Bal Harbour, Florida. That little one square mile village in Greater Miami has always been where one went to buy a luxury item, like Gucci, Hermes or Dior. It was a luxury shopping destination and that was pretty much it. As a teenager I remember walking around there and hoping I would grow up to be just like those ladies with all the shopping bags, except they were so old! It had the reputation of being a place where wealthy people from the northeast went to grow old, decorate their condos with conch shells and shop till they dropped... hopefully, figuratively and not literally.
But, times have been a changing all over and Bal Harbour has been quite skillful at keeping up with the trend, if not ahead of the curve. The Bal Harbour I visited last weekend still possesses all it's aspirational fabulousness but with hot, young crowds, tons of cultural activities and practically no crime. Really? Yes, really.
We spent our first night at what I think is South Florida's best kept secret (until now!). it was a fabulous boutique hotel called, Quarzo. I was expecting a small suite, because that's what most suites are, right? Well, not here amigo. At Quarzo, you can get a spacious, modern and clean 2/2 with walk in closets. There was also a brand new modern kitchen and dining room. For families, this is awesome since parents need a never ending supply of juice boxes, goldfish and um, wine. Makes it much more affordable when you don't have to order from room service. In high season, the rate was just $399. The staff was friendly and helpful and charming. There is a small pool, a hip sun bathing area facing the intracoastal that was a great spot for watching boats go by at sunset. I felt like I was in my chic, Miami apartment and not a hotel. Total steal.
We also stayed in The ONE Bal Harbour resort & Spa, which is directly on the ocean. I wanted to stay here because as a designer, I heard I would love this property. I also wanted to check out their $4 million art collection. It was far more sophisticated and elegant than I had expected. It was glam, luxe and worth every penny they charge. The lobby was filled with well-heeled New Yorkers, Latin American gaziillionaires and no shortage of the de rigueur beautiful people. The valet area had more than a peppering of Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis. Seriously, if you were in a BMW, you were slumming it. Recession? What recession? It made me feel like we were back in freewheeling and big money spending 2004. I loved it. The rooms are exquisite, the property is pristine and if you need a little pampering from all that shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops, they boast a 10,000 square foot spa. One of my favorite things was our room had a view of the ocean and a view of the city. Also, the beach is more powder like than it is in South Beach. If you're looking for bikini contests, jello shots or reggaeton blaring from radios, this is not your outpost. Whew! They have a constant calendar of luxe packages, like driving a Jaguar for the day, with lunch at Morimoto, take a yacht to the Sony Ericsson Open or have a driver take you to the International Polo Championship in Palm Beach. I found these little touches a real standout here. They clearly know how to cater to their guests. When I was there, the village was hosting an outdoor movie night on the beach. Totally cool and great for just chilling with your family. Who else does that?
For dining, there are a few great restaurants right there in Bal Harbour like Carpaccio and La Goulue. Great food and even better people watching. It's the stuff people watching dreams are made of..gorgeous models, ladies who lunch with really weird plastic surgery and Europeans with ridiculously killer wardrobes. I love it, I could sit there all day if it was cloudy out.
When you wish to venture beyond Bal Harbour, make sure you check out Midtown area and have dinner at Sugarcane Raw Bar. It's really worth the trip, if not solely for the torrejas. Trust me. South Beach is just about a ten minute drive, should you want to get a little more action. There was amazing tennis all weekend in Key Biscayne, as well. Aside from that, I saw no reason to leave. We came to Miami to relax, sunbathe, shop and eat well. And oh honey, how we did.
In unapologetic, glamourous, Bal Harbour style.
5 Fab Tips
Stop by the YSL shop at Bal Harbour Shops and check out the incredible and affordable (I swear) costume jewelry they have.
If you have children, take them to Story Time Sundays at Books & Books
Take a walk down to Buenos Aires Bakery on Collins Avenue and 72nd St. for the best Argentinian pastries in town.
Go on a little diet before your trip. Just trust me here.
Pack your best stuff, you'll want to sport it here.
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