Occupying a prime piece of beachfront between the Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, South Beach is the crown jewel of Miami Beach, a glitzy resort that sits just east of Miami's city limits. Nicknamed SoBe by the global jet set, South Beach is best known for having one of the liveliest nightlife scenes in the country. And while the clubs here are packed nightly with partiers from all over the world, this slice of tropical paradise isn't just a playground for the rich and famous.
South Florida is home to miles of invigorating coastline, and South Beach offers a unique mix of eclectic culture, beachside entertainment, panoramic ocean views and fine white sand. To get to the stretch of sand featured in movies, music videos and postcards, walk south to the tip of Miami Beach. Before you settle down for a day of sunshine and swimming, stop for quick photos at the beach's quirky lifeguard stations, a collection of unique huts in a variety of shapes, colors and patterns.
Find your version of a good time along Ocean Drive, the most famous street in Miami Beach. Lined with historic buildings, trendy cafes, designer stores and souvenir shops, Ocean Drive is a feast for the senses. To learn more about the stunning Art Deco architecture you see along the way, ask for a complete tour of the district at the nearby MDPL Art Deco Welcome Center. If you're a fan of high fashion, don't forget to take a closer look at Gianni Versace's Ocean Drive mansion, which is now operating as a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant. Stick around after dark to see Ocean Drive come alive with neon facades, vibrant music and great energy.
While December means the beginning of a cold winter in the North, the arts scene in Miami Beach heats up with the annual Art Basel show, a spectacular event that celebrates contemporary art through gallery exhibits, installations and live performances. Art Basel draws an international crowd of over 70,000 visitors, artists, collectors and museum directors every year. As a guest, you don't need to register ahead of time to participate in Art Basel, but remember to book your accommodations well in advance of the show's date if you're planning on attending. During Art Basel, demand for South Beach hotels is high, so reserving your room early is the best way to guarantee both a spot in the neighborhood and a fair rate.
South Beach hotels range from high-end retro spots to affordable big-name chains. Accommodations directly on Ocean Drive are ideal if you're coming to soak up the party scene and want to be in the middle of the action. Those traveling with young children or visitors who prefer a quieter place to stay should look for family-friendly accommodations off the main party strip. Staying on less popular avenues means you'll be within walking distance to the hustle and bustle of Ocean Drive during the day, while enjoying peace and quiet as the crowd hits the popular bars and clubs in the evening.
Visitors to South Beach typically arrive by air via Miami International Airport (MIA). From there, you can head to your hotel by taxi, bus or shuttle. If you're planning on traveling elsewhere in Florida or want to explore nearby towns, a rental car is a plus but not a necessity in South Beach. The entire Miami Beach area is very pedestrian-friendly, and avoiding parking charges can save a good chunk of change for budget-conscious travelers. Although you'll have access to the beach and plenty of stores, restaurants and attractions on foot, bike rentals are cheap and readily available for those times when you want to cruise around the neighborhood or enjoy a relaxing ride on the boardwalk.