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.