Psssst. Reliable sources say the angling at the southeastern tip of Bayfront Park often is excellent. Right in the Magic City's own front yard. Maybe the groupers, grunts, snappers, and other coastal species just want to check out some well-heeled tourists. And even if the fish have decided to head to South Beach for a little club hopping, you and your pole will add a little rustic charm to our classy downtown waterfront. Live bait is available just a few minutes away by car from the fishmongers on Watson Island. Another unique perch for dropping a line is an old chunk of road, once part of the Rickenbacker Causeway, that became a pier when the county replaced the drawbridge with an elevated span. Take the first exit after the tollbooths. You're likely to hook big ones here without having to spend a mint on a boat, because you're practically in the middle of Biscayne Bay. No wonder they call this city magical.
Two people barely fit side by side in the tiny cockpit. The engine roars to life as the propeller spins to an invisible blur. The pilot taxis the Cessna 172 to the runway while speaking to the control tower in techno-babble. After lining up his aircraft, he revs the engine, gains speed, and lifts off the ground. The slow, bumpy climb continues to 1000 feet, where the macho guy levels her off. Look out the window for a bird's-eye view of Miami and notice the hundreds of lakes and canals that fill the landscape. A seemingly endless stream of cars traverses a crisscrossing maze of asphalt. The Atlantic Ocean looks bluer from this altitude. If macho man is brave enough, he might let you take control, an experience both thrilling and scary. A half-hour later the airplane glides toward the ground, softly touches down on the runway, and you leave a wiser person. Most flight schools offer the short trip, called an introductory flight, as bait to reel in new students. Cost: $20 to $60. A reservation is recommended. Be careful. Once you're hooked, it will cost $4000 to $5000 to log enough time to get a license.
It's a Thursday afternoon. Your busy downtown office is driving you insane. The 3:00 appointment cancels, and suddenly you have a free hour. Hit the road, Jack! Ten minutes away is a picturesque, deserted, tropical beach where you can lie under a shady Australian pine tree and listen to the waves lap against the shore. Feel the stress disappear. Back in Jim Crow days, Virginia Key was a blacks-only beach and it remains a refuge, though of a different sort. Thanks to activists' tenacity, it recently was rescued from private development -- again. Windsurfers cherish the place because it's sheltered by offshore reefs. But the further south one walks, the more secluded and exotic it becomes.
Imagine standing on a boardwalk, looking out upon a vista of pristine Florida bayfront. You see scores of roseate spoonbills foraging through the sand, sweeping their beaks from side to side while emitting low grunting croaks. Nearby are other avian waders, such as herons and white pelicans. These sights and more await you at the end of the 1.6-mile-long Snake Bight Trail in Everglades National Park. Although you may see more birds on the Anhinga Trail, you will also have to see and hear more squawking children and tourists jabbering in foreign tongues. Walk a little way down the Snake Bight Trail, which is located four miles north of the Flamingo Visitor Center, and nine-tenths of the people are left behind. They are not committed birders willing to withstand the feeding frenzy of mosquitoes on this path, which cuts through tropical hardwood and mangrove forests. You are.
Okay, maybe Porky's isn't the best name for a gym, but you can't argue with the hours. The place never closes. Far from the distractions of sand and surf, a sea of mustard-yellow machines and no-nonsense free weights attracts serious lifters. Photocopies from bodybuilding magazines plaster the walls with stories of champions whom may you may spot in line at the drinking fountain or working the leg press. In the aerobics studio, a suspended wooden floor protects the knees, while the cool blue and cornflower-yellow walls soothe the nerves. And those nerves will need soothing after a Tae-Bo class with competitive fitness pro Maria Bellando or a toning session with onetime Reebok National Aerobic champion Gina Kourany-Aleman. If your limbs ache for a little tenderness, try flexing with the seniors weekday mornings during the Young at Heart workouts, which are taught by health-care professionals from Baptist Hospital. Weekend nights the gym is packed with the club-bound, eager to pump before they primp. In the wee hours, you may have the place to yourself. Just imagine what you and your workout partner could do with soft mats, soft lights, and a whole lot of mirrors. Porky's is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
When kids go to the arcade these days, they aren't thinking flippers, bells, and bumpers; they're thinking video. But there are plenty of middle-age men out there reliving the era of pinball madness during their lunch breaks. Just go hang out at Grand Prix in Dania Beach, and you'll see cashiers change dollar bills for tokens faster than cars whiz past the place on I-95. The addicts position themselves for the game just as they would at the urinal, hips pressed against the pinball machines. They undo their nine-to-five ties and slam their hands against the glass when they fail to score. The featured pinball games at Grand Prix, by the way, are awesome. They aren't just equipped with a few flashing lights. Most of the machines are computerized. Star Wars Episode 1 offers scenes from the movie, Godzilla vibrates, and the four South Park games feature obscene language. That's enough to arouse even the most arcade-savvy traveler. Or maybe not. If you need more than pinball to motivate you for a trip north, consider this: At Grand Prix there's an authentic replica of Old Sparky, the electric chair that has put many a Florida felon to death. The Grand Prix arcade is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This 8.75-acre spot, once a coconut-tree farm owned by Richard Nixon's buddy Bebe Rebozo, is a kids' wonderland. Ain't bad for adults, either. There are two tot lots, one for tykes under three years old and another for older children. Overall there are 32 pieces of equipment, including swings, jungle gyms, slides, rings, bars, and even a climbing dinosaur. Then there's our favorite thing: a splash fountain. Press a button and sea horses spit out streams of water while little ones prance around on a rubberized surface. It's great for the hot months. Finally there are two soccer fields, one adult size and the other pint size, as well as a half-mile-long running track. Hang around this place on weekends and you'll feel young again. That is unless you're all wet.
So rivers bore you? You hate those newfangled kayaks, yet you want to brave some big water? Try the ten-mile paddle from Flamingo to Cape Sable in Everglades National Park. If you have a tent, spend the night on a white sand beach in one of South Florida's most wonderfully secluded spots. When it gets dark, the motorboaters -- sparse during the day -- will disappear and you'll be able to crack a bottle of wine, gather some driftwood (or use a stove), and cook your dinner while looking out on a spectacular view of the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. If you must rent a canoe, call Flamingo Lodge (941-695-3101) and ask for the boat concession. Rental prices can be steep ($40 for 24 hours) but at least you get a real Old Town as well as paddles and life jackets. Two important pieces of advice: (1) Bring plenty of water, and (2) make sure the weather's calm. You wouldn't want to need a kayak.
At this school you'll learn to tango like a porteño (a native of Buenos Aires) by taking cues from a Colombian milonguero (a social dancer). Indeed Jorge Nel has been dancing most of his life. "I learned my first steps from my parents," he says. His padres also taught him how men and women relate: In dance, as in life, the man decides everything, he proclaims with a laugh. Nel uses many metaphors to describe tango. "Imagine the trunk of a tree; that is the basic structure of the dance," he explains. The love affair that results, says Nel, occurs between a man, a woman, and music. "The man interprets the music, and the woman must execute the man's interpretation." Kind of like follow the leader, only the female has to predict her partner's movements as she becomes an extension of his desires. A delicate balance, one that Nel and his partner, Mara, can show you during hourlong classes or private sessions. In fact Nel is such a great instructor that our sexy Mayor Alex Penelas declared May 15, 1998, Jorge Nel Day.
Matheson Hammock Park
Photo by Chris Garcia / Courtesy of the GMCVB – MiamiandBeaches.com
Necessary elements for a perfect picnic: scrumptious food, fine wine, engaging company, cooperative weather, and a picturesque setting. You find the first four and we'll recommend the last one. This urban secret, which is nestled between tall condominiums, offers ample grass on which to drop that little-used, red-checkered tablecloth. Once you're seated in the glorious shade of the oak canopy, soak in the vista of Biscayne Bay's blue water, green mangroves, and the skyscrapers of Miami Beach. The city recently spent $100,000 to upgrade the park. There's a tot lot, three concrete chessboards, and six picnic tables with two nearby barbecues. Bring along a Frisbee; this place has ample room to toss a disk. After completing your hearty meal, lean back on the sheet, close your eyes, listen to the rhythm of the waves lapping against the shore, and succumb. If you are missing any of those important elements, dream about them.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®