Miami is a hedonist’s paradise. Steve Dinneen discovers the nocturnal delights Florida’s clubbing hotspot has to offer
A FRIEND of mine became a YouTube sensation on the eve of President Obama’s 2008 election victory. He drunkenly – and, with the benefit of hindsight, ill-advisedly – resigned from his job live on Dutch TV, complete with a string of expletives directed at his soon-to-be former employer.
He was working as a political journalist, covering the events from the Democrat campaign office in Miami. Why Miami? “That’s where the party’s at – I was hardly going to go to Ohio, was I?”
It’s safe to say he enjoyed the nightlife a little too much, but he was dead right – Miami is where the party’s at.
Miamians aren’t au fait with the concept of subtlety. They might have heard someone mention it once but decided it wasn’t really for them, and they were probably too busy rollerblading topless down Ocean Drive to pay much attention, anyway.
Miami is exactly as you imagine it – everything is big and loud and money talks. If it were a person, it would be Kim Kardashian. It’s no coincidence that David Beckham is considering the city for his soon-to-be MLS football franchise; he’ll fit right in with the glamorous, over the top people who are legion here. He wasn’t going to go to Ohio, was he?
By day the beach is Miami’s prize attraction – a place where beautiful, bronzed people indulge in healthy pursuits like playing volleyball or jogging, despite the sweltering heat. You can spot the odd British tourist by their pasty complexion and vivid splashes of sunburn. They don’t play volleyball.
Sure, there are other reasons to visit Miami. It has the highest density of art deco buildings in the world, thanks to laws that stipulate new buildings must be in keeping with the existing ones. You’ll get a great view of these as you take a taxi from your hotel to one of the clubs.
It has a burgeoning arts scene (the Rubell family collection of modern art is well worth a look), but it’s a fraction of the size of its equivalents in New York or Boston or any number of other US hubs of culture.
Miami also has both the best and most hated basketball team in the world, the Miami Heat, although you’ll need to book well in advance if you want to get tickets.
But really, you go to Miami to party. I checked into the W South Beach, which is ideal for anyone who wants to experience the Miami nightlife. The W chain (there’s one on Leicester Square, see right) is the epitome of a “Marmite” brand – either you buy into the neon lights, disco balls, fashionista clientele and slightly chintzy décor (celebrity fans include rapper Drake and One Direction), or you mentally regurgitate your lunch and check into the Hilton instead.
The Miami W is about as “W” as it gets. The vast lobby is filled with gigantic pop art and street art-inspired paintings, and the suites are decorated throughout in dazzling white. They all overlook the ocean and the pool below, where the DJ clocks on early and stays until the small hours.
The hotel will supply you with an “insider” – basically a more involved concierge – who you should make use of: getting on the guest list for clubs will drastically improve your chance of making it past the bouncers. They’ll also be able to arrange anything from Scar Face tours hosted by former gangsters, to sessions of an obscure sport played by old Miamians called Jai Alai. Whatever floats your boat.
After a day at the beach, the poolside is ideal to get you in the mood for the evening’s entertainment. If you’re in a group, splash out on a cabana (prices start at $250), from which you can admire the abundance of toned flesh on display.
And then, onto the main attraction. Here’s a suggestion of how to spend the ultimate Miami night:
Baoli is the kind of place that could only exist in the US. It’s half restaurant, half nightclub, with no clear boundary between the two. Prices are at the fine dining end of the spectrum – think burgers that cost upwards of $60 – and, while the food is about as subtle as a spade to the side of the head, it kind of works. You need big flavours to compete with the sensory maelstrom; it’s the only place I’ve eaten where dinner is interrupted by a fire display on the bar (yeah, a bit like Coyote Ugly). As it gets later, the music is turned up so loud conversation ceases to be an option and the lights dim to the extent you can’t see what you’re eating; time to dance. A quintessentially Miamian experience.
Baoli, 1906 Collins Avenue
Adjoined to the W hotel, WALL is one of Miami’s statement clubs, where being seen is of equal importance to enjoying yourself. It’s what I imagine David Guetta’s subconscious looks like, with giant pulsing LCD displays on the walls and enough lasers to satisfy a Bond villain. If you want to sit down, expect to pay a princely sum for the privilege; my table, which included a waitress, will set you back $3,000. And if you think that’s steep, think again: some clubs charge as much as $15,000 for a prime table. Electronic music afficionados should probably steer clear: euphoric chart dance hits play from start to finish. It’s about as far from the dingy dive clubs of Shoreditch as you can possibly get, but as a place to observe Miami’s glitterati in their element, it’s unbeatable. Drink lots of champagne and try to forget about the credit card bill you’re running up.
W South Beach, 2201 Collins Av
• Staying: W South Beach; wsouthbeach.com; suites start at $559.
• Getting there: Four nights in Miami with Virgin Holidays, including flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to Miami, accommodation at the five star W South Beach on a room-only basis with car hire included starts from £1,659, based on departures on 6th January 2014. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a studio, price includes all taxes and fuel surcharges.
• To book: virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859.