Every city has it's signature style, and Miami vibes on bronzed hard-bodies strutting beautiful beaches, opulent clubs where you can literally lose your mind and all of your cash in a single night, and insane drivers who think their cars are worth more than your life. And what's not to love about it all? Especially when this fun-filled, speed-demon lifestyle is turned to ULTIMATE HI-DEF one week out of every year for Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival. As long-time DJ and producer Joachim Garraud put it in his charming French accent: "Everyone in Miami is making party all the time," and when March Madness rolls around, it's non-stop raging day and night.
If you're a WMC/Ultra newb, you may have already learned the hard way this year, but it's best to hit Miami's party scene with a plan. Although there's plenty of room for spontaneity, you'll save yourself a lot of time and money by having a few options laid out ahead of time. Here's a list of the major Miami Music Week do's and don'ts you may have overlooked this year that we've collected from a few seasoned vacay veterans:
This should be obvious, but if you're flying in from out of town, DO book tickets as EARLY as possible, like months early. You can get a decently priced flight if you book travel in November or December for a March trip. Flying into Ft. Lauderdale is a good option over Miami International because it's a smaller, more manageable airport and you can easily grab a van cab or taxi to Miami/South Beach, or even take the train for only a few dollars. If you get a taxi or van cab, snag the driver's cell so you have a go-to cabbie for the week, or even just for a ride back to the airport when it's time to fly out.
A good rule of thumb is to find a potential party or outing for each day of the week leading up to Ultra weekend. DO buy tickets early, get on guest lists, and make yourself aware of many enticing options in case you end up changing your mind when you get there.
The best source for all things Miami Music week is http://ultraweek.blogspot.com, where you can check out pretty much every event that's happening during WMC and buy tickets in advance rather than shelling out stacks at the door. A perfect example: the annual DJ Mag Recession Session IV Pool Party at the Shelborne cost only $15 per ticket if you got them early - that's a stellar steal for one of the most consistently cracking' parties of the week, chock full of unbeatable artists, including James Zabiela, Sasha, Dennis Ferrer, Claude VonStroke, DJ Sneak and more. Believe it or not, the burgers served in DJ Mag's bbq/picnic area cost more than an early bird ticket (yes, a burger and sides at DJ Mag cost $25!!). But never fear - if you flopped on attending DJ Mag in 2012, HEADS UP for next year - and you can still stream and dream here.
Twitter (Ultra / WMC) and Facebook (Ultra / WMC) are always good sources for events too, especially for the scoop on surprise sets and parties - just milk the social media resources when you're researching to stay up-to-date on as much as possible.
There's also plenty of free parties, it's just a matter of being aware of where and when they're happening so you can take full advantage. The only drawback to party hopping during WMC is that so many great pool and yacht parties happen Friday through Sunday during Ultra.
Definitely DO give yourself a well-deserved mega nightclub experience at least once or twice. South Beach is brimming with decadent venues hosting amazing talent, and again, if you buy tickets early you can save a ton of dough. On Thursday night of WMC this year, Nicky Romero and Calvin Harris headlined an evening of euphoric debauchery at Mansion, complete with sparks flying from steel plated bikini bottoms. Even 2nd tier ticket prices weren't cheap ($80), but the venue is an absolute Miami-must worth every pretty penny.
Clearly there's more mayhem available than any of us can wrap our spinning heads around, so it's a good idea to pick and choose a bit before you get to Miami so you can spend time enjoying yourself rather than scrambling to find things to do at the last minute.
If you want to split your time between specific parties and UMF, DO figure out who's playing where and when at Ultra. This year, ravers were blessed with the lovely Ultra Mobile App, which allowed you to customize your very own schedule to stream-line set-hopping. And as for the dreaded low-battery dilemma, UMF organizers had it covered with a special Google Play house where you could charge your device, sit on a comfortable couch staring at a flatscreen in the comfort of an air conditioned bubble.
Remember that cabbie's cell number you were supposed to save from the beginning of the week? Well, you might want to use it to get to and from the rave. Traveling from South Beach to downtown is especially difficult on Ultra days because everyone is trying to get there around the same time (late afternoon), so as usual, the earlier you start making your way over the better.
Things get gnarly over this 3-day extravaganza, so make sure you go to Ultra wearing comfortable clothes (avoid pants - Miami is hot even in March), and wear sneakers because you're feet are going to be stomping for hours on end.
DO befriend a trust-worthy local. Plenty of Florida's finest attend UMF and WMC, and if you choose wisely you can meet some chill people who could become your annual hook up for rides, resources, party favors and local flavors.
DO dine on the strip along Ocean Ave. at least once. But be aware that this is a huge tourist trap and not all of the restaurants are as delicious as their prices are high. You probably won't be so concerned with food for much of the week, so grab some items for foraging and just be sure to stay hydrated. If you want an affordable but luxurious sit-down dinner, check out Primetime.
And finally, DO call your Mom from the rave, make her proud of how cool you are, and let her hear what she's missing
Even masters have their mishaps, so learn from the mistakes of your fore-flubbers and try NOT to repeat them:
1 - Don't pass out in the van cab when you're on your way from the airport to your hotel after a sleepless red eye flight and leave vital items behind, like your wallet and passport. If you're lucky enough to have a sweet van cabbie named Jose, he'll bring it back to you free of charge, as long as you were also smart enough to follow the advice in #1 of the DO-DOs above and get his number before he drives off.
2 - Don't spend all of your money before the final taxi ride back to the airport.
3 - Don't wear flip flops to the rave - you'll be punished with blistery, sore coal miner feet.
4 - Don't get too schwasty before midnight, and absolutely NO puking on the dance floor.
5 - Don't get table service if you have no money - that is the opposite of baller status.
6 - Don't throw your phone on the ground when you're hella fay-fay-faded - you'll probably regret it very soon after.
7 - Don't have an all-night vodka picnic on the beach and expect to survive the final day of Ultra.
8 - Don't get busted by undercover cops disguised as ravers at Ultra, and especially don't refuse to pass them the puff - this is the East Coast, you're NOT in California anymore.
9 - Don't be so rigid with your schedule that you forget to embrace the unknown and be spontaneous - the best laid plans of 24-hour party people often go cray-cray.
10 - Don't over do it at Ultra, there's endless nightlife beyond that's just as rage-worthy.
11 - Don't turn into a cave creature during the day and miss out on the beautiful natural (and plastic) scenery populating South Beach.
12 - Don't buy the Fuck-You wristband unless you have an extra $800 lying around. For those of us with a tighter budge, bring your own bottle to the parties, pre-game, and jump fences.
13 - Don't let the freaky friendly Florida tweeker citizenry (with 36 facial piercings and a needle toolkit in tow) crash your condo party pad - they'll tell you "this is what WMC is all about" but really they're just looking to leech. BEWARE.
14 - And finally, DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH A PALM TREE!
We'll see you in Miami next year to do it all over again, bigger and better as always!