Despite the fact that he's been flying people up, up, and away in his beautiful balloons for the past 30 years, Don Caplan says matter-of-factly that South Florida is not a very good place for such activity; it's too windy, the weather is unpredictable, and mornings are usually the only time calm enough to launch. Caplan, owner of Balloonport of Coconut Grove, is one of a small number of loyal hot-air balloon captains for hire in Miami-Dade. Year after year they wake at the crack of dawn and put up with quirky weather patterns and demanding customers for an hour of magic. And what magic it is. Using the winds to take you into birds' territory, succumbing to invisible forces, you will experience flight in intimate, low-tech fashion. This Memorial Day weekend Caplan and about 30 others will take customers skyward at the Homestead Air Reserve Station in the Spitzer Dodge Sixteenth Annual Great Sunrise Balloon Race (a misnomer, as the balloons don't really race, they compete for accuracy in reaching a target). According to Caplan the past three years have provided unusually good weather. The event benefits Sunrise Community, a nonprofit organization for people with disabilities. For details call the race hotline at 305-275-3317. If you're willing to shell out about $200 to ascend 1500 feet in a wicker basket propelled by gigantic flames that shoot into a canvas balloon, you'll get the closest thing to a magic carpet ride this side of sobriety; if not, you can watch the colorful spectacle from the ground, where you belong.

The choice is obvious. Players at this sun-splashed location spike and set in a beach-volleyball paradise. Their bare feet sink deep into soft white sand while an endless parade of beautiful people ride, stride, and roll past to the west. Just beyond this pulchritudinous procession are some of the world's most photographed bars and cafés. And over the dunes to the east lies a fantastically wide ribbon of topless beach. The best in town? How about on the planet.
So okay, residents of other cities can criticize Miami for its lack of cosmopolitan cultural events, poor public transportation, and corrupt politicos. But when it comes to natural resources, other urban centers don't even come close. One shining example is Matheson Hammock Park's atoll pool, an eco-friendly swimming hole that puts chlorinated concrete boxes to shame. The atoll pool is actually a saltwater pond flushed by the tidal movement of adjacent Biscayne Bay. Surrounded by a pristine, palm-shaded beach, and blessed with a breathtaking bay view, it's a great place for just about everybody. Mothers like to bring their young children here because of its calm waters, which also make the pool perfect for lap-swimming. And it's cheap, only $3.50 per carload to enter the park. On weekends visitors can eat at the coral rock Red Fish restaurant or grab a hot dog from the snack-bar window, then settle in for some sunbathing. Take a dip in this pool on a hot day, lay back in the sand, and you'll definitely be glad you live in Miami.
Three floors of bright, airy exercise rooms chock full of equipment make this gym the county's top workout spot. An overabundance of stationary bikes and weight machines means there's rarely a delay to start sweating. Although it's located just a block from Ocean Drive, this is more than just a backdrop for Lycra-clad beautiful people with water bottles and towels around their necks: It's a mecca for the aerobically inclined. One significant perk is free parking. There are neither tip-crazy valets nor meters. And there's not one, but two lots. All classes, including spinning, yoga, kickboxing, tae kwon do, and more, are free to members. The locker rooms are clean, spacious, and include steam rooms. XS is open Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®