Miami Vice has given the "Magic City" a reputation that is actually quite far from reality. Yes, there are neon lights and artisanal cocktails everywhere, but neon yoga pants and artisanal juices have also come to the forefront, creating the perfect picture of good health.
In other words, it's totally possible to experience the Miami of Will Smith's big hit from 1997, and also return home feeling happy, healthy and well-rested. For a hardworking New Yorker like me, this was essential.
After a recent jaunt down south for Art Basel with four girlfriends, I discovered a city that's more Namaste and less stay-up-all-night — though there's certainly that option, too!
But in the midst of all the chaos — Solange playing a DJ set in my hotel's backyard in the middle of the night, a Chloë Sevigny spotting in the elevator, star-studded performances by the likes of Theophilus London and Miley Cyrus, and extreme lack of sleep, Miami offers incredible edibles and a killer array of exercise choices (yoga, Tai Chi, running, etc.), on the beach and elsewhere, which makes for a prodigious mind/body experience.
Here are a few reasons why you can find a great balance of wellness and play in beautiful Miami:
1. Walking on the beaches of Miami is just one step away from heaven.
The sand is so soft that it feels like your feet are nestled in a warm flannel blanket. The water is strikingly clear and aquamarine. On my first full day in Miami, I snuck away from my friends and wandered south along the beach until the late afternoon, with the full Floridian sun moving toward the horizon.
I kicked off my gold Converses, stowed them in some tall grass near the hotel and walked. And walked. And walked some more. I wound up taking a four-mile stroll along the surf, with the occasional over-exuberant wave splashing my legs and soaking the hem of my dress. I should add that this all took place in early December and that the weather was perfect, in the high 70s and sunny. With such beautiful days and pristine beaches, it's no wonder that Miami is a destination for health and good living.
2. You can sleep in and rejuvenate with plenty of fresh cold-pressed juices and killer coffee.
Late-morning pilgrimages to obtain fresh juice, great coffee and flowery black tea were just one of the seemingly infinite perks.
One morning, we woke bleary after a late night that had started with a wild party at the Pérez Museum. Music from Kelela and Future Brown had been supplemented with decorative blasts of fire, while water dancers using jet packs called Flyboards glided in and out of the neighboring Biscayne Bay. Needless to say, I felt less than cheery. But with a green juice in one hand and a fair-trade iced coffee in the other, I threw on a pair of sunglasses and took on the beach with gusto.
3. Menus about town boast tons of healthy options.
No need to stash a bag of arugula in your purse — even in the midst of multiple art fairs, wholesome sustenance is abundant. The lobby in our hotel alone was stocked with watermelon, salads and fresh juices.
All over town, many local, grassroots-style cafes had decidedly green menus. I found it just as easy to find healthy options as I do in New York! The possibilities for clean eating were endless.
When I was nursing a fried plantain hangover from dinner at a Cuban restaurant, I took solace in the many amazing nutritional choices that Miami has to offer. For breakfast I could indulge in a superfood açaí bowl, full of spirulina, coconut meat, almond butter, maca and chlorella. For lunch, the curative properties of an organic kale "Cobb" salad made with coconut jerky instead of bacon, also did the trick. These mom-and-pop Miami-based businesses not only add to the charm of the city, but are a wellness junkie's dream come true.
4. Long taxi rides are an ideal opportunity for turning inward.
Visitors to Miami will find themselves (as I did) in a taxi more often than not, en route to various events and locales. That is, unless you rent a car of course.
But I found it to be incredibly restorative and even meditative to just close my eyes in a taxi and breathe deeply for ten or fifteen minutes, or watch the drop-dead gorgeous cavalcade of palm trees and dramatic skies parade by the open windows. With my hair blowing around in the wind and the smell of salt permeating the deep, musky warm air — I was in a state of total bliss. Sometimes I would put headphones on and listen to a meditation podcast from Tara Brach or Josh Korda, which put me in the right frame of mind to tackle the next barrage of art.
5. Two words: Hot tub.
The magical trifecta of a sweet hot tub, a pristine swimming pool and steps-away beach access is de rigueur in Miami.
Since Miami is an island, everything is within a short walk to the beach, meaning you can walk out of an art fair, slip off your shoes and walk back to the hotel, totally barefoot in the sand and connected with the earth.
Back at our hotel, my friends and I indulged in plenty of nighttime hot tubbing, followed by a bit of wading in the surf. Miami has round-the-year temperatures averaging in the 70s and 80s, which means that the three swimsuits I packed went to good use during my sojourn.
If it's truly possible to stay calm amidst the outright mayhem that is Art Basel, Miami must be even more relaxing when explored without the distraction of a deluge of art. One thing is for certain: Now that I've discovered the quick direct flight between New York and Miami, I'll be popping by the city regularly for sunbathing (with a hat and plenty of SPF!), beach-walking, green juice drinking and açaí bowl eating.
But until then, I'll be huddled in layers of down jackets and knit scarves, staying warm in New York and dreaming of that Miami sunshine.