Art Basel hits our city each December like a ton of very stylish, possibly graffitied, definitely expensive bricks. People with cash flock here to snap up valuable artwork, culture nerds come for the quirky performances, and party animals get ratchet at each and every live music venue, because it's still Miami.
The thing is, maybe you've never been to this weird seaside town, and you'd really like to experience a bit of the nightlife outside the December art bubble. There are plenty of other bars around Miami that fill up each Basel with those who just want to chill for a minute.
Here are our suggestions for Miami's best bars, with something for every taste and sexual preference.
Mac's Club Deuce 222 14th St., Miami Beach; 305-531-6200.
This is the number-one Art Basel, gay or straight pickup spot for art handlers, gallerists, and not-super-famous artists. Sometimes, there's an art star in the bunch. But generally, it's brimming with cool kids from Brooklyn and L.A. sucking down Bud Lights at Anthony Bourdain's favorite local watering hole.
Free Spirits Pub 100 21st St., Miami Beach; 305-532-5399.
This is one of the diviest joints on SoBe. Located steps from the Bass Museum, you'll see this place packed with local arty folks smooching shot glasses like it's St. Paddy's Day.
One year, the fancy party-makers, Le Baron, even hosted a pop-up bar in this quaint corner of the beach. You can jump in the ocean once you're nice and sloppy, because, awesomely, the Atlantic is just steps away.
Kill Your Idol 222 Española Way, Miami Beach; 305-534-1009.
KYI is a bar where garage bands occasionally play live music, but there's still a solid South Beach vibe. There are always plenty of craft beers, some wide-eyed tourists, and even a private upstairs area to chat with your new Basel boyfriend.
The Room 100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-6061.
You may have visited the Room in New York, and you'll find this Miami Beach version equally candlelit and intimate. There's only beer on the menu at this bar. But if you find yourself South of Fifth, then this is the spot to end up.
If you're rolling out of the Art Center on Lincoln Road or Yardbird two bottles of wine deep, crawl on over to the Abbey. A longtime South Beach staple, it still serves its own brewed beers, but the owners expanded this spot to, like, five times the original size. Once the width of a walk-in closet, it's now pretty big, with booze and TVs, reminding you that there's a world outside of Basel.
If you're on the beach and prefer a clubbier but still chill energy... Cruise on over to Purdy Lounge where booty music is usually playing and bottoms are poppin'. It's also a great place to pick up a stranger with whom to enjoy the rest of your Basel.
The Broken Shaker is a splendid outdoor hostel bar with a pool, ping-pong tables, and inspired cocktails. It's like a little slice of heaven on Miami Beach. Arrive sober enough to taste each hand-blended drink and take in the homey backyard atmosphere.
Laugh if you want, but out-of-towners love Mango's. The overpriced drinks, the Latin flavor, the salsa dancers grinding against each other on the bar -- and all right on Ocean Drive? It's like the straight-ish version of The Birdcage.
See also: The Six People You Meet on South Beach
If you're praying to hang with drag queens, this is your mecca. Also located on Ocean Drive, it has a wonderful drag brunch that'll get you wasted off mimosas before you even have a chance to get caught up in the commercialism and artsy-fartsy madness.
And speaking of gay, Twist is the meat market for all queer dudes who land on Miami's shores. It's a really fun mix of bar and club with rooms for everyone's preferences, as long as they're a homo. Except out back, where there are sexy Brazilian go-go boys ready to swing their banana hammock your way, whatever you're packing down below.
Gay upstairs, straight down... Score was the traditional Lincoln Road bar to meet men who like men. It's since become a well-lit upstairs area on Washington Ave., and added a straight but gay-friendly open and cozy downstairs for those in the mood to dance.
Wynwood, Downtown, Little Haiti
Gramps has the most stacked lineup of live shows on this list. They've got everything from the fabulous pop noisemakers from New Orleans, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, to members of OFWGKTA. Located right in the arts district, Wynwood, you won't miss the cries of joy coming from Gramps' courtyard, and you'll definitely feel the bass.
Wood is also right in the heart of Wynwood. And though it's more of a straight-up bar, this place has some ridiculously good drink specials and all the nouveau-hip graffiti art folks you coulda dreamt up as a skateboarding teen rolling out in the 'burbs.
Brick House is totally exposed to the elements. There's a covered area, but it's just straight up under the stars and a block from Wood. If Cards Against Humanity and a refreshing Miami winter breeze are your thing, this is the bar for you.
Located a few blocks away -- not quite walking distance from Wynwood -- this is a jazzy joint where you can score wine by the bottle while sitting on a bunch of thrift store chairs and couches, outside under glittering lights. Quite a nice lil' oasis on the edge of the Design District.
Downtown and open 24 hours, this place is like a Key West sports bar with loud tunes perfect for the late-late-night art crowd that just won't let the party end.
This party spot is the upstairs bar that sits atop Grand Central, one of Miami's finest and busiest mid-sized music venues. The Garret is dimly lit, kinda riding the line between a warehouse and your friend's cool loft.
Photo by Ian Witlen/theCameraClicks.com
Wynwood, Downtown, Little Haiti
Open late, you'll probably run into an actual celebrity at The Corner at like 4 a.m., and they will likely try to take you or your friends back to their fancy room at the Raleigh with them. Though not a huge space, this spot is the place to be for the well-heeled just before the sun comes up.
Photo by Monica McGivern
If you've never heard of this Little Haiti gem, then shame on you. Thirty-five years running and Churchill's is still known for its wild punk shows, soccer games on TV, and filthy bathrooms. There's not a more memorable place to get a pint in maybe the whole country.
South of Downtown and Brickell
If you're staying a little south of downtown, here's a bar that's got everything a bar should have... Right on Coral Way, The Mighty thinks responsibly. It offers hard-to-find craft beers and homemade, delectable sausages. It's a fine place to meet locals and actually hear them speak.
This is Little Havana's newest (and almost only) chi-chi bar. The place screams The Mask and it's all old-Miami looking with huge booths inside and a large stage out back. Practice your high-school Spanish as you drown yourself in mojitos.
If you want a taste of professional-friendly neighborhood like Brickell, but without the khakis, Blackbird's your Basel haven. The bar has an amazing new cocktail menu, comfy booths, plus live music and DJs.
337 SW 8 St., Miami. Visit facebook.com/sidebarmiami.
Straddling Little Havana and Brickell, Sidebar is the newest place for the kids who know what's up and how to dress. One word to describe this spot is comfortable. Another is cool.
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