South Beach's reputation as Florida’s glitzy playground for the well-to-do is spot-on. But it’s easy to visit (and have fun!) without spending a lot. From free movies, music, and museums to easy-on-the-wallet restaurants and hotels, here are some inexpensive ways to enjoy this sunny, sexy city.
Skip the rental car and pricey valet parking. It’s cheaper to take the efficient SoBe Local bus, which runs from South Pointe Park to 23rd Street, for just 25 cents. Alternatively, the Citi Bike sharing and hourly rental program makes it easy to get around. There are more than 85 solar-powered stations, over 1,000 bikes for rent, and miles of boardwalk to ride on.
The Miami Beach Soundscape Park hosts free outdoor films on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. with classics like American Graffiti and new flicks such as The Jungle Book. Bring snacks and enjoy the stars in the sky -- and on screen. The Jewish Museum of Florida waives admission on Saturdays and the Wolfsonian-FIU Art Museum is free on Friday’s from 6 to 9 p.m. And, of course, working out is a popular pastime in this body-conscious city. Skip the hotel gym and head to 3rd Street and Ocean Drive for beach yoga -- held daily, weather permitting -- at 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. Make a donation to join in.
Nightlife is a huge part of SoBe, but it gets pricey, especially at the area's celeb-filled hot spots. Take advantage of happy hour deals, like the one at Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company (SLDSC). Every day from 4 to 7 p.m. oysters are seventy-five cents, and cocktails, like the Out to Sea -- made with Linie Aquavit, pear liqueur, citrus, honey, celery juice, and mint -- are just five bucks. Bolivar Lounge, a Colombian restaurant and bar on 8th and Washington serves half-price beer, wine, and sangria weekdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Salsa and bachata classes are held on Wednesday’s at 9 p.m. And of course, you’re in the right place for Cuban food. Las Olas Cafe, a cafeteria-style restaurant on 6th Street and Euclid, serves up delicious dishes such as a 12-hour, slow-cooked roast pork and an arm’s-length Cuban sandwich for a mere $6.
Finding budget-friendly hotels in SoBe can be challenging, but it's not impossible. Naturally, Ocean Drive’s sea view properties are coveted, but there’s often a stiff price to pay for the pleasure. Just two short blocks away on Washington Avenue is the 42-room Hotel Astor. Here, a multi-million-dollar transformation includes a new juice and coffee bar and revamped rooms. The Art Deco flavor remains, from cushy rose-colored headboards to vintage-style phones and turntables (borrow records from the hotel’s eclectic collection). The downstairs Astor Social Club is a cozy speakeasy with velvet couches, free popcorn, a pool table, and live entertainment. Free chairs, towels, and even hot-pink yoga mats are available when visiting the quiet 10th Street beach area, which is within walking distance, or ride a complimentary beach cruiser. Along with reasonable room rates, guests get free WiFi and a minibar stocked with Swedish fish, pretzels, soda, water, and even a local Native Lager beer. The chilled glasses are a nice touch. (Rates from $152.)
The Hotel of South Beach has expanded its original 1939 Art Deco building on Collins Avenue to a coveted Ocean Drive annex next to the famous News Cafe. The new rooms were styled by designer Todd Oldham, and many have balconies for sunset- and people-watching. The lobby bar serves free sangria and mimosas from 4 to 5 p.m., followed by a daily happy hour until 8 p.m. with two-for-one cocktails and $7 bar bites (try the mini beef empanadas with brown sugar soy sauce). In addition to hanging out at the rooftop pool, guests have access to beach chairs. If you’ve participated in the hotel’s free weekend Zumba or boot-camp class, chances are you’ll recuperate in either spot before enjoying the plethora of nightlife options lining the street. FYI, earplugs are put bedside in the new tower to mute sounds from the boisterous party scene outside. (Rates from $179.)