Actually, you shouldn’t need much convincing; who wouldn’t want to park up in sunny Miami for a while, especially during this winter of all winters? A lot of people are doing just that: everyone from Silicon Valley execs to an estimated 300,000 pandemic-weary New Yorkers—many of whom I ran into during my recent Miami stay. “You escaped, too?” they all said, gleaming with New York guilt.
Guilt be gone. Here are six reasons to have zero qualms about hightailing it to Miami and booking an extended stay at a hotel that’s a national landmark: the 271-room Biltmore, newly restored and ready to welcome you for some much-needed R&R.
Stepping back in time via The Biltmore lobby
The Retro Style I’m talking real retro—not hipster pseudo-retro. Retro as in historic and iconic. The Biltmore opened in 1926, after all, which makes entering it an exercise in stepping back in time, to an uber-luxurious Gatsby-like party during the roaring 20s. Wood-paneled elevators, ornate Mediterranean-style ceilings, Moorish courtyard design: all are designed to mesmerize. Sprawling, lush grounds—the hotel is set on a restored Donald Ross 18-hole, 71-par championship golf course—infuse the Biltmore’s over-the-top style with natural serenity.
One-bedroom suite at The Biltmore
The Rooms They represent the best of both worlds: old-world meets modern comfort, thanks to meticulous recent renovation work. 271 rooms, including 174 plush suites, are swathed in soothing colors: plum, silver sage, accents of gold. Lavender gemstone chandeliers hang delicately over insanely comfortable beds dressed in 340-thread-count Egyptian cotton. My room had a charming balcony from which I watched one magical sunset after another.
Scene from Illuminate Coral Gables
The Neighborhood I’ve been to South Florida dozens of times but never elected to stay in Coral Gables, which is essentially the Beverly Hills of Miami. So this downtown-loving gal was pleasantly surprised to find fondness for another sort of neighborhood, far from the (often mask-less) fray of South Beach and boasting a family-friendly, village-like feel. The Gables also felt hipper and more socially conscious than I’d expected, even hosting an incredible outdoor light and art installation—Illuminate Coral Gables—that was not only mystically beautiful and vastly innovative but also politically aware and inspirationally thoughtful.
The pool at The Biltmore
The Pool If a 23,000-square-foot pool billing itself as the largest in North America isn’t socially distant enough for you, I don’t know what is. I parked myself there, ordered Peruvian ceviche and guac and chips from poolside restaurant Cascade, did four laps—and considered it my workout for the week. For a perfect remote workspace, book one of the pool’s nine private cabanas, nestled amidst palms, hibiscus and bougainvillea.
The Gym Speaking of workouts for the week, The Biltmore’s gym—presided over by fitness guru Philip Alatriste, who’s been training hotel guests for nearly three decades—is not only top-notch but also comfortingly safe: numbers are limited, masks are required and the space closes for sanitizing every hour.
The Culinary Tradition As one of the only hotels with a recreational cooking school operating in North America, this is your chance to take pandemic-era cooking to new heights. Or just order room service from onsite Italian eatery Fontana, where the gluttonous Sunday brunch is the stuff of Miami legend.
LOCAL TIP Speaking of culinary traditions, Miami definitely has one—and it gets better by the year. At my doorstep were plenty of incredible options—my Coral Gables pick is Zucca, offering up the most authentic Italian food I’ve ever had in Florida—but from my base I trekked across the city in the name of good eats, sampling four very different yet equally delectable picks (all boasting safe outdoor dining). In South Beach I brunched at trendy new rooftop restaurant and cocktail lounge MILA Miami, where the vibe is magic-garden fabulous and the “MediterrAsian” menu serves up stunningly tasty surprises: Who knew that miyazaki wagyu, hamachi tataki with yuzu juice and kushiyaki glazed chicken could sweetly coexist with edamame-avocado toast, broccolini salad with feta and lemon-thyme branzino? Definitely try the king crab soba noodles with lemon tahini dressing, an ever-so-unlikely yet absolutely flawless marriage of culinary cultures.
The trip up north to Aventura was well worth it because it was shorter, after all, than a flight to Greece—the last place I ate Greek food as divine as the offerings at Ornos Estiatorio. The MINA Group’s newest hotspot delivered a feast for the gods: Greek classics like saganaki, tzatziki, lamb chops and baklava to die for, but also funkier delights like scallop carpaccio with yuzu vinaigrette and Maine lobster pasta, loaded with fresh lobster and flavored with Greek brandy. From the vantage point of my table on the terrace at sexy Zuma—with its view of ornate yachts and the glistening high-rises of downtown Miami—I thought I was in Dubai. Oh, wait—I could be in Dubai, another city that’s home to this stellar global brand of contemporary Japanese cuisine. The Miami location was the brand’s first, and chef Rainer Becker doesn’t disappoint: wagyu beef sushi with daikon and black truffle, Chilean sea bass tempura, rock shrimp with chili tofu, wagyu tomahawk with fresh wasabi and black truffle. When I dived into the black cod marinated in saikyo miso I let out a sigh of delight, at which my waiter smiled knowingly. “That’s the dish that made us famous,” he explained. “For very, very good reason,” I replied.
Japanese delights at Buya Wynwood
I give kudos to any restaurant opening in a pandemic, so Buya—a new hotspot in funky Wynwood inspired by Japan’s pub-like izakaya culture and adorned by a gorgeous graffiti mural—deserves double kudos: it’s also a wonderfully innovative, incredibly tasty addition to the Miami scene that bills itself as “Japanese soul food” with “punk rock attitude.” “Buya,” which means “small fire,” is a nod to the restaurant’s open kitchen, where dishes are grilled over binchotan charcoal. I savored the wagyu tataki with spicy kimchee, tempura beech mushroom with onion ash, grilled wagyu with shiso chimichurri and unagi with buttery seaweed. The short ribs ramen are a must-try, too—the ramen is made in-house—and the green tea ice cream came with a charcoal puff that made my palate sing.
Live here: Althea Row, by MG Developer
LOCAL TIP Your extended stay in Miami might go so well that it becomes a permanent one—especially given the fact that no state taxes on real estate makes investing in a home here even more of an attractive option. In Coral Gables, MG Developer is the be-all-and-end-all in the home-buying market. Their Biltmore Square project, four properties aligning perfectly with the Gables aesthetic—which adheres to strict zoning laws, designed to preserve the neighborhood’s classic look—boasts gorgeously appointed townhouses and spacious apartment units, most within walking distance of famed Miracle Mile. Work by Venezuelan artists adorning lobbies and included memberships at The Biltmore for add to the MG allure.
I am: writer, globetrotter, professor, activist, culture-hound. Born and raised in New York City, with one foot fixed in the Caribbean and another in South Africa, I have