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.
This state park covers 1043 acres of woods, mangroves, and canals. So why confine yourself to the impeccably groomed and entertaining mountain-bike course? Travel the path less taken. If you're an outlaw by nature, try the north end of the park. Leave the car in the first lot, and instead of heading west to the marked trails, follow the main road back toward the entrance. Then turn on to the first dirt road on the left and pick your trail. Pat yourself on the back if you can climb the 30-foot-tall dirt mound that overlooks the ranger station. But don't blame us if you run into trouble with the law. The recreation area operates from 8:00 a.m. until sundown 365 days per year.
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.
This mangrove-lined inlet provides ample space for personal watercraft fans to get the rush associated with this noisome pastime. What's that you say? You don't have your own personal personal watercraft? Well isn't this convenient? Tony's Jet Ski Rentals is located just west of the marine stadium. For $45 you can splash around for a half-hour ($70 per hour). For the same price, you and your honey can mount a tandem unit. If you can afford to pony up a few more bucks, you and two honeys can ride a three-seater. To reach the marine stadium, take the Rickenbacker Causeway toward Key Biscayne and look to your left. If you're in the market to rent, follow the signs to Tony's.
Ten Har-Tru courts immaculately maintained in compliance with Coral Gables zoning laws. A view of the Al Capone suite overhead. In the background a stand of pine trees and the expansive green lawn of a championship golf course. The Biltmore Tennis Center is a true racket paradise. Hacks and professionals comfortably coexist on crack-free courts, lobbing tennis balls over nets that never sag. Lights illuminate night play. Racket rental is available, as are private lessons. The center, which caters to hotel guests, is open to the public and is rarely overcrowded, even during the tennis prime time of Sunday morning. If you live in Coral Gables, the cost is a mere two dollars per hour. Those of us who can't afford a million-dollar home in the City Beautiful pay four dollars per hour, still acceptable for such fine facilities. Hours are 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. weekdays, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. weekends.
For the novice runner, a lap around the cool, milelong, tropical hardwood hammock trail sure beats going the distance on the beach. The sun won't pound on your neck while you search for the ever-elusive stretch of firm sand. And you won't have to avoid sunbathers or jellyfish. For the marathoner it's a place to loosen up and take in the surroundings before heading out for the nearby causeway. And while burning off your breakfast, you might see a soft-shell turtle plop into Arch Creek or spot songbirds in the shrubs near the bank. Or maybe you'll catch a heron pacing through the mangroves or an anhinga perched on a branch. Just make sure that while you're negotiating the sabal palms, firebush, and milkweeds, you don't trip and fall. That could hurt.
This is for people who must rent kayaks. We're not here to recommend the best kayaking trail, although there is excellent kayaking here. It is the combination of location and Florida Bay Outfitters that makes this place the best. No rental facility anywhere in South Florida can match this outfit. You name the type of kayak, and they have it available for sale and rent, from fiberglass to plastic to sit-on-top to rudder or rudderless. This provides a great way to learn more about these watercraft. In addition FBO offers lessons at all levels and expeditions, ranging from the beginner's day trip to weeklong treks through Everglades National Park. Plus the bayside setting is gorgeous enough to entice you to linger once you've come ashore. Oh yeah, they canoe, too.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®