Best Of :: People & Places
Robert Burr was born and raised in the county of Dade. His family came here in 1876, and traces of his ancestors' hard work can be found from Arch Creek Park to Burr's Berry Farm. As you might expect from a seventh generation member of a pioneering family, he knows the nooks and crannies of this city like the back of his hand. On any given weekend Burr is leading one of the many walking and driving tours he's created. He has introduced thousands to the pleasures of the Redland and Coral Gables through his ever-popular Redland Riot tour, as well as his Coral Gables Wine Walk, Gallery Stroll, and Pub Crawl. He's done this in person by leading the procession, although the front-and-center position isn't necessarily his favorite. "I really don't want everyone to go with me, per se. In the Gables, we're doing a wine walk tonight. And people will call and say, ÔOh no, it's already sold out.' And I'm like, ÔYou know whatç Go do a wine walk with you and your friends! I ultimately hope to set an example for how to go do this stuff yourself," explains the affable, silver-haired gent. Burr has single-handedly reinvented the concept of locals discovering Miami on their own. His comprehensive Websites offer print-it-yourself maps that highlight hidden gems in neighborhoods that people usually just drive through. The Gables tours focus on the area's rich dining and boozing prospects, and the Redland Riot Tour (and recently added Redland Riot Road Rallye) leads groups of explorers into the still-lush corners of Miami's rapidly developing back yard. Exploring the Redland is a Burr family tradition. "When I was a kid, when they said, ÔHop in the station wagon, we're going to the Redlands.' That meant we'd get to go see Uncle Charlie and pick some strawberries," Burr recalls. "One of the simple pleasures in life is to pick your own fruit. Someday it's going to be something that's just in the past, picking your own strawberries." The U-Picks are disappearing and the farmland is being converted into little boxes made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same. But thanks to the efforts of Robert Burr, urbanites seeking a weekend getaway will continue to discover the pastoral pleasures of the Robert is Here produce stand, Schnebly Winery, and historic Cauley Square, thereby preserving what's left of Miami's verdant past.
Ever sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic, laying on the horn because the ding-dong in front is not moving, and you're in a hurry because you're late for work, and you still have to drop off the kids and get to the bank to deposit some money so your checks don't bounce, but you're almost out of gas and you're not sure if you're going to make it, but if you stop then you'll be even later, and if you're late again you'll get fired, and then you won't have money for anything, so should you chance it and risk getting stuck and getting fired because you don't show up at all, or stop and risk getting fired because you're lateç Dude, if this even remotely resembles your brain, you seriously need to take a break before it melts. And the best spot for escaping from the daily grind without spending a small fortune (provided you have a rich friend who owns a boat, that is) is right here in our back yard: Elliott Key. Located about nine miles from Homestead in the aquamarine waters of Biscayne National Park, this is the largest of three keys in the park's 172,000 acres, and is only accessible by water. Once harboring a thriving community of pioneers, today this idyllic island offers camping complete with barbecue grills picnicking, swimming, wildlife watching, and a hiking trail, along with showers, toilets, and even fresh drinking water. The coastline is predominantly rocky, but the clear waters make it ideal for snorkeling. And there are some small areas of sand if you feel the urge to bronze. What's more the place is large enough to never get overcrowded, yet small enough to feel like your own private paradise (especially if you head there on a weekday). Best of all, it's free. So grab some grub, anchor offshore (low tide is less than three feet high), and chill. Sleep under the stars and bathe in crystal clear ocean waters ... you deserve it. It sure beats waking up to reality.
Last year's summertime calendar brought us 6/6/6, the apocalyptic number of the beast. Some predicted the Antichrist would appear on that hot as hell June afternoon, but it didn't happen.This summer will bring 7/7/7, which is sacred and mystical, according to various traditions. On that day Miami will host the Sacred Sevens Selebration. (In case you haven't checked, July 7, 9007, will fall on a Saturday; of course, the town will be either underwater or nuked by then.) It's all organized by the people at MysticalFlorida.com, who put on the Tropical Fairy Festival at Coral Castle every October. "This festival will raise positive energies and provide an outlet for people to experiment with their spirituality," says Atina Komar, the festival's organizer, "and honestly, days that don't appear very often give us an excuse to throw a party."The festivities will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in South Miami. There will be drum circles, live bands, magicians, spiritual workshops on well-being and self-healing, as well as performances by jugglers, dancers, and singers. There will also be games and a costume contest for children.
Want the moon to yourselfç Haul your bike out to Shark Valley after sunset and have at it. There's nowhere better to check out that massive cheese wheel in the sky than the River of Grass. Cruise around the fifteen-mile paved loop with wind in your hair, bird songs in your ear, and mysterious water splashes every few feet, as the glowing disk makes its way across the evening sky. It's beautiful especially the view from the observation tower halfway into the ride and it's free after 5:15 p.m (the gate closes at 6:00).
You make the 45-minute trek to work every day. And every day at least two jerks cut you off or give you the finger. At work your micromanaging boss breathes down your neck because he's a sadistic maniac. The kids fight, your visiting in-laws are annoying, and you're behind on your bills again. Does the Mobius bandlike cycle of stress ever endç Sure you can plop yourself down on the couch and wish your life was copacetic as Shaq's, but that's a poor excuse for relaxation. What you need is mental and spiritual rejuvenation, both of which can be found at the Wat Buddharangsi, a Thai Buddhist temple in Homestead. Wat's Eastern-influenced architecture is striking; ascending steeples are adorned with red tile and gold decoration. The same color scheme can be found inside, with a large Buddha as an inspiring centerpiece. An aura of serenity permeates the inside of the temple as bright sun rays fill the quiet, open spaces. Patrons are encouraged to forget material possessions and control their lives during the temple's many ceremonies and prayers. Some rules for visitors: dress conservatively, remove shoes upon entering, and avoid making loud noises. The temple is open to the public every day from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and hosts special events at least once a month.
It's not that the sand is whiter or the sea greener. Nor do those few feet of ocean boast more waves or fewer pesky sea critters. It's just that Third Street not Second Street, not Fourth Street, but either side of the lifeguard stand on Third is where the cool kids hang. Week in, week out. It's where the hot Brazilians can be spotted in their pseudo-Speedo trunks, flexing taut muscles as they battle through endless games of foot-volleyball. It's where the Latinas and the Euros throw caution to the wind and discard bikini tops without so much as a flinch. Coolers stacked full of beach essentials (i.e. beer), lithe bodies, and paddleball games abound. In all its skin-baring, sweaty glory, Third Street beach epitomizes this city we call home.