The occasion is special for a parent whose child is ready to pick a college. In this case it’s my Colorado granddaughter, Rachael, on a two day visit to south Florida in order to check out the territory. The University of Miami is one of her top choices.  I’m elected to squire her around town, so first things first:  let’s put up at a great hotel and knock the kid’s socks off. (Opening photo: EPIC's elliptical 54 story structure houses 411 guest rooms and suites with stunning Miami views.)

The Epic features commissioned fine art like the
"Constant Chain" of Polish sculptor Xawery Wolski.

No problem picking the hotel.  I book us into the Epic, a new Kimpton property in downtown Miami.  Nestled among skyscrapers with fabulous views of the harbor, the Epic appears to be fast earning a rep as one of the glamor spots in town.

From the moment we sweep through the entrance I’m primed to introduce my back-packing western gal to big time elegance. 

EPIC's elegant urban chic lobby.

“Nice lobby,” she notes, gazing around at objets d’art in the cool, greystone foyer.

“You bet.” I decide to let the place speak for itself.

Notwithstanding the elliptical 54 story structure housing 411 guest rooms, Epic considers itself a “boutique” in the tradition of Kimpton hotels.  This appellation depends upon on the staff’s ability to provide the personalized service of a much smaller inn.  How do they pull it off?   I imagine it has something to do with the comprehensive training program required of all Kimpton personnel.

Our 32nd floor one-bedroom suite is a rich interplay of warm woods and fabric—spacious bath, flat screen TV, and free internet access. Then there’s the big walk-out balcony opening onto the busy harbor and Biscayne Bay.

“Nice view!” says Rachael.  Right on.

Our balcony happens to provide a look straight down to the sparkling pool on the 16h floor. Of course we nip down for a swim.  And since it’s five o’clock, I’m drawn to the wine and hors ‘d oeuvres Epic lays out on the pool-side terrace.  This complimentary cocktail hour—a trademark of Kimpton hotels—features a zesty Prosecco for starters, then a sampling of northern Italian reds and whites along with lovely trays of fruit and prosciutto.

The 16th floor wrap-around pool deck is unique.

Rachael swims a few laps, then drapes herself on a chaise longue to grab the friendly rays of a May afternoon.

“Aren’t you hungry?” I wonder.

“Not yet. I’m listening to those French people in the cabana.”

“I didn’t know you’d learned French.”

“Oh, I haven’t.  I just like listening to it.”

Area 31 features a Med-inspired
menu and fabulous Miami views. 

I’m looking forward to dinner at Area 31, Epic’s al fresco restaurant which features Mediterranean-style seafood with splendid views of the city.

“Nice restaurant,” admits Rachael, peering in from poolside.  However, she has other ideas about our evening entertainment— we should stroll along the quay ogling the yachts, then wander over to Bayside Market Place, with its multitude of outdoor eateries, cafes, and shops; paradise for a girl fresh from Colorado who has a sixth sense in locating her favorite clothing outlets.

Rachael also happens to be an athlete, so back at the Epic we inquire about a good morning workout.  Of course she can swim or take advantage of the full-service gym facilities right at the hotel.  The concierge also comes up with a little runners’ map in case she might like to stretch out a few miles through nearby Bayfront Park.  This proves to be the winning number.  Rachael can show off the new sweats she just bought at Bayside Market!

Next afternoon we must attend to the serious work of our two days in south Florida—a visit to the University of Miami.  Thanks to all her hard work in high school, Rachael has been tendered a generous scholarship to this private and progressive university amid the palms.

“It’s so beautiful!  I can really see myself going to school here!”  (For those of you who haven’t toured college campuses lately, be informed that “seeing yourself here” is now one of the key  criteria.  I suspect it has less to do with mirrors than the ever presence of cell phone cameras.)

Tour completed, we drive back along Biscayne Bay, past exclusive shops on Brickell Avenue and across the causeway for a look at the Art Deco chic of South Beach.

“Oh, how lovely it will be!”  I muse, sipping my second raspberry daiquiri on the beachfront off Collins Avenue.  Rachael may still be a tad young to join me in daiquiris, but time will pass.  She will become a bronzed Florida goddess and I will seize upon any excuse to come visit her.

All EPIC rooms & suites have personal computers, fine Italian linens, and LCD TVs.

Back at the Epic one last indulgence—a session at the Exhale spa.  I am not allowed to join in, Rachael deeming it is unseemly for her grandfather to enjoy the company of a pedicurist.  Little does she realize—precisely we ancients are most in need of such tender care!

Anyway,  it’s been a wonderful two days, and the Epic Hotel has had no small share in making it so.  I will admit to partiality when it comes to lodgings run by the Kimpton people.  From that day years ago when Bill Kimpton opened his first hotel in San Francisco, one constant has been the tradition of hearty “European” service combined with tasteful luxury.  It is a combination I always look forward to when bound for a special occasion.

I’m happy about Kimpton’s concern for the environment. It pervades everything from restaurant menus to linens and the soaps and paper products used in their hotels.  And I love their inventive  offers. To encourage mass transit, for example, they offer a 20% reduction of the hotel tab for anyone traveling in or out of town by train!  Could Greyhound or hybrid cars be next?

Bathrooms are grand with
spa-inspired bath amenities.

Although San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels operates 45 properties in 21 cities of North America, the Epic Hotel represents the company’s first new-build property in Florida.  Just two blocks from the Knight International Convention Center, the Epic has splendid facilities for meetings large and small.  The private marina offers charter departures directly from the hotel and is available for unconventional and one-of-a-kind yacht parties, receptions, and events.  There are eight flexible meeting spaces; a foyer with outdoor terrace allows for receptions up to 150.

The Metropolis Ballroom accommodates 300 guests; the Epic Lawn provides outdoor space for social galas of 500 or more.  The hotel features two restaurants—the aforementioned Area 31 and Zuma, which serves contemporary Japanese cuisine—plus the lively River Lounge.

Cheryl Rowley’s overall design features a curved glass exterior, whereas inside patterns of stone, glass, metals, warm woods, and rich textiles provide an understated elegance.  A museum-quality collection of fine art graces the public spaces of both the hotel and Epic’s luxury residential component.

All this swank and something more:  Epic is quite happy to welcome your Fido, Sylvester, or Tweetie Pie (please, no cheetahs or chimpanzees).  And if you’re lonesome, they’ll loan you out a goldfish and bowl.  Obviously the spirit of Bill Kimpton—who always liked  doing things a bit differently—lives on.

Heading off to the airport at the end of a busy afternoon I can only remark to Rachael about how this lovely Florida sunset (an auspicious omen?) might be only the first of many that she would come to enjoy over the years. 

“I love beautiful sunsets,” she responds.  “But that’s only one of the reasons I’ve pretty much decided now on college.  I think I’ll be going to the University of Colorado in Boulder.”

For more information about the Epic and other Kimpton hotels, including reservations call (866/760-3742 or 305/424-5226) or click the first photo above..

— Feature by Jerry Nemanic, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine; photos courtesy of Epic Hotel.