The historic and iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami has been earning accolades since Life magazine dubbed their pool the most beautiful in America in 1947. Today, the four-pearl Art Deco hotel still gets its fair share of praise and often hosts fashion shoots and parties by the pool. Renovations brought a contemporary restaurant, upgrades to the iconic Martini Bar, and a European-style coffee shop. Scenesters love free vintage bikes and a pop-up design boutique -- plus private access to South Beach, but nobody appreciates the small rooms and daily resort fees. The Raleigh still holds its own, but the scene at neighboring Delano and Shore Club gives it a real run for its money -- and press.
Vintage Art Deco sophistication but still kid-tolerant and not as over-the-top as the neighbors
Built in the glamorous 1940s by the man who designed most of Miami's Art Deco district, Murray Dixon, the Raleigh is still a famed, architectural icon. Past owners have included Andre Balazs (famous for Hollywood's Chataeu Marmont and The Mercer in New York) and David Edelstein (a developer and owner of the W South Beach); it sold in 2014 to Tommy Hilfiger, and a much-needed transformation for the property is planned.
The bright and spacious lobby includes retro inspired gray couches and short powder-blue armchairs clustered around matching gold and glass coffee tables. Gold metal stools add a splash of color. Books organized by color line the shelves of open-ended bookcases pushed against the wall. Dramatic floor-to-ceiling columns ground the space. The European-style coffee shop is adjacent to the lobby. Outdoors, white and blue striped patio furniture and matching umbrellas offer another spot for guests to gather. While the clientele here cares about style, the scene is much more subdued than what you'll find at The Delano. Families frequent the pool and restaurants.
Surrounded in high-end happenings on the resort side of South Beach
The Raleigh Hotel has an uber-convenient location directly on trendy and fun Collins Avenue and with private access to public South Beach. There, guests can get assistance with setting up beach chairs (included with the resort fee) and food service. This section of the beach is less crowded, but still booming. Expect a different group of matching umbrellas every 100 feet or so, as the neighborhood is loaded with hotels: The Delano, the Shore Club, and the Sagamore.
If you spent anytime in the stylish and updated Art Deco lobby and swimming pool, before entering one of the 105 rooms and suites, you may be a little disappointed to find cramped and kinda tacky accommodations, albeit with some fun and unique details. The rooms feel like a cross between a SoHo boutique and a senior citizen beach house in Boca. Thin orange rugs cover Formica-style floors while walls are painted white or covered with beige textured wallpaper, which looks dingy. White Ikea-esque furniture is covered with a piece of glass while wooden tables with rattan legs are dinged up. Much-appreciated technology includes a flat-screen TV, DVD player, and iHome station. Minibars stocked with booze, mixers, and Red Bull are a fun touch. The upgrade to a room with a tiny unfurnished balcony probably isn't worth it. Bathrooms look old-fashioned with powder-blue tiles. Some bathtubs are badly chipped and worn. Suites are much more spacious but are often rented out for private events and meetings.
Fabulous pool, beach access, free bikes, and super chic pop-up boutique
The freeform saltwater pool is a stunning Miami landmark: this is where Esther Williams leaped from the waterfall in a sequined bonnet. Ignore your instincts to jump from the five-foot waterfall; it's chained off from the rear. Sun loungers and rental cabanas are ample. There's a sandy area with a fire pit surrounded by black and white sofas. Vintage style bikes are free for guests to use. The Babalu pop-up boutique in the lobby sells itty-bitty bikinis, Tom Ford sunglasses, and has a perfume bar. Pets are allowed for a steep nonrefundable fee, and don't receive any special goodies.
Chic restaurant, martini bar, pool bar, and coffee shop
The Restaurant at the Raleigh serves Modern American cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner indoors, by the pool, or delivered directly to rooms. Guests can also order boxed lunches to take to the beach. The menu favors local and seasonal ingredients. There's a popular bar next to the pool for outdoor cocktails while the Martini Bar maintains its well-earned icon status for the last 70 years. The mahogany bar and a few tables make this an intimate spot. In true European-style, the coffee bar in the lobby is open late. It sells freshly baked pastries and specialty coffees, served on a retro counter with diner stools.
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