Vampires of South Beach When a 50-something mom takes her new college grad daughter to South Beach, she wonders if she can still rock the club scene—or even stay up past midnight.

By Terri Steel



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The circa 1939 Carlyle Hotel, located on South Beach’s scenic Ocean Drive, features on eponymous sidewalk cafe (and a pretty pink sign).

It is a sunny Friday morning in South Beach: Parakeets perch above me in swaying palms as I sink into an easy chair and sip hot coffee. All the while Latin music pulses through this oasis of a garden at the beautiful Shore Club Hotel. At 8 a.m., the music is low and steady, merely hinting at the party scene that will stretch across the infinity pool hours later. For now, I’m alone, with the exception of a string of attractive couples traipsing back after a wild evening that stretched into today. I watch them, entranced, remembering the days (and nights) 30 years ago when I, too, was a vampire. Now, my 22-year-old daughter, Niki, is the vampire—in fact, she sleeps soundly in our huge, airy room while I fortify myself with caffeine. We are celebrating her college graduation and I have promised to summon my youthful energy—more specifically, I’ve promised to keep up with her in the club tonight. I’ll need my strength and my patience, so I’ve set aside this early morning time just for me.

Second cup of coffee in hand, I head to the beach, passing blooms of lavender that drape over a shallow pond filled with glowing orange koi. I slip through a small blue door, where the Atlantic Ocean and miles of white sand await me. On this vast stretch of beach, it is hard to imagine the busy city that lies adjacent. But then, a few blocks down, the iconic Betsy Hotel comes into view. The original Betsy Ross opened during World War II—in 1942—when area hotels provided barracks for local soldiers who were training on the beach before heading out to sea. The Betsy South Beach launched in 2009, offering an exquisite retreat for travelers who enjoy beachside views and scrumptious food at BLT Steak. A rooftop deck and wellness garden offers spa treatments, which I highly recommend.

After a brief tour through scenic Lummus Park, the backdrop of countless TV shows and films, I begin to stride back to the hotel, passing ultra-fit bikers, skaters and runners on the brick promenade. I pick up my pace, considering the many options for fun all around me. There is Lincoln Road, a large piazza, encompassing several city blocks, filled with restaurants and shopping fit for a fashion queen. Last night, Niki and I dined al fresco at Spris, a casual pizzeria. Our brick-oven pies arrived charred at the edges, hot and satisfying, leaving just enough room for dessert—a shared cannoli. We both swore it was the best pizza ever. Then my young vampire and I went to bed early in preparation for battle, er, all-night partying next day.

Once she finally wakes up, Niki and I work on our tans at the DJ-pumping Shore Club pool, sipping watermelon coolers and watching bikini-clad waitresses glide between vacationers. Later, we dress for dinner at Scarpetta’s, where, according to the bartender, Beyoncé and Jay-Z dined just the night before. Next, we will dance at LIV, located in the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel—the curvilinear building designed by architect Morris Lapidus is a major landmark. Niki was on point, securing tickets to the mega-popular club earlier in the day, allowing us to strut past 20-something hopefuls waiting in line, where a bouncer checks both of our IDs. God bless his soul.

Once inside, Niki and I pose for photos in front of LIV’s backdrop—they will supposedly reach us via email—then head to the bar. Madras cocktail (mix vodka, pineapple, cranberry) in hand, I move onto the dance floor determined to shake my booty with the best of them. Clad in Niki’s tiny white dress with slits on the sides—what I packed was not club-appropriate, according to my college grad in the know—my daughter watches me as I dance with three girls who have motioned for me to join them. At least that’s what I thought. Apparently, the girls were waving to their boyfriends behind me and my booty was blocking their view. Laughing, Niki jumps in and saves me. Hey, at least it got my daughter on the dance floor! And she stays here—by my side—till the wee hours.

The morning after, I’m not as sore as I expect to be. We venture to the News Café at 8th Street and Ocean Drive. Open 24 hours, it is advertised as the “Grand Central Station” of the Miami Beach community—they opened in 1988 and stocked all national newspapers for travelers. With its Oceanfront view, I can see why it’s so popular. Next up is a quick trip to DASH, the Kardashians’ store, where Niki scores a pair of extra-sexy, wildly overpriced jeans…with her mother’s credit card. Ouch. Not that she doesn’t thank me profusely—and hug me like she’s a little kid.

Nikki Beach is our lunch stop—their famous mojitos are served in a pitcher, with foot-long sticks of sugar cane, which we enjoy atop a curtain-draped cabana.

“Thanks to Niki’s beautiful smile, I will only charge you half,” the gorgeous waiter tells us.

“Look, Mom,” Niki says chewing on her sugar cane. “I saved you 25 bucks!”

Ah, youth.

Sadly, we never receive the photos from our night on the town—no evidence of our brief celebrity status remains. I guess I’ll have to rely on my memory. God help us.

SIDEBAR

Eat. The News Café makes an awesome breakfast—I enjoyed homemade quiche and fruit, while my daughter feasted on eggs, fried potatoes and a jumbo bagel.

Drink. At the Sugar Factory American Brasserie, yummy mixed (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks are served in goblets for two, decked with lollipops and candy necklaces. Katy Perry loves the place.

Sleep and Spa. The Betsy South Beach offers Miami’s only fully outdoor spa—and 61 beachside rooms. Stay here to seriously unwind.

See Celebrities. Cruise Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road and Española Way to see—and be seen, of course.

Published in the April 2016 issue of STYLE.

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