It wasn’t that long ago that we witnessed the ascent of modern Miami, the ultra-cool, super-caliente locale luring the Madonnas, the Versaces and the Supermodels with the capital S to the sun-soaked, Deco-dappled, Latin-minded land of all-night parties and glam for glam’s sake. And now, after a brief but necessary cooling-off period, suddenly South Beach is sizzling again, thanks to a selection of Hollywood-hosting hot spots that are luring a new generation of celebs — Paris, Nicky, Nicole, Tara, et al. — and belong on every visitor’s must-see — and must-stay, must-dance, must-drink — lists.
It’s no surprise that Andre Balazs, the hotelier who has crafted masterful makeovers of venerable properties including Hollywood’s own Chateau Marmont, was able to conjure a magical resurrection of the Raleigh, built and designed in 1940 by Laurence Murray Dixon, one of the most prolific and acclaimed architects of South Beach’s historic Art Deco district. Today the Raleigh bears Balazs’ signature imprint of subtle, sophisticated cool — eminently hip while dutifully respectful of its legacy — and has become Ground Zero for the beautiful people. A melange of media darlings including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Anna Kournikova, Nicole Richie and Balazs’ paramour Uma Thurman have held court at the Sunday Soiree party at the pool, a weekly splashy bash hosted by the likes of Ingrid Casares that runs from noon until 10 p.m. and where the mojitos flow as freely as the pool’s cascading waterfall.
Another uber-hotelier, Ian Schrager — known in L.A. for the Mondrian — put his inimitable surrealist -chic imprint on the Delano, built in 1947 and named in the patriotic spirit of the times for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Schrager’s makeover successfully swept out the blue-hairs in favor of scantily clad models. Nearly a decade later, old-school hits like the original Quartz pool mix with initial Schragerisms such as the nowinstitutional Blue Door restaurant, as well as of-the-moment perks like the women’s bathhouse Agua and the David Barton gym. A variety of celebs recently validated the chi-chi rep: The ubiquitous P. Diddy partied in the cabanas and bungalows overlooking the pool with pals Naomi Campbell and Lenny Kravitz; Beyonce’s been spotted at the Sunday poolside brunch; and Will Smith enjoyed a getaway with wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Meanwhile, at the Miami incarnation of SkyBar at the Shore Club, you might be able to catch a glimpse of heiress Paris Hilton without having to download it.
Nearly 50 years to the day of its original 1953 debut, the Moderne/ Miami Modern landmark Ritz-Carlton, South Beach reopened its doors in December after a $200 million makeover. Now filled with a $2 million art collection by established and emerging Latin American and European artists including an original Joan Miró etching in the lower lobby — the hotel is practically a work of art itself. Its amenities are both refreshingly retro (the “modern mermaids” who perform synchronized swimming nightly and the hot DiLido Beach Club, the only oceanfront restaurant on South Beach) and forward-thinking (“tanning butlers” who suggest — and apply — suntan products poolside, or the spa services from the only Maison de Beaute Carita Spa outside of Paris to help you prepare for and recover from a hard night of club-hopping). The elite guests are diverse, ranging from Jessica Simpson to Sting to Jamie-Lynn DiScala to Bill Clinton, who stayed in the Presidential Suite, naturally.
Another L. Murray Dixon creation, the Tides — aka “the Diva of Ocean Drive” — has towered tall over South Beach since 1938, yet it remains an intimate boutique hotel. Today the Tides offers 45 deluxe oceanfront rooms and suites, including three luxurious penthouses — Goldeneye, Firefly and Terra Nova — with the sort of amenities that have made it less of a scene than its contemporaries and a favorite, private retreat for the likes of J.Lo as well as Paris and pal Nicole Richie, who recently shot segments of The Simple Life there. New executive chef Chris Tapper has already raised the bar at the hotel’s critically-hailed signature restaurant 1220 at the Tides, where patrons can dine al fresco in the neighborhood’s Art Deco glow.
Another shining star in South Beach’s Art Deco architectural firmament is Collins Avenue’s L-shaped Sagamore, a classical boutique hotel built in 1948 by renowned, prolific architect Albert Anis as one of Miami’s earliest examples of postmodern architecture: The marble and red mahogany front desk and terrazzo floors make the lobby a virtual time machine. But Miami’s also about now, now, now, and the Sagamore delivers on cutting-edge chic. The ever-present P. Diddy was among the admirers of the major display of original works of contemporary art in the hotel’s public spaces, guest suites, penthouses and bungalows; while clandestine visits from canoodling and clashing celeb couples — including Pamela Anderson and Marcus Schenkenberg, and Tara Reid and Wayne Boich, respectively — add a snarky dose of sex appeal to the proceedings.
Even more luxe landmarks are in the works: There’s the Icon, a twotiered residential tower in progress situated next to Murano Grande, concocted by the world-renowned designer Philippe Starck; and the Victo — yet another L. Murray Dixon hotel creation, this time from 1937 — adjacent to the Versace mansion and soon to open after a swank refit.
And of course, Miami wouldn’t be Miami without its raging club scene. Nightlife is always oh-so-ofthe-moment, and currently enjoying their moments at the top of the circuit are such red-hot spots as Mynt, State, Harrison’s, 1501 Barton G, Prive, Opium and Felt. Of course, by the time you get down there a whole new scene may have ignited.