First let's get the semantics out of the way: They haven't called them head shops since the Seventies. The preferred moniker these days is smoke shop, though if all you're after is a good stogie, turn around and head for a cigar store. However, if your smoking urges -- nudge, nudge, wink, wink -- require some preparation, Sativa is the place. Sure you could pick up an oversize bong at any of several garish spots along Washington Avenue on South Beach. And if you're just looking to stay abreast of the latest market trends, the current issue of High Times is available at plenty of newsstands. But at Sativa the friendly staff also has your postsmoking needs in mind: A wide variety of self-detoxification kits is on display here, perfect for those occasions when your employer takes a sudden interest in your urine.

This is the Latin new-age headquarters of Miami. Librería Alpha is on this planet at this time not to offer the widest selection -- that would be the mission of frequent choices Librería Universal and La Moderna Poesia further down the street -- but to assist in the Spanish-speaking soul's evolvement. Just about every metaphysical and self-help book you have ever heard of is here: translations of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and Codependent No More, as well as the ever-popular A Course in Miracles. Many teachers and disciplines are well represented: Sai Baba and the Dalai Lama, feng shui and qi gong. There are plenty of works, too, by Latin-American writers and therapists most English-speaking new agers have never heard of, plus obscure mystical fiction and nonfiction by luminaries such as Papus, Noah ben Shea, Professor Donato. Finally no new-age nerve center would be complete without crystals and wind chimes, and Alpha's really are celestial.

Almost hidden in the downtown maul of electronics and shoe stores is a sportinggoods retailer that caters to South American visitors -- like everyone else downtown -- but also remains attractive to locals with an athletically active bent. A family-owned business, Miami Fantasias sells everything the weekend warrior might need, from fishing poles to Ping-Pong paddles, tennis rackets to heart monitors, and even that spear gun you might have been eyeing (nervously). Miami Fantasias excels most notably as a dive shop. New certification classes start every Monday. Dive trips on one of the store's three boats depart from Miami every day. Longevity in cutthroat downtown is one indication of the store's ability to satisfy its customers. Founded in 1978, Fantasias has grown into a thriving business, today employing more than 45 helpful, consumer-oriented employees. Jog in. Dive in. Ping-Pong paddle in. Just get in.
If you've ever stepped on a Lego block in the middle of the night, you probably have little desire to see one of the knubby little bastards again -- unless, of course, you're buying them for someone else's kid. If that's the case, wouldn't you like to patronize an independent local shop rather than some huge chain with an overgrown giraffe for a mascot? Welcome to Toy Town, where the staff is friendly and helpful. And since the people who work there aren't preoccupied chasing kids armed with hockey sticks and Koosh balls down runway-size aisles, they can devote plenty of attention to helping you find the perfect gift for a little loved one -- whether it's educational toys, craft projects, an addition to her Hello Kitty arsenal, or the latest robotic Lego set. Toy Town has some big-store conveniences, too: a merchandise catalogue, online ordering, and customer-service perks the megastores can't muster, such as gift wrapping and free delivery for Key Biscayne residents (but don't push your luck by asking them to drop off a single Beanie Baby).
As any serious bibliophile will tell you, the first mark of a good used bookstore is the presence of dust: The more you feel like running home for a shower after digging through its stacks, the greater your chances of scoring a true find there. So try not to hold Eutopia's well-lit and neatly scrubbed interior against it -- plenty of out-of-print titles abound, from K.S. Karol's still-unmatched field study of Castro's Cuba, Guerrillas in Power, to a wall's worth of collectible photography tomes. Although shop hours are slightly truncated (2:00 to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) and there are other formidable used bookstores around South Florida (Kendall Bookshelf continues to impress and Robert A. Hittel, Bookseller is well worth the schlep up to Fort Lauderdale), there's still something delightfully perverse about this oh-so-idiosyncratic tribute to the literary world being located just off the now-defunkified Lincoln Road, within spitting distance of the Gap and Williams-Sonoma.
Long before Napster reared its head, there was a simple way to beat the high price of new CDs: Buy 'em used. And considering the constant stream of folks digging through the mounds of used CDs inside Uncle Sam's, it's a safe bet that regardless of the Internet's future role in how we listen to music, used CD shops aren't about to vanish, at least not the shops with a sprawling inventory. And Uncle Sam's does indeed house a literal mountain of sound, from the latest releases in virtually every genre imaginable (selling at roughly half of what you'd pay several blocks south at Spec's), to a continually changing stock of older titles -- a testament to the flux of Beach residents moving to and then leaving town, and trading in their CD collections somewhere along the way. True, shopping at Uncle Sam's isn't exactly a relaxing experience. Between the teeth-rattling trance blasting out of the store's speakers and the (particularly at peak hours) somewhat tense staff, trying to snag a choice CD here can often resemble placing a drink order inside a sardine-packed bar. Still, considering the finds that lie within -- and not least, CD players on which you can preview them -- Uncle Sam's remains a local fave.
If you're serious about movies, there're really only two choices in town for renting a video. Coral Gablers head for Lion Video, while South Beach-ites opting for a night spent curled in front of the VCR swing by New Concept Video. Both feature a wide array of foreign flicks and indie offerings (many notably absent from your local Blockbuster), but for the geographically ambivalent pondering which way to turn, New Concept gets the nod if only for its sprawling selection of gay cinema. Therein you'll find just about everything, from the original British version of Queer as Folk (decidedly racier -- and wittier -- than the Americanized remake presented by Showtime) to Cruising, the 1979 cult classic featuring an oh-so-butch Al Pacino as an undercover cop making the NYC leather scene. Hoo-ah!
So you're in the mood for a pair of stacked heels from the Fifties. A gold brocade dress from the Sixties. A paisley velvet coat from the Seventies. And you'd like to complete the ensemble with some rhinestone jewelry from the early Eighties. Relax -- C. Madeleine's is the place for one-stop, all-decade vintage shopping. Open only a few months, the store carries antiquated housewares, appliances, and other objets d'art. The place also rents itself out as a unique venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs, quinces, and other celebrations. But the price tags are the best part: C. Madeleine's does not, unlike other vintage shops, charge a fortune for articles that look as though they came from a thrift store. Instead you'll shop wisely, pay fairly, and wear one-of-a-kind pieces of aged designer clothing wonderfully, knowing you're the only one in the room who'll be doing so.
The small towns dotting the Tuscan countryside are renowned for many reasons: their medieval cityscapes framed by hilly terrain; the Renaissance art found in their churches; their truffles and olives; and last but not least, their wines. The vintages from Montereggiano differ from those of Montepulciano, not to mention those of San Gimignano, make no mistake. But enough geography -- what does this matter to you? Next time you're heading to a dinner party and want to pick up some good vino, no need to track down a specialty store. Walk into this Amoco on Biscayne (no, really) and walk out with a full-bodied red from San Gimignano or a chilled white from Montepulciano, bottles you often can't find in a wine store, much less a convenience store. So Tuscan is not your style? There also are good quality but affordable vintages from Chile, France, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and, of course, California. Why such fruitfulness here, you ask, on this unassuming stretch of one of Miami's less attractive boulevards? Who knows ... but who cares? Just as long as they keep stocking great wines from the best regions in the world.
"I swear sometimes I come here just for the scenery," says a man to his blissed-out friend as they exit the Brickell Village Publix. Anyone who's shopped at this particular grocery store on a weeknight knows what he's talking about: The aisles are clogged with more quaffed heads and tight outfits than an entire season of Sex and the City. It's not the South Beach modeling crowd dressed down in shabby chic but professional men and women bling-blinging in Hugo Boss sweaters and Louis Vuitton totes as they search for tuna and toiletries. The pressure to fit in with this upscale crowd can be intimidating. Our friend Cindy, who lives in the Roads, calls her neighborhood market the Gucci Publix. "I feel like I need to blow out my hair and put on Prada whenever I shop there," she sighs.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®