Best Of :: Shopping & Services
You've socked away some money and rebuilt your credit after spending like Paris Hilton on a bender in your younger days. You've even decided Miami is where you want to put down roots. Congratulations — you're officially a grownup. So prove it. Buy a house. Here's the catch: The rest of the world is also looking, and many of these people have a cool million in cash. Foreign buyers have driven up the cost of housing in Miami. This has made the Beach impossible, Coconut Grove impenetrable, and Brickell laughable (that's the bank laughing — not you — when you tell them you want a mortgage on a $500,000 one-bedroom on your $40,000 salary). Are your dreams of house parties and gardening shattered forever? Should you move to (gasp) Broward? There is one option: El Portal. This tiny village that covers a canopied swath of land from 85th to 90th Street just west of Biscayne Boulevard has a history that dates back to the 1500s (yes, the 1500s!) and was incorporated in 1937. Lush with 75-year-old oak trees and native plants, the town has about a thousand single-family houses and bungalows. There's a nature trail, a Tequesta Indian mound, and peacocks. Chances are you'll share your backyard with butterflies, blue jays, and raccoons. In the evening, a walk through the Sherwood Forest section is accompanied by a chorus of frogs, geckos, and night birds. It's just like Coconut Grove — without the astounding price tag. The current average sold home price is $323,557, according to Realtor.com. That means you can get a house for the price of a condo in other parts of Miami. Add the fact that the neighboring MiMo District is on an upswing, with restaurants like the Vagabond and Loba opening and Phuc Yea moving in, and you have a home you can afford in a neighborhood on the way up. Don't thank us for the real-estate tip. Just invite us to the housewarming party.
"Today I'm going to chill in an igloo" is a phrase you probably never anticipated saying in Miami, but thanks to the Carillon Hotel & Spa, you really should. During a sultry, humid South Florida summer, cooling your blood inside an ice sculpture reinforced with three arctic mist "experiences" (in menthol, mint, and eucalyptus scents) actually sounds like a damn good way to spend a day. To do that, you'll need some serious cash: $295 to be exact. That's how much a day pass costs for Carillon's 70,000-square-foot world of relaxation and rejuvenation. But considering all the outlandish benefits that come with that pass, it seems like a bargain. You get a 50-minute tailored massage from a therapist, more than 40 fitness classes to choose from, pool access, and use of all the regular spa facilities. Try a Caribbean Monsoon (a "rain experience") or stare at the starlit ceiling and let all your worries melt away in the herbal laconicum — a warm ceramic room infused with herbs and private seating niches. There's even mindful relaxation therapy to get your brain as chill as your muscles via a soothing massage on vibrating sound tables that retune brainwaves.
Readers' choice: The Standard Spa
A short sampling of Miami's rankings in various national surveys last year: the seventh worst traffic in America, the fifth least affordable rentals, and the fourth worst place for recent college grads to move. Is it any wonder that last year, real-estate blog Movoto ranked Miami the third most stressed place in the nation? That's why you need a glorious, 50-minute massage, stat. And no one in Miami does it better than Lapis, the spa at the historic Fontainebleau resort. Soft music plays in the background while guests slip into a soft robe and rubber slippers. Before the rub begins, guests can take in the other considerable amenities, such as a swimming pool and a warm waterfall. Lapis offers various treatments, but perhaps the one that will give your muscles a workout is the "weekend warrior rehab," a combination of deep-tissue massage mixed with hot stones to "ease pain, tension, and improve mobility and range of motion." Those 50 minutes of heaven cost $165 — a hefty investment, but think of how Miami's national rankings could change if we all took a few minutes for a legit massage. America's number one Zen city, here we come.
Readers' choice: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental
Miamians aren't known for being wallflowers. So why shouldn't our fingernails match the personality of the city that birthed the Golden Girls, Tony Montana, and "surfbort." If you're looking to take that vivid loudness to a whole new level, there's one spot in town that can turn your nails into a work of art: Miami's freshly minted Vanity Projects. The salon, which was previously a pop-up during Art Basel, recently opened a full-time shop in Little River — its first outpost after establishing its street cred in Manhattan. It's easy to see why Vanity has received genuine art-world love: These guys can draw just about anything you want on your fingers. Tribal prints and talking lips? OK. Comic book heroes and attitudinal cats? Sure, why not? Vanity Projects offers custom colors, gel or regular polish, and a seemingly endless supply of inspiration for your nail art designs. Starting at $30, their work is generally priced per nail.
Wanna look like Christie Brinkley at 61 or Halle Berry at 48? Facials — lots and lots of facials — are the answer. Perfect skin doesn't come from over-the-counter creams, no matter what Big Cosmetics might want you to believe. To look firm and glowing into your later years, professional skincare is a must, and Leelou Salon and Spa is all about pampering your pretty face. Betsy, the resident facial queen, starts by analyzing your unique epidermis and adjusting as needed — because skin rarely stays the same. Try a $95 customized facial and lie back while she cleans, scrubs, extracts, masks, massages, and moisturizes your outer layer. Products and equipment are as fancy-pants as anything celebs use, and the private rooms have a spa-like vibe with soft lights and Zen tunes. You'll walk away feeling refreshed, relaxed, and, most important (particularly in Miami), ten years younger.
It's not a crime to want to look your best, particularly if it's a special occasion and there's a certain ex to impress. This is where the makeup-wielding wizards at Gee Beauty come in. Their signature "Red Carpet" service (for $60) includes 35 minutes with an artist who uses the company's beauty line to even out your skin tone, enhance your eyes, and contour better than a Kardashian. And by "better," we mean "more natural looking," because the mantra here is to emphasize each client's God-given attributes. It's why the "Secrets From the Chair" service ($125) is so great: For one hour, one of the friendly Gee gals teaches you her insider tips and tricks so you can be the pro. Then, two weeks later, you get to come in for a complementary followup where you apply your own makeup under their expert guidance. Plus, this Bal Harbour shop's beauty boutique and salon can shape and tint your brows and lashes ($20 to $35) to help round out your fabulous look.