Anyone who cringes at the word ‘hostel’ should visit the Freehand in Miami Beach, party like Chuck Sheen for a few days and reconsider that line of thought.
Freehand, in all its hipster-chic splendor, can be found a dozen blocks north of the often-overcrowded South Beach center, which is all too littered with charmless eateries and swarms of reprobates. It’s not that Freehand is far from the prime nightlife, it’s just that it’s tucked away and unassuming. (Like the old line from Swingers – “You tell a chick you’ve been some place, it’s like bragging you know how to find it.”) Most importantly, the lodge’s location promises an absence of jabronis spoiling the scene (one hopes).
Pinpointing the hostel’s finest trait is a struggle. Among contenders are the cozy, slice-of-Brooklyn-in-Miami bungalow bar, the chill, mood-lit lobby and the morning orange juice (yes, the orange juice. Seriously.).
And the rooms. Depending on whether you’re traveling solo or with companions, Freehand’s got you covered, offering private and shared digs bedding anywhere from one to eight comfortably. With the right crowd, the morning-after banter spurred by sharing a “Super 8” – a room featuring four bunk beds and two en suite bathrooms – is sure to bring a new level of, umm, closeness to friends new and old.
The pool is petite but serves for enlivening people-watching. Go get some sun — you’re in Miami for shit’s sake — and when you grow restless, step to the back patio for a heated game of ping pong or bocce, glass of WattsUp Rosé in hand.
The Broken Shaker, the aforementioned bar, is a must-visit, regardless of whether you’re staying at Freehand. A James Beard Award-nominated haunt, the loungy spot is one of the dopest in Miami. Cliché as it may be, I could barely bring myself to order anything other than a bouncing, mesmerizingly-minty mojito. The whiskey-drinking crew, meanwhile, swam delightfully in their sazeracs and old fashioneds. Additional beverages abounded, featuring “specialty handcrafted cocktails with elixirs, syrups, and infusions made from herbs and spices from their garden, fresh-pressed produce and exotic ingredients from around the world,” per to TheFreehand.com. See what’s in a Broken Cocktail from the Broken Shaker in this video here.
The grub is perhaps the tastiest value in town. The always-changing flatbreads are a wise option to soak up a day’s worth of LiLo-esque boozing — or to prepare for a long night of such. Or both.
Hopefully America’s hostel-reluctant attitude is changing, and the Freehand is a dynamite example why it needs to. Travel isn’t about cookie-cutter hotels – even lovely and new and expensive ones. It’s about authenticity — authenticity in a new place and new people. Freehand offers both.