By Jodi Mailander Farrell
If you like to vacation in the middle of a scene, you're in luck. In South Florida, many hotels are the scene. Some of the best restaurants and most au courant clubs are located inside hotels here. At these hot hotels, there's no need to go looking for a beautiful, cool crowd - you'll be part of it once you step outside your room.
Hotel Victor -- The neon-pink, U-shaped resort is ground zero for classic South Beach nightlife, smack in the middle of the Art Deco District on Ocean Drive. Adjacent to what was once Gianni Versace's mansion, the 88-room hotel and its fashionable V Bar and Lounge is where a well-heeled party crowd hangs out on plush couches, sipping the martini-of-the-moment with a live jellyfish tank in the background. Rooms are sexy in a swanky, red-velvet sort of way. Co-ed steam rooms are a subterranean draw to the downstairs spa. Within walking distance of the beach and other nightclubs and bars. From $239.
1144 Ocean Dr., South Beach; 305-428-1234.
The Sagamore -- With its white-washed Modernist flat façade, the hotel is a favorite backdrop for the Art Basel crowd, which appreciates The Sag's impressive collection of contemporary photos, paintings, sculpture and video art. There are 93 one- and two-bedroom suites, each adorned with chic artwork and private Jacuzzis. It's near Lincoln Road and other scene-y hotels, like the Delano and the Raleigh, each with their own bar and pool party scenes. From $305 a night.
1671 Collins Ave., South Beach 305-535-8088.
The Browns Hotel -- In the South of Fifth area (South Beach's antidote to the Ocean Drive hordes), this nine-suite restored 1915 hotel is on the map mainly due to the modern steakhouse on its ground floor. The restaurant, Prime One Twelve, is the gathering spot for Miami Heat basketball stars, the MTV crowd and others you might see on the cover - or at least somewhere on the pages - of Us magazine. Videos of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers play at the bar, while a Rat Pack soundtrack merges into house music late at night. Rooms are spare and modern, with dark, chunky furniture and white linens. Walk to the Third Street Beach and Joe's Stone Crab.
112 Ocean Dr., South Beach; 305-674-7977.
Conrad Miami -- All concave glass and steel, the 33-story tower is in bustling, sleek Brickell, just south of downtown. Once reserved for the daytime banking crowd, this neighborhood has come alive with condos, restaurants and clubs, all sprouting up around Mary Brickell Village, a shopping-and-eating complex near the Miami River and four blocks from the Conrad. The streets are growing increasingly young and adventurous (break out your high heels and artsy T-shirts). The Conrad is a hotel-condo, with 203 hotel rooms from the 16th floor on up. The 25th-floor sky lobby, freshly renovated in summer 2007, offers amazing views of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay. There's also a rooftop pool - if you're not afraid of heights. Among your neighbors is Tobacco Road, a live blues bar with the oldest liquor license in the county From $249 a night.
1395 Brickell Ave., Brickell; 305-503-6500.
The Atlantic -- With a skinny pool, sun deck and poolside bar overlooking the ocean, you may not want to venture out of this tranquil-but-trendy hotel, but the Fort Lauderdale beach street scene awaits. Five short blocks to the south is Beach Place, a shopping-dining complex. You'll also stumble on upscale restaurants, funky beach cafes and bars like the Elbo Room (site of the 1960s "Where the Boys Are" movie, as well as countless benders through the ages). The Atlantic's Trina restaurant is on the A-list for locals, too. Rooms are plush and comfortable. Florida residents can snag one for as low as $189 in the summer, compared to typical nightly rates of $359 and up.
601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-567-8020.
Riverside Hotel -- This is the only hotel along Fort Lauderdale's busy Las Olas Boulevard, a tree-lined street of restaurants, galleries and shops made for strolling. To the back of the historic hotel is the New River, where visitors can hop aboard a water taxi to get to Riverwalk, an outdoor complex of shops and restaurants just west of Las Olas, or the nearby Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Within walking distance is the city's Museum of Art, which often brings in world-renowned exhibits, such as the treasures from King Tut's tomb that attracted lines in 2005. The six-story hotel itself, which dates back to 1936, exudes vintage charm. It has added an adjacent, 12-story tower. Between the two buildings, there are 217 rooms and two restaurants. You'll find people booking a year in advance to get a room here for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October and the WinterFest Boat Parade in December. From $129.
620 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-467-0671.
The scene at Social Miami in the Sagamore Hotel. Photo: Alex Mateo de Acosta