Bird Bowl
First get everything else out of your system. Have a few beers at the Rabbit Lounge. Play some video games at the arcade. Shoot some pool on one of Bird Bowl's eighteen tables. After you've tried it all, now try slipping your fingers into a bowling ball and letting it roll down one of this alley's 60 lanes. The sound of crashing pins just might get you hooked. Before you know it you'll be carrying a bowling bag and competing in one of Bird Bowl's sponsored leagues.

Heading east toward Snake Bight from the marina at Flamingo, the park's southern outpost, a paddler can pretty much be guaranteed a rewarding experience. Once past the small village for employees, it's wilderness for as far as you'd care to travel. Along the shore, on the ground and in the tall mangroves, teeming flocks of birds congregate -- herons, egrets, white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, even the occasional flamingo. The silty water usually prevents clear viewing of sea life, but it is abundantly evident nonetheless, from leaping mullet to racing bonefish and cruising rays. Go far enough east, and if you are very lucky, you might even see an American crocodile lounging on the sand. But even if you're not, you'll still enjoy solitude, silence, and nature the way it's meant to be. The park concessionaire rents kayaks and canoes at the marina, though it's wise to reserve in advance, especially on weekends (941-695-3101). It's also smart to check the tides (www.saltwatertides.com). High tide is best for close-up viewing along the shore, and low tide can literally leave you stuck in the mud. Prevailing winds are from the southeast, which helps on the return leg of your trip.

It's a Friday evening in Mestre Delei Kacula's capoeira academy, and his students are preparing to enter the circle. Soon the deep drone of the berimbaus, traditional West African string instruments with a gourd at one end, begins, and the students scatter to form a ring. On a wall hang the portraits (poor renderings, to say the least) of capoeira's two greatest figures: the widely respected Mestres Bimba and Pastihna. Their sad faces seem to stare down on the busy bodies stretching and swaying, kicking and flipping on green matted floors. For capoeiristas, practitioners of this Afro-Brazilian martial art, being part of the circle is a big deal. Only those with axé, divine energy from Yoruban deities, ultimately succeed at the game. For Bimba and Pastihna capoeira was not just sport; for the wise men it was a jogo da vida, a game of life. Don't expect to receive many history lessons at this academy. And the axé part all depends on your favor with the gods. But here you'll learn the right physical skills, from the ginga to the salto de shango, and acquire enough prowess to at least take you half way into your journey. Until then, muito axé camará.
There will likely be a moment, perhaps as you pass through a mangrove forest into bright sunshine, when canoeing in the Upper Keys will qualify as pure, unadulterated bliss. It might happen when you've bailed out and are happily snorkeling among the coral, or while you're listening to a naturalist describe the flora and fauna of Lignumvitae Key. To access the beauty of this fragile environment, simply drive to Key Largo and put in at the end of Garden Cove Road adjacent to the North Key Largo Hammock State Botanical Site for an easily manageable day trip. You are now situated between Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge to the north and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to the south. The latter also offers a good launch spot, with the added bonus of showers and facilities. (If you head south from Garden Cove, beware bigger craft passing through the channel.) Follow the Atlantic's tidal flats as they give way to clear-water creeks full of snapper and snook. For individuals nervous about going solo or lacking equipment, Florida Bay Outfitters (305-451-3018) rents gear and leads half- and full-day trips in the area and further south.

Kennedy Park
Courtesy of the GMCVB
This 21-acre city park on Biscayne Bay is so darn dog-friendly it features a new fenced-in, leash-free pooch playground. The dog park, which opened February 15, is big enough for ball throwing or disk tossing, and there's plenty of room for romping from sunrise to sunset. When work is complete, the grassy canine confines -- sponsored by Ralston-Purina, the Miami Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Humane Society of Greater Miami -- will boast water fountains and pooper-scooper stations. If your pup tires of all the sniffing and humping, the rest of Kennedy Park is perfect for a leisurely, but leashed, stroll. Woodsy areas on the fringes are freaky with wild-animal smells, green expanses, and a boardwalk by the water. Pack a snack, bring a good book, find Fido a stick to gnaw, lie back, and relax.
The best place to see hundreds and hundreds of birds of dozens and dozens of species doesn't have to be on the most obscure, hard-to-reach passage in South Florida. No, the very short, very accessible, very easy Anhinga Trail, just four miles inside the park, offers the most spectacular sightings around. Especially in drought years -- as this most certainly is -- and in winter, there may be no other half-mile in the entire nation that winds through such densely populated bird territory. The trail is a wide, wooden platform raised above the marsh, so alligators are no real threat to you, even if they are to the birds. Heron, egret, anhinga, and thousands of their cousins dive for fish in scattered pools that result from the dry season (in summer the marsh is flush with a layer of water, and the animals -- feathered, scaled, and shelled -- have no need to congregate so closely to feed). To intent eyes it is obvious the birds know they, too, could soon be dinner; they are supremely sensitive to any movement of a reptilian neighbor. On some perches the riot of color from the winged ones resembles a glorious splash of confetti thrown on a bush. Some species are native, but many others have migrated from the cold, landing in a bird -- and birdwatching -- paradise, if only for the season.
These days hipsters are eyeing Miami's Sixties motels with new appreciation for their soaring space-age appendages and extravagant neon lettering. Florida-tourist chic is stylish again. Can shuffleboard's comeback be far behind? This sociable sport once drew scores of visitors to the Sunshine State. People even considered the proximity of courts when hunting for a place to live. In those days, though, it was considered sluttish for a woman to wear slacks. Today in Florida, shuffleboard is mostly a sport for retirees and Canadians, and a decreasing number of them seem to have the shuffling bug. The Griffing Senior Citizens Center, one of the few spots here that still maintains an old-style shuffleboard complex, boasts 24 courts, with green-canvas tenting over wooden benches for shade between shots. The center recently resurfaced twelve of its courts. Membership costs an old-fashioned ten dollars per year, and you don't even have to be a senior. Learn what it feels like to get your butt whipped by an old guy and impress your friends with the sport's esoteric terminology, like snuggle, play the kitchen, and set a St. Pete.

Tired of dodging blue-haired ladies, aggro skaters, and pink poodles on Lincoln Road? Sick of nursing festering knee scabs and raw elbows, no doubt garnered when, on a nice leisurely skate, the asphalt below suddenly resembled a San Fransisco sidewalk after a level-nine earthquake? Must one drive to paved-over Kendall to Rollerblade without mortal fear? Not that we doubt you possess the ripping skill it takes to be a fierce Rollerblader on Miami's dicier streets, but perhaps for a change you'd enjoy some plush paths and posh scenery. On or around Twentieth Street and North Bay Road, the shady tree-lined streets begin to reveal how the other half lives (unless, of course, you are the other half). While wheeling by, get a load of the architecture and landscaping. How nice the street is -- nothing but smooth rolling ahead (take care crossing Alton Road; otherwise it's like buttah). By the time you reach La Gorce Island, you'll be relaxed, exercised, and probably a bit envious. Most important, you should still be in one piece.
Graceful dreadlocked dunkers, court hustlers, and boys as skinny and loose as spaghetti noodles make pickup basketball a thing of fierce beauty at this Miami Beach park. The action is brutal, the competition rough, and the two outdoor courts are lit at night, a prerequisite for basketball in steamy South Florida. Flamingo Park usually is packed with game. For that reason, some players prefer to hoop it up at Miami's José Martí Park (351 SW Fourth Street), where there usually are vacant courts, which also light up at night. But for action Flamingo rules. The play is sloppy sometimes, and the crowd gathered around the edges lets the players know it. But sometimes it's brilliant. When that happens, there is a moment of appreciative silence. Then the disrespecting begins again.

The sea is cool and relatively calm, and visibility is clear on a Saturday in March. The coral reef in this 5.3-square-mile sanctuary is vibrant with life, thanks to twenty years of protection from spearfishing, coral collecting, and lobstering. A diverse marine society -- sea turtles, sharks, barracuda, tropical fish, crustaceans, and eels, just to name a few -- roams this surreal city of colorful coral architecture. There are rock ledges up to 35 feet tall, large sea fans swaying slowly with the tide, and staghorn coral that resemble fantastic castles -- all visions from a dream. Bahia Honda State Park offers trips twice daily on a glass-bottom boat. For $24.95 you can snorkel for about an hour and a half. Gear costs extra.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®