A guide to nightlife in Miami

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Miami’s nightlife scene is hot. A Spanish flair for all-night fun, warm weather, big beaches, skimpy clothing, perfect mojitos – yep, this isn’t the place for those with Catholic guilt complexes.

On the other hand, it can also feel like it isn’t a place for normal human beings. Yes, yes, those are real people going into the club, even though they look like they've been freshly pampered for a magazine shoot.

But don’t be intimidated. You don’t need to be uberwealthy or ultra-attractive to get past the red rope here, just confident. Besides, who cares about the rope? Miami’s got kick-ass rock bars, hipstersgone-wild lounges and the best Latin music scene in America. If you want to bump and grind and look for celebrities who aren’t there, you can have it, but Miami will love you just as much if you want to rock out with a Budweiser on a sweaty South Florida evening.

If you’re going to go out in Miami, ask yourself what you want: Do I want to dance? Hear good tunes? See celebrities? If you answered yes to the first two questions, the Downtown/Wynwood scene might be to your liking (which isn’t to say the beautiful people don’t go out there. The scene is just less…well, scene-y). Otherwise, you may want to head to South Beach. Also, ask yourself another question: What do I bring? If it’s good looks, money or promoter connections, the world is your oyster. If you’ve got none of the above, you can still party, but be prepared for some ego-crushing.

Clubs

Here’s how it breaks down: the South Beach club scene plays on the appeal of celebrity. More famous customers equal more regular customers. Eventually, a strange equilibrium establishes itself where there are enough regular customers to make people assume famous people are there, even if they’re not. But those regular customers can’t appear too regular. So a little social engineering is committed by club-owners and those titans of the cultural scene (ie bouncers) in the form of the red rope. So, how do you get by it?

Be polite Don’t be skittish, but don’t act like you’re J Lo, either. And whatever you do, don’t yell at the doorman – or touch him or yank on his clothing – to try to get his attention.

Get guest-listed Ask the concierge at your hotel to help you out, or simply call the club and leave your name; it’s often that simple.

Remain confidently aloof Don’t stare at the doorman; it’s pathetic. Look elsewhere – but look hot doing it.

Be aggressive. Failing that, be rich If there’s a clamoring crowd, standing at the back of it and hoping it’ll part is about as effective as being meek when you need a seat on the New York subway. Push your way through to the front. Or order bottle service, which usually guarantees you a pass to the front.

Come correct For women, showing a sophisticated amount of skin can be effective, although ‘sophisticated’ depends on the wearer. We’ve seen Brazilians in barely-there tops look less trashy than Americans in a standard sorority-girl-miniskirt ensemble. Men, don’t wear T-shirts and jeans, unless you are one of those guys who can and still look put together. In which case, we’re jealous, dude. Also, this is Miami; be a little more daring than a button-up shirt and slacks if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Get there early Do you want to be cool, or do you want to get in? From 10:30pm to 11pm is a golden time for bouncer leniency, but you can’t club-hop with this strategy.

If you’re a man, bring a woman A man alone is not worth much (unless you’re at a gay club, natch); up your value by having a beautiful woman – or two or three – on your arm.

Bars

There is a surprising glut of dives in South Beach, the perfect yin to the flash yang of the club scene. And both dives and hot bars abound in Miami proper. But the best place for a simple drink in this city may well be your hotel lobby. For years now, hotel lounges have been the clubs of the season, and on almost any given night, front desks hire DJs for their lobbies and pool areas. Plenty of people use their hotel lobby as a jumping-off point to bigger things, but for many, the lobby is the be-all, end-all destination for the evening out. Restaurant bars have started to build on the same cachet, and the most popular hotels blend all of the genres, keeping a hot eatery on site that happens to have a hotter attached bar.

Live music

When most people think about the live music scene in Miami, they’ll start hearing one of two sounds: Latin or hip-hop. And while it’s true that these are still the beats that rule this town, there is a lot more going on. Electronica rules at more Design District and Downtown clubs, lovely jazz spots aren’t hard to find, and a cozy but strong indie-rock scene centres around Sweat Records (5505 NE 2nd Ave) and Churchill’s (5501 NE 2nd Avenue). Still, Miami is the Latin music capital of America; if you want to hear what’s emerging in this genre, head on down to La Covacha (10730 NW 25th Street) and get your dancing shoes on.

Note that there’s some overlap between what we call lounges, bars and clubs; a lounge has a bar and dance area, with the emphasis shifting from drinking to dancing throughout the night. Do some follow-up research when you arrive: talk to friends, your concierge and pick up a copy of the local arts weekly, Miami New Times, or a free monthly such as Miami Living Magazine or the pint-sized Ego Miami Magazine.

Where ever you decide to go, bear in mind that you have to pay to play in this town. Cover charges for the bigger clubs ten to run around $25 to $30. Bars charge anywhere up to $10 for a beer, and a little more for mixed drinks. Beers may be relatively inexpensive in a club, but expect to pay as much as $25 for a regular old rum and coke in top-end joints. Don’t forget the insidious practice of bottle service, whereby tables are available for sitting if you’re willing to shell out about $200 to $2000 for a bottle of booze. This can actually work out well if you’re in a large group. At some clubs you’ll have to order bottle service or be on the list to enter after a certain hour.

And finally, make sure you get your beauty sleep in before you hit the town. Miami's one of the most late-night friendly towns in America, and clubs generally stay open from 9pm to 5am. Bars open earlier but often shut at the same time. The only district you're likely to get an ‘early night’ in is Coconut Grove, where the closing time is now 3am.