UPDATE (December 2016): If you want to know the latest on the best bars to check out in Miami, head over to my sister site Bartender Atlas.
I am recently back from the best girls weekend ever. In the summer when we were in Los Angeles visiting our friends, Lisa asked what I was going to do for a bachelorette. Since nothing about our wedding is traditional, my immediate response was, “I don’t want one!” The idea of wearing a feather boa and going up to strangers to do weird dares makes me cringe a million times over. The whole thing is just not for me and I told her so. She then suggested that instead we plan a girls weekend away. Something low-key. Simply a good excuse to get away for a weekend with some awesome girlfriends where we would do nothing but lay around in the sun during the day and then consume awesome food and drink in the evenings. We immediately decided on heading to Miami Beach – I wanted sun and ocean – and the planning began. Lisa is the grandmaster of planning trips. I thought that I was pretty good with all of our travels but Lisa is really good. She took control of this trip and all of the ideas that she had for it were amazing. The rest of us floated along and it was one of the best weekends ever. There is something pretty awesome about spending a solid weekend with your ladies. Josh and I have a great relationship. We talk about everything, we’re open about everything and I love us for that. But there is something about hanging with the ladies that is just so lovely. I feel honoured to have these strong and ambitious women in my life. And I feel lucky that they chose to spend this weekend together with me. We had an absolute blast.
Since there were four of us going, we thought that it would be better to get a suite for our three night/four day long beach vacation. We thought this option was better than getting two regular hotel rooms. This way, we would each have a bed to sleep on, two bathrooms and a ton of space to hang out in. We ended up staying at the Loews. The rooms were fantastic – the first image below is a panorama that shows the main suite with a bed, dining area and living room area (the couch had a pull-out couch). It was massive and because of this, there was an equally massive balcony.
The pool area at Loews was a major draw for us. There were plenty of lounge chairs to be had. There weren’t many kids so it was pretty relaxing. Plus they hada great summer-time cocktail menu and fruit flavoured water on-hand that you could grab at anytime. We opted for the Beach Bubbly (strawberry puree & Prosecco, because, why not?!).
On our Lyft ride to the hotel, we drove past the Dash store and I had to take a photo. I have to fully admit that I may have recently been suckered into that Kardashian marathon that recently aired for days without an end in sight. This was the first time that I had ever watched anything Kardashian and on that day the tv may have been airing their beautiful faces in my home for a few hours too many.
As soon as we checked into the hotel, we dumped out bags and headed to the pedestrian street – Lincoln Road Mall – to find some lunch. Lisa knew that there was a Shake Shack there so we hit it up. I got the ‘Shroom Burger and a chocolate shake (isn’t it mandatory to buy a shake when the establishment has “shake” in it’s name?!). The burger was an oozing mess of cheese and mushroom but I didn’t mind.
On our first night, we took a cab to the Mandolin Aegan Bistro for dinner. None of us took a photo while here. I think that we were all really hungry and also in a bit of a daze because winter coats and socks were no longer mandatory (it was full force winter when we left Toronto that morning!). I loved the Mandolin. It’s away from South Beach and a spot that more the locals hit up as opposed to the tourists. Seating – like a lot of the places we visited in Miami – is outdoors. The menu was awesome and varied. We split a bottle of wine and I ate the Grilled Scottish Salmon with tomato & argula salad. So good.
After dinner, we headed back to Loews because we had heard that there was an awesome tiki bar there. Before I left for Miami, my (bartender) Josh asked around for recommendations of cocktail bars for us to hit up and The Rum Line was one of them. When I Google’d it, I happily discovered that it was basically our hotel bar. Too easy. We drank some delicious, juicy Rum drinks here. (And yes, I brought #coasterboy to every bar that we hit!). The following evening after visiting a couple of cocktail bars (more about that soon!), we stopped in at the Lure Restaurant that is right beside The Rum Line. The Lure is a fish restaurant that everyone was raving about it. I had this rainbow sushi and it was great.
I loved all of the art deco buildings on Ocean Drive. The signs were beautiful.
I have to say that I love us ladies who went on this trip. We are smart, educated and motivated on life. We are active and pretty funny and just love having a good time. But we are also realistic and practical and know what we need to do to continue living the awesome lives that we lead. We weren’t in that city to just party it up – we were there to relax and eat well without going wild. We are ladies in our thirties, after all. Having said that, every morning in Miami included some form of fitness.
We all did our own thing for the most part but on a couple of mornings, Barb and I went for runs on the beach walk. I do not love running but I try my best to do it a couple of times a week in the warm months in Toronto (I refuse to run outdoors in the winter. Refuse.) I loved that I could get three runs in on this trip. We would run South on the Beach Walk to the Pier and back. It’s nice to have a destination in mind to reach when out for a run. On our second day that we ran here, we stopped to stretch by the water when I spotted something big swimming in the water. Initially we thought it was a sea lion but we figured out later that it was actually a manatee. How cool is that?!
After our run, we would have breakfast at Aroma which is located right in front of Loews. There we ate the Power Breakfast – everything that I love on one plate, minus that big ice cream-like scoop of cream cheese (who eats that much cream cheese in one sitting, seriously?!)
On our second day, Laura and I spent many hours lounging by the pool, then we went to the beach and laid in the sand. It was starting to get late so we headed to Collins Avenue to get a snack before dinner. On our way to Walgreen’s we spotted a better option: Pizza Bar. There they have slices of pizza bigger than my head. Their hashtag: #sizedoesmatter . Eating pizza was a much better choice than whatever we would have grabbed at Walgreen’s. (Sidenote: notice my awesome Tequila Tromba hat that I am rocking in the above photo?! I love those guys and their tequila!)
On our second night, we wanted to hit a couple of cocktail bars that had been recommended to me. Our first stop that everyone had suggested was The Broken Shaker. This bar was rated #22 in the top 50 bars in the world. No big deal. 🙂 The Broken Shaker is located inside the Freehand Hostel which looked like a pretty fancy hostel if you asked me. The bar is a tiny room and all of the seating is in an outdoor garden setting. I loved all of the mismatched furniture and the cocktails were fantastic.
The night before after our dinner at Mandolin, our taxi driver had asked what we were planning on doing the following night. We had mentioned that we were going to check out some cocktail bars, including The Broken Shaker. He crinkled his nose a little when we said that, saying that that is where a lot of younger people hang out (I wasn’t sure if we should be offended!) and as we drove by the Gale Hotel, he told us that their cocktail bar is great and that we should check it out. Turns out, the Regent Cocktail Club was already on our list of places to check out. The RCC (I just made that up) is located at the back of the hotel on the main level. It’s a dark room with big couches and is a total proper cocktail bar. Every night they have a new menu and on that night, I had the Barrel Aged Boulvardier. Offer me anything aged in a barrel and I’m sold.
For our final night, we wanted to go out for a nice dinner so Lisa made us a reso at Cecconi’s which is located inside the Soho Beach House. Apparently this is the only Cecconi’s in the world where you don’t have to be a member of Soho House to dine at. We had an adorable waiter and the service here was fantastic. We got a bottle of Prosecco and toasted to a successful girls weekend. I ordered the Pumpkin Tortelli with Black Truffle & Almond. I ate that plate of food as slowly as humanly possible to savour it as long as I could. This was definitely one of the best meals that I have had in the past year. A certain amazing Canadian musician and his equally fantastic wife sat next to us which made the conversation a fun one. She was so interested in the four of us and wanted to know how we all knew each other. She assumed we were old high school friends but when we explained the awesome randomness of our relationships, we all laughed. Barb and I met in Mexico. Lisa and I used to work together at weddings when she was a wedding DJ. Laura and I met nearly ten years ago while watching a mutual friend’s band play. Through those random meetings, we have managed to all be friends. Often the most random situations are the ones that tie people together.
After dinner, we cabbed it to The Setai to have a drink in their beautiful courtyard. The place was pretty fancy and it was really windy that night but it was fun to have a drink at. I can only imagine how many people (or couch cushions!) end up in the water every night.
Sunday was our spa day. Since three out of four of us were flying out in the evening, Lisa thought it would be an awesome way to spend our last day. We booked massages ahead of time at The Standard Hotel. The plan was to eat brunch and then spa it out for the rest of the afternoon. We had brunch at the Lido restaurant which is located right on the water; once again taking advantage of being able to eat outdoors while we could! Lisa and I then headed to the spa. Like Body Blitz here in Toronto, The Standard Spa is a hydrotherapy spa. Outdoors there is an infinity pool, arctic plunge pool and a Roman waterfall hot tub. Indoors there is a aroma steam room, cedar sauna, sound shower and Hamam, along with the treatment rooms. But the best part of the Standard Spa is the DIY Mud Lounge. For $30, they give you a generous helping of mud (you choose the colour). You spread the mud over your entire body (they recommend either being naked or wearing a bathing suit that you do not mind getting stained – although mine ended up not being stained in the end) and then you lay in a lounge chair to bake in the sun until it dries. Afterwards you can either soak in an outdoor tub to get it off or hose yourself down. It was wonderful. After checking out the outdoor waters for a bit, we headed inside to have our massages. I chilled out in the Haman room until it was time for mine. The warm marble felt awesome and allowed me to relax before the masseuse worked all of the knots out of my body. I had just booked the “Quickie” – a 45-minute massage but it felt like it was much longer. It was wonderful.
Lisa had to head to the airport after that so Laura and I headed back to Lido for our last cocktail of the weekend plus some snacks. I got up to take a photo of the dreamy sunset and when I came back, I said “Now if only a manatee would swim by for us.” Less than five minutes later, a dolphin did. I spotted his dorsal fin and couldn’t believe it. It may have not been a manatee but it was just as good. For my next trip to Miami, I think that I would like to stay at the Standard for a couple of nights to take advantage of the spa and grounds before heading to South Beach where more of the action is.
All in all, it was this trip to Miami Beach was the perfect girls weekend. It was the perfect un-bachelorette. The perfect excuse to spend quality time with some of the best people in my life. The perfect way to get a break from freezing winter temperatures. It’s only a direct three hour flight from Toronto and since it is the same time zone, it’s an easy spot to get away for a weekend.
Tips for Miami
– for most restaurants and bars in Miami Beach, there is an 18% gratuity already added to your bill.
– To use the gym at the Loews, you have to pay for it. All of us were surprised by this. Luckily the Beach Walk is right there so it’s a much better (free!) option to get your run on.
– Cabs are cheap here compared to Toronto but using Uber or Lyft is even cheaper. Our taxi from the Standard to the airport was about $35. Whereas, our ride when we arrived using Lyft was only about $26.