Visitors to Miami in July may be surprised that the city doesn’t suffer a summer slump. In fact, it’s the time of year locals and travellers-in-the-know relish, when chic crowds from Europe and South America arrive, escaping the hordes of tourists and, in the latter’s case, their own winter.
Glamorous Miamians, Americans or not, love a spectacle; join them in a bonanza of 4th of July celebrations throughout the city. Families can spend it the old-fashioned way at the nearby Barnacle Historic State Park (www.floridastateparks.org/thebarnacle), where one of the county’s oldest homes is located along a pristine waterfront in the charming, tree-lined Coconut Grove. There’s a barbecue, and toy boat and kite making for children, as well as a historical scavenger hunt, from 11am to 4pm. At Brickell Key, Mandarin Oriental, Miami’s prestigious location, watch the fireworks showdown from as far as Biscayne Bay to Miami Beach by walking behind the Tequesta Two high-rise in the centre of the island.
Summer is loaded with special deals, and one of the most anticipated is Miami Spa Month, starting 1 July. It offers pampering packages from more than 30 participating hotels, including Mandarin Oriental, Miami. So what better time to try its Five Star tri-level spa and award-winning treatments, whether its a restorative massage with aromatherapy, an anti-ageing facial peel with fruit acids, or a manicure or pedicure using exclusive products by Clinica Ivo Pitanguy. Just imagine how relaxing it will be to splurge and save in one.
South Floridians know it's July simply from the sweet scent of ripe mangoes. Discover and devour this gourmet delicacy at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's International Mango Festival (www.fairchildgarden.org), from 14 to 15 July. One of the largest overviews of the fruit worldwide, it features more than 200 locally harvested varieties as well as some from India, with food demonstrations and treats such as smoothies, children's activities, lectures and live Caribbean music. Definitely load up on wet wipes for this juicy fruit, because it's going to get sticky.
July also means ‘Florida lobster’. When mini-hunting season hits, from 25 to 26 July, the whole city clears out to look under every coral rock down to Key West for this delicious crustacean – best grilled with garlic butter. Although the regular season extends from August to March, July’s no-holds-barred frenzy is a tradition to behold. Be forewarned: it gets busy on the roads and water, so be alert and check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (www.myfwc.com) for bag and time limits.
For a more civilised experience, there’s the International Hispanic Theatre Festival (www.teatroavante.com) – pop in to see a play at the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Prometeo Theatre of Miami Dade College, from 12 to 29 July. Although non-Spanish speakers will appreciate the English or subtitled performances, everyone will understand André y Dorine, a Spanish story about an old couple afflicted with Alzheimer’s, which is conveyed entirely through masks and gestures rather than words. Among the contemporary plays by visiting and local theatres is I don’t Envy Love, a monologue about a seamstress commissioned to design the same dress for Argentine divas Eva Perón and Libertad Lamarque. We wouldn’t want to be holding her shears!
The Arsht (www.arshtcenter.org) also reinvents its version of The Donkey Show, a timely traipse through the disco era. Inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the interactive party is not only set on the stage (where the audience mingles with performers from go-go dancers to roller skaters to feathered showgirls), but also serves as an actual club, with velvet ropes, cocktails and VIP seating. Opening on 13 July and running throughout the month, performances are held nightly from Wednesday to Sunday.
The music doesn’t stop in the Seventies. Go deep with Big Night in Little Haiti (www.bignightlittlehaiti.com), a monthly homage to Haitian culture, comprising Creole bands, art and food at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, on 20 July. Don’t be shy, as this family-friendly event draws a wide demographic that appreciates a spicy conch salad to the beat.
Art doesn’t sleep come summer, either. Miami Art Museum (www.miamiartmuseum.org) exhibits local Cuban émigré José Bedia’s religious-themed works from his research with Native Americans, Caribbeans and Africans, while the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (www.mocanomi.org) installs Ed Ruscha: On the Road, in which paintings and drawings depict prose from Jack Kerouac’s iconic novel; it’s the perfect subject matter for the septuagenarian who has deeply mined Americana car culture, whether Standard gas stations or parking lots. Held on 14 July, the monthly Wynwood Art Walk (www.wynwoodartwalk.com) has almost become more about socialising and tasting the latest recipes from Miami’s food-truck trend than viewing art. The elbow-to-elbow romp through the streets of the graffiti-decked warehouse district is tops for people-watching.
Most of all, summer is synonymous with baseball. Take in a game at the new Marlins Park in Little Havana. Rain or shine, hot or hotter, there’s no rain check, thanks to its retractable roof. Snack on untraditional stadium fare, like Cuban sandwiches and ceviche, for local flavour. See, summer’s not so bad after all.
Rebecca Kleinman, Miami editor of Luxe City Guides
Photography by Alamy, Getty Images, courtesy rhythmfoundation.com