By Sara Liss
Just twenty minutes north of South Beach, the “village” of Bal Harbour is a study in opulence, from the multimillion-dollar penthouses that dot A1A to the luxurious Bal Harbour Shops on the west side of Collins Avenue. But there’s also a cultural presence here that infuses the enclave with a jolt of creativity and modernity, including upscale galleries and a town-sponsored public art program.
Guests at Acqualina Resort & Spa are only a 10-minute drive away from experiencing this oceanside enclave firsthand. With luxury at every turn, here’s our curated guide to plan the perfect day trip.
Walk Among Works by Distinguished Artists
Photo: Barry Grossman
Art and sculpture abound as part of the city’s well-funded “Unscripted” public art program. For an enlightening overview, visitors can opt for a self-guided walk along the beach path.
Start at the northern end of Bal Harbour’s beachwalk, a public walking, running, and cycling path, and wander your way through three annual exhibitions displayed in partnership with cultural institutions from around the country.
In addition to the placards placed along the path, walking south you’ll find Jeff Koons’ “Seated Ballerina” located on the reflection pool deck of the Oceana building. A bit south of that is Ugo Rondinone’s “2,000-Year-Old Olive Tree,” located outside the Kenilworth Bal Harbour. The white enamel-coated aluminum sculpture is cast from trees found outside Naples (where Rondinone’s parents hail from). The last stop on the sculpture tour is located inside Bal Harbour Shops with artist Barbara Neijna’s iconic steel balls suspended by cables, located on the second level of the shops.
Discover South Florida’s Premier Upscale Shopping Destination
Photo: Bal Harbour Shops
Once you’ve made your way to Bal Harbour Shops, take advantage of what locals refer to as the Madison Avenue of the south. Accented by lush foliage, vibrant koi ponds, and grand fountains, the open-air center is a stylish tropical oasis where you’ll find a wealth of world-renowned luxury brands. There’s a vast array of high-end fashion and fine jewelry for the discerning shopper to peruse, from Balmain and Balenciaga to Versace and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Visitors can also explore the charming Books & Books store on the third level, which offers a fascinating selection of gorgeous coffee table books. For a scholarly break from shopping, the locally owned bookstore regularly hosts author readings and events. The shopping center also features many chic nooks for relaxing with a coffee or a glass of wine (you may also spot a celebrity or two).
Reserve a Table at One of Miami’s Finest Restaurants
Photo: Andrew Hektor
Bal Harbour Shops are also home to some of the best dining destinations in the city. There’s the Stephen Starr-owned Makoto, featuring fresh sushi, Japanese dishes, and a fantastic cocktail list. Next door is also Starr’s French bistro Le Zoo, with excellent classics like moules frites, chicken paillard, and crusty baguettes (best enjoyed on the elegant outdoor patio).
Upstairs is Hillstone at Bal Harbour, a favorite amongst socialites and local “snowbirds” who go for the chopped salads, classic new American dishes, and strong cocktails. The ladies-who-lunch set swear by the popovers at Zodiac located inside Neiman Marcus, also perfect for afternoon tea.
Savor Sweet Indulgences from France, Argentina, and Italy
Photo: Vasalissa Chocolatier
The shops are one of only two spots in the city where you can find famous French macarons by Ladurée — look for their charming “carriage” on the second level, boasting dozens of flavors.
There’s also Bal Harbour newcomer Vasalissa Chocolatier, an Instagrammer’s dream with its dainty truffles, tea service, cookies, and cakes laid out in the third level’s prettiest shop. Sample the Argentine brand’s famous chocolates in flavors like dulce de leche, marzipan, and kir royale, and don’t leave without a beautiful box to take home. If frozen treats are calling, then stop at Bianco Gelato, an Italian purveyor using only organic ingredients and specializing in vegan flavors as well as classic scoops.
Featured Photo: Bal Harbour Shops