Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Never let it be said that Miami is not a trendsetter. Well before pop-up restaurants and pop-up bars exploded in popularity, Miami began hosting a pop-up of its own: the Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale, which has been springing up during the holiday shopping rush for the past 11 years. For most of the year, the downtown branch of the Miami-Dade Public Library System is just an average city hub for book lending and covert napping. But for five days of every year, usually in early December, it transforms into this city's best bookstore. Tens of thousands of books, CDs, and DVDs are available for purchase, making it one of the largest book sales in South Florida. The prices reflect some killer discounts, so you can justify fleshing out your home library as well as picking up a couple of titles to wrap up as holiday gifts. And your friends and family won't be the only ones who'll benefit — sales proceeds go toward funding the library's cultural and literary programs. So when you buy a book to read, you're also helping others do the same. It's hard to get that warm, fuzzy feeling from downloading an e-book to your Kindle.
READERS' POLL WINNERES
Best Auto Dealership: The Collection
Best Bike Shop: Mack Cycle & Fitness
Best Bookstore: Books & Books
Best Clothing Boutique: Emporium
Best Gym: LA Fitness
Best Hair Salon: Control Salon
Best Hotel: Surfcomber
Best Liquor Store: Total Wine & More
Best Mall: Aventura Mall
Best Mechanic: Abana Auto Parts
Best Spa: The Standard Spa
At the risk of foiling any romantic chemistry between us, dear reader, for the purposes of this item we must describe our body. We are approximately 50 pounds overweight and have flat, wide feet. Imagine if a duck mated with Alfred Hitchcock. Now imagine that auteur paddling bird tried his hand (wing?) at basketball one afternoon and badly turned his ankle. Given the weight on his feet, the lack of supporting arches, and the seriousness of the injury, this would be a job for a masterful foot doctor. Especially if — we admit we're stretching the metaphor a bit here — the filmmaking duck had to catch a plane to the mountains of Utah for a hiking trip in two days hence. Let's tell the rest of the story straight: Dr. Gary Curson advised us against making the trip and offered to write a letter to the airline to assist in having the tickets refunded. When we refused, he prescribed industrial-strength ibuprofen, wrapped our afflicted foot like a mummy, outfitted it in an embarrassing boot, and gave us some ground rules for treating the appendage so it wouldn't be permanently damaged. All the while, he cheered us with some pleasantly corny wisecracks. There were no exorbitant charges on top of our insurance payments, and we enjoyed our trip — although we did much more drinking than hiking. Take it from a fat-ass duck: Whatever the opposite of a quack is, that's Dr. Curson.
Miami has a love/hate relationship with literature. Our beaches are littered with tourists' cast off pulp paperbacks. Our local luminaries are crime reporters cum authors. But that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the written word as much as your average American does. Just check out our libraries. Many of them are packed. And when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez shut down dozens of them to save money last year, locals were rightly pissed. Luckily, Miami's best library was spared. No, we don't mean that pastel pleasure palace on South Beach. We like that branch, with its coffee shop, interior courtyard, and general law-and-orderliness. But downtown is our definition of a true library: a repository of rare and weird items such as limited editions of Florida authors and rare prints by Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. It's also where all Miamians — rich or poor, mansion owners or street dwellers — converge from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and, finding a spot near a window, lose themselves in a musty book. So ditch your Kindle. ¡Vamos a la biblioteca!
Ever visit a city where the public transportation actually works? Like Minneapolis, where people take the light rail from the airport? It feels like you've escaped from the hinterlands into the Capital. (Yes, that's a Hunger Games reference.) Miami will probably never have good public transportation, what with our perpetually inept and greasy-palmed collective of politicians. But depending upon your starting point, getting to Miami International Airport by bus is — believe it or not — pretty damn painless. The Airport Flyer, as the express route is called, travels from South Beach to the airport and back with only two stops: one in Mid-Beach and one at the Earlington Heights Metrorail Station. It costs $2.35, a far cheaper option than cabbing it or parking long-term. If you don't live on the Beach, your journey gets more complicated once you transfer at Earlington Heights — but hey, what do you think this is, Seattle?
Best is such a subjective word, especially when it comes to parking. The obvious answer is whatever is cheapest and closest, but no one wants to hear your stories of parking glory. "Oh, you found a metered spot right in front of the restaurant? Great, good for you. Guess what? I just parked in what is quite literally the most buzzed-about and architecturally important parking garages of all time." Yes, we're talking about 1111 Lincoln, the Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking paradise that's been featured in every publication from the New York Times to Vanity Fair. You know you wanna drive up in that thing. You know you wanna glide your car into the clean concrete and wide-open vistas. You know you're gonna take a picture from the edge. You know you're gonna casually mention it once you get to wherever you're going. Is it always the most inexpensive and convenient place to park? Probably not. Could you make a strong case that it's the best? Obviously. Just admit it, you newly minted parking elitist.