Florida Articles & Reviews
Celebrity Travel Guide to Florida
Florida celebrities dish on their favorite places to eat and play in the Sunshine State.
By Tom Austin
Bruce Weber’s Miami
In the mid 1980’s, photographer Bruce Weber put Miami on the style map when he began to shoot fashion spreads in the then rough-and-tumble area of South Beach. He still returns every winter to explore—and photograph—Miami’s vibrant neighborhoods, from the sophisticated Design District to the exile enclave of Little Haiti. It’s a city, according to Weber, full of “hidden jewels.” Here, a peek at his top spots, along with some of his personal photos.
“Little Haiti has all the exotic qualities of a unique destination—a rich history, amazing music—but you don’t have to travel far to get there,” says Weber, speaking of the 43-block district just north of downtown. Its center is theLibreri Mapou Bookstore & Mapou Cultural Center, with exhibitions by up-and-coming Haitian artists such as Jean Brierre and discussions by literary stars, including Edwidge Danticat.
In North Miami Beach, the 10,000-square-foot C Madeleine’s pays homage to all things vintage—1970’s Pucci floral-print dresses; Bill Blass gingham trenches; classic Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry. “Whenever I take designers there, I can’t get them to leave,” Weber says. In Coral Gables, Eutopia Books stocks hard-to-find tomes on fashion, architecture, and Miami history.
On lazy afternoons, he watches independent films such as Leon Ichaso’s Paraiso at Little Havana’s 1926 Tower Theater.
Weber loves to hang out at the Setai (dinner for two $100), which hosts dim sum and champagne parties on Friday nights. The Standard (dinner for two $100) is another great venue with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. Near theBal Harbour Shops, Weber likes the Palm Restaurant (dinner for two $150). Known for steak and Nova Scotia lobster, it’s an old-school joint with caricatures of longtime regulars on the walls—“the best place on Sunday nights,” Weber says.
Miami Beach: The newest outpost of the London-based boutique hotel and social club, the oceanfront Soho Beach House Miami (doubles from $650) was created by local architect Allan Shulman and designer Martin Brudnizki. Expect a Cecconi’s Italian restaurant, a Cuban coffee bar, and a 100-foot-long beachside pool.
Downtown Miami: Set within the Arquitectonica-designed 67-story Marquis Residences is the stylish Great ValueTempo Miami, A RockResort (doubles from $249), where the 14th-floor Sky Pool Deck gives way to unparalleled city views. The just-opened JW Marriott Marquis Miami (doubles from $329) accompanies the Hotel Beaux Arts Miami(the first of Marriott’s new luxury brand) with 44 chic rooms (cherrywood floors; marble bathrooms).
Weber’s exhibition of Little Haiti photographs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami will be on view through mid-February.
Kourtney Pulitzer’s Palm Beach
Just like the designer and preppy icon before her, Kourtney Pulitzer (whose father-in-law, Peter Pulitzer, was married to Lilly Pulitzer) epitomizes young Palm Beach style. At her four-year-old namesake boutique she sells flirty labels such as Indah and Barbara Gerwit, along with retro-inspired furnishings by Jonathan Adler and others. Next year, Pulitzer will launch her own clothing and accessories line. “I love this town,” she says. “You can be casual, with flip-flops and breezy dresses, but also elegant.”
On Sundays, Pulitzer heads to Michelle Bernstein’s (brunch for two $40), for its bistro-style brunch with a standout croquette madame with Manchego cheese.
The designer loves browsing the resale boutique Church Mouse, where she might find a secondhand ball gown or delicately embroidered pillows. In West Palm, Pulitzer never misses a chance to go antiquing in historic Northwood, stopping at Gardenhouse for reimagined vintage finds and Circa Who for Midcentury furniture. “It’s a stash of vintage goodies with a contemporary twist,” she says.
Pulitzer’s don’t-miss art spots? Norton Museum of Art, currently showing mixed-media works by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave, as well as Studio 1608, a loft-style complex of local artists’ studios. Look for the large-scale sculpture by Reuben Hale.
Late Saturday nights, you’ll find Pulitzer at Café Boulud, at the Brazilian Court Hotel (drinks for two $26). “It’s a great restaurant,” she says, “and then at 9 p.m. they bring in a DJ and get a nice champagne crowd going.” She also loves the lounge at Hotel Biba (drinks for two $16).
After 114 years, the Breakers Palm Beach (doubles from $499) still sets the standard in the hotel scene, with its oceanfront location and legendary Renaissance-style façade.
The just-finished $15.8 million makeover of Worth Avenue was co-helmed by landlord and former Warhol “it” girl Jane Holzer. In residence are cashmere label Loro Piana (loropiana.com) and contemporary art galleries Gavlak Gallery (gavlakgallery.com) and A.R.T. (artworthavenue.com).
Dara Torres’s Fort Lauderdale
Five-time Olympic swimmer (and four-time gold medalist) Dara Torres first moved to Fort Lauderdale in 2005, drawn to the city’s sunny climate (ideal for training year-round) and white-sand beaches. Between taking care of her four-year-old daughter and preparing for the 2012 Games, she’s out exploring her adopted hometown.
After her morning swim, Torres often has a late breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and pancakes at Dyan’s Country Kitchen (breakfast for two $18). For dinner, she loves the veal piccata at the low-key Tavolino della Nonna(dinner for two $75) or the grilled skirt steak at Thai Spice Restaurant (dinner for two $75). “I’m a steak-and-potatoes kind of girl,” she says. “I need protein.”
Torres loves to stroll along Las Olas, home to Blue, which sells designer labels, including Nicole Miller and Diane von Furstenberg, and Casa Chameleon for fine linens and scented soaps. Her favorite shop: A Nose for Clothes—“great for cute sundresses and casual tops,” Torres says.
To unwind, the Marie Antoinette treatment—a body scrub, bath and massage using chocolate and marshmallow—at the spa at the Atlantic Hotel (treatments from $30) is a definite treat.
A rigorous training schedule means that nights end early for Torres, but on Saturdays, she heads to the W Living Room Lounge (drinks for two $28), which has a spacious terrace and live DJ’s, or the Ritz-Carlton’s seaside Via Luna Bar (drinks for two $20).
Micky Wolfson’s Gulf Coast
Founder of Miami’s Wolfsonian–FIU museum and an inexhaustible traveler, Micky Wolfson knows old Florida better than anyone. The quiet quirkiness of the central and northern Gulf Coast has always appealed to Wolfson, who used to make annual pilgrimages to the area in his private railroad cars in the 1980’s. Now, he prefers to take road trips through the region, from the historic community of Masaryktown, outside Tampa, to 22-mile-long St. George Island, near Apalachicola.
In this Florida Panhandle town, travelers will find “the remains of the state’s Chautauqua, a spiritual community that flourished between 1880 and 1920,” according to Wolfson. The town is laid out around a circular spring-fed lake and is chockablock with beautiful Victorian houses. It’s also handy to several wineries. Don’t miss theChautauqua Vineyards & Winery (tastings free) for such rare sweet wines as Wild Honey Flower and Beach Berry.
The arcadian town of Masaryktown was built in the 1920’s and has a wonderful Cuban-inspired restaurant calledCafé Masaryktown (lunch for two $15). “Back then, it was a curious utopia for Slovaks and Czechs, named after Tomáš Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia,” Wolfson says.
Check in to the Inn at Cabbage Key (doubles from $99), a restored 1930’s mansion built on a private island, with a waterfront restaurant that serves simple grilled fish. From Cabbage Key, it’s a short boat ride to Boca Grande, considered by many to be Florida’s prettiest village, with the 1913 Gasparilla Inn & Club (doubles from $245).
Established in 1831, this fishing village still has old Florida charm, despite being the center of much media attention during the Gulf oil spill. A walking tour (apalachicolabay.org) yields such architectural gems as the 1912 Dixie Theatre. Nearby are the battlegrounds of Fort Gadsden and St. George Island, with miles of beaches. “It’s untouched Florida and very beautiful—that’s what I like about it,” Wolfson says.
Trudy Ferraro’s The Keys
A biological scientist at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the only living barrier reef in the continental United States, Trudy Ferraro is pure Keys. Her father was a charter-boat captain and her mother “makes the best Key lime pie” in the region. After patrolling around Pennekamp, Ferraro seeks out the area’s best haunts—from pristine snorkeling spots to quirky waterfront restaurants.
For mahimahi sandwiches, head to the casual Buzzard’s Roost Bar & Grill (lunch for two $25), in the Garden Cove Marina. “It has a great local vibe, and the ceviche is good too,” Ferraro says.
Upping this low-key island’s luxury quotient, the Cheeca Lodge & Spa (doubles from $249) has 212 tropical-chic rooms and the Atlantic’s Edge restaurant, where the chef will prepare your own catch.
Ferraro recommends a guided snorkel tour of Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, near Bahia Honda State Park, to spot barracudas and stingrays. “The coral reef there is amazing,” she says.
With its old-school fishing shacks and shrimp boats, Stock Island harks back to Key West circa the 1970’s. At the center of it all is Hogfish Bar & Grill (dinner for two $40), a funky dive that has live music on weekends.
For Ferraro, it’s all about the beaches here. “Fort Zachary Taylor, South Beach, and Higgs Beach are open to the public and right in town, and they’re all fantastic,” she says.
Kelly Slater’s Atlantic Coast
Kelly Slater, nine-time World Cup champion surfer, grew up riding the waves with his brothers off six-mile-long Cocoa Beach—and he still has a house in town. From Cape Canaveral and Daytona Beach to Jacksonville and the lush Amelia Island, Slater’s stomping ground is one big, beautiful stretch of sand that’s full of fun distractions—even for non-surfers.
Slater—like many pro surfers—is an avid golfer, and there are plenty of courses along the coast. Some standout spots are the Baytree National Golf Links and St. Augustine’s World Golf Village. Another Slater pastime? Deep-sea fishing. The area has more than 500 species of marine fish, and visitors can charter a boat from Obsession Charters (charters from $60). In Cocoa Beach proper, the fountainhead of all things surf-related is the Ron Jon Surf Shop, which houses the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum, with—what else?—two surfboards signed by Kelly Slater. The best surfing spots are R.C.’s, in nearby Satellite Beach, and Shorebreak. “There has always been a strong surf culture in Cocoa Beach. When I was a kid it was called the small wave capital of the world,” Slater says.
To fuel up before surfing, Slater hits Green Room Café (lunch for two $25), which serves all-natural smoothies such as the Shorebreak (peaches, strawberries, cinnamon, banana, and apple juice). Nearby is the Fat Snook (dinner for two $70), a local favorite with seafood dishes such as littleneck clams pan-roasted in Jamaican lager.
For out-of-town guests, Slater recommends the International Palms Resort & Conference Center (doubles from $89). The 13-acre property is the best in town, with 500 rooms overlooking the Atlantic.
Judge Judy’s Naples
When she’s not taping America’s top-rated daytime television show in Los Angeles, Judge Judy—a.k.a. Judy Sheindlin—lives in Naples with her husband, Jerry. What impresses the judge most about the southwestern Florida city are the beaches. “They rival any in the world, with absolutely spectacular sunsets,” she says.
Judge Sheindlin’s staple is Amore Ristorante (dinner for two $75), where an intimate Mediterranean-inspired dining room (Tuscan-orange walls and paintings of the Italian countryside) resembles a trattoria in Italy. On the menu? Traditional dishes such as risotto with mushrooms and black truffles. “The food here is consistently good and fresh,” she says.
The spa at the beachfront Ritz Carlton, Naples (treatments from $150) is what Sheindlin calls “a great oasis.” It’s one of the biggest in Naples (51,000 square feet), with treatments ranging from hot-stone massages to aromatherapy.
For a little retail therapy, Sheindlin loves the Waterside Shops, a stretch that includes high-end brands such as Kate Spade and Cartier, along with the lesser-known boutiques along Third Street South (thirdstreetsouth.com).
There are, of course, the beaches—Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is one of the most scenic. At night, you’ll find her at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts—this month the Holiday Pops are on tap. There are also downtown’s art venues, including the Shaw Gallery, which showcases works by Brazilian painter Shirley Brasil, and the Weatherburn Gallery, with landscape paintings by David Smith.
At the Naples Grande Beach Resort & Golden Door Spa (doubles from $109), bungalow suites have whitewashed oak headboards, Egyptian-cotton linens, and panoramic views. On Captiva island, 41 miles from Naples, the 330-acreSouth Seas Island Resort (doubles from $149) offers a daily cruise to Cayo Costa, a nature preserve with knockout beaches and an inlet where you can see manatees. The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club (doubles from $119) is an old-guard establishment created in the 1880’s, which now has 319 beachfront rooms.
The Sheindlins are honorary trustees of the Naples Winter Wine Festival (napleswinefestival.com; January 28–30) at the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon. Expect appearances by renowned chefs and vintners, including producers of the acclaimed Bordeaux Château Petrus. Proceeds benefit the Naples Children and Education Foundation.