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Our New Favorite City Is SO Close

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    If you think Miami is just another club hub for spring breakers and sun worshippers, you need to meet Lily Kwong. The urban planner (and model) is one of the busy bees behind the renaissance that's turning the metro into a mecca for artists and creatives.

    As a project director at Island Planning Corporation, Kwong is not only helping revive the city's historic Design District, but also transform it into a luxury retail destination and cultural epicenter — all while keeping its distinctive style intact. And, while everything about Lily says (new) Miami, she actually hails from San Francisco and calls NYC home. Yet, she spends enough time in the buzzing beachside city to qualify as a local, and all that back and forth adds up to some serious jet-setting.

    We invited ourselves down to not only see the streets through her eyes, but also mine her arsenal of travel tips. And, Lily definitely knows her stuff. From what shoes merge fashion and function (Jimmy Choos) to how to snap back from jet lag to the hole in the wall that serves local-approved empanadas, this on-the-go pro has it all figured out.

    Ahead, flip through Kwong's Miami in her photo diary, and don't blame us if you want to cancel your trip to Ibiza.



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    When did you first become interested in globetrotting?
    "You know, I didn’t travel much as a kid at all. I don’t think I really went out of the country until I was 18. When I became interested in modeling [at 19], it wasn't just because of the job, but because it was also a ticket to go to Shanghai, Paris, or London."

    What about Miami keeps drawing you in — aside from work?
    “It’s an easy getaway from NYC and I love the tropical climate. It’s just so unique, and I feel like Miami is really experiencing an incredible moment."

    How so?
    "It’s this totally weird place where you have the super-club culture becoming more of a design capital. There are the people who are passionate about sailing and diving because of the water, and then there's the burgeoning arts district called Wynwood. It’s just this odd mix of culture and interests that feel really dynamic in a way Manhattan doesn’t anymore."

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    You're basically on the road for a third of the month. How do you pack just the essentials?
    "I don’t travel with a lot of stuff. I always pack things that I know can go from day to night for multiple scenarios because I really like going on adventures that are off the beaten path. When I pack, pants and easy shift dresses go on the bottom. Then, I add a layer of books to protect my nice stuff from my everyday stuff. And, then footwear — the key is rolling things and putting them in your shoes so there's no wasted space."

    Is there something you always forget to bring no matter how many times you remind yourself?
    "Ugh, a converter, which is so annoying! And, there’s always a pair of shoes I forget. I feel like you always need sandals, something you can walk around the city in, nighttime shoes, and tennis shoes. But, somehow one of them always gets left out.”

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    You're part Chinese, Irish, and German, and you have family everywhere. Has your background influenced your love for travel?
    "It’s definitely in the blood. I have family all over the world — Australia, China, Paris! Even my aunt has pointed out that we have a very high-risk family: Every single person on my dad’s side has not lived in the country they were born in. They all went out and made their own path."

    And, you travel a lot for IPC. Was that something that drew you to the company?
    “We have active projects in 14 countries on five continents. My background in urban design at Columbia University was perfectly suited to tackling some of the projects that IPC was taking on, so there's a lot of synergy there."

    J.Crew top, Ksubi shorts.

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    This farmers' market looks epic — does this spot always make it into your itinerary when you're in Miami?
    “Yes! This one's on Lincoln Road and the market is on every Sunday. Lincoln Road is actually modeled after the Everglades, and it's such a unique place in the city. There's a cool place called Juvia where you can grab brunch on a rooftop. Put it on your list, guys! "

    Calvin Klein dress, Arme De L'Amour rings.

  6. Photographed by Lily Kwong.

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    Aside from noshing on fresh veggies — how do you keep yourself from falling victim to jet lag?
    "I always try to work out on the road and get vitamin D. I love running around a new city because it's a great way to explore. You’re on your own, you have your music, and you get to see real life at a real pace. And, at South Pointe Park on Saturdays at 5 p.m., there's free sunset yoga. I love doing yoga there."