As the notorious home—or at least vacation home—of NBA superstars, Latina pop queens, drug kingpins, and, these days, the sisters Kardashian, Miami is easy to dismiss as just a sun-addled tropical playground. But it’s also an art mecca during Basel, a rave at the Winter Music Conference, a capital of international investment, and, of course, one of America’s most dynamic cities. Around 37 percent of the metro area’s 5.5 million inhabitants are foreign-born—a higher proportion than anywhere else in the country. Among those Cuban, Haitian, Brazilian, and Russian newcomers are “Gateway to Latin America” businessmen, political exiles, and vodka magnates, many of whom are snapping up the sort of ostentatious properties that make Miami’s turbulent real-estate market so famous. There are new hotels (in Miami, there are always new hotels), like the Philippe Starck– and Lenny Kravitz–designed SLS, as well as a $312 million overhaul of the Design District and an ever-evolving Herzog & de Meuron parking garage that is a feat of architectural splendor. To counter all that swankiness: world-class graffiti, copious thrift shops, heaps of fried shrimp in Little Havana, and enough rough-around-the-edges allure to make the South Floridian city spectacularly, perennially irresistible.
Additional reporting by Molly Langmuir and Alexa Tsoulis-Reay.