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Lincoln Road, South Beach: The Good, The Bad, and The Trashy

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Aside from a smattering of in-hotel boutiques and small concentrations of shops along Collins, Washington and Alton Avenues, South Beach's central shopping corridor is Lincoln Road. Running east to west, from the ocean to the bay, the central blocks are closed off to traffic and landscaped with a series of water features, tropical greenery, shade trees, and palm after palm after palm.

Stucco-encrusted and terra cotta-tiled, the buildings lining Lincoln are perfectly Miami and house a wide array of shopping, dining and entertainment options that spill out onto the sidewalks in a smattering of jauntily canopied seating. It's all pretty beautiful—if you can stand the heat—and whether you're a tourist or a resident the shops offer plenty to covet. That said, there is equally as much to run screaming from.

Lincoln Road, we found, represents a series of extremes: High design and lowest common denominator, high end and cheap, unique and mass-produced, fine dining and, well, a restaurant called Meat Market and a bar called Score.

If you're just looking for a mall, well you found it. Aldo, Steve Madden, Skechers, and Guess each have multiple locations; plus there is a Gap, a Pottery Barn, a Victoria's Secret, the list goes on. Looking for trashy bargains from cheap chains? Hello Payless Shoe Source, Rainbow, and two separate So Good plastic jewelry emporiums! Want to throw up? Hello Crocs and Christian Audigier! That said, higher end brands like AllSaints, Diesel, 7 For All Mankind, even Hervé Léger (which is just off Lincoln) have locations neighboring yupster favs like CB2 and Apple.

Then there are the independents, which is where things start to get a little dicey. Many fall in line somewhere between Jersey Shore's pilot episode (heavily embellished denim, skanky underwear, synthetic club tops) and Jersey Shore on the eve of season three negotiations (heavily embellished designer denim, skanky designer underwear, designer synthetic club tops—with a Swarovski crystal on top). The leader of that pack is probably Envy, a series of incredibly blingy shops catering to said Guidos, their newborns, and their grandparents. But if you'd rather see Florida's versions of the tee shirt hut that issued the crew pay checks visit the massive gift emporiums on the beach end for rauchy tees, string bikinis, beach hats ruined by beer logos, and faux-Ed Hardy all sharing space with hermit crabs in painted shells, popsicles, batteries, souvenir ash trays and World Cup underwear.

And where would guidos be without their Eurotrash inspiration? Exactly nowhere, which is why several shops offer a mishmash of designer crud that never walked a runway from the likes of Moschino, Versace, Armani, Cavalli, and Dolce & Gabbana (we'd love to a chance to play in the sad Sicilian warehouse these logo-bedazzled and crystallized creations are coming from). Also, several stock Custo Barcelona—which, well, enough said.

But then there are a handful of some of the coolest shops you've ever seen. The Alchemist is a who's who of high-end designer womenswear (and probably the only place on the strip where one might find Dries or Demeulemeester). Base is a collective of contemporary fashion, hipster home goods, and a highly-curated array of music, books, and magazines. Fly is one of the coolest vintage stores we've ever seen. Plus, there are first-rate gift and design shops; an unbelievable independent bookseller; several one-of-a-kind and so-Miami spots for accessories and beachwear; the coolest parking garage on earth, designed by Herzog & de Meuron; and a Shake Shack!

We love it, we truly do. Just maybe avoid the places that sell "fine art" and have oil paintings of Michael Jackson in the window?
· Lincoln Road [Official Site]

Washington Ave. & Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, FL