Let’s try a quick round of word association. It’s so quick that I’m only going to give you one word: Miami.
Perhaps you thought beaches? Maybe Art Deco architecture, Cuban sandwiches, or drag queens came to mind? There’s no wrong answer. That’s where my brain once leapt until I started spending time in the Wynwood neighborhood, which has become overrun (in a good way) with galleries, stores, restaurants, and incredible street art. Wynwood isn’t on the ocean, and I slowly grew accustomed to the idea that Miami is not simply a giant beach, or a place where women of a certain age share a home, cheesecake, and sassy asides.
Spitting distance (technically about 3 miles) from Wynwood is another buzzy, Miami neighborhood without a beach called Brickell. Miami old-timers know that Brickell is the city’s financial district. But in less than a decade it’s become something else — a gleaming jungle of glass towers, high-end shopping, dining, and nightlife. On a Saturday night you’ll find the local jeunesse dorée, plus international tourists, and assorted curious onlookers walking to dinner or window shopping. In the not so distant past Brickell was a ghost town on a Saturday night.
The ganglion of Brickell is a 9.1-acre, $1.5 billion mixed-use project called City Centre. It is a city-within-a-city, and that’s where you’ll find Emporio Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kiton, Luke’s Lobster, and Tacology. You’ll also find a hotel called East, where I recently stayed.
At first I was a bit taken aback that my hotel was attached to a mall, pardon me, mixed-use lifestyle center. East is the first US outpost from Hong Kong-based chain Swire Hotels. There was nothing overtly Asian about the design, unless you believe that Asia holds a copyright on sparse, minimal, and clean spaces. I suspect Scandinavians might contest that copyright.
My room was a nice reprieve from many Miami hospitality offerings. It felt like a calm escape. I refuse to use Zen as an adjective, but if I did, I’d use it here. The earth tone décor with wood (and wood-effect) materials contrasted with the glass high-rises that surrounded me. Splashes of orange kept the room from feeling dull.
My room had a deck where I could sit, survey the scene far below, and sip wine. If you have a fear of heights, ask for a lower level. I usually have no problem with heights, but even I was feeling a bit nervous. The room had plenty of USB and electrical outlets where I needed them, the bed was ideal, and although I tend not to be a fan of rain head showers, the one at East didn’t annoy me — perhaps because I was sipping wine on the deck before my shower.
What I enjoyed most about the hotel was the pool area. I knew East was downtown, so I wasn’t factoring any swim time into my itinerary. However it was such a nice day that I found a lounge chair, unfurled a towel, and enjoyed a little me time. Or, as I prefer to call it, story research.
In those sun splashed moments I forgot that the hotel was attached to a mall. I was simply in Miami sitting by a pool on a nice day. That’s perhaps the highest compliment you could pay to East. I was rested, calm, and content, yet still in downtown Miami.
Rooms start at $250 a night. 788 Brickell Plaza, Miami, 305-712-7000. www.east-miami.comChristopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Mutherand on Instagram @Chris_Muther.