In the 1940's, the famed Lincoln Road on Miami Beach was know as Luxury Lane. Through the years this iconic street has seen its share of decay and revitalization. Today it is a must visit destination for solo travelers when coming to swanky South Beach. On my Miami to Maine solo driving adventure, I spent a pleasurable day shopping, eating, people-watching and visiting art galleries on Lincoln Road, the social mecca of South Beach. Here is my chronicle, enjoy. A little about it's history is in order to appreciate why this thoroughfare keeps evolving and recreating itself. As most of Miami Beach was in its inception, the area where Lincoln Road is now located was covered in a forest of mangroves. Carl Fisher, its first developer, cleared a strip of land from the Atlantic Ocean to Biscayne Bay and created Miami Beach's first social center, Lincoln Road. Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, and Burdines were some of the high-end shopping venues that originally anchored the street as well as a Cadillac and a Packard auto dealership located there. Life Magazine described it as the,"Fifth Avenue of the South." Movie stars, well-healed snowbirds, and tourists came here to see and be seen.
Its second revitalization occurred in the 1950's when the famed architect of the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels, Morris Lapidus, was commissioned to redesign the street. Gardens, fountains and an amphitheater were built many of which are still there today. His Miami Modern architecture style known as "MiMo" gave Lincoln Road a fresh look. Additionally, it was closed off to traffic and made to be a pedestrian passageway creating one of America's first open air malls. Enjoy the interview with Mr. Lapidus describing his vision and love for this iconic American thoroughfare below.
In the late 1960's through the 1980's, the posh shopping and eating establishments located elsewhere and in the area became rundown with abandoned storefronts making it have the feel of a ghost town. Struggling artists with their galleries were about all one could find then. In 1986 the Miami Herald referred to it as the, "Road to Nowhere," much like the rest of Miami Beach it had seen its day. But as fate would have it with the push to revitalize the wonderful art deco architecture of the area, developers saw the potential to reinvigorate Lincoln Road and make it the social hotspot of the South Beach area on Miami Beach. Today, many people believe it is better than ever.
Located just off of Ocean Drive traversing east to west, Lincoln Road stretches 14 blocks, roughly a mile long. From Washington Street to Alton Road it becomes a pedestrian only passageway, an open air luxury mall, filled with the trendiest shops, delectable eating places, high end art galleries and popular night spots. The street is now host to an energetic and eclectic crowd including fashionistas sporting their newest outfits, people walking their expensive dogs, street performers doing their craft and children playing in the green spaces.
Whether indoor or outdoor, dining is a main attraction. One of the most attractive features of Lincoln Road is its eclectic mix of restaurants you have to choose from when deciding where to eat, drink or just have a cup of great coffee or tea. Traditional Cuban, Asian fusion, American, Italian, German and French cuisine can be enjoyed here at popular eating venues such as Havana 1957, Yuca, Juvia, Rosinella Italian Trattoria, the Hofbräu Beer Hall, and Collette's Little French Bistro to name a few. The many outdoor dining spots are one of the reasons Lincoln Road continues to be popular. Eating and people watching is one of my pleasures as a solo traveler and on Lincoln Road you see every kind of person from the chicest to the most eccentric.
One of the most enjoyable parts of solo travel are those times when things just happen, those serendipitous moments. I have coined a phrase, "zen travel," to describe this phenomena. I love when something out of the ordinary just happens that gets you off of your itinerary of the day. When this occurs, I just go with the flow. I had a zen travel experience on Lincoln Road I'd like to share.
As in many places where there are a lot of shops and shoppers you will find hawkers on the street trying to lure you into their establishment. Usually I pay them no attention and politely say I am not interested but on my last visit I fell for a pitch given to me by a young, attractive salesgirl. She said she had a product that would instantly remove the bags under my eyes for eight to ten hours. The product she shared was touted as a day long facelift. Well at the age of 64 and always looking in the mirror bemoaning the perpetual bags under my eyes and my sagging jowls, I asked her to show me. I couldn't believe my eyes: her product really worked. Even though it was unbelievably expensive, I bought it!
She and the manager of the shop were so cordial, fun and persistent, I ended up getting a free facial and ultimately buying their pearl infused creams and masks (way out of my travel and beauty budget, but I did it anyway and have not regretted it). I made their sales quota for the day and they made my day with their products and their jovial sales approach. We laughed and carried on for almost two hours. I'll never forget this magic travel moment that made me look more youthful.
Shop 'til you drop describes the shopping experience Lincoln Road offers. International stores such as H&M, Zara, Vogue Italia and Lacoste; American shopping staples such as J Crew, Banana Republic, Gap and Urban Outfitters plus low end tourist shops such as Alvin's Island give any type of shopper a selection of options to fulfill their retail therapy needs. Locals and visitors love to shop Lincoln Road because it has the latest offered at every price range.
Not to be missed is visiting the high end art galleries that can be found here. Romero Britto's gallery located at 818 Lincoln Road is a must see for pop art enthusiasts. Britto, a self-taught artist with a humble background from Brazil, had at an early age a passion to create happy works of art. His pieces reflect a "visual language of hope and love," which characterize his optimistic faith in the world. It was this unique spirit and his colorful, cubist artistic works that were noticed by art collectors which ultimately catapulted him to become one of the most sought after international pop artists. Britto's works can be found in over 100 galleries throughout the world and brands such as Audi, Bentley, Coca Cola, Disney and Mattel have featured his art in many of their promotional campaigns and products. Adults and children alike love his art because it is so vibrant, playful and uplifting.
Spending the day shopping, eating, gallery hopping and people watching on Lincoln Road will give the solo traveler a good snapshot of the past and present culture of this trendy Miami Beach area. Every time I visit Miami, I allocate some time to catch up on what is hip by visiting this iconic street. Today it remains the vibrant social mecca of South Beach; its famed Luxury Lane. Treat yourself to a day on Lincoln Road. You never know you might experience your own zen travel moment!