Aventura is a city that will heighten your senses.
You'll feel and smell the salt breezes from the nearby Atlantic Ocean, blowing in from adjacent Sunny Isles Beach, while traveling across the William-Lehman Causeway. It's a South Florida city where majestic high-rises look down at you and you will stare back in awe, and where a game of golf on a soft, green course can easily take up your day. In the end, the city is known for its laid-back vibe, but it also has an air of sophistication.
While Aventura offers top-notch dining options—including chef Michael Mina's haven of perfect cuts of beef, Bourbon Steak—and is well-known for its shopping thanks to one of the biggest malls in the U.S., it's also one where you can capture the Miami scene when it kicks off its heels and throws on the sparkly flats.
One thing that I have learned in South Florida is that behind the frenzy of the big city, you can always find a place to reset and renew yourself. As a former resident, I found that long walks around Aventura's 3-mile circle seemed to do the trick when I was stressed from a long day of meeting deadlines. For out-of-towners, the solace they find might be at the Turnberry Isle and Resort, where a sprawling golf course and tennis courts help vacationers forget about cares while they compete in a sporting match.
And while it might be known for its chic beauty and country-club vibe, Aventura welcomes travelers. Don't be fooled by a suburban appearance, either; there's more to this city than meets the eye.
Need help exploring Aventura? Follow this plan for a perfect day in this community just north of Miami.
The Plan: Your Morning
Start your morning off with a walk on the picturesque, three-mile circle off Country Club Drive, where fitness enthusiasts throw on their brightest pair of sneakers and hit the pavement with a pounding passion. Stroll—or jog if you are so inclined—and you might encounter ducks and their ducklings crossing the many curves and corners of this 3-mile pathway, at whose heart is a sprawling golf course of the Turnberry Isle Miami resort.
If you aren't wearing your headphones, the soundtrack you'll hear will include the soft knock of a driver striking a golf ball, the puttering of a golf-cart engine and the conversation of locals who decided to buddy up for the duration of the walk. Take a camera; nature is rampant, and you'll find colorful flowers and backdrops of majestic Aventura homes and high-rises. The 3-mile course offers easy access, and there's plenty of free parking at nearby Aventura Mall, making this trek a no-brainer to start the morning off right and bring energy levels up for the rest of the day.
While you're out exploring, visit the nearby Waterway Shoppes, where you can indulge on a hot cup of coffee at Barrio Latino before exploring the shops in this small outdoor shopping center that’s considered one of the best-kept secrets for Aventura locals.
The Plan: Your Afternoon
Aventura Mall beckons to everyone who comes to South Florida. Considered one of the top five shopping spots in the United States, its blend of high-end retailers and restaurant and entertainment options make it the perfect stop for those who love to shop and people-watch.
The mall's more than 300 retailers—Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Forever XXI among them—display their stunning wares in streak-free glass storefronts. It is where Nordstrom calls forth the fashionistas who would wear nothing but the best red-soled Louboutins, and it is where the $5 valet parking line offers some of South Florida's best people-watching, as perfectly manicured socialites and excited families come together to leave their shiny BMWs and Kias.
And while the goods are fantastic and the people are glowing, it would be wrong to call Aventura Mall pretentious. I have never felt out of place there as I spent days strolling and window-shopping. The bartenders at Sushi Siam are part of the welcome crew; it's a joint that has welcomed me many weary times when I just needed a spicy tuna roll with extra kimchi sauce (it gives it that extra kick) and a lychee martini, please.
One of the best tips I give all my visitor friends is to stop by the concierge desk located in the center of the mall by Macy's and chat with the friendly staff, who will let you know the latest sales and deals and where you can grab discount coupons.
Aventura Mall also is home to the Turnberry for the Arts program, making the walk through the mall feel like you're in a sprawling gallery of sculptures and installation pieces. Get a map and information at the concierge desk and make sure to bring your camera to snap some shots, especially of the dark-as-night "Walking Figure" sculpture by Nordstrom created by artist Donald Baechler.
Wrapping up a day at the mall? Indulge in a happy hour, like the one at Grand Lux Cafe (nibble on their Asian Chicken Nachos, perfectly drizzled with a peanut sauce). Feeling fancier? Stop by The Grill in the Alley for a tuna-cheese melt or one of their fresh salads, and for their happy hour from 4 to 7 pm. At the picturesque bar, strike up a conversation with one of their always-lively bartenders, and order a martini made with freshly squeezed juice. The martini's juice is so fresh that sometimes you will spot the mixologists squeezing the fruit right in front of you as you sit and enjoy some chicken meatballs—a happy-hour favorite—perched upon the bar.
The Plan: Evening
When the night has fallen on my day full of shopping and exploring, I am usually left craving dinner and a cocktail. Recently, Aventura has introduced an urban shopping center known as Aventura Town Center. Saks Off 5th lures fashionistas for the latest deals, but the location has become a destination of choice for casual dining options. Everyone in the city had been clamoring for a laid-back sports bar and Buffalo Wild Wings, which recently opened, delivers with a wide selection of flat-screen televisions, cold draft beers and saucy medium wings that will have you happily licking your fingers.
For a more exotic dining option, there's no better place than the also recently opened Novecento, an upbeat Argentinean steakhouse, bar and restaurant. If you're hungry, order up the milanesa napolitana, an Argentine specialty with a hearty portion of chicken served with melted cheese and ham. Pair it with a glass of malbec on the patio and you will feel like you've been transported to a vivacious night in Buenos Aires.
For the burger lovers, The Counter offers a jeans-and-Ts type of vibe and you can sit down and craft your own burger from a long list. (My recommendation: Try the cheeseburger sliders paired with a local Florida brew like the Swamp Ape draft).
Still feeling feisty after dinner and drinks? While Aventura tends to quiet down at night and no clubs or lounges call the city home, the nearby Village at Gulfstream Park—5 minutes away in Hallandale Beach—offers the upbeat Martini Bar at Gulfstream Park, where live music and DJs accompany hand-crafted martinis until the wee hours.
But whether you decide to dance away the night or wrap up after dinner and drinks, you will have seen the heart of this northern Miami-Dade city.
Get there: Aventura is located approximately 10 minutes from North Miami Beach and 5 minutes from Sunny Isles Beach in Miami-Dade County. The town is also conveniently close to Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale to the north.