Miami Beach will have a half-dozen new luxury lodgings this winter. Whether the economy will rain on these chic sunspots remains to be seen. Meanwhile, USA TODAY checks into two just-opened big names on the beach.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach
What's new:One of the USA's grande-dame resorts, fresh from a $500 million face lift/expansion, aims to compete with hip South Beach neighbors.
Claim to fame:In its '50s and '60s heyday, the Rat Pack partied here, and Sean Connery filmed scenes for Goldfinger. Its reopening last weekend included appearances by Mariah Carey, Usher, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paris Hilton and a Victoria's Secret fashion show taped to air Dec. 3.
Vital stats:1,504 rooms and rentable suites in the main building and three towers (two house condos, almost all rented by the night). Recently revamped accommodations are in the main "Chateâu" and "Versailles" tower. Condo suites are 8 months to 4 years old and have a different modern look; older suites will be updated in December.
The scene:Miamians are flocking to gawk as workers put on finishing touches. The look is sleek and minimalist vs. the more mainstream style that reigned in the Fontainebleau's past incarnation as a Hilton. The lobby has stunning white marble floors with inlaid black marble bow ties, as originally designed by Morris Lapidus. Its lobby Bleau Bar, redone with white leather furnishings and glass floor aqua-lighted from below, is prime for people-watching. Servers in black halter tops and hot pants get as much attention as the mojitos. Redesigned pools are South Beach-meets-Vegas with white-curtained cabanas ($250 and up daily) boasting flat-screen TVs, circular white daybeds ($50 and up), a topless sunbathing area and blaring lounge music.
Bedding down:Frumpy rooms have turned boutique-chic with cushy, ultra-high ivory leatherlike headboards, modern art and white marble bathrooms. Billed as a hotel first: An Apple iMac is in every room. Order food, surf certain websites free, ask for extra pillows. (The system isn't fully up yet: My e-mail request for extra toiletries ASAP went unanswered.)
Who'll like it:Hotel-design mavens; those itchy for a new scene.
Who won't:Traditionalists and guests seeking a serene hideaway. Its no-self-parking policy resulted in a long wait for a valet-scraped car for this reporter. The jury's out on whether the latest Fontainebleau incarnation — with expanded convention space — will go over with the meeting crowd. Or if it will appeal to young scenesters, given new SoBe entries such as the Gansevoort South and soon-to-open Mondrian South Beach.
Wining and dining:11 eateries, lounges and club, most yet to open. Big names include Scarpetta, due today, and Gotham Steak, Monday.
Indulgences:A 40,000-foot spa, still to come.
The deal:Rates start at $229 in slow periods; $399 and higher at prime times. You can get a $50 resort credit on stays of two nights or more.
Canyon Ranch Miami Beach
What's new:What's billed as the first hotel/condo spa and wellness community.
Claim to fame:Canyon Ranch, headquartered in Tucson, is a giant in the spa world.
Vital stats:150 luxury hotel suites, 425 condos and 70,000-square-foot spa, workout center and health center on a North Miami Beach oceanfront site. Sophisticated medical testing is available.
The scene:A haven from Miami Beach frenzy. Cellphones aren't allowed on in public areas. Scented candles and staffers who seem to genuinely care about guests' well-being await in the elegant, calming lobby, designed by New York's prestigious Rockwell Group, with Guatemalan mangrove sculpture. No makeup and yoga pants replace stilettos and teeny bikinis. VIPs opting for Canyon Ranch Living include CSI: Miami's David Caruso. Residents and guests get a full menu of spa services and complimentary classes (from Pilates to rock climbing), plus lectures by physicians. Outsiders can eat at the restaurant, where dishes such as $11 shrimp ceviche marinated in grapefruit, cilantro and chiles or $26 lavender-stuffed quail have calorie, carb and protein counts listed. Unlike other Canyon Ranches, this one serves alcohol.
Bedding down:Guest suites are drop-dead beautiful, with ocean and/or bay views, tranquil bedrooms in muted hues, lavish bathrooms, contemporary-chic living rooms with sofas, flat-screen TVs, plus kitchenettes with washer/dryers. To enter, simply wave your keycard in front of the lock.
Who'll like it:Spa junkies and luxe lovers bored with South Beach blare who'll pay to be pampered, even in tough times. Residents say Kate Hudson left the Fontainebleau to do the spa thing here.
Indulgences:Start with a staff that within a week of opening is functioning at world-class level; add top-notch facilities and massage. And the spa's heated chaise longues are dreamy.
The deal:Canyon Ranch is a steal through Dec. 3, with suites starting at $200. Rates rise to $900-plus January to April; $550 and up in summer.