Wanting to be within easy travel distance of South Beach but to avoid the prices of the hip hotels, we ended up at the completely unique Freehand Miami. The hostel, located in the classic 1930’s Art Deco Indian Creek Hotel, caters to individual travelers as well as groups. Offering private rooms and shared rooms, it is easy to book based on individual needs and budgets. Our “standard king” had a private bathroom, free wi-fi and breakfast, and was luxurious in every way but the price. Those traveling alone can opt for either a “shared quad” or “super 8,” and in addition “private quads” and “bungalows” are available.
The highpoint of Freehand Miami is the common area. In the lush tropical courtyard chaises and tables are tucked between palms and colorful vegetation, an outdoor pool reflecting the crystalline blue of the sky. We enjoyed drinks from the specialty mixology bar in the warm December night, the city blocked out completely in this private retreat. A historic house on the property is currently being restored, with plans to transform it into a restaurant and bar; The House, scheduled to open early 2014, will complement the hostel theme and feature a rooftop garden above the Kitchen Pavilion. There is a Freehand Chicago opening in my hometown next year too, right in the heart of downtown; I'm excited to see if they succeed in bringing the Miami Beach vibe to the 1920's Art Deco building in River North.
After drinks our party headed to South Beach (also known as SoBe, or simply The Beach), and enjoyed a casual dinner overlooking the Bay. The boys made quick friends, and together the four kids ran around until the late hour brought us back to the hostel. We slept soundly, stomachs full and tired after a long day, awaking well-rested and ready to start the new day.
We joined dozens of other travelers downstairs in the lobby for breakfast, once again admiring the common area but this time in daylight. The boys were crushed that we were not going to be able to try out the pool until we told them we were headed for the beach.
We headed south to South Pointe Park, hoping to avoid the crowds on Lummus Park beach but enjoy the same view, sand and surf. On the way we enjoyed the Art Deco scenery, getting a quick taste of the aesthetic of Ocean Drive before winding up at the very south tip of Miami Beach. The park was a perfect choice for us: no crowds, excellent beach, restrooms and a shaded playground. We watched cruise and cargo ships passing through to the ports, jumped endless waves, people-watched and dug in the sand until it came time to leave. Though Miami Beach had given us a final chance at beach time in December, Christmas was awaiting us back in Greenville. As we crossed MacArthur Causeway and wound our way through Miami and the Everglades, the sun on my shoulders and the saltwater around my ankles quickly became more a dream than a memory.