Miami is the most innovative city for experiential right now

With year-round summer, no state income tax, and notoriously lax Covid protocols, does Miami’s experiential boom have staying power?

It started with a tech boom. Which started with a billboard in San Francisco. (Well, kinda.) Miami mayor Francis Suarez posed a question to San Franciscans: “Thinking about moving to Miami? DM me.” With the majority of tech companies adapting to remote work, many are moving out of the Bay Area’s real estate bubble.

Photo courtesy: South Florida Business Journal

In 2021, Suarez appointed a VC-in-Residence with the goal of “support[ing] Miami’s founders, investors and community leaders.” Florida has welcomed many high-profile techies, too. Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, billionaire activist/investor Carl Icahn’s Icahn Enterprises and Blackstone have all set down roots there.

According to LinkedIn data, more tech professionals moved to Miami, Houston, Dallas, LA and Denver between March 2020 and February 2021 than the previous year. Meanwhile, more left San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Boston. 

With beautiful weather year round, a thriving restaurant (and bar and nightlife) scene, unique culture and lots of newbies looking to make friends and network, Miami is an experiential hotbed right now.

And, with three nearby airports (Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach), it’s also one of the least expensive cities to fly to in all of the US. 

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All of this is in contrast to the stiff legal requirements of hosting events in Los Angeles. The next-level sticker shock of New York City. And the utter exhaustion of Las Vegas. Today, experiential creators are willing to overlook the traffic and the Florida of it all for more artistic control over their events. We’re seeing wild creativity on full display. With Covid very much still a thing — Miami’s reliably cooperative weather provides an added layer of safety for guests.

Here are a few of the most innovative Miami events we’ve seen over the last few months. Plus one we’re still anticipating (if we can extend this respite in between Covid variants). From food and wine to hedge funds and house music, it seems Miami’s superpower is its ability to be anything you want it to be.

SOBEWFF®

This week, the nation’s largest wine and food event, the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One — or as it’s known online, SOBEWFF® — is celebrating its 21st year. (In November 2021, BizBash named it the #1 Food & Restaurant Industry event in the US for the eighth year in a row.) This year’s festival will host epicurean all-stars José Andrés, Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. Plus 400+ renowned chefs, culinary and lifestyle personalities, winemakers and spirits producers. 


Pivot MIA

“Pivot” podcast co-hosts Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway took their charming (yet cleverly crushing) banter to Miami for a series of thought-provoking interviews with high-profile CEOs like Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, WeWork’s Sandeep Mathrani and the New York Times’s Meredith Kopit Levien. Offstage, Covid-tested attendees recorded and streamed their own life-size 4K holographic displays; experienced interactive art shows; and immersed themselves in a “choose your own adventure” after-party with serious Sleep No More vibes, thanks to a collab with performance artists HDL Corp.

Why Miami?, According to Swisher, “We heard a bunch of the most irritating Silicon Valley people had moved here and wanted to come annoy them. All kidding aside, we think Miami is an exciting place to talk about a range of fast-forward topics, from cryptocurrency to psychedelics to climate change to the future of transportation. Also, we like the beach.”


Miami Hedge Fund Week

Miami Hedge Fund Week, as it has become unofficially known, takes place the last week of January, when multiple hedge-fund-focused conferences — iConnections, Context, MFA, BattleFin, and the Commodity Markets Council — overlap. Don’t worry, it’s Miami, so it’s more exciting than it sounds when finance bros hit the beach to discuss NFTs, blockchain, some crypto, a lot of cannabis and even more psychedelics.


Ultra Music Festival

The electronic music celebration will return to Bayfront Park for the first time since 2018. This year, Ultra reached a historic agreement with the Downtown Neighbors Alliance (DNA). The residents’ organization represents 13 apartment blocks in central Miami. (The three-day event was forced to relocate to Virginia Key in 2019 as a result of noise pollution and public nuisance complaints.)

Ultra, taking place March 25-27, 2022, has transformed from a one-day event to a worldwide brand. Spawning similar festivals in Europe and Asia, Miami remains the flagship. This year’s headliners include Afrojack, Armin van Buuren and Kygo. Tickets are still available, with general admission starting at $399.95 and VIP admission at $1,499.95.


Bitcoin Conference

Of course this one’s in Miami. With speakers like El Salvador President, Nayib Bukele, North Korean defector and activist, Yeonmi Park, and — of course — Mayor Suarez, Bitcoin 2022 will take over the Miami Beach Convention Center this April. The conference is the primary driver of Bitcoin Week. The week will feature Wine, Women & Crypto, yacht parties and a whole lot of pickleball tournaments.

Anyone with a ticket to attend is automatically entered into the “To The Moon” Space Ticket Giveaway. And, cleverly, attendees who pay for their passes in Bitcoin (which range in price from a $110 Festival pass to a $16K Whale VIP pass) receive 33% off. 


Miami Grand Prix

Officially titled the Formula 1 Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix (we’re sensing a theme!), the race will take place at the Miami International Autodrome. In May, the race circuit will be 3.36 miles long with 19 turns, three straights and three DRS (Drag Reduction System) with cars reaching 200 mph. Miami and Formula 1 have a 10-year deal to race in South Florida. Above all, expect a lot of brand activity surrounding these sexy, upscale gatherings, perfect for Miami’s car culture.


Miami Art Week

While we shorthand the experience as “Art Basel,” Miami Art Week is actually made up of about 20 unique fairs and festivals. (Basel among them). The week-long event celebrates the intersection of art, design, fashion and — especially new and notable in 2021 — technology. All of a sudden, Miami’s start-up scene is on full display, too. Collectors drop serious coin to snap up artworks on the Blockchain. 

Collins Ave., the main stretch of shops, restaurants and galleries along Miami Beach, was lined with parties, art shows and activations. As a result, public art spilled onto the beach itself. Additionally, downtown Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood staked its claim as Art Week’s unaffiliated off-campus destination for edgier exhibitions.


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