Need sunshine? My tips and picks for a great trip to South Florida

I've realized the only way to survive winter in Chicago is to get out of it, even if it's only for a little while. I've been spending time in South Beach for over 40 years. Through all of this city's changes, it still remains the best spot in the country as an antidote to winter (in my humble opinion).  SOOOO, we took a Griswold-style road trip recently to South Florida with the dogs and these were the highlights!

In West Palm Beach, we stayed in Flamingo Park, a charming historic district close to shopping and some great antique stores. Some of our top spots there included Table 26, Dixie Bar & Grill, All American City Diner and Buccan.

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, at 1608 S. Dixie Highway, is a must-see. On Jan. 23, they will hold an estate auction from the Kennedy Winter White House. Expect an overflow crowd!

Antiques Row in West Palm Beach has some wonderful shops with surprisingly reasonably priced merchandise. Stand-outs included D & G Auction House, Victor de Marinis Etc., Blue Moon Antiques, Churchill Galleries, Brass Scale Antiques and Provence.

The coolest spot we visited was Floral Emporium at 3900 S. Dixie Highway. This 17,000' sq. foot space is filled with faux and real flowers/plants, shell-encrusted floral masterpieces, unique planters, chandeliers, statuary and so much more. A must-see (see photo gallery above and you'll see why!)

In South Beach, I recommend a stay at the Thompson Hotel (4041 Collins). Our room, 1128, had a wrap-around balcony with breathtaking views of the ocean as well as the city. This hotel is also home to a Michelle Bernstein restaurant, Seagrape, as well as a great Asian spot, Talde. Best of all, it's PET-FRIENDLY!

The Edition Miami Beach (2901 Collins), an Ian-Schrager boutique hotel, is a calm oasis of marble and greenery with a cool inside/outside restaurant, Matador.

Villa Azur (309 23rd Street) is our favorite restaurant there. There are velvet ropes for the velvet ropes but the crowd and ambiance are well worth it. Its Italian owners have created a St. Tropez-style experience complete with jeroboams of rose flowing, strolling musicians with electrified, neon-lit saxophones, models dressed as showgirls and so much more.

But of all our experiences in the sun, the most exciting spot was the Faena Miami Beach (opened December 21) and located at 3201 Collins Ave. Billionaire businessman Alan Faena has created a property of indescribable luxury that features two Damien Hirst sculptures valued at over $20 million, restaurants, a theater, gardens, condo towers (recently the penthouse sold for $60 million) and so much more!

I hope these tips help you plan your next trip! There's no place like southern Florida so I hope you get a chance for some fun in the sun too!

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