South Beach Is Miami's Best Neighborhood, Hands Down

South Beach: Miami's best neighborhood
South Beach: Miami's best neighborhood

This is going to sound weird, but South Beach, I love you. I arrived to your sandy shores three and a half years ago: a moon-eyed Midwesterner with a century's supply of sunscreen, regular sleep patterns, and a steady girlfriend. Now I'm a single, sun-scorched insomniac -- and I couldn't be happier.

That's because South Beach is the best neighborhood in Miami. Set aside your snarky SoBe prejudices and consider this: We're home to the best beaches, bodies, and bars or restaurants in town. We're the glamorous, glittery, glowing neon nerve center of the city, perhaps the entire country. And, oh yeah, we've got terrific boobs.

So you can keep your Brickell condo, your house in Hialeah, and your Wynwood warehouse loft. South Beach is the spot to be, and here's why.

See also: North Beach Is the Best Neighborhood in Miami, and Here's Why

South Beach Is Miami's Best Neighborhood, Hands Down

10. We know how to party. Guilty as charged. People act like it's a bad thing that gorgeous women and bros with abs you could use as a barbecue pack South Beach's clubs every night of the week. I don't see a problem. No one has force-fed me molly and made me grind on a stranger until my underwear chafes.

Nor is South Beach all mega clubs with velvet ropes, bouncers, and bottle service. Sure, we've got that, but we also have local dives, sports bars, gay clubs, and swanky cocktail lounges. There's something for everyone. It's all a bit expensive, but hey: if we wanted to save money, we'd live in North Beach. Shudder.

And as for the tourists who also come here to live it up, they're only a nuisance if you want them to be. Sex with a tourist is the third best kind, or so we've been told. So yeah, South Beach knows how to party.

Robert "Raven" Kraft is just one of many SoBe runners
Robert "Raven" Kraft is just one of many SoBe runners

9. But that's not all we do. The people who knock South Beach the most are usually the ones who are here the least, like the Brickell bros who taxi over here once a month, step into another bro's vomit, and vow to never come back. But those of who live here know that SoBe is so much more than a cocaine-encrusted EDM mecca.

Try waking up early -- or staying up all night -- while the tourists are still out cold and walking SoBe's streets. You'll find locals in their least fashionable lycra out for a morning jog, or braving the chilly winter waters for a swim. You'll find construction workers and bar-backs sharing a ventanita coffee on their way to and from work, respectively.

Underneath the glitz and the glamour, South Beach is a real neighborhood. We've got Miami's best public library branch, amazing museums like the Bass and the Wolfsonian, Botanical Gardens, and cafes.


Model Mija on South Beach
Model Mija on South Beach
wikimedia commons

8. We've got the hottest people in Miami. If South Beach can some time seem like a small place, it's a small place packed with sexy motherf*ckers. Maybe it's all the models or our maniacal devotion to fitness, but you can't go to Whole Foods without having to hide your erection behind an organic cucumber.

Try using Tinder or Grindr here. You'll either reach an instant orgasm or rush off to workout. Going to the beach is like attending a beauty pageant or a Mr. Universe competition. Even our homeless people are buff. Seriously. The guy who lives in his car just off of Lincoln Road is totally ripped. And the Rastafarian who mumbles to himself in Flamingo Park is never happier than when he's doing laps in the softball field.

Why wouldn't this man on South Beach have a python and a parrot?
Why wouldn't this man on South Beach have a python and a parrot?

7. And the most interesting people, too. Lest you think we're all about looks, let me be clear: South Beach is home to some of the most fascinating characters on the planet. Where else do dudes work out with pythons draped around their necks like gold chains? Where else do men walk around with spider monkeys and lizards on their shoulders, stopping to pose for photos not for money but just to make conversation?

SoBe is the stomping ground for many of Miami's writers, actors, athletes, and filmmakers. But it's also home to Holocaust survivors, street performers, and everyday joes with hardscrabble stories. On any given day of the week, you can hang out with Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson, have coffee with Mike Piazza, or share a pint with Irvine Welsh. Or you can head to the Deuce and chat up a sex worker or a man with an eye patch. Your call.


6. The best beaches.

If your idyllic beach is an empty expanse of sand and surf where the only conversation is with the seagulls, then by all means, stay in North Beach. But if you're anything like me -- a gringo who long ago became enamored with the Latin American policy of partying en masse on the playa -- pues vente a Sow Bee, broder.

We've got soft white sand and a rainbow of beautiful, hard bodies lounging on top of it. Whether you're gay or straight, 12th Street is a scene during the summer. South Pointe is kite surfing central. There's a spot for everyone... you just might have to share that beach towel.

South Beach Is Miami's Best Neighborhood, Hands Down
via Blue Skyz Media's flickr

5. But also the best parks. Compared to most parts of Miami, South Beach is a sea of green. Between Flamingo, South Pointe, and SoundScape, SoBe has to have more public parks per square mile than any other urban area around. And that's not counting the parks that stretch up and down the beach.

SoBe is eco-friendly in other ways, too. Between DecoBikes and beach cruisers, we're the most bike-friendly neighborhood in Miami. Unlike Little Havana, Hialeah, or most of Miami, you can actually walk or bike around town without risk of death or grievous injury. And the Venetian Islands -- we're claiming them -- offer the most scenic jogging/biking in the city.


South Beach Is Miami's Best Neighborhood, Hands Down
Pedro Szekely via Wikimedia Commons

4. It's beautiful.

Art deco apartments plastered in pastel. Sleek, modern condos standing like sails against the sea breeze. Neon spilling out of Ocean Drive hotels. Palm trees everywhere. South Beach has an outsized share of the American imagination. David Beckham wants to bring a soccer team here. Everyone thinks the Heat already play here. It's not hard to see why.

3. And delicious. SoBe is a small neighborhood, but packed with flavor. We have South Beach institutions including Joe's Stone Crab and Tap Tap, as well as a wave of new restaurants like the Pubbelly joints, My Ceviche, Yardbird, and Khong River House. If those are too expensive, La Sandwicherie serves $7 sandwiches until 5 a.m. And the pastries they sell at the farmer's market on Lincoln Road on Sundays are like crack cocaine for your tastebuds.


South Beach Is Miami's Best Neighborhood, Hands Down
Photo by Ian Witlen

2. And inspiring. South Beach isn't the first place that pops to mind when asked about art and culture. But we're creeping into the discussion. In seven days, Art Basel Miami Beach will be upon us again. For one weekend, at least, we'll have more paintings, sculptures, and performance pieces -- some of them involving porn star midgets being manipulated like puppets -- than the Whitney, MOMA, or the Tate Modern. And people still pretend like we're shallow. Psssh.

But SoBe is inspiring on a still deeper level. More than any other 'hood in Miami, it's a mix of gay and straight; white, black, and Hispanic; artists and entrepreneurs; rich and poor. Besides Art Basel, we've got the Gay Pride Parade, Memorial Day Weekend, and the Wine & Food festival, just to name a few events. Spend some time in SoBe and you're bound to encounter something new.

1. We're up all night. No other neighborhood stays up as late as South Beach. Sure, you can hit up a strip club somewhere else but name another 'hood where you can drink until dawn at a dive like the Deuce, then walk across the street to a spot like La Sandwicherie for a smoked salmon and mozzarella salad and a steaming hot cafe au lait.

Are there things not to like about South Beach? Sure. Some of them were touched upon by fellow New Times writer Terrence McCoy in his ode to North Beach.

But rather than rebut him point by point, let me just ask this: Where you livin' at now, Terry?

That's right: you're in South Beach, bitch.

Follow Michael E. Miller on Twitter.

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