photo, video, and intallations. The area is is covered in distinctive street art and tours are devoted to the innovative and eye-catching "graffiti." (more info for Design District, more info for Arts District)
GAY AND LESBIAN WALKING TOUR OF SOUTH BEACH: Put together by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Miami Convention Visitor Bureau, and the Miami Design Preservation Legauge, this walking tour hits clubs, bars, parks, hotels, and the famous Versace mansion. (more info)
SOBE GUIDED ART DECO WALKING FOOD TOUR: A guided historical and cultural tour of the area's most authentic restaurants. Savor Colombian, Argentinian, Cuban, Italian, and Jewish deli food, sip delicious wine and caipirinhas, and walk it all off during a two and a half hour tour. Our guide is a delight and the food was expertly chosen — a really fun way to eat yourself through Miami Beach. (more info)
PEREZ ART MUSEUM: This contemporary art museum, around since 1984, moved into its shiny new Herzog & de Meuron-designed home last year (it was previously called the Miami Art Museum). Funded by local businessman Jorge Perez, PAMM sits amongst the 20-acre Museum Park, a new center of arts, culture, and recreation in downtown Miami. Works by Latin artists like Diego Rivera and Damian Ortega make up the collection, as well as pieces by John Baldessari, Kehinde Wiley, and Kiki Smith. (1103 Biscayne Boulevard, more info)
PLAY: Sleep When You're Dead
Like its northern sister, New York, Miami will be forever devoted to nightlife; it's hard to stay indoors when music wafts through your open window and temperatures hover in the 80s. Dancing in Miami is almost required, but if that's not your thing, there are plenty of places to have a cocktail or soda and enjoy the night breeze.
TWIST: This longtime favorite is an easy walk from most South Beach hotels, which is good since sobriety is not valued there. Twist is a giant mega-club where you can dance 'till you drop; one of those legendary gay clubs sadly disappearing from New York to L.A. Hopefully Twist will be around for awhile, but make sure to stop by next time you're in south Florida. (1057 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, more info)
DISCOTEKKA: This downtown club is a favorite of Miami Latinos, and its Saturday party is renown. Their Twitter just announced a foam party; if you never danced half-naked in sudsy bubbles, here's your chance. (950 NE Second Avenue, Miami, more info)
SCORE: Another South Beach mega-club like Twist, but possibly wilder and louder. The house music spun is prett basic and it's somewhat of a tourist-trap, but if you want to dance until the wee hours, Score is your ticket. (1437 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, more info)
PALACE: The tagline to this South Beach bar and restaurant is "Every Queen Needs a Palace." Damn right. This Miami Beach institution has been around for over a quarter-century, years before South Beach's image was transformed by Gianni Versace and Madonna. It's one of the only exclusively-LGBT bars on Ocean Drive and it prides itself on its giant rainbow flag, Birdcage-worthy drag shows, boozy Sunday brunches, and great views of the beach sideshow. (1200 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, more info)