Miami Travel Guide

Miami Travel Guide

Known for its stunning Art Deco architecture, sunny beaches and impossibly fun vibe, it was an easy choice for us to make Miami our first trip of the year. After spending a long weekend with my husband and pup in the beachside haven and scouring the city from South Beach to Little Havana, I’m sharing my travel guide for Miami with all of you.

I hadn’t been to Miami in more than a decade and the lure of 80 degree weather in January was just too enticing to pass up on. Because of recent COVID outbreaks around the country, we were a bit hesitant to actually go on our trip, but we were able to get flights on Southwest for next to nothing and got a great deal on our hotel room.

When looking for a hotel in Miami, it’s important to know which part of town you want to be in. If you’re interested in South Beach, I’d recommend the Faena or the Miami Beach Edition. When we booked our original trip, we found a deal on the Betsy Hotel and jumped on it. Although the Betsy photographs well and has a wonderful staff, I would not recommend staying here. The building is dated and the crowd that hangs out around the hotel is rough to put it lightly. We were very uncomfortable the one night we did stay there because the room smelled, we could hear noise from the street outside all night and the room just did not feel clean. The Betsy claims to have beach access, but it is not done through the hotel, it is done through a third party and you have beach access with a lot of other people.

After one night at the Betsy, we quickly switched over to the Four Seasons Miami which is located in the heart of Brickell, the city’s financial center. Although we had to give up the beach, we were so thrilled with our move. The Four Seasons Miami offers impeccable service, a stunning pool, an outdoor area that worked so well for our dog and clean and comfortable rooms (although a bit dated.) If you’re looking for a Four Seasons property on the beach, I’d highly recommend the Four Seasons Surfside. Unfortunately, this gorgeous hotel was a bit out of our price range and further away from most of the things we wanted to do so we decided to stay at the Four Seasons Miami. Another bay-side gem is the Biltmore Coral Gables. When we would go to Miami when I was younger, I would always tell my parents that if I lived in Miami, I would live in Coral Gables and I stand by that today.

If you’re looking to party, South Beach and Miami Beach will be perfect for you. From buzzy clubs and restaurants to partying on the beach, you’ll be happiest here. Brickell also offers a pretty cool night life scene with great restaurants and hotspots like Komodo. Keep in mind that Miami is currently observing an 11 p.m. curfew, but clubs are still open.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe, Bal Harbour/Surfside and Coral Gables/Coconut Grove will be the place for you. Bal Harbour and Surfside offer beach access, luxury shopping, fine dining and several celeb sightings while Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are a bit more laid back and not on the beach.

For fabulous shopping, museums and excellent dining, look no further than the Miami Design District. From public art installations to the famed Institute of Contemporary Art, you will leave this creative neighborhood feeling inspired and ready to take on the rest of Miami. If you’re looking for a bit of history or you have a cigar lover in your group, Little Havana should be on your list. Walking through this neighborhood just minutes from downtown, you feel as if you have been transported to 1965.

We LOVED the food scene in Miami, so much so that I actually ranked our meals from the trip and wrote a full review on them. We originally had reservations at Makoto, but had to cancel them because it would have taken us too long to get up there. If you’re staying in the Bal Harbour/Surfside area, definitely make reservations there one night.

Casa Tua, Mandolin and La Mar are not to be missed if you’re in Miami and if you’re looking for a classic Cuban sandwich while in town, look no further than Sanguich de Miami in the heart of Little Havana.

Houston Hobby Airport at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 24th.

COVID Travel Update

As most of you know, my husband and I have felt comfortable traveling to a few places during the pandemic. Everywhere we went, we felt safe because of small crowds, extra precautions people and places were observing and especially because all of our flights were not full. Well those days are over.

All four of the Southwest flights we were on for this trip were completely packed. Miami was packed. Although everyone wore face masks, I did not feel safe in many situations during this trip. Although I am very thankful we were able to go on this trip, had we known about the massive crowds we would encounter on the trip, we would have definitely reconsidered. I wish airlines would do their part and go back to keeping middle seats reserved for flights, it’s not responsible to have that many people in a confined space during a pandemic.

Miami Restaurant Rankings by Brit

Miami Restaurant Rankings by Brit

When we were planning our trip to Miami, I had high expectations for the weather and beaches, but wasn’t thinking much about the food. After living in Houston for six years, I became quite spoiled by the *highly* underrated food scene and am usually disappointed by the food in other cities when I travel now. But I was not disappointed by the Miami food scene at all, in fact, I was quite blown away.

To share my culinary adventures with all of you, I’m ranking the seven restaurants we ate at during our trip. We barely scratched the surface when it comes to Miami dining so this is in no way a ranking of all Miami restaurants, only the ones we ate at during our three-and-a-half-day stay.

  1. Casa Tua

Our best meal in Miami was at Casa Tua. The vibe was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced and the food was excellent. We ordered a fish carpaccio, octopus (the best dish we had on our entire trip), the Mushroom Fettuccine (which they are apparently known for), the Red Snapper and finished off our meal with the Italian Casa Tua Doughnuts.

The Red Snapper with the Mushroom Fettuccine

No matter where you are seated for dinner at Casa Tua, you will have the most enjoyable time. Each dining area is unique and oozes sophisticated European charm. COVID guidelines were well respected here and we will definitely be back.

2. Mandolin

A very close second for our dining experience in Miami is Mandolin. This mediterranean bistro is a true gem and should not be missed when visiting Miami. Set in the lush gardens behind Miami’s famed design district, the striking blues and whites that make up this restaurant make you feel like you’ve been transported to Greece.

For lunch, we ordered the Cheese Saganaki, the Ali Nazak, Greek Salad, the octopus and French Fries with Greek Yogurt. We ate every bite and wish we could have tried more, but we were so full. In addition to the lovely setting and insanely good food, the service was excellent and the restaurant felt clean and respectful of COVID guidelines.

3. La Mar

We also loved La Mar. This hip Peruvian restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The food was outstanding and we had the sweetest waiter. We ordered the Roll Anticuchero, the octopus, the Arroz con Mariscos and the whole fish which was de-boned, cut up and fried into small bites.

I will say that there were a couple of things that led to La Mar not being my top restaurant of the trip. First of all, I did not feel safe in regards to COVID. This place was packed and restaurant workers were constantly asking patrons to put their masks on, which was unnerving. I do think the restaurant could restrict the number of reservations they take or limit the number of people who are just standing around to alleviate this issue. Secondly, the restaurant terrace is overlooking the bay, which is lovely, but people were smoking on the pathway right beneath the tables which was awful. Third, because the restaurant sits at the base of the hotel, many people use the two entrances on the restaurant’s terrace to get into the hotel so that means random people are walking by your table all night.

4. Edge at The Four Seasons

We ate at the Edge at the Four Seasons twice during our stay. Once for breakfast and once for lunch and we really enjoyed both meals. I noticed the adherence to COVID guidelines the most here compared to any of the other restaurants we ate at. The tables were well spaced and very clean, patrons and workers were required to wear masks (when not at their table) and the food was great.

For breakfast we had coffees, the baker’s basket–a butter croissant, a chocolate croissant and a croissant filled with cream cheese and jam, and the Honey Nut Granola Parfait. For lunch one day we shared a burger and fries by the pool and it was amazing.

5. Sanguich de Miami

Of course we had to go to Little Havana when we were in Miami! After a little cigar shopping, we popped into Sanguich de Miami for Cuban Sandwiches. This sandwich shop is really a hidden gem in Little Havana. All of the sandwiches are made on fresh Cuban bread and are made with high-quality meats.

Cuban Sandwich

Sanguich de Miami was also really good about COVID guidelines and the restaurant felt very clean and safe. There is usually a line so if you’re looking to save time or avoid the crowds, you can order ahead online seamlessly.

6. Mignonette

Mignonette… I’m still replaying this experience in my head because I had high hopes for it, but I don’t find myself wanting to go back. The food we had was good, but there were a few things that threw the experience off for me.

Located in the up-and-coming Edgewater neighborhood, Mignonette is housed in what was once a gas station. They did a fabulous job transforming this place, but upon entering, I smelled something very muggy and musty and that’s not great when you’re about to eat seafood. We also sat at the front of the restaurant which has a large window so all of the oncoming headlights were a bit much for me. Another thing that detracted from the experience was that the waiter originally helping us left unexpectedly during dinner and we were not helped again for quite some time by another staff member. I also ordered sparkling water several times that never came. All of this is to say that our dinner at Mignonette was good, but I don’t think we will be back.

7. LT Steak & Seafood

LT Steak & Seafood, the main restaurant at the Betsy Hotel on South Beach was our least favorite of the trip. Since we stayed at the Betsy our first night in Miami, we had lunch there when we arrived–a burger and the Spicy Crispy Rock Shrimp roll– and then breakfast the next morning where we had oatmeal and the Betsy Breakfast. Although the service could not have been better, the food left quite a bit to be desired. With so many other options in the area, I regret having had two meals here.

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Palm Beach, Florida

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Palm Beach, Florida

As summer winds down, Americans continue traveling around the country. This week for Brit’s Summer Travel Series, we are heading to one of my favorite places, the island of Palm Beach! Since I couldn’t go this summer, my friend, Hillary is helping me out on the blog this week. She has been quarantining in the ultra-luxe locale since March and has not only shared some of her favorite things to do in the area, but she has also given a lot of updates about what the area is like now during the Coronavirus pandemic.

When I think of Palm Beach, the first things that comes to mind are luxury, pink and palm leaves…a few of my absolute favorite things! But there is so much this little slice of paradise has to offer. Concentrated within 7.8 miles, Palm Beach boasts fabulous shopping, top restaurants and incredible hotels.

You will not be hard-pressed to find an amazing meal in Palm Beach. Some of the best restaurants from New York City are in Palm Beach as well as institutions like the Palm Beach Grill and Benny’s on the Beach. If you’re a seafood lover, there is nothing better than enjoying a cocktail at the Seafood Bar at the Breakers with fish swimming under your glass.

Just as a rule of thumb when traveling or day-to-day life, if there is a Hillstone restaurant in your area, go there. Whether I am in Palm Beach, Montecito or Dallas, I always go to the Honor Bar (and order the Emerald Kale with Rotisserie Chicken Salad, French fries and a glass of white wine), which is one of the many restaurants owned by the Hillstone Group. The food is always amazing, the wine lists are perfection and the service is great.

The activities to do in Palm Beach are endless. A local favorite is bike riding on Lake Trail and hanging out on the beach of course. As most of you know, I am a shopper so Worth Avenue and the Royal Poinciana. The flagship Lilly Pulitzer store is right on Worth Ave. and you can see how the designs for fabrics are made and shop some of the best Lilly styles around! At the Royal Poinciana, you can find things like LoveShackFancy, Alice and Olivia, Hermes, Stoney Clover Lane, Zimmerman and so much more…it is like my dream shopping destination!!

The hotels in Palm Beach are amazing, but pricey. If you are looking to spend a little extra, splurge for the Breakers, the Colony or the Four Seasons. If you’re trying to save a bit, the Chesterfield and the Ben West Palm Beach will be great options for you.

No matter where you stay or play, you will love Palm Beach! Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite spots in Palm Beach are!

XO,

Brit

Second Wedding Anniversary

Second Wedding Anniversary

Hello, friends! I know I haven’t posted in a while, but the past couple of weeks have weighed heavy on my heart and I decided to take the last week to listen and learn as much as I can about the Black Lives Matter movement instead of speaking and sharing about the trivial things in my life.

In a bit of happy news, today is my second wedding anniversary. I’d like to share with you a bit about my wedding as it was one of the happiest days of my life.

My husband and I actually met seven years ago today and that is how we chose our wedding date. I’m so glad we met in June because since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of being a “June Bride.” When I was four-years-old, my dad got a job transfer from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Salt Lake City, Utah, and for a few months, he lived alone in Salt Lake until me, my mom and sister joined him. During this time, he often stayed at this little Bed and Breakfast called the Armstrong Mansion. It was a 12-bedroom mansion in the foothills of Salt Lake and each room was dedicated to a different month, my favorite room was called the June Bride suite and all of the furniture was white and dreamy. Ever since we stayed there, I always wanted to be a June Bride.

Our save the date! I had this water color made to send out to our guests–it highlights the main attractions for the weekend.

We got married in Santa Barbara, California at the Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara. We decided on Santa Barbara because I moved around so much growing up and have family all over and my husband is from New Orleans and has a lot of family in California so there wasn’t really one place that would work well for our family and friends. Because of that, we chose a place that we loved and that our family and friends would love visiting. We also knew we wanted an outdoor wedding and since Santa Barbara has a nearly perfect climate and very low chances of rain, we thought it would be the perfect spot. The hotel is also one of the most beautiful properties I’ve ever been to in my life.

But nothing is ever that easy or perfect. About six months before our wedding, major wildfires caused severe damage throughout Santa Barbara and after the fires, a devastating mudslide wreaked havoc on the area and killed 15 people. Because of the damage caused by the mudslide, our venue closed. We were told they would reopen after Easter, but April came and went and the hotel did not open. As our June wedding date creeped closer and closer, I was a nervous wreck. I had spent a year-and-a-half planning my dream wedding and it started to hit me that it might not happen. But five days before our wedding date, the hotel reopened and looked incredible.

Since we knew most of our guests were traveling a long way to attend our wedding, we wanted to make the weekend as special as possible. To kick off the celebration, my parents hosted the most incredible rehearsal dinner that also doubled as a welcome party for all wedding guests. Traditionally, rehearsal dinners are just for the wedding party and family, but since this was kind of a destination wedding, we invited all of our guests.

The party was held on the rooftop of the Canary Hotel in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara. We chose this location for a few reasons… first of all, the view. This hotel has 360 degree views of Santa Barbara, the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains and we were there for sunset so it was absolutely incredible. Our goal was to give our guests a taste of the best parts of Santa Barbara so we had events at our favorite spots around town throughout the weekend.

I chose a fiesta theme for this party because I love margaritas and Mexican food. It was also the perfect set-up for guests to meet each other in an elegant-casual setting and just enjoy themselves.

The day of the wedding was amazing. We got our hair and makeup done at the Jose Eber Salon on the Four Seasons Property and it is one of the most beautiful salons I’ve ever been to.

I chose to get ready in this Patricia’s Couture Caftan with photos of my beloved dog Emma on it! Emma was 15 at the time and the flight to California would have been too much for her so this caftan was my way of having her at the wedding with us and it was honestly one of my favorite things from the whole weekend! For my bridesmaids, I chose blue cotton robes from J.crew for them to get ready in. On my wedding day, I also wore my Grandma Bea’s topaz earrings and I cut a swatch of fabric from her bridesmaid’s dress and put in in my dress as my something blue. My grandma Bea passed away in 2016 and I wanted to honor her at my wedding. She and my two grandfathers who passed away in 2014 and 2015 were all Irish so as a nod to them, I had Belles of Ireland in the floral arrangements on the aisle and at our reception.

The wedding itself was truly a dream. Set in the resort’s Jungle Garden, we overlooked the Pacific Ocean as we took our vows. I stuck to very simple, white and green flowers for the ceremony to accentuate the stunning venue and views. We also had a string quartet playing music for the ceremony and our family friend, Marty, officiated the wedding.

Will and I are both foodies so a main focus of the reception was on the food. I’m kind of sad because our photographers didn’t capture any of the food, but it was amazing. We had a four-course meal starting with salad, then lobster bisque, a sorbet-course to cleanse the pallet and then entrees of filet mignon, halibut or a vegan bolognese. My parents, sister, grandma, Will and I hand-picked the menu because it was so important to us. We finished off the evening with a wedding cake for dessert. The cake was three layers, the bottom layer was a white almond chiffon cake and the top two were carrot cake, our favorite!

To cap off the weekend of celebrations, my mother-in-law hosted a party for us at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective in the Funk Zone–a must visit if you are in Santa Barbara. We tried wines from vineyards in the area, had pizza from Lucky Penny and had fun with our guests!

My wedding was an absolute dream and I’m happy to say, married life has been just as amazing! Our second year of marriage was packed with quite a bit–we both turned 30, we moved to Austin, TX and survived a pandemic…Lets see what year three has in store for us!

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me.

XO,

Brit