The Besty Hotel exhibit

Exhibition by South African photographer Sanle Sory at The Besty Hotel, Miami Beach; credit Dwight Brown

Exploring Miami

10 Things to do Before, During and After Art Basel

by Dwight Brown, Travel Writer/Photojournalist

As the days lead up to Miami’s world-famous Art Basel art fair (Dec. 6 – 9), Miami brims with expectation, is ready to welcome international crowds and presents a premier, citywide Black art festival. It’s a perfect time to enjoy the sun, sand, attractions, art scene and fine dining before Basel’s crowd descends. And if you pay some special attention to black cultural and historic events, your trip to Miami will be more than a just a wonderful trip to America’s most famous beach town. You’ll have an enlightening vacation too. These ten tips will get you started.

Art Black Miami multi-media artist Sanford Biggers

Art of Black Miami, multi-media artist Sanford Biggers; credit Dwight Brown

Art of Black Miami Showcases Black Art and Art by People of Color
Art of Black Miami showcases the works of black artists and people of color around the city every year around the time of the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair. A kickoff event at the classy Brightline at Miami Central train station starts the fest, along with guest lecturers like the interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers. Check out exhibits like: AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People exhibition and ART AFRICA’s “Black Art Matters: It’s not a choice.”

The Betsy Hotel, Miami Beach

The Betsy Hotel, Miami Beach; credit Dwight Brown

The Betsy Hotel Regal Boutique Hotel, Upscale Arts Center and Fine Dining
The Betsy-South Beach hotel sits majestically on the northern point of very trendy Ocean Drive, just up the street from the Versace Mansion. This picture of Florida Georgian architecture is also a beacon to the community, with a special appeal to the international music, art, film and literary crowd who attend multicultural events. Tips: View art shows on the hotel’s walls. Try the delectable Short Rib Bao Bun at the LT Steak & Seafood restaurant. Taste the flavorful Meatballs appetizer at the hotel’s ultra-cool Italian eatery The Alley.

Virginia Key Beach, Miami

Virginia Key Beach, Miami; credit Dwight Brown

Virginia Key Beach Rich in Black History
In the days of segregation, blacks worked in Miami Beach but could not swim there legally. On August 8, 1945 Virginia Key Beach opened on the 843-acre barrier island of Virginia Key, and became a popular shoreline for Miami’s African Americans, Cuban immigrants and Bahamians. In the 1950s, a concession stand, bathrooms, a horse carousel and dance pavilion were added. In the 1960s, Muhammad Ali hosted dance parties here and Martin Luther King’s family lounged on the beach. Chiron, in the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, learned to swim at VKB. The Miami Seaquarium sits across the street.

South Pointe Tavern

South Pointe Tavern; credit Dwight Brown

South Pointe Tavern, a Friendly New York-style Tavern in SOFI
The South Pointe Tavern is a modern-day Cheers-type pub in the very sophisticated South of Fifth (SOFI) neighborhood. Employees are so amicable they pour a customers’ favorite cocktails as soon as they walk in the door. TV’s are turned to sports channels. Games of table shuffleboard rage. Choose from the largest selection of whiskeys, tequilas, wine, craft beers and drinks in Miami Beach. Sip on a Yohoho cocktail: Vodka, pressed carrot juice, mango purée.

Coconut Grove Culinary Tour

Coconut Grove Culinary Tour; credit Dwight Brown

Miami Culinary Tour Coconut Grove Tasty Food and Local History on the Go
The Coconut Grove Food Tour offers a three-hour, ½ mile restaurant trek that features samples of Indian, Thai, Cuban and Latin-American fusion cuisine and noteworthy sights too: Coconut Grove Playhouse, Peacock Park, The Barnacle – Miami’s oldest home. The Grove is the first continuously-inhabited neighborhood in Miami Dade County and many of its original inhabitants were Bahamians.

Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami

Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami; credit Dwight Borwn

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County
Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County has several main venues: Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall and Carnival Studio Theater. Broadway shows, musicians, dance troupes and celebrity lecturers have included: Roots: Joshua Redman Quartet, Les Misérables, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Andrea Bocelli. Dine at the very elegant Brava by Brad Kilgore restaurant.

Cibo Wine Bar, South Beach

Cibo Wine Bar, South Beach

Cibo Wine Bar Serves Exquisite Wines and Italian Cuisine
This Southern Italian restaurant’s ultra-friendly atmosphere beckons. Mingle with diners on the scenic front patio over-looking South Pointe Drive, drink with them at the bar (the wine cellar has 3,500 bottles) and share a view of the stars on the upstairs rooftop patio. Cibo is not shy with the portions. Get your grub on bigtime: Fried baby squid rings; Fresh In-House Ravioli stuffed with lobster; and savory Veal Milanese.

Thriller Miami Speedboat

Port of Miami view from Thriller Miami Speedboat; credit Dwight Brown

Thriller Miami Speedboat Adventures Takes You for a Ride
Take a boat ride around Miami’s waterfront, which starts at the Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami. A green 55-foot power catamaran skims along the water at speeds up to 45-50 mph and passes by the Port of Miami, Venetian Islands, Fisher Island, Star Island and Lenny Kravitz’s home.

Red, The Steakhouse dessert

Red, The Steakhouse dessert; credit Dwight Brown

Red, The Steakhouse Serves Stately American Cuisine
Bring family and friends to this classic, high-end dining experience and begin with the Charcuterie Plate, move on to the moist and tender Filet Mignon and end with Chef Peter Vauthy’s innovative creation: a donut filled with Nutella and vanilla bean ice cream on a bed of chocolate cake crumbles with homemade raspberry jam.

Oceanside Hotel

Oceanside Hotel lobby; credit Dwight Brown

Oceanside Hotel Offers Low-Cost Eclectic Boutique Lodging in Mid-Miami Beach
If you stay in Mid Miami Beach at the Oceanside Hotel on 63rd Street, between the very busy streets of Collins Avenue and Indian Creek Drive, you save money. Rooms range from those with queen-sized beds (Starting at $50) up to suites with bedrooms, kitchens and convenient washer/dryers ($103). Have breakfast or lunch at The Tavern at Oceanside restaurant. Drink until you drop at Happy Hour, between 7pm and 8pm. Parking is sparse; take Uber.

Virginia Key Beach Park lifeguard logo

Virginia Key Beach Park lifeguard logo

Have an exciting time in Miami before, during and after Art Basel.

Visit travel writer Dwight Brown at

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