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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Winter in South Beach

Last Christmas, we wanted to go somewhere warm but also wanted to take along our dog Harvey. He had flown once before on a short trip to Milwaukee, and we'd taken a few road trips, but this would be our first "big" trip on a plane with him.

One of our favorite "warm weather" destinations in the U.S. is always Miami Beach. In almost every category, it compares with some of the best destinations we've visited around the world. It has awesome food, great scenery, shopping, nightlife...and lots of sunshine!

Task number one was to find a place to stay. As soon as I began searching online, I was happy to find that the Surfcomber Hotel has become a Kimpton property. (We're fans of the Kimpton chain because of their pet friendly and gay friendly policies. Plus, they're great hotels!) In fact, December would be the Surfcomber's first month as a Kimpton hotel, and we would be among their first guests with a pet.

As soon as I made the reservation online, I received an email from one of the hotel's two concierges (Reuben and Mickey) who wanted to touch base since we would be traveling with a pet and staying over the holidays. He offered to make any arrangements we wanted - dinner reservations for Chirstmas, anything dog related, massages, etc. They even offered to have framed photos waiting in the room for us. All I had to do was email a few photos. What a great touch. And this was definitely a sign of the top-notch service to come!

We did end up taking Reuben up on his offer and getting a "doggie daycare" package for Harvey one day that he arranged with Jackie at Happy Tails Wagon. It was perfect. We took Harvey to play in the ocean a few times, so he was ready for a bath. On the arranged morning, Jackie showed up in the lobby and took Harvey for a day that included bath, walk and playing with other dogs, while we had the day to take in some South Beach shopping. She even sent a text with a photo during the day to let us know Harvey was having a good time!



The hotel itself, located on Collins Avenue just steps from 17th Street, is absolutely beautiful with tropical grounds surrounding a spectacular pool, all with direct access to the amazing Miami beach. Everywhere you turn, the tasteful landscaping reminds you that you are in paradise. There are palms trees perpetually swaying in the breeze, the sky is an amazing blue, and it provides the perfect backdrop for the classic white Miami architecture of the hotel.




As with all Kimpton properties, the hotel has a hip, comfortable lobby where they host a popular wine happy hour every day. It's a great way to get kick off your evening and get to know your fellow guests. We were at the hotel for about a week and had a great time seeing familiar faces each evening and hearing about the day's adventures. In addition, the Surfcomber has a nice patio looking out over Collins Avenue and while it's a busy street, it was a great place to sit with a glass of wine and talk with new friends from all over.



The hotel includes the Lantao Kitchen, a Southeast Asian meets South Beach restaurant located right next to the pool. We had breakfast there each morning on the patio - with Harvey - and it was fantastic. The eggs benedict was awesome, and the french toast with ginger-infused syrup was amazing. The wait staff were excellent, really making us feel comfortable during the whole stay. They always made a point of saying hello to Harvey and brought him water, and of course he loved the attention.




One of my favorite features of the Surfcomber has to be the upper level poolside cabanas. Man, they have the most amazing bean-bag sort of chairs, but not quite, that once I got settled in with my iPad and started reading or sometimes just listening to some good music and staring at the incredible views, time just sort of suspended. Don't worry, they have the traditional chairs, too. But I highly recommend giving those bean-bag chairs a whirl!


The Surfcomber opens directly onto the public walkway that runs along the beach, with the beautiful Atlantic ocean right in front of you. During the day, the hotel offers a beach club with umbrellas and chairs. It's a nice touch to have that dedicated service on the crowded beach.


The public walkway along the beach is great. We started off each morning there with Harvey and ended each day there. No matter the time of day, there was always a nice, interesting variety of people from all over the world. There are a lot of runners on the path, so it's important to stay alert of what's going on, but there are lot's of people just wandering and enjoying the amazing views, as well.

Just a few blocks north of the hotel up the path we found what I still think is the best guacamole I have ever tasted, at a place called Lucy's Cantina Royale. It's actually located outside the Shelborne Hotel and the landscaping is wonderful. They have very cool swinging chairs, these platform bed sort of things, a maze, and then some regular tables, as well. But the margaritas, tacos and guacamole really were perfect!





Eating was a fun part of this trip, and the staff at the Surfcomber did an outstanding job recommending places. For Christmas dinner we wanted something special, so Reuben made reservations for us at OLA. This Latin American restaurant is within walking distance of the hotel and offers seating inside, as well as out. We sat out on the front patio enjoying the incredible South Beach weather!

The wine, beer and food was just as good as we expected it would be. The server did a great job explaining the menu and we both really enjoyed our meals. I had the Puerco Asado and it was great.

Whether we're eating out here at home in Columbus or traveling, our favorite food always tends to be Italian food. In fact, whenever we're in a city for a long period of time, we seem to find Italian places we like and stick with them. I know that doesn't sound real adventurous, but it has led us to some awesome Italian restaurants around the world, including La Lupa di Roma on Lincoln Road. This place has real Italian food. And, of course, incredible wine and beer, and you're sitting on the famous Lincoln Road Mall watching all of South Beach go by. Needless to say, we have several amazing meals here. All an the recommendation of the wonderful staff behind the front desk at the Surfcomber!



Miami is a great destination any time of year, but the incredible weather and amazing natural beauty make it the ideal winter getaway. During this trip, I think our goal was to not do too much. We succeeded, and had a wonderful trip! 

Check out more photos here.