Walk down Ocean Drive and you’ll pass a series of Art Deco-style hotels in ice cream shades of pink, yellow and green. You’ll arrive at The Betsy last and be struck by its deviating style. Designed by architect L Murray Dixon - who is responsible for many a Miami Beach Art Deco hotel - The Betsy (formerly The Betsy Ross) is the lone surviving example of Florida-Georgian architecture on Ocean Drive today. Pretty shuttered windows, grand columns and expansive ocean deck give the hotel a ‘colonial chic’ look thought to have been inspired by the post-Great Depression era.
The Betsy underwent a total renovation in 2009, keeping the original facade - and in 2016 the hotel changed once more, revealing a new Art Deco wing, as well as several new restaurants and an impressive rooftop pool. The Art Deco wing (which was formerly The Carlton Hotel) connects to The Betsy’s so-called ‘Colonial Wing’ via a bridge. The bridge has already become a celebrated example of Miami Beach public art - disguised as an orb, it has the appearance of a beach ball sandwiched between the two buildings.
It definitely comes across that The Betsy is family-owned and operated - Jonathan Plutzik and wife Lesley Goldwasser have done an excellent job in creating a welcoming ambience. Both pet-friendly and family-friendly, the hotel feels both luxurious and entirely unpretentious. The couple employed the same interior designer responsible for decorating their own home, and the result is, well, homely. A big squishy sofa takes pride of place in the lobby, where guests can enjoy live music each night. The bar is invitingly lively, and the outdoor deck seemingly always bustling with diners tucking into brunch, coffee or cocktails.
It was an utter treat to stay in one of the hotel’s Royal Ocean View suites. A fantastically capacious bathroom (with two basins, enormous walk-in rainfall shower and complementary Malin & Goetz products) was particularly well-received after a nine hour flight and taxi journey. A large bedroom with adjoining living room would be ideal for a family, and was positively luxurious for just the two of us. Most practical was a walk-in closet with enough storage space for two suitcases and at least a week’s worth of clothes (The Betsy also provides a laundry service).
Eating and Drinking
The Betsy is home to a few excellent dining spots. LT Steak & Seafood is the longest standing, serving (as the name suggests) top quality steak and seafood alongside a classic cocktail menu. This is also where guests can enjoy brunch – choose from tea or coffee, fresh pressed juices, fruit salad, Huevos Rancheros or brioche French toast. The Alley provides a more casual alternative dining spot, specialising in Italian favourites. Pizzas seemed to the main attraction, and we spotted a fair few takeaway boxes by the rooftop pool (where, incidentally, you can also order a lip-smackingly refreshing cocktail). Salads, a few pasta dishes and gelato (flavours include lemon ricotta, pistachio-orange and amaretto black cherry) also feature on the menu.
If that’s not enough, The Betsy has its very own Panther Coffee shop. Panther Coffee is like Miami’s equivalent to London’s Monmouth. This is the place to start your day, with a hot, iced or nitro java coffee. If you’re not hungry enough for a full brekkie, swing by for a freshly baked almond croissant.
Miami’s one and only outdoor spa can be found at The Betsy. Located on the hotel’s rooftop Ocean Deck, the ‘Wellness Garden & Spa’ is a Zen-inspired combination of wood, stone, bamboo and natural fibres, shaded by private cabanas. If you're not enticed by that ocean deck breeze, you can also enjoy a massage in the privacy of your own guest room. Treatments use ingredients derived from nature, including sugar plums, blueberries and mandarins; one of the signature therapies on offer is a Coconut Hot Towel facial. If you’re a little hesitant about splurging on a treatment, you can always opt for a simple mani/pedi instead.
The Betsy's owners are great supporters of the Arts (Jonathan Plutzik is the son of three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, poet Hyam Plutzik). The hotel regularly hosts literature festivals, writing groups, exhibitions and music programmes. Look out for a permanent exhibit of photographs of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, taken by the bands' US tour manager Bob Bonis between 1964-1966. There is even a dedicated Writing Room for visiting wordsmiths to enjoy – the only one in Miami, in fact. You can check out The Betsy's Calendar of Events to see what they've got lined up.
When to go
The ideal time to visit Miami is between March and May, when rainfall is at its lowest and sky high Winter rates have dropped.
Rooms at The Betsy cost from around $204. For reservations, visit thebetsyhotel.com/accommodations/rooms.