Sometimes it’s good to mix business and pleasure, especially when your company is paying part of the trip. Such is the case when I needed to do a little business in Miami during my birthday week this past January 26-29. Three days and three nights in one of America’s favorite weekend getaway destinations. I spent the first night in the trendy, upscale Brickell area, then the next two nights at two different hotels in South Beach. Brickell proved to be quite the pleasant surprise.
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I flew American Airlines to Miami Airport (about 2 hours and 15 minutes), then took Southwest Airlines from Ft. Lauderdale Airport back to Dallas (about 2 hours and 45 minutes).
I stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Brickell Fri night, then the older La Flora hotel on South Beach Sat night, and finally the W South Beach Sunday night. Here’s how each night broke down…
The Fri Stay
I rented an Enterprise car from the airport to the Hampton Inn in Brickell. I definitely hit lots of Miami Fri after work traffic, so I was ready for a little rest. The hotel got great reviews for the Brickell area, and since I’m a Hilton Honors member, I figured I’d check it out. When I arrived, this Hampton was unlike all the others I’d stayed in. It was very impressive. The staff was nice and friendly, and the check-in person upgraded me to the Elite Suite in room 1501, which was on the 15th floor, at the end of the hall, ducked off by itself so that you couldn’t hear the neighbor next door. When I walked in, the room was immaculate and huge. And the view outside my window of the modern Brickell architecture was quite awesome, looking like a mini Dubai. Of course, I’ve got plenty of pics and video clips, so check out the ones for this hotel. The room included some freebies like bottled water, candies, etc.
Later that night, I strolled down S. Miami Ave, the main strip in Brickell. Very lively, vibrant, lit crowd. The restaurant next door to my hotel was playing R&B, pop and hip hop joints till 3am.
The Sat Stay
The next stop on my weekend getaway was La Flora Hotel in South Beach, on Collins Avenue. For those who may not know, South Beach hotels are primarily on two main streets: Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. As the name implies, Ocean Drive in the Art Deco district, is where all the ocean front boutique hotels are. Previously I had stayed at the Beacon Hotel and liked it. The Clevelander is the heart of the action and is where the ESPN Miami Studios is located, along with its own popular night club and restaurant. The beach is only a few steps away. About a short block in the other direction is Collins Avenue. Since it is not on the beach, hotels on Collins tend to be cheaper and less vibrant, but since the beach is still not far away, you can save about $100 a night staying on Collins Avenue (until you go north about 10 short blocks to the W South Beach and 1 Hotel, then it gets pricey as I’ll explain). Lots of hotels on Collins have a smallish charm, but can be a bit dated and not as visually appealing. La Flora fits into that category. It has a nice, friendly staff, but if you have a car rental, then the valet service here is almost absent. I had to wait almost 15 minutes upon arrival to get a valet, and after calling 3 times as I waited in their one valet parking spot, I put on the emergency hazard lights and went in to see what the delay was. At first no one was at the front desk, but eventually someone came, and I paid $30 for the less than stellar valet service, I ate lunch then went driving around the area, and when I came back, once again, no valet. The one valet parking spot was taken, so I had to wait over 30 minutes in the public parking lot behind La Flora to get a valet guy to park my car. The friendly front desk guy actually had to watch my car as I left it in the parking area until the valet guy finally came and got it. The room was ok, furniture was average, no interesting window view (just a roof under construction next door), but for $250 (tax included) in South Beach, you can’t expect too much. But for the price, the room is about the right deal, just don’t bring a car to this hotel. The Ocean Drive hotels have much more responsive valet, but you’re gonna pay more, too.
The Sun Stay
Going from the lush Elite Room at the Hampton in Brickell to the cozy but so-so room at la Flora was an interesting transition. So when I stepped into the W South Beach, boy was I in for a massive upgrade! First of all, it’s the W, so it’s hard to go wrong with choosing them (as long as you have deep pockets, or a company reimbursing part of it lol). The valet was prompt and friendly of course, and they better be for $46 (sigh). At check-in, the room was not ready, which worked out fine cuz I was hungry for lunch anyway, so I went to The Dutch to have a sandwich and wine. Friendly bartender, but not so friendly check at the end ($66 with tax and tip). I get a text from the very organized check-in staff that my room was ready. A staff member took my bags up later, but when I get to the room, I was blown away (see the pics and MTV Cribs style video).
A tall jacuzzi style tub that can fit 2, wine and liquor on two different tables (at a high cost of course), a full-size kitchenette, separate bedroom area, and separate, full size living area, capped off with a full-size balcony patio with two padded lounge chairs, two outdoor chairs with a table for eating, and an outdoor shower to wash off any dirt you might get from the wind blowing it around. And of course, you can’t beat the sweeping view of the beach by day, and the moon at night, from the big balcony. I was on the 4th floor, and the way the W charges for ocean view rooms, floors 4-7 are one rate, the next 4 floors are higher, and the remaining top floors are even higher. I recommend floor 7 at least to get the best view without going too broke.
The W has a night club in it, as well as a trendy pool scene with a well-designed infinity pool that all the top Instagram models take a picture at (you’ve seen them by now, and if not, I included some pics and videos of it). There was a DJ at the pool, and there was a nice energy. Just beyond the pool area is a private gate to the beach. For some reason, even the sand and ocean water looked cleaner than the other parts of South Beach. I’ve got pics and videos of both for comparison. Perhaps the W got it like that with nature, lol.
But the W has been my best South Beach experience so far. Kinda felt like a rock star up in that b—ch! Lol.
If you happen to stay at the 1 Hotel right next door, from what I could tell, it was also very nice and has a nice pool scene like the W. Hotels like the W are at least $100 or more a night, but a worthy experience for South Beach if you don’t mind the extras. From now on, I plan to do Miami weekend getaways starting with the Hampton in Brickell, and closing with the W the last night, possibly 1 Hotel because it also seemed impressive from a distance and also got good reviews.
For those who fly Southwest, Ft Lauderdale Airport is about 32 miles from South Beach, whereas Miami Int’l Airport is only 13 miles. This can make a difference when you want to maximize your trip time and have enough time to catch your flight. Miami traffic is slower than Dallas traffic, so while 32 miles here in Dallas may take about 25-30 minutes, in Miami, it will usually take longer, like 40-45 minutes. Flights into Miami Airport tend to be a little more expensive, but you’ll have to factor in the drive time between both airports into the overall cost of choosing an airport. That’s all from me. Happy travels, brothas and sistas.