The holidays can be a little tough for Miamians. Thanks to the balmy weather and eternal sunshine, seasonal spirit can be hard to come by. So like good little elves, locals flock to Santa's Enchanted Forest (November 1 through January 6 at Tropical Park, 7900 Bird Rd., Miami) to bask in some semblance of holiday cheer.
Dubbed the world's largest Christmas theme park, the spot has been inspiring intense emotions among locals for 30 years. But whether you love it or hate it, you can't deny it's as Christmassy as the Magic City gets.
Locals will espouse various reasons for their annual attendance: the wild-animal shows, the carnival rides, the twinkly lights, etc.
Santa's Enchanted Forest
But you're a New Times reader, so the real reason you shell out the admission, endure screaming children, and hike five miles from the parking lot: the eats. Though it might be greasy, overpriced, and hopelessly messy, carnival food is also undeniably delicious.
So because it's the season for overindulgence, here's some instruction on what to eat during your annual pilgrimage to Miami's Santaland. Worry about the calories in 2013.
Arepas: At any festival outside the 305, you'd be hard-pressed to find these tasty little corn-and-cheese treats. So when in Miami, eat up.
Roasted corn: A street food tradition, fresh, fire-roasted corn on the cob drenched in melted butter is probably the healthiest thing you'll find at the Forest. Watch 'em do the dunking and then gnaw away at your ear, Mike Tyson-style.
Chicharrones: Fried pork skin might induce nausea in some folks, but it's a little piece of piggie heaven for others. And because this is your chance to chow down all things deep-fried, might as well add pig skins to the lineup.
Coladas: You need caffeine to get you through an evening of midway rides and holiday music. And kids. So many kids.
Elephant ears: Call 'em elephant ears, fried dough, frying saucers, or funnel cake, but their inherent simplicity is a thing of beauty. It's dough. It's fried. It's sugared. And it's perfect.
Doughnuts: According to Homer Simpson, there's nothing doughnuts can't do. And for $6, you can score 29 hot, homemade rings of joy. They're fried right in front of you, while you watch, mouth a-watering.
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Fried candy bars: If your taste buds haven't experienced a fried candy bar, treat them to one. Everybody loves candy, but dip it in batter and deep-fry it and you've added unimaginable layers of additional deliciousness. Do it. We recommend Snickers, but there are also Kit Kat and Milky Way bars.
Pan con bistec (or pan con lechón): Why settle for plain pizza or boring burgers when Latin eats are available? Sonia's serves pan con bistec, pan con lechón, and Cuban sandwiches to folks who want something a little more local than the usual suspects.
Ribbon fries: Potatoes might be the perfect food. Scalloped, mashed, baked — any way you do 'em, they're delicious. But fried is by far the best. And ribbon fries are even better than the standard sort. This giant, swirly stack of fries comes topped with a choice of ranch dressing, bacon, and/or cheese. Yes, please.
Turkey legs: Turkey legs are the ultimate in extreme fair foods, because everyone wants to unleash that inner barbarian once in awhile. Finish the whole damn thing and earn the title of honorary caveman.