Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Just north of the east-bound entrance to the Venetian Causeway is a living, lush example of urban planning at its finest. In the midst of towering condo high-rises, Margaret Pace Park is an eight-acre haven whose volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts; soccer fields; outdoor gym; running paths; covered playground; and eye-catching artistic elements stretch right out to an expanse of sparkling blue water. Load your basket with watermelon slices, sandwiches, and salads and take your pick of one of the handy picnic tables or a cozy plot on the grass. (Tip: Check your landing zone if you choose the latter option — some of the dog owners who frequent the park are less than considerate about poop scooping.) The on-site restrooms are easy to find and usually reasonably appointed. The only difficulty you might have is prying your kids' white-knuckled fists off the playground equipment when your alfresco dining is over. You might also find it hard to give up your noble status after you settle into one of the colorful mosaic "thrones" by the water. Don't forget to pack a Frisbee or football — there's plenty of field to spread out on, although chances are you'll have to share. There's always a lot of activity at this idyllic, eclectic city park.
READERS' POLL WINNERS
Sports & Recreation
Best Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Best Dolphins Player: Matt Moore
Best Heat Player: Dwyane Wade
Best Hurricanes Player: Lamar Miller
Best Marlins Player: Giancarlo Stanton
Best Park: Kennedy Park
Best People-Watching Spot: Lincoln Road
Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners: Lincoln Road
Best Sportscaster: Dan Le Batard
Pack up the bikes and head west to Shark Valley, where there are no sharks but plenty of sunbathing gators lounging around the 15-mile looping path. It's a nature-filled workout with ample views of pristine saw grass and loads of migratory birds from January to March. What's that, you say? Pedal-pushing your way past gators and birds is sooooo touristy? Well, there's also a decent chance of spotting one of the much-hyped Burmese pythons that are grabbing national headlines. Park ranger Eric Riordan says five of the suckers were removed from the park in December, including one that was 16 feet long. If that's not motivation to keep pedaling, what is?
Two minutes in West Lake Park is it all it takes to get away from the asphalt hell of South Florida sprawl. The trip begins with a light paddle down a serene mangrove tunnel — keep your eyes peeled for always-awesome manatees and some nice birds. When the trail empties out onto the lake, it's your choice. Let the boat float, and kick back to relax while soaking up the rays, or cut across the lake — a workout in itself on a windy day — and explore the mangrove-lined, color-coded trails. If it weren't for the not-so-distant skyline peeking over the trees, you might forget you're smack in between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Prices aren't bad either: Drop $15 to rent a canoe for one hour, $20 for two hours, or $50 for the whole day.
The next time you have guests from the Midwest crashing at your pad, there's a sure-fire way to show them Miami like an undercover narcotics detective with an affinity for fine Versace suits. Head to Bayside Marketplace and board the Thriller SuperCat 55, a cigarette boat with room for more than two dozen people that takes riders on a high-speed adventure via Government Cut. After jumping through waves and doing water doughnuts on Biscayne Bay, the Thriller slows things down for a very informative tour of Star Island. The captain provides Trivial Pursuit-style tidbits of information about the wealthy, famous people who own mansions there. For instance, you'll learn that Ivax Pharmaceuticals founder Phillip Frost imported 50 date palms from South Africa at $9,000 a pop to decorate the landscape of his and his wife's $55 million estate. You'll also discover that the neighboring house was used in the 1955 movie Guys and Dolls, starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. It costs $35 per adult and $22 per child to ride the Thriller (or $32 and $19 if you buy tickets online).
Sure, you can take the youngsters to the latest mega-arcade or crowded water park, or trudge three hours in traffic to the beach. Or you can introduce them to the kind of place you once hung out before the days of Xbox 360 Kinect and Twitter. Take 'em skating! OK, strapping on a pair of skates and rolling around in a giant circle with music pumped in the background seems a bit outdated. But that doesn't mean it's not fun. It's also amazing exercise and a great way to tire out the kids from all that pent-up summertime energy. Super Wheels Skating Center, which has been in operation since 2009, has 20 HDTV sets, five giant screens, a large music selection, and a "live text" broadcast. There's also an enormous arcade with old-school favorites like air hockey, plus a snack bar where you can stuff your face with pizza, chicken wings, fries, and Dippin' Dots. But the enormous hardwood skating rink is where the real excitement is to be had. Friday is Cheap Skates Day, where you can rent skates for $7 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and $12 after that. And Super Tots sessions for the little ones cost only $8 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Yeah, skating isn't what it used to be. But it's still a kick-ass time for the whole family.