Miami art scene: Put the art into party

Miami has reinvented itself, becoming a mecca for food, music and art lovers, finds Ellen Connolly.

With its tropical climate, Cuban-American population and idyllic beaches, Miami has long been regarded as a place to party, but the city of glitz and glamour is reinventing itself.

With its top-class restaurants, new $US131 million ($139 million) Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and cutting-edge concert hall, the city is proving a mecca for food, music and art lovers.

While the area continues to be a haven for retirees and the South Beach strip still pulses with partygoers, a new generation of visitors has emerged, one keen to soak up the art and culture, as well as indulge in the food craze under way. Locals speak of the city's resurgence, of a new Miami, and they could well be right.

EAT AND DRINK

The iconic Joe's Stone Crab, a South Beach institution since 1913, still draws the crowds nightly, but a fresh wave of exciting seafood options is on offer.

Among the most popular is Lure Fishbar, one of several New York imports that have opened establishments in Miami.

The restaurant is designed to resemble the interior of a yacht, and its raw bar is packed with a bounty of fresh seafood, including oysters waiting to be shucked, melt-in-your-mouth sashimi and succulent lobster.

Although seafood dominates the menu, don't leave without trying the award-winning signature burger, and leave room for the Pot of Gold dessert, a banana pudding with chocolate mousse and candied peanuts.

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For a seafood experience with magnificent views of the city, there is Juvia, a sleekly designed rooftop space that has a creative menu of French, Japanese and Peruvian dishes. At lunch, it offers bento boxes, ideal for those wanting a quick pit stop or power lunch.

Steak lovers should head to Meat Market, in Lincoln Road, where the sultry ambience and top-class service are matched by a superb selection of fare for carnivores and an impressive wine list. There is also a raw bar and plenty of seafood options, including stone crab, oysters and ceviche. With its sexy ambience, Meat Market is a great spot for a late-night cocktail.

A local favourite is Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, where patrons flock for fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and macaroni and cheese.

Nearby is the charming Tongue & Cheek, which has a creative farm-to-table menu, including rigatoni with lamb ragu, Moroccan braised short ribs, and steamed mussels with Chinese sausage and ginger beer.

The newly opened Restaurant Michael Schwartz, housed in the Raleigh Hotel, is receiving plenty of praise for not just its food but its setting. Tables are arranged around the legendary hotel pool, made famous by 1940s swimmer and film star Esther Williams. A late-night drink at its bar feels nostalgic, evoking another time and place.

LOOK AND LISTEN

It may be hard to believe, but these days Miami is regarded as an international arts hub, partly because of the annual Art Basel in December.

Touted as one of the world's biggest art fairs, it attracts more than 50,000 visitors to Miami during five days, but thankfully there is plenty of art to be savoured year round.

Last year, the three-storey PAMM opened its doors to showcase international and local artists, including a recent exhibition of works by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

For a more gritty and raw art experience, a 10-minute drive from Miami Beach is the suburb of Wynwood, home to art galleries, funky stores, cool bars, and the piece de resistance - pop-up street art. More than 300 artists have legally covered the walls of warehouses and old buildings with graffiti, bringing colour and new life to this once-worn suburb.

The result is a spectacular display of mural upon mural which changes regularly, painted over by street artists.

Join the queue at Panther Coffee for a hit of caffeine, or a refreshing juice at JugoFresh, then wander through Wynwood Walls for even more visual stimulation, including the work of famed international street artist Frank Shepard Fairey.

Dining options abound, including the new R House, a restaurant within an art gallery.

Music lovers should not miss a visit to the New World Symphony, regarded as Miami's top music venue. Designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry, the venue is attracting a new generation of classical music fans by offering free concerts and movies under the stars.

At weekends, locals and visitors grab blankets and picnics and enjoy the entertainment, which uses state-of-the-art visual and audio technology to project live concerts onto a soaring wall of the New World Symphony building.

Indoor performances and workshops are also held.

STAY AND PLAY

Cool and hip hotels are leading the resurgence in Miami. The sophisticated Soho Beach House Miami, which prides itself on first-class service and attention to detail, provides a guests-only environment away from the often- maddening crowds.

Hotel guests have exclusive access to a private cinema, a pool with a sundeck on the eighth floor, a private beach, the Cowshed spa and two bars.

Non-guests take note: the Italian eatery in the Soho Beach House, Cecconi's, is open to the public and serves a $15 all-you-can-eat salad bar weekdays for lunch. It is a bargain and is delicious.

Spa junkies should head to The Standard Spa, Miami Beach, where guests can relax around its enormous infinity pool with underwater sound system, and as well enjoy a Turkish hammam-style day spa. It offers a range of beauty and massage treatments, as well as hot and cold plunge pools, and mud baths.

The ultra-cool hotel has a fabulous juice and coffee bar, daily yoga classes and boot camp.

For those who want to be in the thick of the action, there is a wealth of hotel options along South Beach, offering direct access to the boardwalk and beach.

THREE MORE THINGS TO DO IN MIAMI

MUSEUM FOR ALL

The Miami Childrens' Museum is a stimulating indoor interactive playground for all ages. Among the many permanent attractions are a teddy-bear workshop, a pet zone and a two-storey sandcastle. There's also a supermarket with a check-out, a bank where children can make their own bills, and a television studio. A favourite for many is dressing up as a policeman or firefighter.

DOLPHIN ANTICS

At nearby Biscayne Bay, the Miami Seaquarium has been wowing crowds for more than five decades. Best known as home to Flipper (88 television episodes and two movies were filmed at the Seaquarium in the 1960s), visitors can enjoy daily whale and dolphin performances. There is also a chance to get up close and personal with the marine life through the dolphin interaction program held at the nearby Dolphin Harbour.

EXPLORING BY BIKE

Bike and Segway tours are another family outing, and are a great way to explore Miami's beach strip and promenade.

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