Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Vodou, the native religion of Haiti, has gotten quite a bad rap in popular culture thanks to Hollywood movies. But pay a visit to a legit Little Haiti botanica — Toute Division — and you just might find you like this religious practice. Vodou, built at the nexus of ancient African and Catholic rites, is really a study in the power of intent, the subconscious mind, and that which lies beyond it. Whether you're interested in an out-of-body experience or looking to build your first altar, the double-wide opening to this spiritual oasis is a portal into the next dimension. One second you're on 54th Street in the city of Miami; the next you're deep in the heart of the island jungle. But instead of tall trees and dense foliage, you're surrounded by statues great and small, racks of potions, and more powders, elixirs, and accoutrements of faith than you can count with your third eye open. The artistry of these stunning visuals are beyond belief, and the handcrafted, hand-carved, and handmade items for sale pay tribute to Jesus, Guedes, Loas, and whatever else your heart desires. The friendly proprietors will happily guide your purchase and seem to know the contents of your soul as soon as you enter their domain. Whether you seek to honor a guardian or are looking for a means to manifest fortune, fame, or love, Toute Division is the botanica that's ready to shift your thinking about the Caribbean's spiritual lifeblood.
Rows and rows of Gibsons, Fenders, Ovations, and metal James Trussarts line the walls of Miami Vintage Guitars. Wide-eyed music junkies roam the shop's seven rooms, making their way upstairs to the electric and archtop room where they can get their hands on a red PRS signed by Carlos Santana himself, a road-worn Nashville six-string, and dozens of bass guitars. Hours go by, and the next thing you know, the same guy jamming away on the PRS is now in the vintage room strumming a Fender Stratocaster strung just like the one Jimi Hendrix used to play. Next door in the high-end acoustic room hangs a guitar from the 1800s, the oldest model on display, as well as some of the last guitars ever made with Brazilian rosewood. Back downstairs is the room where the store proudly reps its own brand of acoustic six-strings. In the main room, MVG showcases most of its electric models, as well as Fender and Behringer amps. The shredder room, lined with RGs and other models of the ilk, is where metal heads flock. Sure, it's easy to get lost in the maze of instruments, but store managers Jose Benavides and Artie Corces (who also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon) are very knowledgeable and will give a thorough tour to help you choose the guitar that suits you and your price range. The shop is also an authorized B.C. Rich, Dean, and Nash dealer, so if you don't find the exact model you want, you can always order it. There's also a shop on site where you can customize any new or old instrument. Prices vary widely depending upon what you're looking for — an evil-looking 2013 B.C. Rich "Son of a Beast" that would make Gwar jealous runs $480, for instance, while a cedar Blueberry Concert acoustic costs $1,600. But even if you're not looking to buy and just wanna jam with like-minded musicians, MVG will let you come in and play.
Hawking records is a rough game in these post-digital days. The average independent shop is barely making rent. Or already inflating its "Bankruptcy Sale!" balloons. Or even worse, slated to be demolished to make space for yet another neighborhood bank branch. But thankfully, there are still some indies that have somehow stuck it out — like Uncle Sam's, the South Beach music and merch emporium established in 1991. Last summer, owner Lisa Teger Zhen and her staff moved from the original Washington Avenue location they'd inhabited for 22 years to a smaller retail space down the street. It wasn't that biz was bad. "The store was just too big for us anymore," Teger Zhen told New Times. "The music business has changed a lot... So we pared down to stuff that we sell regularly." Among those enduringly popular products: adorable teddy bear ski masks, kitty-cat backpacks, "I Hate Molly" tees, and a solid selection of new and used records of all kinds. For hippest BFFs, snag a $30 white-vinyl version of Arcade Fire's Reflektor. For Tea Partying uncles, catch a $10 case of Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever. And for stoner bros with budding comedy careers, cop a vintage $18 copy of Cheech & Chong's Big Bambú, complete with an extra-large rolling paper insert. Now let's go buy a stack, spin some wax, and take a toke for another quarter-century of Uncle Sam's Music.
Welcome to the big leagues. As far as making music in Miami goes, there is absolutely nowhere with the kind of pedigree the Hit Factory has accrued over the past 56 years in business. To run through the entirety of Criteria Studio's history of artists would be a ridiculously lengthy affair, but allow us to list a few choice names just to emphasize what this place really represents in the landscape of music. The five studios at the Hit Factory have seen the likes of the Beach Boys, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Dr. Dre, Aretha Franklin, and R. Kelly crooning into its mikes. If you want to record in Miami, there's nothing that stands up to sizable music industry standards the way Criteria does, with everything you need, including the huge tracking room of Studio A and an immense catalogue of tape machines and microphones from over the years to help you sound just right. Between the history and quality, it's truly a one-of-a-kind place.
After Achilles was shot in the tendon and Perseus was turning folks to stone, Zeus lowered a flock of parking gods to Earth. From Washington Avenue street parking to spending your kid's college fund on valets, Miami Beach is a God-forsaken place for the four-wheel set. But there's a piece of heaven at the Flamingo Park lot on 11th Street, where you get three hours of free parking from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shifting your car into park and walking out toward your destination without stopping to jam nickels and dimes into a machine seems otherworldly at first. But stay out after the clock strikes 10 and a meter maid will leave a friendly note under your wiper reminding you that this is still Miami Beach and you now owe some bureaucratic entity $18 — which is arguably less than valet parking or even the 1111 garage.
You'll always be greeted by a slightly unsettling face at the Mondrian South Beach. No, that's not an insult to the great service. We mean there's seriously a weird Bratz Doll-looking, computer-generated portrait of a lady's head in each and every room. The official story is that they're "sirens" meant to protect the guests. It's just one of several surreal and delightful quirks in the Marcel Wanders-designed hotel. The overall décor is meant to evoke a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, but if there were to be a movie remake shot here, we'd have to imagine it would star Björk as Alice, Anna Wintour as the Queen of Hearts, and Julian Schnabel as the caterpillar. That's what kind of place it is. Besides those fantasies, the hotel also features what is perhaps the world's most glamorous vending machine (you literally can buy a car), the ever-popular Sunset Lounge, and undoubtedly the best pool deck on the bayside of South Beach.