Miami Florida USA

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Meet some real locals who can tell you about their Miami

  • Coconut Grove
  • Downtown
  • Little Haiti
  • Miami Beach
  • Virginia Key
  • Coral Way
  • Flagami
  • Little Havana
  • Upper Eastside
  • Wynwood
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Coconut Grove

Loree Shrager

@dharmastudio

Popular with students who study just around the corner at the University of Miami, this area really comes alive on Thursday and Friday nights. During the day, however, you can relax at Peacock Park and soak up some sun while practicing your best yoga positions with Loree. Ommmmm…

What would you say to those who think Yoga is uncool?

The same thing I say to my kids: you need to try before you know, just like with peas and broccoli! Yoga touches every point of you, not just your body but also your mind and soul. So when you leave here, you’re feeling healthy and strong, seeing the world with new eyes.

What happens if I forget my mat? Will I be banished?

No one is ever banished from yoga, for any reason. At the park we don’t have spares, but I would probably just give you mine. It’s actually happened several times but someone always offers the towels they have in the car, or their extra mat, everyone pitches in and takes care of each other.

What makes Coconut Grove stand out from the rest of Miami?

Coconut Grove started 40 years ago as a hippy bohemian town, with local artists. It’s just a very beautiful community with that artsy, small-town feeling. It’s much more than a neighbourhood – everyone knows everyone.

Are there many coconuts in Coconut grove?

Of course, there are lots of palm trees.

What else has it got?

Besides there being free yoga in Peacock Park? It’s by the beach – so there’s lots of water activities available. The restaurants here are amazing. There are lots of little places by the water, but my favourite is Bombay Darbar. I also love walking around the dog park; I take my kids there all the time, even though we don’t have any dogs!

Downtown

Randy and Brian Alonso, Retailers

@lostboydrygoods

Downtown is the historical heart of Miami but is also one of the fastest-growing areas of the city. Aside from being home to the financial district, it’s also home to tons of cultural highlights, independent restaurants and... shops! Local denim experts, the Alonso brothers, told us more.

Your grandfather started off in retail. How does it feel to be continuing his legacy?

We're very proud of Lost Boy Dry Goods and incredibly proud of our family’s retail heritage, both here and in Havana, Cuba. Next year will be our 50th in this area! The fact that we’re still going strong in Downtown, is a testament to the resilience of the neighbourhood and how it’s always been a great hub for business.

What's the best part of working in Downtown?

It’s an urban paradise! Being on the waterfront, you have the hustle and bustle of city living, mixed with the feeling of living on a tropical island. There’s more art, more culture, and more entertainment here, than you’ll find anywhere else in Miami.

I'm a big CSI fan. Have you ever bumped into Horatio Caine solving a crime?

You would have a better chance of bumping into Sonny Crockett! Downtown Miami still has that original Miami-Vice feel.

What are your favourite places to hang out in the area?

Soya e Pomodoro is great for lunch – simple food made with love. If you want to try a great Cuban coffee, I’d recommend Manolo y Rene. It’s been serving Downtown with great coffee for decades. The Gusman Theatre is a place I love to go for a couple of hours when I want to switch off – one of the most beautiful theatres in the country.

Where would be a great place to wear your denim on a night out?

The Corner Bar and Blackbird Ordinary are a couple cool little bars. And if you fancy some great fried chicken, I’d recommend the Filling Station.

Little Haiti

Sandy Dorsainvil

@LHCC305

Lose yourself to the beats of the streets like nowhere else in the city – you’re in Little Haiti! Try the specialties of the marketplace and live everyday like it’s a carnival. Sandy from the Little Haiti Cultural Centre tells us why this is the grooviest spot in town.

Your town might be little, but does it have a big personality?

Of course! Little Haiti is so bright, so colourful, and now that the community has evolved you can walk down the street and hear Portuguese and Spanish being spoken, eat Argentinian food – and even fish and chips at our popular British pub.

Does everyone know each other in Little Haiti, like the Truman Show?

Years ago everyone knew each other, but not so much nowadays. I think this makes the area interesting – every single day something new is happening. With the market reopening, it’s another place for Caribbean Americans to meet and socialise in South Florida.

What should I look out for at the market to make a classic Haitian dish?

You have to try “Pikliz”. If Mexican salsa and American coleslaw had a baby, it would be Pikliz. It’s very spicy, it’s made from cabbage, onions, carrots, scotch bonnet peppers, sour oranges and lime, and some vinegar as well. Haitians put it on everything. Put it on a hotdog – you’ve got yourself a Haitian hotdog.

I’ve eaten like a Caribbean, where can I go to party like one?

If you’re in the mood for some relaxing, international music, I’d suggest the marketplace on a Saturday, when we have World Beat Saturday; you can listen to some great Brazilian, Haitian or Jamaican music. If you’d prefer some rock and roll, I’d recommend Churchill’s. And, if hip-hop is more your thing, then 7th Circuit Productions is the place for you.

Tell me somewhere that people know little about in Little Haiti?

One of the places that people might not know would be the HCAA (The Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance) – it’s an archive that has a French library as well as a Haitian book library. It also has an archive of original maps and prints from the colonial times, from when Columbus was exploring Espanola.

Miami Beach

Daniel Potter, Party Promoter

@ImaFreeeSpirit

With its beautiful white sands and warm waters, Miami Beach is hard to beat. But not only is it a great place to soak up the sun during the day, it’s also the perfect place to party through the night – just ask pool-party promoter, Daniel.

So what’s so special about one of your pool parties?

The SLS Hotel (A.K.A. Hyde Beach Miami) is one of a kind. People who come here are in for an unforgettable experience – full of laughter, fun, beautiful views, and great vibes. Simply put, they are the best at what they do! They are THE “standard” for pool parties in Miami Beach.

Will there be lifeguards present?

There are, but not the ones that are going to save you if you’re drowning, they are only there to shoot liquor down your throat with squirt guns!

Shorts or budgie smugglers?

At Hyde Beach the dress code is simple: “Be Sexy”. We get a fair number of Eastern Europeans visiting, so you get the occasional Speedo, but you also have NFL players and NBA players visiting on a regular basis, so there’s no one genre that fits.

What cocktails should we order?

Our (GIGANTIC) punch bowls are always a hit, which are served in different flavours like “Farm Fresh”, “Cucumber Watermelon Margarita” and “Hyde Beach Mojito” – amongst many others.

What if I want to make a ‘splash’ with some dance moves in South Beach?

There are lots of venues in South Beach to dance the night away, but some of my favourites are SET Nightclub, Mansion Miami and the ever-popular Mokai.

And if I need to recover afterwards?

If I'm leaving the club and want some food, I definitely like to hit up Moshi Moshi across from Cameo Nightclub! For the next day, the Standard Spa is super relaxing and has an amazing view – it doesn't help that they have the best mojitos in town. For brunch, my favourite spot is Doraku (sushi on Lincoln Road).

Flagami

Barry Hennessey, Restaurateur

@magodelasfritas

Flagami is a district tucked way out on the west of the city borders and is buzzing with Cuban culture. We decided to get a taste for it by trying one the area’s favourite snacks – the frita. Barry, Manager of the best fritas in town, El Mago De Las Fritas, told us more.

So what exactly is a frita?

A frita is essentially the Cuban equivalent of an American hamburger. The seasonings are very similar to those of the traditional Spanish Chorizo, but with beef.

What makes yours so special?

We’re real people, we’re a family and we like to make everybody feel at home. We put a lot of care into every aspect of our fritas. The Julienne potatoes we put on top are made here every day, and the buns we use come from the same baker who has supplied us for over 35 years. The buns replicate the traditional Cuban bread – airy, yet firm outside.

What’s better a hamburger or a frita?

I think you know what my answer will be to that! Seriously, though, we’re fans of both. Actually, Byron burger in London made something called the Miami Vice burger – it was based on what we do here at El Mago De Las Fritas.

So, is West Miami pretty wild?

With Miami you shouldn’t be afraid to go out of those tried and tested ‘South Beach environments’, but this area is no art centre – it’s more commercial. We do have our own specialties though, such as Ramon Puig who’s been next to us. They are also known as the King of Guayaberas – which is a traditional Cuban shirt. Directly across the road you’ll find Santiago Cabana Cigar, which is a traditional Cuban cigar manufacturer.

What else is there to get up to in the neighbourhood?

There are plenty of places. Right around the corner, there’s Palacio de Los Jugos. It’s an open market, but operates like a restaurant too – serving cooked pork, seafood and sandwiches. The Garcia Seafood is a little more pricey, but they have the freshest fish in town - it’s owned by the Garcia family, and all of them are amazing fishermen; they’re on boats every morning to catch the fish and it gets served that day. For something less pricey I recommend La Camaronera, that their son owns. Merlins Park is not far, the famous baseball stadium. This is one of the few events where the roof is open and there’s still air conditioning, so imagine that!

Coral Way

Maria Tettamanti, Fashion Blogger

@MariaTettamanti

With trees lining almost every corner, Coral Way gives Miami one of its more beautiful and greenest areas. As well as making a rather picturesque place for a stroll, it also provides some great places to shop too. Fashion blogger, Maria, gave us some tips.

Tell us what inspired your blog?

I didn't want people to think that Miami fashion was just bandage dresses, heels and showing cleavage.

Is there such a thing as a ‘Miami look’?

Sure. It’s hot here all year round, so we Miami girls need to stay cool. Cotton dresses, tank tops and killer jeans are always en vogue. And, since the beach is always an option, a killer bikini is a must.

Paris, Milan, New York…Miami?

We’re staking our claim as a cultural hub compliments of Art Basel, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim and even Ultra.

What makes Coral Way a great place to shop?

The vibe is very unique and very green. Walking around here relaxes you, I guess, so maybe you're more inclined to shop – the fact that there's a great choice of stores helps too!

In Britain, you can get three t-shirts for a fiver at Primark; where can I shop in Coral Way if I’m on a budget?

It’s more affordable than most neighbourhoods in Miami. If it's a bargain you're looking for, you can always find some amazing deals on top brands at Nordstrom Rack, a department store on Coral Way. You’ll also find a few small vintage stores worth a stop; my favorite is Las Tias, where you'll find cool eclectic pieces for both you and your home.

If I get tired of shopping (shudder), where can I go for break?

If you're looking for something to pick you up quickly, before another shopping spree, stop at Gables Juice Bar, for a freshly-squeezed juice or a fast, healthy meal.

Upper East Side

Nathalie, Event Planner

@luxefete

The homes may be historic, but the Upper East Side is brimming with young, creative talent – responsible for a lot of what’s ‘happening’ in Miami. Just ask Nathalie – one of its cool, creative-types.

So what does an ‘Uptown girl’ get up to in Miami?

I’ve lived in Miami for approximately 35 years, and in the Upper East Side for at least 10. I’m an event planner – weddings, corporate events, as well as lots of arts and culture events happening in Miami.

Where do you find inspiration for your events?

I’d say it comes from three main aspects: travelling, fashion and design. Most of my inspiration comes from places that I’ve travelled to, in Miami as well as outside of the country. I often go to Jalan Jalan, a furniture store in the Design District, and I’m definitely inspired by the work that they do.

Is Miami still a place of beautiful people, muscles and crazy parties?

I think that’s an outdated view. Miami is a city that’s going through a cultural transformation – people enjoying arts and museums, plus amazing restaurants and lounges in the design district.

What’s the best reason to venture up to the Upper East Side (UES)?

The history! This area has a fantastic vibe to it. The neighborhood is, to put it simply, very authentic. We have one of the nicest parks in the whole of Miami, Morningside Park. If you want to be in a place that feels like a neighbourhood than the UES is a great starting point.

Once I’ve seen the park, where’s a good place for a pit stop?

There are so many little restaurants that are great. My favourite is probably the Blue Collar restaurant. It’s very small, but it’s very comfortable and they do amazing brunches. I’m Haitian so I love Haitian food – Chef Creole is great for this. There’s also a great piano bar called the Magnum Lounge. It’s a lot of fun as well as serving the best fried chicken in town. Check it out!

Little Havana

Fermin Perez, Domino Player

@ferminp

At the heart of Little Havana sits the famous Maximo Gomex Park (A.K.A. Domino Park). It's famous for its furiously competitive Cuban domino players who’ve been playing in the park for decades. If you’re heading down here, look out for Fermin at Cubaocho.

So what’s the big deal about Little Havana?

Little Havana is the hidden gem of Miami. The city as a whole is a beautiful place, but if you want to learn a little more about the culture – you come here. You get a real sense of hospitality and history as you walk about the streets here.

What is it exactly that you do at Cubaocho?

We play domino! It’s across the street from Domino Park, and it’s a very unique place, a great example of what Cuban culture is all about – we play right on the sidewalk until the early hours.

Is everyone Cuban in Little Havana?

Little Havana is a melting pot of Latin Americans, but only Cubans took a hold of it because we were there for a long time. Now it’s become a tourist destination, and because we play right on the street, there’s always someone coming to join us – Dominicans, Italians, Germans… We have fun when tourists come by and there’s always a table free for them. You can drink a mojito, smoke a cigar and play domino – it can’t get any better that that!

I often play dominoes with my Nan at Christmas; I let her win every time. Have you ever let anyone win?

We always let the tourists win! There’s a rule of thumb that the first time you play, you win.

Is domino better than chess?

I think Domino is a bit more fun. It’s a thing of culture too – enjoying and spending time with people. You can have a 10-year-old playing on one side and a 70-year-old on the other.

Apart from domino, how else can I entertain myself in Little Havana?

There’s the beautiful, local, Tower Theater. It shows foreign films with English subtitles. For food my favourite place is El Exquisito, where you can always find good food and wine for great prices! They’ve also just reopened Ball&Chain, a restaurant that has been here since 1924.

And, if you’re here at the end of February, make sure you check out the Taste of Cuba Festival

Virginia Key

Ovidio De Leon, Windsurfing Instructor

@sailboardsmiami

If you’re looking for something a little more active than reclining on a beach, Virginia Key is a great place to come – why not explore it by mountain bike, kayak or surfboard. We asked windsurfing expert, Ovidio to tell us more.

You’ve been going since the ‘80s. Did you have a lot of customers wearing spandex?

We’re more of a shorts type of place now, but we started in the days of Miami Vice, with long boards for windsurfing – things have changed quite a bit since then, though.

Why should a first-time visitor to Miami cross the bridge to Virginia Key?

It’s a fantastic spot, surrounded by shorelines and right on Biscayne Bay, so perfect for water sports – but it’s a great place for any type of exercise really. If you want to chill, you chill; and if you want to party, there’s plenty of nightlife to enjoy too.

How much practice would I need before I’m good enough to make the cover of ‘Windsurfing Weekly’?

We’d get you going in an hour or two, but to get to an intermediate level you would need at least 30 hours on the water – it’s a very involving sport. There’s always progression, always something new to learn, always a challenge, but you’ll never get bored.

Do I need to keep an eye out for sharks?

I’ve been windsurfing here for 30 years and never heard of anybody getting bitten by a shark, or any other fish for that matter.

You must burn a few calories out on the water, where’s good to refuel?

We have a little place called the Bayside Hut, which is a local hangout on Virginia Key – they do the best fish tacos and hamburgers in the area. There’s also The Rusty Pelican, which is a little fancier, but it has the most beautiful views of Downtown Miami if you go at night.

Wynwood

DJ Ynot

@djynot

Wynwood is the vibrant arts district of Miami. Stroll down any street and you’re never far from a gallery or museum. But, as well as some great culture, the area is also home to some amazing nightspots – we asked resident DJ, DJ Ynot to fill us in.

What kind of experience should I expect when visiting Wynwood?

It would be primarily visual. I would suggest walking around and just viewing all the walls. There’s a lot to see in terms of murals, something that is special to this neighborhood. Everyone should check it out at least for a day in Miami.

You’re the resident DJ at Bardot, do I need to wear a pair of skinny jeans to get in?

Bardot is a unique club. It has a certain energy about it; very laid back; very unpretentious, yet classy. The core is arty and the sound of the room itself is amazing – the sound system they have is phenomenal. It’s like being at a party in someone’s very living room – but a very nice living room.

What is your “go-to tune” to open your set with?

My go-to tune when I open up a set is definitely James Brown’s “The Boss”. It’s about being the boss and that’s how I like to feel when I step behind the decks. It’s a classic!

If I fancy a night off from Bardot’s, where should I go?

My favourite place to hang out is a bar called Wood Tavern; it has picnic tables and a DJ-set-up in the backyard. You can hang out there and drink some inexpensive, yet really good drinks, especially during happy, hour from 5pm to 8pm!

After dancing all night, where should I recover the next day?

There are a few places, but to me, the best is Zack the Baker. It’s a bakery where they make bread and fresh soups. If you’re suffering the next day, a nice bowl of soup with a loaf and avocado spread works wonders!