- First-time visitors to Key West flood the bars on Duval Street, but we chose to seek out the insider spots where island breezes are abundant, seafood is perfectly prepared, Key-lime martinis are authentic and colorful locals will drink with you till dawn. Here’s our guide to a great night off the beaten track.
- The Weekend: Cruise Fort Lauderdale’s waterways. A winding river and countless canals leading to the ocean have earned Fort Lauderdale the nickname “The Venice of America.” Don't have a boat? Don't worry — there are still plenty of ways to enjoy it.
Start Here: Stay in the middle of the action by booking a room at Las Olas Boulevard’s historic Riverside Hotel. Executive Tower rooms have private balconies overlooking the yachts that cruise the New River, and the hotel is less than two miles from Fort Lauderdale Beach, so the water is always nearby.
1. Ditch expensive cab fares and take the Water Taxi to get around town. The big yellow boat cruises the New River along Las Olas Boulevard, stopping near the chic street’s hottest restaurants and bars. Or stay onboard for the entire trip to explore the river itself and enjoy hours of gorgeous, watery vistas.
2. Tour the city’s canals with a rod and reel. Captain Carl Ball of AWOL Fishing Charters knows the ins and out of the waterways — and where to find fish to hook the biggest tarpon in South Florida, along with snook, barracuda and more.
3. Watch the water while you eat at the casual Coconuts. The restaurant sits directly on the Intracoastal and has tasty bar food (think crispy conch fritters and coconut shrimp) and piña coladas. Live music Thursdays through Sundays enhances your viewing pleasure.
- The Weekend: Get spoiled at the W Hotel in South Beach. Whatever you need for a weekend of beach, dining and indulgence is just steps away at this resort.
Start Here: Everything at the towering W South Beach has a cool name — the pool is called Wet, the fitness center is Sweat and the staff are W Insiders. Book one of the 26 VIP suites on the 18th floor that comes with services of a personal concierge at your beck and call — key for dinner reservations, spa bookings or whatever else you crave.
Weekend To Dos:
1. Begin your day with an invigorating walk on the Atlantic shoreline and then claim a poolside cabana, where you can linger with pitchers of fresh berry lemonade, spiked with Ultimat Vodka, and platters of tortilla chips and house-made guacamole.
2. Decked out in pop-art colors of tangerine and lime green against pure white, Bliss Spa is the place to grab a late afternoon ginger rub. The treatment’s warm foil wrap will completely relax you after a day of swimming and sun.
3. Don't visit the W without dining at The Dutch. Chef Andrew Carmellini’s pork loin, wrapped in prosciutto and served with a salchicha polenta that’s whipped with milk to enhance its creamy texture, scores for flavor. Dessert is a short walk to in-house Wall nightclub, where your name will be on the VIP list — guaranteed if you book a VIP Suite.
- The Weekend: Explore art in Miami. The world-renowned Art Basel brings the contemporary art world’s social hoopla and high stakes to Miami every December, but the city’s artistic influence, from architectural mainstays to up-and-coming creators, is bustling year ’round.
Start Here: The Raleigh Hotel, in the heart of Miami Beach’s Art Deco District, is a stylish spot to start a citywide tour of the arts. The circa-1940s scalloped pool is a work of art unto itself.
1. Take a stroll from the Raleigh to join the Art Deco Walking Tour. Stops at iconic locations such as Casa Casuarina (the former mansion of designer Gianni Versace), the Carlyle (featured in the hit film The Birdcage) and The Palace Bar (site of Miami Beach’s first single-residence home) immerse you in over-the-top architechture and design, as well as give a taste of the city’s history.
2. Stay outdoors with a trip to Midtown’s Wynwood Arts District, home to the awe-inspiring Wynwood Walls and Wynwood Doors. Massive murals painted on the sides of abandoned warehouse buildings are larger than life, showcasing the talents of cutting-edge artists from all over the world as they reflect their visions of Miami.
3. Dine at the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar to keep yourself surrounded by the art of the walls. The drinks list pays homage to the street artists showing there, like the Nunca, a mojito-style cocktail with muddled strawberries, sake and mint that’s named after the Brazilian “grafiteiro” artist Nunca. — Susan Friedman
- The Weekend: Live the boater's life in Marathon Key. Whether you’re on the water, in the water or just enjoying it from afar, a weekend in Marathon Key will get you in touch with your inner sea captain.
Start Here: Coming in by boat? Dock the 65-foot slip marina at Coral Lagoon Resort & Marina and check into one of their two-story Key West-style villas. Painted in cheery pastels and corralled by white picket fences and purple bougainvillea, they all have full amenities (kitchens, Wifi, washer/dryers) plus big porches with rocking chairs and waterfront views. You can log more time on the water at the resort’s pool, where you’re still just steps from the blue waters of the ocean.
1. Explore the Seven Mile Bridge and Bahia Honda State Park by boat, then cast out a line for to see if you can catch your dinner. Game fishing in the Atlantic Ocean turns up marlin and sailfish, while Florida Bay’s flats and backcountry are home to bonefish, tarpon and permit. Don't have a boat of your own? No problem; Captain Pip’s Marina rents powerboats and other necessities like rods and reels and snorkel masks and fins.
2. Is your fishing style catch-and-release? Then skip the cooking and head to Butterfly Café at nearby Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel & Resort. Conch chowder, crab cakes with chipotle aioli and panko-crusted grouper all taste better with a side of sunset.
3. Learn more about your fellow ocean-loving mammals at the Dolphin Research Center. Book a swim with one of them or watch the dolphins perform high-flying leaps. Want more? Sign up for the Trainer for a Day program and you'll shadow an employee for the day, learning hand signals and cues you'll use to play games with the gorgeous creatures.
- The Weekend: Catch some race action at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Fast is better at Homestead-Miami Speedway, 35 miles south of Miami. Plenty of racing events, from go-cart competitions and motorcycle racing to street-legal car runs and NASCAR events, draw crowds 280 days of the year. But the big daddy is the grand finale of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in Mid-November.
Start Here: Book yourself at the Epic Hotel in downtown Miami, with easy access to State Road 836 and the Florida Turnpike — a 40-minute drive to the speedway. The sleek, 54-story hotel boasts panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, enjoyed from the room and 16th-floor pool area where cabanas, a fitness center and outdoor dining come together. The speedway works with the hotel to create race-day packages for the NASCAR championship, and you’ll most likely meet other race fans here.
Weekend To Dos:
1. Pick a spot at the Pit Box, the closest thing to a private club, and watch events from the start/finish line. Waiters serve drinks from a fully stocked open bar and foods with a Latin spin — sugar-cane chicken with dark rum and habanera mango salsa, and smoked chipotle rubbed pork loin. Splurge and book the Pit Box for three days at $800. But reserve early as NASCAR draws fans from around the world who consider this their bucket-list event and are ready to spend.
2. On the NASCAR champions weekend, the Richard Petty Driving Experience comes to the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Buckle into an authentic NASCAR racecar and feel the thrill as you ride shotgun for three laps at speeds up to 160 mph.
3. For a late-night dinner, head to Black Point Ocean Grill, tucked in the Black Point Marina off of Biscayne National Park, 20 minutes from the track and popular with racing fans. Enjoy South Florida’s balmy weather with a frosty beer, some peel-and-eat shrimp and a mahimahi sandwich on the waterfront patio.
- Step in the sand, get behind the wheel, sink a putt, swim on a reef, learn to sail or play with a dolphin. Our guide to the hottest weekend getaways in the Sunshine State gives you the best that Florida has to offer, one weekend at a time.
- The Weekend: Find your spot on the sand at Vero Beach. If there were a competition for the perfect beach town, Vero Beach could take top honors, simply because everything is so approachable.
Start Here: Park your car at the Vero Beach Hotel & Spa and stash your keys in your suitcase; you won’t need them. At this 113-room boutique property directly on the Atlantic Coast, you can waltz right down to the shore and plop into a chaise lounge. Accommodations run from traditional rooms to one- and two-bedroom suites with wet bars or full kitchens.
Weekend To Dos:
1. Start the stay off easy with dinner at Cobalt, the hotel's well-loved restaurant. Kick things off with watermelon cocktails at the hotel bar, followed by local shrimp or snapper served on the open patio overlooking the sand.
2. This weekend is all about the beach, and the attendants are there to please, whether you're craving pina coladas or kayak rentals. When you get the urge to wander, stroll over to Ocean Drive where you'll find swimsuits and sun hats at Twiggs and cute designer sandals at Kemp’s Shoe Salon.
3. Four blocks away, Waldo's Restaurant, at the 1930s-era Driftwood Resort, lives up to its self-anointed nickname as the “last great American hangout.” Take a seat on the deck and watch more active types work up a sweat playing beach volleyball while you munch on beer-battered dolphin fingers dipped in salsa-mango sauce.
- Looking for what to do for Valentine's Day for the perfect couple's retreat? Take a look at our picks for the sexiest hotels and resorts in Florida and start planning your romantic getaway — just the two of you.
The Weekend: Go back in time at Hollywood Beach. Experience Florida as it once was with this vintage getaway that recalls the “happy days” of the 1950s.
Start Here: Base yourself at the Riptide Oceanfront Hotel; this 1960s-era former apartment building is now 12-room hotel that charms with throwback décor and a friendly crowd. Just steps from the sand, this property is all about the beach experience—so kick off your flip-flops and dig your toes into the sand. Simply appointed rooms have all the basics, plus kitchenettes (a nice convenience). Hit the casual tiki bar for rumrunners and piña coladas, paired with live music.
1. Riptide guests get bicycles and beach toys at no extra charge. Rise early to ride and accompany the sunrise to the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, home to kitschy Florida shops and nostalgic cheery vibes — a reminder that some things don’t have to change.
2. Yet another retro spot, Le Tub is a 1959 Sunoco gas station-turned-restaurant, famous for its oversize burgers. (In 2006, GQ named their burger the "Best Burger in America.") Expect a possible wait for grub here, but with a view this good of the Intracoastal Waterway (and eye-candy of quirky knickknacks dotting the walls), you won't mind a few extra minutes.
3. At night, get ready for music (think great oldies bands and classic favorites) and dancing under the stars at the Hollywood Beach Theatre. The laid-back outdoor venue hosts free live performances every night year-round starting at 7:30 p.m. — no reservations needed.