Miami is home to a population of young, beautiful, professional people who lead active, engaged, high-energy lives. They swim, they boat, they fish, they surf, they sail, they work. And then, they play. Boy, oh boy, do they play! Like few other cities in the world, when the sun goes down and the moon comes up, Miami nightlife shows off its collection of glamorous, high-tech, world-class clubs and nightspots with incredibly creative electronics. Every modern club looks like a fashion spread. Sound like fun? Come on down! But first, a primer.
Miami nightlife is loosely defined into four districts: South Beach, Midtown/Wynwood, Downtown and Coconut Grove. They’re all cool, but everyone has a preference, and the sooner we find yours, the easier it will be to dive into the most glamorous vacation you’ve ever experienced. You can’t hit ‘em all, so let’s review.
South Beach is just that. It’s on the south end of that slender lick of sand called Miami Beach. With a high-end club feel, a nightly bouquet of international parties, a polished guest list and world-class DJs, South Beach is the place to be. From large, pinnacle clubs like LIV and Mansion, to the more intimate B Bar at the Betsy, and poolside at the Standard and the Raleigh, this is the area that gets the most attention. The gold standard continues with Story, Arkadia, Mynt, Mokai and SET. With club after club along Collins, some say you just start walking down the avenue and see which one strikes your fancy.
The LIV grabbed several top awards last year and is trending ever higher. Hard to go wrong when you’re tucked inside the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel. LIV’s sister club, Arkadia, is also doing well. A smaller, dressier version, the tables rock from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., creating major bliss through the epic sound systems, visual equipment, lighting, DJ lists and beautiful clientele.
The cool thing about South Beach is that you have options. Nightlife also attracts a fun group of those who prefer a quiet beer at a hip ping-pong lounge or a lovely jazz quintet at an old Miami Beach hangout over high-volume EDM crowds.
Midtown and Wynwood
Midtown and Wynwood are transitioning to take charge, camouflaging the clubs by day, and sparking their fire by night. These hidden spots, almost like the speakeasy joints did during Prohibition, keep their identities on the down low. The huge art scene here is contributing to a bevy of more intimate settings, like the rustic Wood Tavern and the live music venue at Bardot. Then there’s the oversized movable gallery party at Cafeina. Opening up like an intoxicating night blossom, Wynwood is also collecting names of cozy little pre-party restaurants with sexy menus and get-going drinks.
Downtown Miami is a mosaic of styles, infused with the high-flying after-work crowds that manage to dance till dawn looking gorgeous, then do it all over again the next day. There are big, glitzy clubs like The Vagabond’s supercool young crowd and Club Space’s trance-techno, as well as historic dives that locals love. Tobacco Road’s status comes from having the first liquor license in Miami. Wrapped up in lots of history and served with a cold beer, the live jazz, blues and R&B bring big smiles. Then, there’s the Blackbird Ordinary with a little bit of neon and a lot of soul. If you’re searching for sumptuous craft cocktails, this is the place. It’s also got quirky board games to keep you entertained ‘til the wee hours.
Coconut Grove is the romantic of the bunch, catering to smaller, local outfits appealing to the collegiate crew. Sandbar Sports Grill will keep you stoked with fish tacos, and Monty’s Raw Bar puts you up front for a pretty view of Biscayne Bay. The Mayfair does that too, but with a little more style, almost swanky, if you will.
Bars aren’t the only scene on the Miami skyline, as recent art walks have made some definitive statements as pre-functions. Gathering upscale socialites and their entourages for a bit of wine, Warhol and watercolors, they set the stage for a high-brow evening. The Wynwood Art Walk takes place the second Saturday of each month from 7 to 10 p.m. Coral Gables Gallery Night, with a more classical, representational focus, blasts out invites for the first Friday every month. Bird Road Art Walk, the third Saturday of each month, also rounds up the food trucks to increase the buzz. The Falls Arts District Walk follows suit on the third Friday of every other month. Most of the art walks are over by 10, so there’s still time to hit a club or two after you’ve taken in some culture.
Special events at museums are beginning to cause a nightlife stir, creating a classy pre-club event throughout the city. Consider tickets to the symphony, ballet and concerts in this genre. Yet another option to start the evening off right are the many sports options. Finding your way around the Heat, or cheering on a Marlins game from the ultrachic Diamond Club at Marlins Park, can lead to some interesting postgame club invites.
No matter what district you’re in, however, Miami is all about the water and there’s nothing more exciting, nor more romantic, than wrangling an invite on board a yacht party cruising Biscayne Bay. Unless you’re an expert, however, hire a captain and crew to man your yacht, or stay on terra firma. Even just watching the sleek white yachts cruise the bay can be mesmerizing. And who knows? Perhaps next time you’ll collect a few friends and charter a yacht of your own for a delicious Miami night.