Now that Bill Clinton is out of the White House, he'll probably spend a lot more time golfing in South Florida, and you can be sure one of his priorities will be improving his approach to the sixth hole at the Biltmore. Hole number six is deceptively difficult, playing 401 yards from the blue tees, 383 from the white tees, and 350 from the ladies' tee. Although the fairway is straight, a water hazard runs down the left-hand side and then cuts across the fairway in front of the green. An L-shape sand trap also awaits you in front of the green, leaving little room for error. But even once you reach the green, your work isn't done, as its two-tiered expanse offers more uncertainty. The mental challenge the sixth hole presents is yet another component of its appeal. Golfers know as they near it that it will be the first of a difficult three-hole series likely to make or break a player's entire round. Staying focused, and not letting the water hazards turn you paranoid, makes this a signature hole worthy of even the former president's utmost, ah, powers of negotiation.
On a spring morning, eight o'clock or so, sun still low in the pale sky and the traffic on Twentieth Street only beginning to get noisy, the track is a peaceful proving ground. It is Curtis Park's well-maintained central attraction (there also is a great basketball court and a swimming pool). Two banks of stadium seats rise on the track's eastern and western sides, all the better to observe afternoon and nighttime track-and-field competitions among nearby schools and clubs. And above the seats rise the old shade trees that have beautified Allapattah for decades; they enfold the park, shielding but not removing it from its very urban setting just north of the Miami River in the middle of a seamy, down-at-the-heels garment district.
Okay, okay, the experts haven spoken, and even we, professional naysayers that we are, can't deny it: South Beach is one of the nation's best beaches. It possesses miles and miles of shimmering white sand, a travel-poster blue-green slice of the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention a herd of hard, sweaty, beautiful bodies absorbing the rays. Fine. But does going there have to entail fighting rush-hour-caliber traffic in every direction at every hour of the day, every day of the week, competing with a million motorists for what seems like the last open parking space on the planet, before having to lug your crap six blocks to the water? Nope. Go south, people, go south, far from the maddening crowds on Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth streets, and toward the relative peace of lower SoBe. Located across from a residential area, this prime stretch of sand and water caters to the serious beachgoer, there not to be seen but to soak up sun, not to watch but to wade. And you can usually find parking.
With its calm waters, lifeguards on every corner of the beach, and depths that don't exceed nine feet, it's pretty safe to say this manmade atoll pool, open daily till six or seven, is the only playa in town where kids can frolic in the sand unattended. Tidal action from bordering Biscayne Bay flushes the pool's warm waters naturally, keeping them clean and bacteria-free (assuming the bay happens to be, too). Meanwhile parents who've paid the four-dollar-per-car entry fee might as well stick around and enjoy some time to themselves, roaming the park's nature trails or grabbing a bite at Matheson Hammock's Red Fish Grill. There also are a snack bar and picnic pavilions nearby, so you can stay within earshot should Junior need you. But before dropping off your offspring, make sure they're well equipped with sunblock, that they know how to swim (duh!), and that they're all beyond six years old. Although the park doesn't prohibit unsupervised older kids, for the record, they don't recommend it either. As one employee cautions, "This is Miami, after all."

There's something inherently interesting about watching people in transit, in the very process of movement, change, adaptation. And people around food? Always revealing. This is one of seven La Carreta Cuban restaurants in the Miami area, though this particular location has blended in to its airport setting by being a self-serve, overpriced, eat-and-run-and-fly cafeteria. The whole mundane panorama is here to be entertained by (or ignored, depending on how the trip's going). Someone is always rushing in and out, almost falling asleep, almost hysterical; travelers from all over the globe -- shuttle drivers, mechanics, airplane crews. Anglo pilot orders the classic Cuban beef dish ropa vieja from Latin server: "I'll have the old clothes, por favor." Server doesn't miss a beat.
Under a yellow umbrella on the 66th Street beach, a topless French woman serenely sits on her folding chair and reads a novel; nearby her naked toddler dumps sand into an orange plastic bucket of water. A little further up on 73rd Street, a curvaceous lady with a tattoo of an Aztec bird on her well-toned stomach plays paddleball with her boyfriend. She, too, is bare above and totally comfortable about it. At 75th Street a bleach blonde from Argentina stretches out on her back, defiantly facing the sun with her naked chest. Her skin is the color of dark chocolate. On the sand next to her sits a steaming cup of yerba maté, ready to drink. Approaching 77th Street five friends form a circle by the ocean -- some sit; others lie on pareos. Engaged in conversation peppered with laughter, the women free themselves from their bikini halters. Totally uninhibited and beautiful, they burst into songs by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. All along this glorious swatch of sea and sand coexist throngs of families, children, bare-breasted women, and men who don't stare.

Point your waterborne migraine machine south toward those blinking red-and-white towers on the horizon. The warm water around pressurized reactor units three and four is perfect for your radical Jet Ski acrobatics. The yellowish-green foam floating on the surface flies so beautifully when you blast through at full throttle. Live your Waterworld fantasy. Run your screaming engine until it melts. Just remember, the FPL-owned power plant holds distinction among the best nuclear performers in the nation. Go on, get wild. We dare you.

If you're a surfer, this is not exactly news: There is no surf here. Or virtually never is there surf here. With the exception of the occasional surge of storm swells during hurricane season, about the best anyone can hope for is a muscular easterly wind kicking up sloppy but surfable sets now and then. Under those conditions Third Street (and a bit to the north and south) is the best spot. The south side of the Haulover Cut jetties offers an (unpredictable) alternative. A sleeper of a location is 23rd Street, where a fairly stable sandbar can pump up some decent surf when the swell is from east to northeast. Otherwise you'd best get in the car and head for Juno Beach, in Palm Beach County. Or better yet, down to Barbados, where those in the know go.
So you think you were quite the pinball wizard way back when? Maybe you've even been bragging about just how good you were? Of course you have -- because in this day and age you can't find a pinball machine anywhere. Okay, maybe there's one or two crammed into a few dismal bars, local arcades, and bowling alleys -- but even Dave and Buster's only has three. Well now it's time to put your tokens where your mouth is, Tommy. Boomers has two arcades, with at least five pinball machines in each. You can bust the silver ball from 10:00 until 6:00 a.m. on weekends (2:00 a.m. during the week), and the action includes everything from old-school flippers to the latest hybrids, not to mention hundreds of arcade games that will take you on a trip into your legendary past. Remember that time in the Eighties when you made it to the fourth level of Tron? Boomers has it all: They've got Q-bert, for chrissakes! And if you go on a Tuesday, you get unlimited game play for only ten bucks -- just about what you'll need to earn back that rad reputation.

Alice Wainwright has an amazing view of Biscayne Bay. Not Alice herself; the venerable lawyer and devoted conservationist left this world in 1991 at age 83. But the 25-acre park aptly named in her honor in 1974 is one of the only waterfront havens left that offers a glimpse of pre-bulldozer Miami. With just a short drive or healthy walk from the condos and office buildings of Brickell, you can be in one of the last subtropical hardwood hammocks in the area. The seawall is a work of art and a perfect perch for a picnic basket.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®