Best of Miami®

Best Of 2004

Neighborhoods

  • + Aventura/North Miami Beach
  • + Beaches
  • + Boca Raton
  • + Brickell
  • + Central Dade
  • + Coconut Grove
  • + Cooper City
  • + Coral Gables
  • + Coral Gables/South Miami
  • + Coral Springs/Margate
  • + Cutler Bay/Palmetto Bay
  • + Dania Beach
  • + Davie
  • + Davie/West Hollywood
  • + Doral
  • + Downtown/Overtown
  • + East Kendall/Pinecrest
  • + Florida Keys
  • + Fort Lauderdale
  • + Hallandale Beach
  • + Hialeah
  • + Highland Beach
  • + Hollywood
  • + Homestead/Florida City
  • + Key Biscayne
  • + Lauderhill
  • + Little Haiti/Liberty City
  • + Little Havana
  • + Miami Gardens
  • + Miami Lakes
  • + Mid/North Beach
  • + Midtown/Wynwood/Design District
  • + Miramar
  • + North Dade
  • + North Miami
  • + North Palm Beach
  • + Oakland Park
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside South Florida
  • + Palm Beach County
  • + Palm Beach Gardens
  • + Pembroke Pines
  • + Plantation
  • + Plantation/Sunrise/Tamarac
  • + Pompano Beach
  • + Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach/Coconut Creek
  • + Riviera Beach
  • + Sea Ranch Lakes
  • + South Beach
  • + South Dade
  • + Sunrise
  • + Sunrise/Plantation
  • + Surfside/Bal Harbor/Bay Harbor Islands
  • + Sweetwater/Westchester/West Miami
  • + Tamiami
  • + Unknown
  • + Upper Eastside/Miami Shores/Biscayne Park
  • + Wellington
  • + West Dade
  • + West Kendall
  • + West Palm Beach
  • + Weston
  • + Wilton Manors
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Best Of :: People & Places

Personal Best
Seth Kaplan

Seth Kaplan has a whole lot of elfin magic going on, and we mean that in the sincerest form of Lord of the Rings-loving way. The energetic, garrulous, adorably bus-taking spokesman for the Miami-Dade County Elections Department speaks with the clear ring of truth when it comes to one of Florida's most painful subjects -- voting -- and is ever-available to answer questions from the press and the public alike.

Kaplan can actually discuss almost any subject with verve, wit, and an infomaniac's breadth of perspective, and becomes confounded only by superlatives to use regarding his beloved Florida Marlins. Kaplan was there for the first pitch of the very first game back in 1993, and continues to follow the Fish through ticker-tape parades and annoying personnel dramas.

Though the county's elections department has moved from downtown Miami to Doral, where, Kaplan says, he sometimes takes his life in his hands to cross eight lanes of traffic for some Dunkin' Donuts, he is especially beloved by the staff of this newspaper for his years of public-transportation patronage.

Best Sanctuary From the Fast Track
The parks of Key Biscayne

Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park -- because I can bike there from where I live. With our geography, you can see a great sunrise from plenty of places in Miami-Dade. Baggs is one of a smaller number of places where you can watch a great sunset. And considering how close you are to downtown, you feel remarkably far away.

Best Month
December

That's when most people in this country are beginning to face several months of living indoors, while things are just getting good in Miami.

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Great seats at a Marlins game

Aside from mountains, Major League Baseball was once one of the only things missing in Miami. For a fan like me, just getting the team was great. The championship in 1997 was even better. But now ... I mean, this is the most exciting -- and most genuine -- thing I've ever seen in professional sports. In an era when too many athletes bring shame to their teams and sports, we have a team about whom we can tell little kids: "Watch how these guys play. Listen to the things they say." And there's nothing like watching it all up close.

Best Cheap Thrill
Riding the public bus

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be just a way to get around town. But sometimes, you get a lot more than that. I recently purchased a car after the Elections Department moved out west from downtown, but I had spent the previous three years without a car, relying almost exclusively on public transportation. I could -- and should -- write a book about my experiences. I did a lot of reading while someone else was driving the bus -- this limousine for the masses -- but sometimes I would just look out the window and take in the flavor of the Miami-Dade neighborhoods that so many folks never see while they're bypassing it all on the highway. Yes, the places I saw were interesting, but the people were the best part. Here I am, getting my heart warmed and feeling better about humanity, all for $1.25, while everyone else is cutting each other off and honking at each other in their cars outside.

Best Reason to Live in Miami
It's the same reason as the worst reason to live in Miami: the craziness. I know there are cleaner cities and wealthier cities, cities with healthier economies and better job markets.... But there aren't many more interesting cities -- cities with more character and characters -- than Miami.

BEST LOCAL PHANTASMAGORIA

Canker creeps, Wagner Creek reeks, traffic snarls, rain storms arrive, Latin Grammys arrive, rapists prowl, kids take bullets, DCF kills, Omar Paisley dies, John Brennan dies, Leonard Pancoast dies, MIA rabbits get to live, Crandon Park cabanas live again, Augustín Roman steps down, David Leahy steps down, Constance Kaplan steps up, real estate goes up, cafeterías get busted, pot growers get busted, Miami Seaquarium gets busted, smokers get the boot, Chuck Lanza gets the boot, Mandela gets an apology, more rapists prowl, tolls rise, gas prices rise, Nikki Beach fades, cruise ships kill, drag races kill, Robert Curbelo, Jr., gets busted, Ric Sisser gets busted, Performing Arts Center busts budgets, MIA travelers are frisked, priests are accused, cops are convicted, Doral is born, Celia Cruz dies, Wilkie Ferguson dies, Chesterfield Smith dies, Rene Touzet dies, Florida Philharmonic dies, Cuban hijackers go to jail, José Canseco goes to jail, Miami Gardens goes broke, Miami Herald goes dumb and dumber, NAACP arrives, Marvin O'Quinn arrives, terror-alert orange arrives, FTAA arrives, cops swarm, protesters are arrested and sprayed and shot and beaten, and more traffic, more rain, more bullets, Carlos Manuel defects, Bob Graham stumbles, MIA workers smuggle, smuggled Cubans land on South Beach, old Beach buildings go down, Bliss House goes down, downtown booms, Lighthouse Café burns down, Miami bond ratings go up, Sunny Isles goes up, up, up, Ira Clark gets the boot, Steve Shiver gets the boot, George Burgess gets appointed, MIA rabbits take bullets, José Calvo takes a bullet, manatees die, Millie the orangutan dies, Clyde Killens dies, turnpike kills, canals kill, rip currents kill, DCF kills again, Judge William Hoeveler gets the boot, UM's North-South Center gets the boot, North Bay Village politicians are busted, Fernandez Rundle boys are busted (again), Mercedes Masvidal is busted (again), Miami Circle is buried (again), more traffic snarls, more rain falls, crops get swamped, Joe Carollo goes bankrupt, Sal Magluta goes to prison, Willie Falcon goes to prison, Fabio Ochoa goes to prison, Manuel Noriega stays in prison, David Paul gets out of prison, Miami's film festival sees new life, S&S Diner lives on, Miracle Mile Cafeteria dies, Piccadilly dies, Marlins take it all, Denise Calvo takes the Fifth, public schools take a hit, Kelly Cobiella hit with DUI, Bill Kamal hit with DUI, Romero Britto hit with DUI, Norman Van Aken hit with DUI, Frank Cobo cops a plea, Pat Tornillo cops a sweet plea, David Samson dies, Raul Ernesto Valdes-Fauli dies, Space 34 dies (temporarily), serial rapist Reynaldo Elias Rapalo gets caught (finally), and at last some good news (happily): Ron O'Daniels strums guitar, violates Miami Beach law banning street performers, gets arrested, refuses guilty plea, sits three weeks in jail. Then the extremely wise Judge Mary Jo Francis steps in and declares the law unconstitutional. Miami Beach buskers are free at last!

BEST LOCAL PHANTASMAGORIA

Canker creeps, Wagner Creek reeks, traffic snarls, rain storms arrive, Latin Grammys arrive, rapists prowl, kids take bullets, DCF kills, Omar Paisley dies, John Brennan dies, Leonard Pancoast dies, MIA rabbits get to live, Crandon Park cabanas live again, Augustín Roman steps down, David Leahy steps down, Constance Kaplan steps up, real estate goes up, cafeterías get busted, pot growers get busted, Miami Seaquarium gets busted, smokers get the boot, Chuck Lanza gets the boot, Mandela gets an apology, more rapists prowl, tolls rise, gas prices rise, Nikki Beach fades, cruise ships kill, drag races kill, Robert Curbelo, Jr., gets busted, Ric Sisser gets busted, Performing Arts Center busts budgets, MIA travelers are frisked, priests are accused, cops are convicted, Doral is born, Celia Cruz dies, Wilkie Ferguson dies, Chesterfield Smith dies, Rene Touzet dies, Florida Philharmonic dies, Cuban hijackers go to jail, José Canseco goes to jail, Miami Gardens goes broke, Miami Herald goes dumb and dumber, NAACP arrives, Marvin O'Quinn arrives, terror-alert orange arrives, FTAA arrives, cops swarm, protesters are arrested and sprayed and shot and beaten, and more traffic, more rain, more bullets, Carlos Manuel defects, Bob Graham stumbles, MIA workers smuggle, smuggled Cubans land on South Beach, old Beach buildings go down, Bliss House goes down, downtown booms, Lighthouse Café burns down, Miami bond ratings go up, Sunny Isles goes up, up, up, Ira Clark gets the boot, Steve Shiver gets the boot, George Burgess gets appointed, MIA rabbits take bullets, José Calvo takes a bullet, manatees die, Millie the orangutan dies, Clyde Killens dies, turnpike kills, canals kill, rip currents kill, DCF kills again, Judge William Hoeveler gets the boot, UM's North-South Center gets the boot, North Bay Village politicians are busted, Fernandez Rundle boys are busted (again), Mercedes Masvidal is busted (again), Miami Circle is buried (again), more traffic snarls, more rain falls, crops get swamped, Joe Carollo goes bankrupt, Sal Magluta goes to prison, Willie Falcon goes to prison, Fabio Ochoa goes to prison, Manuel Noriega stays in prison, David Paul gets out of prison, Miami's film festival sees new life, S&S Diner lives on, Miracle Mile Cafeteria dies, Piccadilly dies, Marlins take it all, Denise Calvo takes the Fifth, public schools take a hit, Kelly Cobiella hit with DUI, Bill Kamal hit with DUI, Romero Britto hit with DUI, Norman Van Aken hit with DUI, Frank Cobo cops a plea, Pat Tornillo cops a sweet plea, David Samson dies, Raul Ernesto Valdes-Fauli dies, Space 34 dies (temporarily), serial rapist Reynaldo Elias Rapalo gets caught (finally), and at last some good news (happily): Ron O'Daniels strums guitar, violates Miami Beach law banning street performers, gets arrested, refuses guilty plea, sits three weeks in jail. Then the extremely wise Judge Mary Jo Francis steps in and declares the law unconstitutional. Miami Beach buskers are free at last!

BEST NEW CULTURAL TREND

When the night ends, it doesn't matter if the artwork altered anyone's perception because, as they say, it was all good. Rocket Projects, at 3440 N. Miami Ave., was at the vanguard of this lowbrow cultural movement, always providing complimentary booze, DJ sounds, and even, on one chilly night, free barbecued chicken out back. OBJEX artspace's soirees tended to be a higher form of lowbrow, but with new digs at 203 NW 36th St., this gallery gets credit for taking the art party movement into ever deeper depths of Wynwood. Lawrence Gartel went even higher (i.e., lower) for an exhibition curated in conjunction with David Lombardi's Roving Fridays. This show, Cyberotica, featured digital art inside the warehouse and painted ladies (literally) who were shaking what they had on a rickety little runway out back. Free vodka drinks, natch. There were many other shining examples of this exciting new trend, but we don't remember them.

BEST HOTEL

Step into the Raleigh and instantly you're transported to another time -- 1940 to be exact, the year prolific architect L. Murray Dixon's monument to Streamline Moderne design threw open its dazzling doors. Slink through the sophisticated lobby like the movie star you are. Slip into the cozy bar, boasting martini glasses festively illustrated in the terrazzo floor, for a cocktail. Head outdoors and take a dip in the spectacular scalloped swimming pool surrounded by towering palm trees. Check into one of the 104 rooms and suites decorated in Art Deco-period style and your pleasant journey to the past might convince you it's futile to return to the present. The Raleigh's name was meant to pay tribute to Sir Walter Raleigh, intrepid British explorer, notable poet, and charming courtier to Queen Elizabeth I -- a true Renaissance man. Who better than an urbane figure like renowned hotel honcho André Balazs -- behind the swanky empire that includes Los Angeles's Chateau Marmont and New York's Mercer -- to assume ownership of the Raleigh? He did so recently, assuring continued excellence.

BEST HOTEL
The Raleigh

Step into the Raleigh and instantly you're transported to another time -- 1940 to be exact, the year prolific architect L. Murray Dixon's monument to Streamline Moderne design threw open its dazzling doors. Slink through the sophisticated lobby like the movie star you are. Slip into the cozy bar, boasting martini glasses festively illustrated in the terrazzo floor, for a cocktail. Head outdoors and take a dip in the spectacular scalloped swimming pool surrounded by towering palm trees. Check into one of the 104 rooms and suites decorated in Art Deco-period style and your pleasant journey to the past might convince you it's futile to return to the present. The Raleigh's name was meant to pay tribute to Sir Walter Raleigh, intrepid British explorer, notable poet, and charming courtier to Queen Elizabeth I -- a true Renaissance man. Who better than an urbane figure like renowned hotel honcho André Balazs -- behind the swanky empire that includes Los Angeles's Chateau Marmont and New York's Mercer -- to assume ownership of the Raleigh? He did so recently, assuring continued excellence.

1775 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 33139
MAP
305-534-6300
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Personal Best: Seth Kaplan

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