Best of Miami®

Best Of 2006

Neighborhoods

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Best Of :: People & Places

Best Hotel
The Raleigh

The Raleigh was designed in 1940 by Lawrence Murray Dixon, a New York architect who moved to Miami Beach in 1928; he also designed The Victor Hotel (1937), The Marlin (1939), The Tides Hotel (1936), The Senator (1939), and The Ritz Plaza Hotel (1940). The Raleigh began the way most of the Decos did, attracting rich, young celebrities like Esther Williams, a Forties bombshell and Olympic swimmer who would practice in The Raleigh's swimming pool, which was named "the most beautiful pool in the state of Florida," with good reason, by Life magazine. Its popularity steadily declined until the early Nineties, when it began a spirited revival, but then quickly dropped off the cool map once again, this time sinking into total obscurity. In 2002, for $25 million, André Balazs, boyfriend of Uma Thurman and owner of the hippest hotels in the nation, took the property off the hands of its desperate owner, Ken Zarrilli. Balazs refreshed it and made it hip again. What Balazs and The Raleigh sell are not rooms or cocktails so much as the idea that anyone can walk off Collins Avenue and step into a world of luxury. Here you can down a $12 drink on a bed next to a pool that has been pictured in the New York Times and Vanity Fair. Who knows? Matt Damon might stroll right by. The Raleigh's Sunday Soiree is the main attraction, where every Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to midnight in the Oasis (a closed-in beach area in the very back of the hotel) DJs, dancers, club kids, businessmen, and celebrities hang out by the fire or get drunk and end up in the pool. The $20 cover charge and pricey drinks might seem a little steep, but hey, that's part of the life, bitch.

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

James "Jimbo" Luznar opened his joint on Virginia Key, Jimbo's, a half-century ago. And there's no better place on the water to take a toot.

What is your greatest triumph?

We used to be where the Herald building is, but then they said our boats would have to go. So we looked at Snapper Creek, Mart’ Park, then we ended up on Virginia Key. It stunk sometimes, and there were mosquitoes, snakes, coons, opossums, and iguanas. It cost us a lot of money to be there, but we stayed. They've been trying to get me out of there for a long time, but now everyone all over the world knows Jimbo.

Personal Best

Born in Homestead, Kevin Wynn is the producer and cohost of Downtown Dade, a TV talk show that covers the arts and culture and airs on the county's government access channel. He is also the coprogrammer, with Barron Sherer, of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization devoted to screening unusual, significant, and neglected film and video works. And he's the creator of Public Domain Playhouse, a continuing series of screenings he curates with Sherer.

What is your greatest triumph?

My greatest triumph? I don’t do “triumph.” I’ve never had one. I can’t tell you how it feels to triumph, or what it looks, tastes or smells like. I wouldn’t know “triumph” if some guy ran over me with a TR4.

Best Dog Park

There are several safe, clean places where we can let Fido run off-leash in Miami-Dade. Coconut Grove has several dog-friendly parks; the Beach has some nice locations; there's a spot on Virginia Key where dogs can swim and sunbathe; but of all the canine treats in my Miami, the mac daddy of all dog parks is in Aventura. Two years ago the city, which is burgeoning with young dog-owning families, built the expansive new Veterans Park. The $600,000 two-acre expanse has a wonderful, well-kept, welcoming space. There are pooper-scooper dispensers throughout the space. There are doggy water fountains and doggy showers. And the most endearing detail: red fire hydrants. All of this greatness, of course, comes at a price: You have to live in Aventura, and show proof of residence, to gain access. It's almost reason enough to move there.

Best Local Politician

It is a dark time for Miami-Dade County's executive mayor. The evil lords on the county commission annihilated Carlos Alvarez's bold offensive to strip them of some bribe-making abilities. Then the Galactic Empire displayed the true power of the Dark Side when it crushed Alvarez in the Boundary Wars. Beaten but resolute, the good mayor fled to the outer rim of the county's suburban wasteland to regroup and complete his training. Upon his return, Alvarez successfully destroyed the Imperials' diabolical device: The Public Silencer. In time, this Obi-wan of the Swamp may finally bring balance to the county.

Best Listener

Come one, come all, to the "Read to Farley" sessions at the children's section of the North Miami Beach Library, the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 4:00 p.m. This is no ordinary dog. This shaggy mop o' unconditional love once suffered from crippling agoraphobia, owing to early abuse. But his patient handler, Margo Berman, a professor at Florida International University, worked tirelessly, training him to overcome his fears and earn his Therapy Dog badge. Now Farley helps shy children who have trouble reading aloud. Once the youngsters sit down with Farley on the colorful rugs, they don't want to stop reading him stories because he is a great listener, mispronunciations be damned!

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Best Hotel: The Raleigh

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