Geez dude, take a look at yourself… you’re a wreck. Go ahead, look in the mirror. Your eyes are red… your nerves are shot… you’ve just spent the last 30 hours slaving away over an assignment from that fool English Lit professor who’s always on your case. Face it, you’re at the end of your academic rope and it’s time for a break. You have a deep, unspoken desire to be somewhere on a golden beach with the warm Caribbean breeze caressing your pale, zit-covered face … somewhere far away from the horrors of higher learning … a place where the music is hot, the people are cool, and no one cares about Quantum Mechanics. You need to do Spring Break in South Beach—now!
But, then there’s that persistent money problem of yours that always spoils the fun. The fact is, you’ve already blown all your money on educational necessities (beer, golf balls, beer) and now you’re seriously short of funds. Well no problemo, Jackson, we’re going to show you how to make the scene in South Beach on minimum scratch. And our first task is to get you there … ready?
If you’re coming from the Northeast, as of right now, you can fly into Miami International Airport for prices around $290. You can also fly into Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest or Spirit Airline for $248 and take the $15 shuttle down to Miami Beach, which will save you a few bucks. The ride from Ft. Lauderdale takes about 45 minutes.
Either way, don’t rent a car. It will only be a burden to you in South Beach, especially when it comes time to park it. Valet parking is $20+ per day, and even the municipal parking lots go for about the same price. Bottom line is, everywhere you’ll want to go is either walking distance or a 5 minute cab ride.
The greatest challenge you’ll face in Miami Beach is putting a roof over your head at a price that won’t necessitate donating your lungs to science to cover the cost. South Beach Spring Break hotel prices are brutal due to the simple fact that Ultra Music Festival and Winter Music Conference both are cooking in Miami at about the same time as Spring Break. So, in this regard, may we offer a few recommendations… On the remote possibility that you aren’t the typical college student and you actually do have enough money to pay for a real hotel room, then read no further. You can simply start your hotel search in the hotels section and you’re on your way to paradise.
However, we both know what the story is don’t we… you’ve already spent 99% of your fun-money this semester and now you’re tapped-out. But, if you can scrounge-up a few bucks worth of loose change from underneath the cushions of your roommate’s couch, you can stay at what is actually a pretty cool little place—the Clay Hotel’s Hostel on Espanola Way.
The Clay has a great location close to the clubs on Washington Avenue (it’s knee-walking distance from Cameo); it’s close to tons of premier restaurants (which you can’t afford, so forget we mentioned it); and it’s only two blocks from the beach—which, luckily for you is free.
Yeah, we know the Clay isn’t the most glamorous thing in town, but then neither was your last bank statement, so give it a shot.
Your fellow guests at the Clay’s Hostel will be a somewhat international crowd consisting of travelers from France, Germany, Italy and even Japan. The Hostel consistently receives top ratings from its guests, and the international travel guidebook, Lonely Planet recently named the Clay Hotel ”the most beautiful hostel in America” for 2005.
Okay, the next level up on the fun-city food chain is a series of moderately priced Art Deco hotels that have proven quite popular with the youth brigade due to their excellent location and merciful pricing.
The Whitelaw Hotel
808 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
Great location one block off the beach at rock-bottom prices. Rooms are done in an all-white motif, AND they provide complimentary cocktails for you during their nightly happy-hour in the lobby. (hubba-hubba)
The Shelley Hotel
844 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
Again, great location one block off the beach with rates. The Shelley provides continental breakfasts, nightclub passes, complimentary newspapers and airport shuttles (very rare in Miami Beach). Has free Internet, marble bathrooms, and 82 cable TV channels in case you need to stay indoors and nurse a terminal hang-over.
The San Juan Hotel
1680 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
The San Juan hotel is one block north of Lincoln Road and across the street from the Delano. Rates are reasonable and for that price you are about as close to the geographic center of South Beach action as one can get: one block to the Raleigh, three blocks to the upper Collins Avenue nightlife district (Mynt, Mokai, Sky Bar) and 5-6 blocks from Cameo and the new Copa Room.
Other right-priced Miami Beach hotels to keep in mind are the Chelsea at 944 Washington Avenue, Continental Hotel South Beach at 1825 Collins Avenue, Winter Haven at 1400 Ocean Drive, the Penguin at 1418 Ocean Drive and the Greenview Hotel at 1671 Washington Avenue.
From there the prices march right on up past $15,000 per night for the penthouse at the Shore Club, which is actually a steal when you consider that right next door the top floor at the Setai goes for a cool $20G’s per night. But, we’ll talk about those places in a few years once you’ve made full partner in that Madison Avenue firm—or hit the lottery.
Ah yes, the South Beach nightlife scene… all those raging nightclubs… the pulsating music… the beautiful women… everyone having so much fun… and you know, it’s just a down-right shame you can’t get in.
Or can you? If you’ve been paying attention, you noticed that some hotels provide passes to the clubs. FREE passes, that is. So choose your hotels wisely, and consider all the amenities they offer. And you are always guaranteed to get into Copa Room.
Now, you must keep in mind that entry into South Beach clubs is always at the discretion of the door-god, and, rightly or wrongly, the people working the door attempt to select patrons who are the hippest/coolest/best dressed people in the crowd. What that means in plain English is, don’t expect to land in the VIP section of LIV sipping Mojitos with Paris Hilton if you’re dressed like you just rode into town on the midnight mango truck. Remember, No sneakers; No hats; No basketball jerseys; and No frat-wear … they won’t be impressed by your Zeta-Beta-Zoota t-shirt. South Beach clubs are ALL 21 & over, and they tend to cater to the flash & glam crowd, which means a night out in the clubs isn’t cheap.
There’s also a novelty occurrence used widely in Miami Beach that works heavily in your favor to help keep your expenditures under control. In a attempt to entice customers to come in and try them out early on, some clubs offer FREE drinks until 11pm. And since you’re almost a college graduate, we trust you’ll know what to do with that bit of information.
Even though partying will be your prime directive in South Beach, there’s also some great shopping to be had, and it’s located right off the beach. Collins Avenue from 5th through 9th Streets (one block over from Ocean Drive) is a great place to start your shopping trek with stores such as Club Monaco, Nine West, Ritchie Swimwear, True Religion, UGG Australia and Armani Exchange.
Lincoln Road, which can be entered right off the beach, offers tons of store like Allsaints Spitalfields, BCBG Max Azria, French Connection, L’Occitane, Lucky Brand and Victoria’s Secret. You can find the full list in the Lincoln Road Shopping section.
Alright, so we’re down to our last item, which is food. Miami Beach has some of the best restaurants in the world—and some of the highest prices. You should plan on Mickey-D’s.
But, when you get to the point where you just can’t face another Quarter Pounder and you’re in the mood to splurge, try a few sidewalk cafes on Lincoln Road for a taste of the real Miami Beach. Nexxt Cafe at 700 Lincoln Road is the perennial favorite cafe-cum-babe-watching spot in all of Miami Beach, and Segafredo at 1040 Lincoln Road also offers great food at non-stratospheric prices. For a very reasonably priced Cuban cafe, try Puerto Sagua at 700 Collins Avenue.
And one last thing to remember. Rubbing shoulders with the smart-set in South Beach amid all that glamour can sometimes cause one to lose track of the important things in life … namely, the people you meet and the friends you make. Don’t let your currently humble financial position in life get you down. You have the best deal going. You’re 21 (according to that fake ID of yours) and you’re partying in South Beach. So, let the good times roll!