Best Hotel - 2006
The Raleigh was designed in 1940 by Lawrence Murray Dixon, a New York architect who moved to Miami Beach in 1928; he also designed The Victor Hotel (1937), The Marlin (1939), The Tides Hotel (1936), The Senator (1939), and The Ritz Plaza Hotel (1940). The Raleigh began
the way most of the Decos did, attracting rich, young celebrities like Esther Williams, a Forties bombshell and Olympic swimmer who would practice in The Raleigh's swimming pool, which was named "the most beautiful pool in the state of Florida," with good reason, by Life magazine. Its popularity steadily declined until the early Nineties, when it began a spirited revival, but then quickly dropped off the cool map once again, this time sinking into total obscurity. In 2002, for $25 million, André Balazs, boyfriend of Uma Thurman and owner of the hippest hotels in the nation, took the property off the hands of its desperate owner, Ken Zarrilli. Balazs refreshed it and made it hip again. What Balazs and The Raleigh sell are not rooms or cocktails so much as the idea that anyone can walk off Collins Avenue and step into a world of luxury. Here you can down a $12 drink on a bed next to a pool that has been pictured in the New York Times and Vanity Fair. Who knows? Matt Damon might stroll right by. The Raleigh's Sunday Soiree is the main attraction, where every Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to midnight in the Oasis (a closed-in beach area in the very back of the hotel) DJs, dancers, club kids, businessmen, and celebrities hang out by the fire or get drunk and end up in the pool. The $20 cover charge and pricey drinks might seem a little steep, but hey, that's part of the life, bitch.