Best Place To Dance In Your Speedos For A Cause

The Winter Party

Don't worry that gyrating in those curve-hugging microbriefs you indulgently purchased during the holidays will make you look like a floozy. At the Winter Party (which is held in March) you can writhe on the beach with a throng of thong-clad dudes until the sun goes down and support equal rights at the same time. Since its 1993 inception, this circuit party, which attracts about 3000 revelers from around the world during tourist season, has helped support the Dade Human Rights Foundation, sponsors of SAVE Dade and half a dozen other groups and programs that fight gay, lesbian, and transgender discrimination throughout the county. So go ahead, shake your booty and shake small-minded bigots out of the trees.
The Ancient Spanish Monastery
Courtesy of the Ancient Spanish Monastery
Along a winding stretch of West Dixie Highway, in the condo and strip-mall enclave of North Miami Beach, sits the oldest building in North America, a twelfth-century monastery originally erected in Segovia, Spain, and moved to South Florida in the mid-Twentieth Century by newspaper magnate and yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst (the same guy who brought us the Spanish-American War). Not as popular a tourist destination as, say, Vizcaya, and still a functioning house of worship (Episcopalian), the monastery's stone cloisters and parterre gardens continue to offer refuge from worldly pressures. Admission is five dollars, but look at it this way: Eight hundred years ago, it would've required a vow of celibacy.
Tugboats and freighters cruise by on the Miami River as you butterfly and breaststroke in the City of Miami's José Martí pool. Overhead the dramatic arch of the I-95 overpass, humming with the fierce pace of city life, reminds you just how far from the rat race you really are. Just minutes from downtown and Brickell Avenue, this pool offers a great lunch-hour escape. Pool hours are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with an adult lap swim until 3:00 p.m. Call for weekend hours. Admission to the pool is free, and the locker rooms are clean. Swimming lessons also are offered here. When you're done bathing, the adjacent park provides a respite for you to meditate as you dry off and watch the world go by. Now you're ready to dive back into real life.
Fashion mavens and wannabes now splash and lounge where Esther Williams once fluttered and kicked in lavish synchronized-swimming numbers. Decades later the faux tropical lagoon remains the coolest place to be seen cooling off in Miami. A shallow ledge hugs the pool's Moroccan-style curves so you can immerse yourself in this chlorinated oasis without mussing your hair. Dive into the deep end or stand beneath the waterfall while sheets of water pummel your back. Sneak in after dark for a late-night dip -- you'll think you fell into paradise. Hotel guests swim for free any time; visitors pay fifteen bucks and are ejected after seven at night.
These inner-city courts at the crossroads of Allapattah, Wynwood, and Liberty City once were parched and cracked. Thanks to donations from the Ericsson Open tennis tournament, the neglected center recently has come back to life with a million-dollar facelift. New nets and repaved and painted courts currently open only till noon, but with plans to extend hours to seven o'clock each night, promise great matches without a wait. Bring the kids for affordable tennis clinics. After a couple of sets, relax in the clubhouse, also part of the renovation, or watch others play from the comfortable stadium seats.
Candles, shmandles. Wine, shmine. Italian gardens, Biscayne Bay, and moonlight, baby, plenty of moonlight. Now that's romantic. And it all can be yours October through March, when Vizcaya throws open its gates to visitors on nights when the moon is full. After a brief history lesson on the origins of the property, guides take small groups on a tour of the grounds. Stop and linger by a fountain. Sneak a kiss under the statue of Cupid, near the north gate. Ten bucks gets you and a friend in. Of course five bucks would get you in alone. Cheaper, but not as romantic.
It doesn't take very long on Rowdy Bend before our busy metropolis melts away. Located three miles north of Flamingo, it's a great place to fully appreciate the coastal Everglades. As you pass through open-salt prairie and canopies of shady buttonwood, the stresses of traffic and a hundred daily incivilities lose their weight. Soon rabbits scampering ahead on the trail, deer concealed in the woods, and birds of brilliant incandescent colors absorb your attention. When after 2.6 miles you reach wide-open coast, it's hard not to feel like the first human to lay eyes on this stunning landscape of sand flats and islands. A word of warning, though: Unlike earlier explorers, we have the benefit of bug spray, and it is highly advised in these parts. If five-plus miles roundtrip is too much, Rowdy Bend shares its sublime destination with the 3.2-mile-long Snake Bight Trail.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®