This was one of my FAVORITE trips of all time. I apologize for the long explanations - there are just so many good stories that need to be shared. Enjoy!
Flying in can take the whole day (in our case it did) so we only had time to check into our Air B and B and then head out to get some food and of course a drink, because it was vacation! We hit the jackpot with our Air B and B ... it was in a great location (very close to DASH and the main South Beach road, more about that later). This Air B and B is in a condo building, which actually I think is also part of a hotel, but it's not as weird as it sounds. The room is decent sized with two queen beds, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. The place is clean, and has a large window that leads to the rooftop patio. Here's the best part, we only paid $84 a night. Yep. You're welcome.
After we checked into our Air B and B, got settled and changed, we headed to a bar/restaurant that we had heard of in Little Havana. It was an easy 20 minute Uber, but man, let me tell you... he must have taken the long way because it wasn't that scenic and wasn't that simple. But, read on because it's worth it! Disclaimer: my traveling soul sister, Joelle (Jo, Jojo, Joey) and I can somehow turn 99% of weird situations into something good, so, I encourage you to have that same mentality when you travel because it makes everything more exciting.
So, we roll into Ball and Chain on a Wednesday around 8pm - which, we didn't know yet, is considered VERY early for Miami natives. The inside bar was beautiful, and had a small three piece band ... but was dead. We came for a good time, so naturally, we asked around and the bartender let us know that there is a back patio - YES! This was the coolest patio I've ever seen. As soon as you walk outside, you're transformed into what seems like a quaint Cuban cocktail lounge. The lighting is dim, the tables are small, and the seats are cozy. The focal point of the patio is the music stage that has a massive facade shaped as a pineapple. Needless to say, we made a killer choice going there.
Here's what made it even better - it was Ladies Night so all of our drinks were free, somehow my vixen of a friend Jo got the general manager's phone number, AND we were whisked away to the dance floor by two Venezuelan musicians who taught us to Meringue and Salsa (more to come with them later).
This was the day of art, music, culture, and GOOD food. Our first stop was the neighborhood of Wynwood. It is north of downtown Miami, and is home to up and coming galleries, shops, and restaurants. We roamed the streets for a little while in the morning and took some basic white girl pics on the trendy painted walls (see below). After our twenty minute modeling career, we decided we were hungry. Yes, we also immediately realized modeling wasn't for us because of our love for tacos. And then, we struck GOLD. Coyo. Let me just say, there are many things in life that make me excited, but nothing makes me quite as giddy as tacos... or amazing sushi, or tequila, or good wine... but that's besides the point. THIS TACO PLACE IS THE BEST. The atmosphere is cool, the staff is super friendly, and the food was bomb. Jo had the quinoa and falafel as a burrito bowl and it was life changing. You must go here. We spent the afternoon walking through the art galleries and shops while enjoying the great weather.
That night, we got adventurous and Ubered to Ft. Lauderdale for dinner. We had happy hour and dinner at Shooters Waterfront where the view out the large picture windows is the intracoastal waterway. It is beautiful at sunset, and the food is great! Jo and I split the coconut shrimp and both had the Mahi Sandwich. If you enjoy seafood, this is your place!
After dinner we headed back to Miami, and decided to check out this back room bar, Bodega. We got to the bar, which in the front is a taqueria, around 10pm and the line was massive. But again, the universe was on our side, and we had friends that were near the front of the line... enter, again, the Venezuelan men (hi Alejandro and Robi!) It's worth it to point out that any man who will stand in line for you was raised right, and deserves to stick around. We finally made it through the front door, and into the taqueria. The line is then monitored by a man who sits on a stool next to a port-a-potty door with a bottle of tequila in hand. He shares his tequila with you (shots all around!) and chats a little before he gets the go-a-head to let you in. Once that port-a-potty door opens and you step in, the vibe completely changes. The back room lighting is dim, the decor is vintage and trendy, and the staff are dressed as if it's a speakeasy. We grabbed a drink and listened to the DJ for a while and then decided to head somewhere else.
This is where the story starts to sound ridiculous... we decided to get into a car with these men (mind you, that we met the day before) and head downtown to a local salsa spot they liked. Before making it downtown, we took a detour through the gated private islands off of South Beach. That's the benefit of making friends with the locals who speak Spanish... they can tell the gate keeper (in perfect Spanish) that they have "two white girls in the car who are tourists, that really want to see the big houses". Yes, that totally worked, and we saw P Diddy, Birdman, and Usher's mansions. The guys took us to Brickell where somehow they talked their way into bottle service, and we danced all night.
I should point out that if I was reincarnated I hope I come back as a Latina...there's something about the culture that I just LOVE. Because of that, Little Havana was a must to see, and I enjoyed every minute. Cuban Coffee is THE BEST. Technically I had a Cordadito, but either way, it was incredible. As we strolled Calle Ocho with our coffees we stopped at Domino Park to watch the locals play dominos. It is such a good atmosphere to walk and see what Miami really has to offer.
We headed to Lincoln Road for lunch and some shopping at the Lincoln Road Mall. The whole street has restaurants and shops and is only open to pedestrians, it's an easy way to empty your piggy bank! After lunch we got confident and decided to try out the City Bikes. The concept is so easy. Slide your credit card, pay a flat fee to start and an additional fee per hour and off you go. South Beach is easy to navigate on a bike because the streets are wide and the backroads are not busy. It's definitely an easy, and cheap way to get around.
Next stop was the Kardashian's store, DASH. They have some great stuff, and it's cool to see where they film on the shows. Dash is two blocks away from the main drag (Collins Ave) of South Beach. So we strolled the beach, checked out the art deco buildings, and people watched...definitely a top 10 place to people watch.
That night we headed to dinner at the one place my professor recommended. He's a Puerto Rican Florida native with great taste, so we knew we couldn't go wrong. And boy did it exceed expectations. Joe's Stone Crab was amazing. We went really bougie and ordered crab legs, multiple side dishes, and a nice bottle of pink Champagne. HEY, Typical White Girls. The service is top notch, and the staff is so accommodating and kind. Since we were in a bougie mood, we headed to the hotels on South Beach for happy hour after dinner. W South Beach and SLS South Beach had great bars and lounges.
At the final hotel, Catalina Hotel & Beach Club, we somehow became friends with the DJ, which led to becoming friends with a 15 man bachelor party from New Jersey, which led to free drinks and entrance to see Lil John at LIV, which led to loosing my phone, which led to heading to the airport an hour before our flight and not in the right state of mind. Needless to say, when you're standing in line for airport security eating a whole box of cheese-it's you realize it was an unforgettable night. But that's a story for happy hour some other time. This whole three day whirlwind ends with Jo and I heading to Puerto Rico in a scurry to catch our 7-day cruise.