Fabulously Festive in Miami

When most of the country heads indoors for winter, Miami comes out in full force. 

It’s not just the gorgeous 80-degree weather that lures the city outside, either. Music festivals, beachside soirees, and big-name events like Art Basel draw thousands of travelers from all over the world. Simply put, it’s one of the most exciting, and enjoyable, times of year to visit. 

This holiday season, trade snow for sand and explore everything the city has to offer with Independent Collection’s guide to festive season in Miami. 

Heads up! Holiday events and happenings may be scheduled to change. Check with individual event hosts for the latest updates and visitor guidelines.

The Art of Partying

From November through the New Year, Miami’s social calendar is so jam-packed with cultural events, it’s impossible to keep track.

During the first week of December, strap in your seatbelts for Miami Art Week. Art is, of course, the main attraction, though over the years “Art Week” has transformed from a cluster of exclusive events in Miami Beach, to a city-wide marathon of lavish affairs and pop-up parties, each trying to out-do the other. If it sounds crazy, it is. But it truly is fabulous, dah-ling!

Anchoring it all is Art Basel, a major international art fair that congregates world-renowned artists, curators, critics, collectors, galleries, and celebrities of all kinds. Art Basel is open to the public, as are most satellite fairs throughout the city. Some of our favorites include Design Miami, SCOPE, Prizm, Untitled, and Red Dot

Miami is also home to fantastic cultural institutions, many of which boast their own Art Week programming, often with free admission. Keep your eyes on events hosted by the PAMM, ICA Miami, MOCA, MOAD, Bakehouse Art Complex, Fountainhead Studios, the Rubell Museum, and the Bass Museum.

Regardless of when you visit, Miami has plenty of art and culture events to explore. Superblue, the latest immersive experience by Pace Gallery, offers a family-friendly day of interactive art. At the Adrienne Arsht Center, enjoy holiday-inspired programs like Miami City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as well as new performances by Peter London Global Dance Company. And if you’re really in the mood for something different, check out the King Mango Strut, a satirical street fair in Miami’s historically bohemian neighborhood, Coconut Grove.

Beauty Beyond the Beach

You may be tempted to lounge all day at the beach during your holiday (and really, who could blame you?) but look beyond the shoreline and you’ll find some of the city’s most beautiful landscapes.

Skip your annual visit to the Christmas tree farm and marvel at rare, exotic plants instead at Fairchild Tropical Garden, an award-winning botanical garden with over 3,400 species of tropical plants. During the day, join a guided tour or community art class. At night, stroll through the enchanting grounds in the dark  – well, sort of  – during Nightgarden, an interactive holiday light show with surreal special effects that seemingly bring plants and trees to life. Fairchild also regularly hosts holiday markets and a yearly International Chocolate Festival in January.

Did you know you can visit the Gardens of Versailles in Miami, too? Ok, not really, but you can visit the historic Vizcaya estate! Built in 1914, Vizcaya is a 10-acre, Renaissance-inspired estate overlooking Biscayne Bay. This place looks straight out of Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” thanks to its ornate European design and expertly manicured gardens resembling that of France’s Versailles – with a Florida flair, of course. Plan your visit around the holidays, when Vizcaya is decked with festive decor, then take a quick drive to Key Biscayne, an island community known for its beautiful (and dog-friendly!) beaches, nature trails, and water sports.

Not Your Average Holiday Shopping

In a city as glamorous as Miami, shopping malls are not merely malls – they are destinations in their own right. And, in true Florida fashion, many of them are outdoors.

Take for example Miami Design District. Known for its designer flagship stores and celebrity sightings, “the District” encompasses an entire neighborhood in Miami. After some holiday shopping, guests can stroll through public art installations, pop into a museum, grab a cocktail, and kick up their feet at the District’s food hall.

The Bal Harbor Shops is another luxurious, open-air shopping destination known equally for its designer stores and A-list social scene as it is for its lush, tropical gardens. After checking off your holiday list, stay for lunch at one of the Shops’ many local-favorite restaurants.

Merrick Park in Coral Gables also offers a slew of upscale retailers, plus other budget-friendly stores like Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel. While you’re in the area, head to Miracle Mile and its surrounding streets to explore dozens of boutiques, book stores, streetside cafes, and some of Miami’s top-rated restaurants. And across town, the sleek and sexy Brickell City Centre offers even more top-tier shopping in the heart of “Miami’s Manhattan.”

Celebrate Together

When the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve, where will you be? Watching fireworks with family or toasting to the New Year on a fabulous rooftop, perhaps? Whatever your celebration style, Miami has an overwhelming variety of parties and events to choose from. 

If lavish affairs on the ocean pique your interest, consider a stay at Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club. This award-winning oceanfront resort pairs Miami’s iconic Art Deco architecture with European Riviera glam, the perfect setting to host your own private New Year’s Eve party. If your plans involve a long night out on the town, stay in the heart of the action on Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive. Winter Haven is a historic boutique hotel that’s equal parts chic and welcoming, just like its on-site Il Bolognese restaurant serving authentic Northern Italian comfort food. Down the block, Blue Moon is another beautiful, historic Ocean Drive hotel steps away from the beach. When the clock winds down, make your way across the street for spectacular fireworks shows along the shoreline.

Foodies on the hunt for a uniquely delicious NYE dinner should set their sights on Mamey, a new island-inspired restaurant by Chef Niven Patel, a James Beard nominee awarded Food & Wine’s “Best New Chef of 2020” title. A true farm-to-table experience, Mamey combines flavors of Asian, Polynesian, Caribbean, and Latin American cuisines using freshly harvested produce directly from Chef Patel’s farms (yes, he has more than one!) Sip tropical cocktails in the restaurant’s gorgeous dining room, then head to the outdoor terrace for your New Year countdown. Best of all, Mamey is conveniently located inside of THesis Hotel – a modern hotel in the heart of Miami’s Coral Gables neighborhood – meaning you can pour yourself into bed at a moment’s notice.

New Year Cheer

Come January, temperatures hover around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit in Miami. Locals bundle up, out-of-towners strip down, and everyone heads outdoors for some fun in the sun. 

On Miami Beach, stroll the iconic Ocean Drive and soak up its history during Art Deco Weekend, a three-day celebration of the city’s world-famous architecture. At the annual South Beach Jazz Festival enjoy live performances by some of the biggest names in traditional, contemporary, Latin and New Orleans-style jazz. And at SoundScape Park, catch an outdoor movie screening or live symphony streaming under the stars.

Heat Up Your Holidays

Ready for an exciting holiday season in Miami? Now is the time to start planning! Check out Independent Collection’s portfolio of boutique hotels across South Florida and the Florida Keys.