If your travelling troupe is anything like ours, there are many dynamics at play which make every trip a ticking time bomb of pouting, frumping, huffing and, occasionally, squeals of joy. It can be challenging (as in, Mission Impossible) to keep everyone happy, from the Café Couture creature to the History Major to the Shop-a-holic, the Nature Child, the No Nature Child, and the Must.Eat.Now Zombies. You’ve traveled with them. Maybe you are them.
In truth, we probably all bear more than a passing resemblance to all of these personalities at various times. You can satisfy them all (at least, for a while) with a visit to Lincoln Road and Española Way, two iconic pedestrian-only avenues filled with shops, restaurants, cafes and attractions. There is, quite literally, something for everyone. Want to absorb Miami Beach’s coffee culture and indulge in some crazy people watching? Pick from a pair of Starbucks or the Nespresso Boutique. Need some peaceful time in a relaxing outdoor setting? Pull up a bench amongst the gardens and sculptures. Hungry? You, my friend, have hit the mother lode of restaurants.
For the uninitiated, Lincoln Road is an eight-block promenade running east-west across Miami Beach. About two blocks south, you’ll find Española Way, a smaller pedestrian street with fewer shops, but close enough to include in the Zone of Shopperly Delights.
It’s a good area to let family members have some time to explore what they enjoy. We felt safe enough to let our teen girls roam free, setting a time and place for everyone to meet up. Both streets are chock-full of character, and sometimes characters, though not usually as raucous as nearby Ocean Drive. The area is fine – in fact, fun – for families, and the walking is level and easy. Unless you’re the designated pack horse, in which case you’ll want to park close; there’s a lot of “shopportunity”.
There is more than shopping and eating though (just bear with me for a few paragraphs), so let’s explore!
The hardest part of picking a hotel in Miami Beach is deciding where to stay. Beachfront? South Beach? North Beach? How about right in the middle of Miami Beach’s main attractions? That would be Española way, which is almost literally in the center of the South Beach neighborhood. Staying here puts you just a few blocks from the Convention Center, the clubs on Ocean Drive, the marina, and the beach, a block from Lincoln Road, and just steps away from two dozen shops and restaurants.
In many ways, Española Way reminds us of Europe (that’s intentional; we’ll explain later), with small hotels above shops and restaurants lining a lively street filled with people. There are several hotels in the area, but the prime location is occupied by the venerable Clay Hotel. Being right above busy streets, the hotel smartly installed custom sound-resistant windows and balcony doors to help isolate rooms from the scene below. Adding to the oasis of serenity is a charming fountain courtyard, and a collection of one-of-a-kind works by Cuban landscape artist Pedro Amador, painted while he was in residency at the hotel. The Clay is at once quaint and elegant.
Nearby is the European-inspired Casa Victoria Orchid, with a sort of Mediterranean Spanish Modern décor. The boutique 22-room hotel was remodeled fairly recently, and gets great reviews for service and location. We spotted balconies overlooking Plaza de España (aka: the corner of Española Way and Drexel Avenue) from several rooms. We can’t think of a much better view.
Kitschy souvenirs can be found in shops all over Miami Beach, but let’s say you need a white linen outfit to brave the tropical temperatures in style. Perhaps you hit the clubs and they hit back, necessitating a leisurely soak and a bath bomb. Maybe you misplaced your (a) curling iron, (b) cigar cutter, or (c) killer Oakley shades – or maybe all of the above – and need a replacement, stat. Lucky you, you’re on Lincoln Road!
This is retail therapy for the sun bronzed and shop obsessed of Miami Beach, which makes it something of a tourist destination as well. You’ll find a wide variety of specialty boutiques and popular name-brand retailers including Lush, Lululemon, H&M, Aesop, and Apple. There are even stores for hip dad types, where one could rock the John Varvatos jeans, soak in the aroma of Davidoff Cigars, and see how a Tesla suits you. Next thing you know, dad will be starring in a Miami Vice redux!
Meanwhile, over on Espanola Way are more boutiques, mostly offering clothes and accessories. One of our favorites was Blanc du Nil, where we could always find cool and contemporary fashions almost exclusively in white cotton. (As of this summer, the Blanc du Nil store is transitioning to White Cotton Club, parting ways with the Blanc du Nil brand.)
It’s impossible to talk about Miami Beach without talking about food. That’s especially true when planning a trip to Lincoln Road and Española Way. There are many great restaurants here, and you won’t go wrong in any of them. But there’s also an opportunity to enjoy a great meal, so you might want to survey the landscape before settling down at one (or two, or three) places.
Though quaint, Española Way is all about the restaurants. There is delicious variety in the few short blocks: Cuban, Mexican, Italian, French, Spanish…even pizza and sushi. You’ll find even more variety on Lincoln Road, adding Mediterranean, Asian, and South American to the list, plus American staples like steakhouses and burgers (Shake Shack, no less).
Among the highlights are Tapas Y Tintos on Española Way, repeatedly named the best Spanish restaurant on South Beach, with nightly music, drink and dancing themes. But the favorites among our crew are Moshi Moshi Sushi and Havana 1957 on Española, and Juvia and YUCA (Young Urban Cuban American) on Lincoln Road. Even if you don’t eat at Juvia, you’ll want to venture to the rooftop bar to take in one of the best views in the city. (Reservations would be a good idea. You can make them with the Open Table app and earn points for your dinner, too – cha-ching!)
We also have a couple favorite after-dinner destinations: on Española Way we can’t pass up Milani Gelateria, and Lincoln Square is home to Laudree, the Parisian bake shop with Macarons to die for.
We are equal opportunity lovers of the brewing arts, be it coffee or beer. And we love that there are many options for both on Lincoln Road. For your java fix, there are two Starbucks, and a wonderful Nespresso Boutique. (Worth noting that Nespresso is just across the street from Laudree. Coffee and Macarons? Yes please!) And for beers, nobody does much better than Germans and Irishmen. In almost dreamlike perfection, you’ll find Finnegan’s Road and the Hoffbrau Beer Hall right across the street from each other at Michigan Avenue. Crazy!
I did promise more than shopping and eating. On Lincoln Road, that includes the iconic Miami Beach Art Deco architecture, in residence at two historic theatres, and a few other buildings, new and old. Scattered along the street are several beautiful fountains and sculptures in the Art Deco style, the best of which is in front of the Colony Theatre.
Lincoln Road was a central point in Miami Beach long before Art Deco and shopping sprung to life. As early as 1912, it was the city’s main thoroughfare after developer Carl Fisher cleared the mangroves along a strip from Biscayne Bay to the Atlantic shore. The city’s first church, the beautiful Miami Beach Community Church was built here in 1921, and it welcomes parishioners and visitors to this day.
Lincoln Road as we know it today was born in the 1950s when architect Morris Lapidus, known for pioneering the Miami Modern aesthetic at the Fountainebleau and Eden Roc resorts, was commissioned to renovate Lincoln Road. He turned it into one of the country’s first pedestrian malls complete with fountains and gardens in his iconic MiMo style.
Likewise, Española Way is one of the city’s most historic commercial streets. Architect N.B.T. Roney developed the street in 1925 as a “Latin Greenwich Village” modeled after historic Mediterranean villages of Spain and France. The street was lined with art galleries, shops selling fashionable merchandise, and restaurants featuring international cuisines. In the late 1920s and ‘30s, area was home to several nightclubs, including The Port of Missing Men, said to be a favorite of Al Capone. After World War II, bandleader Desi Arnaz gave those nightclubs a Latin sound, and the historic street became the Rumba Capital of the World! While the buildings have been continually updated, Española Way is still a destination for international cuisine, Latin dancing, and fashionable shops.
For 100 years, the iconic Lincoln Road and Española Way area has been drawing locals and tourists alike. Have you explored these Miami Beach destinations? We’d love to hear about the shops and spots you like. Share your thoughts and favorites with a comment.
Details & Disclaimers: TravelLatte was not compensated by businesses included in this article. All views and experiences are our own. Unless otherwise noted, photographs by TravelLatte.
If you are anything like us, you love reading about travel almost as much as the actual traveling! We participate with other bloggers in the “Link Ups” above, meaning that we share our posts and get to read a lot of other great travel stories by other bloggers who Link Up. Please visit the host bloggers of the Link Ups today, or search for the hashtags on Twitter. And don’t forget to comment – bloggers love comments and that’s how we build a community of travel fans!
This post has been featured in…
- #WeekendWanderlust hosted by A Brit & A Southerner
- #MondayEscapes, hosted by Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey
- #TravelTuesday link-up, hosted by bumblebeemum.net
- #WednesdayWanderlust, hosted by My Brown Paper Packages
- #wkendtravelinspiration – Weekend Travel Inspiration, hosted by Reflections En Route and many other great travel bloggers.