Miami has become a default setting for frozen families (and couples) seeking a quick winter escape. And for good reason. The supply of Grade A hotels, hip eateries and serious art has accelerated from a few outposts to an overflow of choices that can keep any style of traveler happy. Both Henley and Monique from the Passported team spent the holidays in MIA and checked in on a few newcomers as well as the stand-bys we’ve loved for ages. Here’s their guide to where to flee now that winter has officially arrived.
The Newcomer: Faena Miami Beach
Butler service, star chefs, Baz Luhrman design and museum-quality art complete the Saxony’s transition from mid-century meh to beached-out bling. The Faena family, which also owns a hotel in Buenos Aires, paired with investors to buy $1 billion of real estate around the hotel, renaming the neighborhood the Faena Arts District and quickly filling it with residential projects by Norman Foster and a Rem Koolhaus-created art forum. The resort’s stretch of sand is the widest in Miami Beach, and the rooms rock custom-made furniture, huge bathrooms and suites and connecting options for families. Restaurants include Pao (don’t miss the pork rice) and Los Fuegos, where diners who can’t make it to Buenos Aires or Garzon can finally try the Argentine chef’s famous cuisine. After the kids are in bed, sneak to El Secreto, the hidden bar (good luck getting in), catch a show in the theater, or just sit outside and gawk at the $16 million Damien Hirst mammoth skeleton (dipped in gold, ‘natch) housed in a glass box by the pool.
Cost: Get a second mortgage
Tip: For a less expensive option, book Casa Claridge, the hotel’s smaller guest house across the street. Won’t get you access to the pool but it will allow you to use the beach.
The Green One: 1 Hotel South Beach
This new hotel brings eco-friendly upscale to make haute hippies happy. Rooms feature organic mattresses and linens, triple-filtered water and recycled wood floors and accents, pulled together so stylishly that the look is more Tulum chic than typical South Beach. Like its former incarnation as a Gansevoort hotel, the 1 has three pools: two family pools and a rooftop infinity with beach views and an adults-only policy plus a great bar. The lobby houses a Tom Colicchio restaurant, casual takeaway cafes, a flower shop (not sure who’s buying, but it’s here if you want it) and even a Soul Cycle to get the beach bod workout before donning a bikini. Word to the wise: at over 400 rooms, the resort can get very busy when full during peak periods.
Cost: Reasonable, especially if going for a double queen or double king, which sleeps a full family comfortably in one room.
Tip: Families can book a residence, which gives condo amenities and a separate entrance, much less chaotic than the main lobby
The Soho House Alternative: Thompson Miami Beach
We loved this fun mid-Miami Beach hideaway when it first opened last year, but it’s really grown into its own as it hits its one-year birthday. And although it initially targeted the young and beautiful, plenty of families have flocked here thanks to two swimming pools, reasonable prices and connecting rooms and double queen options that make dorming in easier on the wallet. The two restaurants now have children’s menus. Hit Seagrape for a more formal (but never stuffy) meal, but check into Talde for dumplings, fried noodles and decor and music that will bring out your inner 90s rap nerd. Kids don’t know WuTang yet? This is the place to introduce them. (Editor's note: Hyatt recently bought the hotel and has renamed it The Confidante. We've not seen it since the changeover but heard it's pretty hip for a Hyatt and a good value for beachfront!)
Cost: A bargain!
Tip: No need for a rental car. You can easily walk to Soho House, the Edition or the Faena (as well as others) when ready to check out neighboring eats.
The Sophisticated Spa Retreat: Metropolitan by COMO
Fans of COMO’s wellness resorts in the Caribbean and Asia welcomed the brand to Miami, and this year we finally had a chance to test it out ourselves. While the pool was admittedly on the smaller side, the hotel never felt crowded, and as expected, food and spa treatments were fantastic. The rooftop hydrotherapy pool and day beds, which are attached to the spa, is open to all guests, making top floor Instagramming a must. Rooms and suites are funkier than what COMO fans have seen at the Met London or Parrot Cay, replacing the white-on-white vibe with seafoam green walls and tiled floors. And although it certainly targets a more adult audience, there is a children’s menu at the restaurant.
Cost: Really varies, from pricey to a steal. This is a place to monitor and wait for the deal.
Tip: Only suites have bathtubs.
Dining Tip: The Miami dining scene continues to grow. But if you want hip and of-the-moment with kids in tow, you’re better off in the hotels, where most restaurants also have the amenities (menus, high chairs) that you’ll need with the younger crowd.