Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
At $11 per hour for a table, it's not cheap. But if you seek pure roll, it is hard to find a place as perfect as Jillian's. "We keep our prices high because we don't want the riffraff," says general manager Jason Klein. There are 26 professional-size, nine-foot tables. Each month two tables are stripped and re-covered with a new surface of fine, 21-ounce felt. Likewise the house sticks are regularly retipped and replaced at the first sign of warping. And there's a 35-foot-long, full-service bar where domestic draft beers go for three dollars. Yes it's a chain (there are 33 Jillian's in fifteen states), but Miami's place started up eleven years ago, just after the first location in Boston. Jillian's is open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday until 2:00 a.m. and Friday and Saturday until 4:00 a.m. There is an $11 flat rate from noon until 5:00 p.m. After 5:00 the cost is $11 per hour. Friday and Saturday nights, beginning at 6:00, the hourly rate is $13 for a table.
If quality time at your house feels more like Mortal Combat, it's time to drag the kids to family tae kwon do class with ninth-degree black belt grand master Joong Keun Suh. Head coach of the U.S. Olympic team during the first half of the 1990s, Suh and his son, master Jay, give new meaning to the old adage "father knows best." As the white-robed parents that pack this Kendall studio know, there's nothing like a roundhouse to the chest to teach tykes to respect their elders. But watch out, Mom and Dad, the grand master has trained his share of black belts under age six. By bringing out the best in young and old alike, grand master Suh helps his students to fully comprehend the ancient Korean maxim: The family that kicks together, sticks together.
This is a tricky par three. A very narrow fairway is surrounded on one side by an inlet of Biscayne Bay; on the other by mangroves. If your name isn't Tiger, make sure you have an extra ball or two. A hook off the tee (or a slice if you're a southpaw) and you're all wet. Once you make the green, the vista is all mangrove. "You do really feel like you're in the middle of the jungle," says one attendant at this county-run championship course designed in 1972 by architect Robert von Hagge and pro golfer Bruce Devlin. Keep an eye out for iguanas, which may interfere with your twenty-foot putt. As you walk off the green, check out the view and ponder von Hagge's words, as immortalized in the Arizona Republic: "The only thing that is eternal in life is light. The light will remain, and that's why we believe that everything on a golf course must be done with vertical expression." Make sure your drives are mostly horizontal, though.
What better place to discard your bikini top than a beach where you don't have to think twice about baring your bottom? Clothing is optional at Haulover, though the less you wear here, it seems, the better. Ensconced among naturists who don't care about your age or pear-shape body, even the rare lurking and leering pervert fades into oblivion. Let the sun shine upon all of you, all the time, the multitude of nudists seem to say. Whether buff or bulbous, wiggling extremities on the volleyball court are always welcome. Weekdays are best if you seek serenity; nonlocals and vacationing Europeans pack the beach Saturdays and Sundays.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Cloverleaf sponsors glow-in-the-dark bowling, complete with ultraviolet lights. There are 50 refurbished lanes and a variety of leagues that include bowlers from three to ninety years old. And there's a bar, a restaurant, a billiards room, and a game room for the kids. In true Miami fashion, Cloverleaf is an international mecca, bringing aces from all over the Latin world for the Tournament of the Americas in August. We think they rock ... and roll. The place is open Sunday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Daytime rates are $12 per hour or $2.50 per game for adults. After 5:00 p.m. on weeknights the cost is $16 per hour or $3.50 per game. Friday and Saturday night rates are $20 per hour or $4.50 per game.
Five times since 1992 we've tooted the horn for Biscayne National Park, always for the right reasons. Mind if we do it again? (1) Unlike John Pennekamp Coral Reef and State Park in Key Largo, this national park severely restricts the number of commercial operations carrying people to the reef. In fact only a single concessionaire (Divers Unlimited) is allowed to launch one boat per day with a maximum of 45 people. Compare that to the estimated one million divers annually who swoop down on Pennekamp. (It's the same reef system, by the way.) So you'll never have to fight sunburned tourists for reef space at Biscayne. (2) Because Pennekamp is essentially unrestricted, it has suffered badly at the hands (and flippered feet) of well-meaning but ignorant novices. Not so Biscayne. Dive operators there are fond of saying their reef looks like Pennekamp 20 or 30 years ago. And a healthy reef means lots of sea life: clown fish, triggerfish, parrotfish, barracuda, eel, the occasional shark, and much more. (3) The total Biscayne experience is simply more pleasant than Pennekamp. Departing daily at 1:30 p.m. sharp, the boat cruises across the bay toward its passage between Elliot and Boca Chita keys, then out to the reef and the open Atlantic. It's a relaxing and beautiful journey, both ways. You arrive back at park headquarters between 4:30 and 5:00. (4) At $27.95 the price is right and includes rental of all equipment: mask, snorkel, fins, and safety vest (wet suit extra). You can also bring your own, of course. (5) Biscayne National Park is much closer to Miami than Pennekamp, which makes for a leisurely day trip, and you don't have to hassle with traffic heading to the Keys. Note that reservations are strongly recommended.
Next time the urge to leave town strikes, hop on Tamiami Trail and head west. That's what Joanie Griffin did, and she didn't bother to return. Twenty years ago she took over an old restaurant in the swampside hamlet of Ochopee, about 70 miles west of downtown Miami. You needn't repeat her experience, but we recommend this arrow-straight little journey into the Everglades. Griffin's lunch menu features steamed blue crabs as well as alligator fritters laced with chopped onion and three kinds of peppers (red, green, and yellow). To ensure you have enough time for a couple of scenic detours before you eat, hit the road by 9:00 a.m. Once you cross Krome Avenue, you'll find several options for pulling over and viewing the wild and weird life. First are the airboat tours. The Anglo operators along the southern edge of the road wax profusely about animals and feds. Their Miccosukee counterparts, stationed further west on the north side, loquate less but locomote more as they buzz you to a traditional camp. (We recommend obeying the reduced speed limit while driving through the reservation, or you may not have lunch at all.) Don't tarry because you still have another half-hour haul to Joanie's. Note the Dade-Collier training runway on your right; it was the first slab of a planned commercial airport until conservation-minded souls spoke up in the late Sixties. Once you reach Joanie's, you will join the ranks of other exotic visitors who have made the trek. Among them: the elderly Northerner who left a collection of plastic bottle-art hanging from the rafters and the Sioux-Eskimo gentleman who gave the proprietor a spirit arrow that hangs on the wall. After lunch head a quarter-mile west and check out the pride of Ochopee: a tiny post office. Then it will be time to head back toward the Magic City. But you won't want to miss swamp photographer Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery (open Wednesday through Saturday), about twenty miles east of Joanie's. If you're in the mood for more amusement, visit the Miccosukee Cultural Center on the reservation. There you can witness a man wrestle an alligator in an ersatz traditional village for a measly five bucks. About a mile east you can stalk birds, ride bikes, and jump on the trolley at the Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park. If you putz around long enough before getting back into your automobile, you'll arrive just in time for supper at the psychedelically decorated Miccosukee Resort & Convention Center at Krome Avenue and Tamiami Trail, where employees will be waiting to serve you in any of three dining areas.
If you want to do more than weave in and out of the pedestrian obstacle course on South Beach -- a thrill in its own right -- Key Biscayne's Crandon Park Beach offers a chance to spread your skates. Children may do well to begin at the roller rink that's accessible from parking lots three and four. A nearby carousel offers a welcome diversion while a fountain with water-spewing sea horses is the perfect finish to a hot day's activities. Between the rink and the beach there is plenty of smooth pavement and shade. Coast along the pavement adjacent to the sea wall while you take in a soul-calming view of white sands, palm trees, and lulling ocean. Long-distance skaters seeking a breathtaking vista at a higher elevation may want to begin skating on Virginia Key. These explorers should take the Rickenbacker Causeway to the parking lot at Mast Academy Drive, then blade southeast over the bridge between the University of Miami Marine Lab and the Crandon Park Marina. From there you can enter a shaded park path or continue along the causeway's bike lane all the way into Key Biscayne village and Bill Baggs State Park. This circuit, from parking to Bill Baggs and back, is about twelve miles. Only the truly expert should try skating the bridge between the mainland and Virginia Key.