Last week I surprised my Dad with a trip to Miami to see the Washington Nationals play in the new Marlins Park. After a 2.5 hour flight we touched down and set off for Coconut Grove. Coconut Grove is a Bahamian themed collection of trendy cafes, boutiques and hotels that sits on a beautiful bay. The marina is bustling with recreational watercraft. Just fifteen minutes from downtown, the Grove feels like a completely different country than the predominantly Latino City center. The Sonesta is the best hotel in the Grove and we stayed in a spectacular suite on the 19th floor with a wraparound balcony overlooking the water. The Panorama Restaurant and Skylounge sits poolside on the 8th floor and offers sweeping views of the coast.
Our first night we drove 25 minutes from Coconut Grove to South Beach to visit Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant. Over 100 years old, Joe’s is world renowned and featured in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” The restaurant is only open during Stone Crab season (October 14th – May 15th). Fortunately Jumbo Claws were on the menu that evening! It was quite posh for a crab shack – the waiters wear tuxedos and a serving of four claws runs about $80. They were the best claws we’ve ever had; it was easy to see why the place always has a line to get in.
We finished the evening with an authentic slice of homemade Key Lime pie then walked off the feast with a stroll along Ocean Drive. The Art Deco district was teeming with beautiful people that night. Pulsating Cuban & Haitian music was pouring out of the clubs. My favorite Merengue bar from the cruise ship days was Mangos – the bartenders would take turns dancing on the bar and put on a show for the crowd. Fortunately it was still there and as vibrant as ever.
The next day we drove downtown to the Bayside Marketplace. We caught the Island Queen tourboat to catch a look at the celebrity homes on Star Island. Sylvester Stallone, Will Smith, Madonna, Elizabeth Taylor, Rosie O’ Donnell, Shaq, Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias, Don Johnson, P-Diddy and Vanilla Ice all have homes here. Miami Vice, Scarface, and the Addams Family were all filmed at houses on the island. After the tour we enjoyed a Caribbean lunch at Mambos Café before stopping by Bongos Cuban Cafe. Bongos is Gloria Estefan’s Cuban themed restaurant and nightclub. Adjacent to the Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena, Bongos is the place to be seen before and after the game.
The Heat had their final home game of the season that night, but we couldn’t stay because we had front row tickets for the Nats game at the new Marlin Stadium. The weather was perfect and the roof stayed open as Bryce Harper’s four hits led the Nats to a 6-1 W over the Fish. We sat in the Diamond Club section which provided an exquisite buffet & complimentary cocktails for guests. This is a stadium like no other with swimming pool, cheerleaders, aquariums built into the walls and the Clevelander nightclub in left field. It is located in the heart of “Little Havana” and is easily the most festive professional sports arena we’ve ever seen in this country.
We spent our final day touring the eclectic shoppes and cafes of Coconut Grove. Another beautiful sunny day at 85 degrees. We found a delicious South American lunch at Jaguar. I chased an impeccable Mojito with the tastiest Ceviche dish. It was served as a sampler of varieties on six jumbo spoons. We covered a lot of ground in our 48 hours in Miami and hope to make it back someday!