Thanks in large part to the international reputation of South Beach clubs, Miami is known as one of the premier nightlife capitals of the world. That status is reinforced, too, by major dance music and club industry events held here annually, including Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival. Apart from these major events, though, the city regularly draws marquee DJs and other club performers.
The rise of Miami and South Beach club culture can be traced to the rise of South Beach itself. Clubs were a vital part of the revitalization of the city of Miami Beach, thanks to then-cheap real estate, and South Beach continues today to be a major node in the city’s nightlife. The main drags of South Beach clubs are along Washington Avenue and Collins Avenue, with many of the more populist establishments along the lower numbered streets, and high-end hotel venues further north, from the 20s to the Fontainebleau at the furthest edge.
Within the last 10 years, another satellite of club culture has arisen off of South Beach, on the mainland just over the beach’s two major causeways. One handful of venues is scattered across the Design District and Wynwood, while another cluster lies further downtown, from N.E. 11th Street to N.E. 14th Street. These clubs represent a more underground take on nightlife, with less strict dress codes, often more forward-thinking music policies, and sometimes lower drink and entry prices.
The exception to downtown’s reputation as the anti-SoBe is N.E. 11th Street itself — also known as the Park West club district — which features South Beach-style super clubs, the most famous and popular being the all-night and after-hours venue Club Space.
On South Beach and at the mainland’s higher-end venues, bottle service is the name of the game. Visitors hoping to show up to a club without previous guest list arrangements or table reservations should be prepared for a long wait and high cover charges. Groups fare best by calling ahead, and by arriving in a party with a high female-to-male ratio. You must dress to impress as well — flip-flops, tank tops, sneakers, and shorts all guarantee rejection at the door.
On the mainland, policies vary from club to club, but generally the evening is centered more on the music and entertainment rather than the purchasing of bottle-service real estate. You can still reserve tables at most of these venues, but there’s usually plenty of room to dance if you choose not to, and neither guest list spots nor reservations are necessarily required to enter. Dress codes are more relaxed, too, though again, flip-flops, baseball caps, sneakers, and shorts on men are frowned upon.
During Winter Music Conference, though, or around the week of Ultra Music Festival — both in March — all of these usual rules go out the window. Venues on both sides of the causeways feature big-name DJs and one-off parties, and planning in advance by buying tickets is a must. Dress codes and bottle service requirements tend to relax a little bit and music takes the center stage, but the vibe of each venue varies depending on the performers and their following.
While most of South Beach dances to house, hip-hop, or open-format beats, music and programming can vary wildly by night at all Miami clubs. Check listings on nightlife sites like wantickets.com for the biggest venues, or sweatrecordsmiami.com for more underground dance music events.
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