The Betsy Hotel South Beach, Miami’s high-end LGBTQ+ friendly beachfront hotel is nestled in the heart of the Art Deco District yet on the quiet end of iconic Ocean Drive.
The only Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond-rated boutique hotel in Greater Miami, The Betsy is known for its luxury accomadations.
The Betsy's unique commitment to philanthropy, arts, culture, and education is on display throughout the hotel. It is currently playing host to ten new art exhibitions including one from the gay Latinx artist Carlos Betancourt and two outdoor public installations it launched in time for Miami Art Week.
The resort is also the home of the Writer’s Room, which has welcomed more than 1000 artists in residence, collaborating with over 200 community partners. The Betsy Hotel also host the Miami Classical Music Festival, Miami Poetry Festival, and Supporting Women Writers in Miami group.
One of the few properties with a dedicated traditional library (above), The Betsy is recognized as one of the world’s great literary arts hotels, in part because of it's legacy (the co-owner's father was three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist poet Hyam Plutzik and authors can compose at the same desk he did). One of Plutzik's poetic lines had become the hotel's motto: "Expect no more. This is happiness."
Out Traveler recently had the opportunity to chat with the poet's son and hotel co-owner Jonathan Plutzik about The Betsy, his love for Miami, and his personal recommendations for those visiting South Beach.
What makes The Betsy unique compared to other hotels in South Beach?
We love Miami Beach. We love South Beach. We love those who have chosen South Beach to be their home (or second home). We saw an opportunity here. We felt there was room for a hotel committed to luxury, great food, and a welcoming environment that also leaned into reflecting the elements of our community that were insufficiently celebrated. What if we could create a hotel with the characteristics referenced above, but that was also a place for the creative community? A place that put real art on the walls, that created a platform for nightly live jazz, that filled its rooms with real books and brought the authors that wrote them to Ocean Drive? That is what we set out to do, and while others must be the final judge, that is exactly what we have succeeded in doing. We believe that the Betsy vibe is quite unique for South Beach. I am proud to say that we have gotten a lot of recognition for going our own way in creating the special feeling that the Betsy creates for every guest arriving at our Ocean Drive entrance.
Can you mention any notable guests?
It is difficult to disclose notable guests given confidentiality; however, we have been fortunate to attract many who value our discretion and low-key style. We have, quite visibly, welcomed many great writers and artists, Poet laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and, yes, a number of very prominent actors and athletes.
You are on the board of the Miami Beach Visitors and Convention Bureau and have chaired two Miami Beach Mayoral appointed committees, so you know a thing or two about Miami. What are the top things you would recommend to do in the city?
The first piece of advice… Don’t rush! We love to walk, so planning around walking is key. A day in South Beach can easily accommodate great art (The Bass and Wolfsonian), excellent food, including lunch in Wynwood to take in the curated graffiti now of world renown, and a great lunch or running off to Calle Oche in little Havana for an infusion of Cuban food. I also recommend an evening of live performance (The Colony Theater), and for the right person/couple – a late night out doing all of those things, which are no more than a ten-minute car ride or walk from The Betsy.
What are your favourite restaurants?
The LT Steak & Seafood and The Alley. I’m a bit biased as I like to go to places that I can walk to, and lean toward good food and inviting, relaxed atmospheres. Osteria Del Teatro on Collins is a long-time favorite. I love strolling down Espanola Way and choosing a different spot each time I go. At the very end of Espanola way is A La Folie, a great little French spot for wonderful crepes and more. Further up Collins Avenue at 73rd street is a little Cuban joint, Sazon, that always makes me happy.
Best place for a cocktail (or two)?
There are so many great places to go. Yes, the front porch or rooftop pool side at The Betsy included. I can’t resist any place with a view and a great ocean breeze. One of my wife’s current go to places is the beach side bar at the Savoy Hotel just south of fifth street.
Where’s the best spot on the beach to people watch?
It may be a bit self-serving to suggest, but the best place to people watch is sitting on the slightly elevated front terrace of The Betsy. What could be better than observing the world walking by in all of its diversity as it either commences a stroll down the iconic ocean drive or watching the busiest entrance to the beach as people arrive enthusiastically or depart sea and sand satiated. Ocean Drive. All different shapes and sizes. A myriad of languages. All with a bounce to their step. What could be better? Good food and drinks can turn the people watching exercise into a day long activity.
Your favourite art gallery and why?
What excites me the most is that one doesn’t have to choose. Within a 10-minute walk or ride, one can visit the Perez, The Bass, Wolfsonian, The Jewish Museum, and a bunch of public art displays.
What are some must see annual events in Miami?
Pride is a special time in South Beach. We are a “proudly" LGBTQ-rich community and as consequence, we all celebrate the importance and impact of this community on all aspects of lives with great enthusiasm. Again, Ocean Drive is the front row seat as the community comes together, with a bit of who can build the best parade float competition to revel in the best our town has to offer. Naturally, during Pride, or any time for that matter, a visit to The Palace is a must. Maybe more than once -- if you can get a seat.
The Betsy's Orb and Poetry Rail
How is the Betsy involved with Art Basel? Especially since the hotel is a gathering place for arts and culture.
One could say that we celebrate the impact of Art Basel every day of the year. My wife, Lesley Goldwasser, curates the elevated collections that we put on the walls of our nine galleries. Every year, as Art Basel throws opens its doors, so do we -- with the reveal of the collection that we have mounted on our gallery walls. It is a time of great anticipation every year. More formally, we have been an official partner of Art Basel and hosted their annual selection committee meetings on several occasions. Naturally, we have been fortunate to have many prominent gallery partners and collectors choose the Betsy as their “home address” during the show. We are excited that celebrated galleries have also used our Betsy walls to showcase their respective artist’s work.
How is The Betsy involved with Pride or what does The Betsy do to celebrate Pride?
We take special pride in the partnerships we have built with organizations in the LGBTQ community. We have created and hosted the first TransArt festival in the country, celebrating the creativity of those in the Trans community. The Unity Coalition, an organization with a focus on the gay Latin community under Herb Sosa’s leadership was our partner in TransArt and many other projects that we have found common ground on. Because of our Writer’s Residency Program, which has welcomed more than 1000 Artists to the Betsy, we have been particularly blessed to have a chance to give voice and provide respite to LGBTQ writers. We have welcomed SAGE, celebrated Keshet, and so much more.
How does The Betsy make LGBTQ guests feel welcomed?
This is an interesting question. I think the Betsy makes LGBTQ guests feel welcomed because we have consistently demonstrated our connection and partnership with so many in the community. It is palpably central to who we are. Everyday. Our openness. The Betsy’s warmth. The artists’ works that hang on our walls. The books that we choose to put in our bookcases. The musicians we choose to celebrate in our lobby.
Are there any LGBTQ bars or attractions you would recommend?
I am perhaps not the best or most expansive judge, but any visit to the Betsy and Ocean Drive should include, if possible, brunch at the Palace - South Florida’s iconic drag bar and restaurant.
In your opinion, why should Out Traveler readers visit Miami?
For the same reason that any open, sophisticated, curious, warm, engaged traveler should. Miami Beach is the crossroads of the world. It wasn’t always true, but the modern version of Miami Beach celebrates diversity, creativity, is welcoming in so many languages, is comfortable with the juxtaposition of the very refined and a bit wild. It is a big bonus that we have a big LGBTQ community and that is one of the most important reasons that we have managed to attract some of the most interested and interesting people in the world. I think we are just getting started.
Any final thoughts?
An extraordinary thing has happened over the past quarter of a century. Only a hundred years old, Miami Beach has reinvented itself several times. The very early years, not so welcoming of people who were “different”. No people of color. No Jews. I am sure, not welcoming to the LGBTQ community as was the case in so many parts of the world. But this same LGBTQ community was instrumental in kick starting the modern version of Miami Beach which began with artists and fashion leaders like Versace. Sadly too, as a place where many came to deal with the scourge of AIDS, those who saw special beauty in the architecture and design of our town. It is wonderful that Miami Beach has become a place that is so welcoming of so many, and a preferred destination of the LGBTQ community.
Barry Hoy is a Canadian transplanted in New York City and a travel, food and lifestyle writer who showcases great destinations, local experiences, and must see (#bucketlist) places around the world. Travel is his passion, so he is always on the road or up in the air. If he’s not travelling, he’s most likely already planning his next trip. Follow his adventures via Instagram @asianmapleleaf or on his travel blog at asianmapleleaf.com.