When to Go
Miami and Miami Beach are year-round destinations. Most people come from November through April, when the weather is close to perfect; hotels, restaurants, and attractions are busiest; and each weekend holds a festival or event. High season kicks off in December with Art Basel Miami Beach, and hotel rates don't come down until after the college kids have left after spring break in late March.
It's hot and steamy May through September, but nighttime temperatures are usually pleasant. Also, summer is a good time for the budget traveler. Many hotels lower their rates considerably, and many restaurants offer discounts—especially during Miami Spice in August and September, when a slew of top restaurants offer special tasting menus at a steep discount.
Festivals and Annual Events
Art Basel Miami Beach. The most prestigious art show in the United States is held every December, with plenty of fabulous parties to go along with the pricey art. This is a who's who of the art world where collectors, emerging artists, renowned artists, curators, gallerists, and art aficionados convene alongside novices, trendsetters, and glitterati. Although the main exhibition is held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, dozens of smaller exhibitions are set up on the beach, Downtown, and in the Wynwood District at galleries, event spaces, and in hotel lobbies. The exquisite art and sensational people-watching more than soften the blow of exorbitant hotel prices, heavy traffic, and long waits. Plan ahead to make the most of Art Basel, which includes purchasing tickets or securing your name on guest lists in advance. www.artbasel.com.
Art Deco Weekend. This annual weekend of all things art deco was started by the Miami Preservation League in the 1970s to draw attention to and celebrate Miami Beach's Art Deco Historic District. Tours, lectures, film screenings, and dozens of other 1930s-themed events are on tap over this January weekend. Festivities—many of them free—begin on Friday, followed by a car show and street fair (with over 140 vendors) on Saturday and Sunday. More than a quarter of a million people join in the action, which centers on Ocean Drive between 5th and 15th streets. www.artdecoweekend.com.
Carnaval Miami. The Caribbean and Latin America know how to celebrate Carnival in style, so it's only natural their tropical stepsister does, too! Each year, Miami's pre-Lentan celebrations in February and/or March climax during Carnaval Miami. One of the main celebrations is held every year on Calle 8. The wild and fun street festival in the heart of Little Havana is the last blowout before Lent begins. This Sunday street party attracts over a million people, who dance in the streets and enjoy more than two dozen stages of DJs and live music. www.carnavalmiami.com.
South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The Food Network and Cooking Channel's star-studded four-day weekend each February showcases the flavors and ingenuity of the country's top chefs and wine and spirits producers. Personalities like Anne Burrell, Guy Fieri, and Bobby Flay headline brunches, cocktail hours, dinners, and seminars — and of course, the coveted large scale tasting events across Miami Beach. The festival attracts more than 60,000 attendees annually. To avoid disappointment, book your choice events far in advance. 877/762–3933; www.sobewff.org.
Ultra Music Festival. One of the world's best-known electronic music events, the massive Ultra Music Festival has been taking place in Miami every spring since 1999 (usually in mid- to late March). The festival has drawn crowds of nearly 200,000 revelers. Until 2011 the Ultra Music Festival was part of the Winter Music Conference but has since spun off into its own mega-event. www.ultramusicfestival.com.
The White Party. The White Party began in 1985 as a pioneering fund-raiser for AIDS research and awareness. Nowadays, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most anticipated weekends of the year in the LGBTQ community thanks to the White Party (and another reason not to have that extra scoop of stuffing). On Saturday evening, thousands of gay men, women, and their friends get decked out in white and party the night away under the stars to the sounds of world-famous DJs and recording artists. The event remains a charitable event to support Care-Resource, a nonprofit, community-based AIDS service organization. www.whiteparty.org.
Winter Music Conference. Since 1985, the largest DJ showcase in the world has rocked Miami every March, when South Beach truly turns into one big ol' party with more than 100,000 attendees. The latest and greatest in electronic music (to the tune of 2,000 performers and 400 events) diffuses through the lobbies and pools of Miami's most iconic hotels, public spaces, and local event arenas. www.wintermusicconference.com.