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Thompson Miami Beach
4041 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, thompsonmiamibeach.com; 380 rooms starting at $349 (U.S.) a night.
I came to Miami Beach in search of a laid-back beach vacation, but – being a first-timer – I worried when I heard the untz-untz-untz pulsating from the hotels along Collins Avenue. I had packed all the wrong clothes, not to mention the wrong attitude.
Thankfully, as our cab made its way up the strip, I found an oasis from the land of the lobby club. The Thompson Miami Beach is ever so slightly removed from the scene, and you can feel every muscle relax when you walk through the door. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a scene here, too, and with regular pool parties and being part of this weekend’s EDM-heavy Ultra Music Festival, there’s sure to be more of one. But this hotel is also warm, welcoming and bright – just what I was looking for.
This place is decidedly mid-beach. If you want to mix bustle and buzz with peace and quiet, the hubbub of South Beach and Ocean Drive is not too far away, with a pleasant pedestrian boardwalk at the back of the hotel to take you there. The shops on the Lincoln Road promenade are within leisurely (read: long) walking distance or a quick cab ride. But the Thompson’s stretch of beach is what makes the experience. It feels as if it’s all yours, with soft sand and comfy beach chairs as far as the eye can see.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
You’d be foolish not to eat in. Chef Michelle Bernstein is a big deal in Miami and her new brasserie, Seagrape, is the Thompson’s gem. Its menu offers a mix of serious seafood and Latin flavours. We tried snapper two ways (the whole crispy version comes curled in on itself with punchy slaw piled sky high – for presentation alone it gets an A-plus), stuffed squash blossom on a bed of corn grits and a tropical panna cotta that I’m still dreaming about. The room, like the rest of the hotel, is pure 1950s Miami, dimly lit and blasting a hipster’s dream soundtrack. I could have stayed all night. Bernstein also handles the hotel’s room service, so you don’t have to get out of your bathrobe to sample her fare.
Everywhere you look, it’s a colourful feast for the eyes. The Thompson Miami Beach is keen on integrating international with local. London interior designer Martin Brudnizki (whose work you can also see at the Drake One Fifty restaurant in Toronto) has brought a mid-century modern look to the hotel’s restored art-deco tower, decked out in vibrant turquoise, yellow and coral. Outside, local landscape architect Raymond Jungles designed the tropical garden area around the pool. The adjacent 1930s House is pretty special – it’s a cocktail bar with a Spanish hacienda feel and a massive, original limestone fireplace. The house itself was relocated from across the street to the current property in the early 2000s.
The rooftop spa is bliss that exceeded my expectations. The heavenly open-air cabanas let the breeze and sun shine through as you enjoy your treatment (the spa offers free back massages on the beach, too. Take advantage of those). The neighbouring fitness terrace looked nice, offering outdoor classes including Rise and Shine Yoga, kickboxing and boot camp. I did not do any of those things.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
The size of the rooms. My boyfriend and I stayed in an oceanview balcony king – this was one of the higher-end rooms, ranging from 250 to 400 square feet – and it didn’t give us much space to manoeuvre around the bed. Our bags had a bad habit of spilling out of the doorless whisper of a closet. Then again, this is Miami Beach – if you aren’t packing light, you’re doing it wrong.
The writer was a guest of the resort.