Think of Miami and most people imagine sun-drenched beaches, rich fashionistas and high-rise buildings glinting in the sunshine. What not everyone realises is that Miami is also a cultural destination with a thriving arts scene. When you’ve had enough of beach-life, step onto the palm fringed streets and be dazzled. From the historic Art deco buildings in Miami Beach, through to the street art and architecture of the Wynwood and Design district there is a huge amount to see, without stepping inside. However the city is also blessed with stunning contemporary arts centers, including The Adrienne Arsht Center, which really is a rival to New York’s Lincoln Center or London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Set across Biscayne Boulevard, in Downtown Miami, the Adrienne Arsht Center has three separate venues which host around 300 performances a year divided into seasons which include, ‘Boadway in Miami’, ‘Jazz Roots’ and ‘The Miami Made Series’. When Theatre News were in town, we were lucky enough to catch the ground-breaking musical, Hamilton. Although it’s been a five star show in London since 2017, watching this roller-coaster of a show about America’s founding father, with an audience who really connected to that history was all the more exciting.
As the evening sun turned the city skyline pink and the palm fringed streets black, we made our way across the courtyard Ziff Ballet Opera House the for a pre-show dinner in the Café at Book & Books which as its name suggests is an arts bookshop by day. Not cheap but there’s a great buzz with a delicious menu of local and sustainable produce. We enjoyed a starter of ‘Local Mahi Mahi Ceviche’ followed by ‘Grilled egg-plant and Quinoa Chop Chop’ and the ‘Chorrasco Skirt Steak Chimichurri’. The cafe was packed both the outdoor tables in front of the centre and round the bar in the bookshop itself. Probably worth booking in advance to be sure of a seat.
After dinner we walked out the back of the bookshop and into the Foyer of The Ziff Ballet opera Hall, the largest venue at the Arsht Center. Designed by the firm Cesar Pelli it is a place of exceptional detail and beauty, with white marble floors and internal vaults that appear to be starlit. Climb the stairs and from the balconies, a wall of glass means you can look out across the landscape of Downtown Miami through a wall of glass. Inside the largest concert hall, the scale and contemporary elegance is breath-taking with a vast swirling chandelier and each seat not only exceptionally comfortable but a thing of beauty. The etched glass railings on the balconies are designed by Jose Bedia whose un-broken brushstrokes depict palm trees, fish, birds and musical instruments. Even if you aren’t seeing a show, they do offer guided tours of the building.
The art scene in Miami rivals any major city so you really can have a cultural beach holiday. Who said you can’t have it all?
Address: 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL. 33132
The main areas are:
• Ziff Ballet Opera House: 2,400 seats.
• John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall: 2,200 seats. Box Office: 305-949-6722
• Carnival Studio Theater: A flexible black-box space designed for up to 200 seats.
• Parker and Vann Thomson Plaza for the Arts: An outdoor social and performance space linking the two main houses across Biscayne Blvd.
• Carnival Tower: A restored architectural icon and one of Miami’s oldest Art Deco buildings.
• The Café at Books & Books in the Carnival Tower: Under the direction of Chef Allen Susser, The Café
at Books & Books features a bookstore and a café-style restaurant with outdoor seating.
• Peacock Education Center: A 3,500 square-foot workshop and classroom space.
• Magnificent public art installations by five outstanding artists commissioned by Miami-Dade Art in Public Places.
• BRAVA by Brad Kilgore: The two-time James Beard Award semifinalist and 2016 Food & Wine Best New Chef delivers a unique culinary experience at the on-site restaurant.