This twelve-mile ride is far from the well-beaten tourist paths, which is precisely the point. Unless you live in one of these vibrant neighborhoods, you may not be familiar with their charms. Here's your chance. Begin at the Torch of Friendship on Biscayne Boulevard at Third Street, in Bayfront Park. Head north on Biscayne (beware the traffic squeeze between American Airlines Arena and the I-395 overpass). At the old Sears Tower (site of the new performing arts center), turn left one block to NE Second Avenue. Head north to 29th Street (Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop, a "Best of Miami" multiple winner, is on the corner) and turn left or west. Now you're in the Puerto Rican enclave of Wynwood, home to the old Fashion District (south of 29th Street) and a burgeoning art and design neighborhood. Many new residential lofts and art galleries are opening among the warehouses and thrift shops. Continuing west, you'll pass under I-95 and enter Allapattah (the name comes from the Seminole word for alligator), a neighborhood first settled in 1856 by William P. Wagner, whose 40-acre spread included the land now occupied by Miami Jackson High School. At NW Seventeenth Avenue pedal up to La Mia Laundry's cafecito window for an espresso jolt. Here 29th Street ends its uninterrupted westward march, but you should continue west, wending your way through the neighborhood streets till you reach NW 22nd Avenue. Turn left or south through the heart of Allapattah to Twentieth Street, where you'll find El Camello, a former gas station transformed into an outdoor lunchstand. (You'll know you're there when you see the rotating camel.) This is the perfect spot for a $1.99 breakfast, fruit shake, or coco frio. Now bike east on Twentieth Street back to Seventeenth Avenue. Go south on Seventeenth and cross over the Miami River. Look down to the south bank and behold Sewell Park (see "Best Public Park for Santería Rituals"), a lovely pit stop accessible from South River Drive off Seventeenth Avenue. Continue south on Seventeenth to the epicenter of Little Havana, where, on SW First Street between Seventeenth and Sixteenth avenues, you'll encounter a wonderfully rustic restaurant called Yambo. Take note: Yambo is Nicaraguan, not Cuban. Here's what our restaurant critic had to say: "Yambo offers one of those 'out-of-country' experiences that alone is worth the price of admission." Take time here for lunch and a cold cerveza, then push on to a unique museum just a few blocks north and west. The modest house at 2319 NW Second Street is the former Miami home of little Elian Gonzalez. Today it is a museum, open Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (free admission). After reliving that turbulent chapter of Miami history, go east on Calle Ocho, through the historic center of Little Havana, to upscale Brickell Avenue. Turn north on Brickell and be sure to stop at the Miami River bridge and pay your respects at the mysterious Miami Circle, which someday (we hope) will be fully accessible and smartly developed as the cultural treasure it most surely is.

There are those hearty runners with lungs of steel who prefer inhaling the fumes along South Dixie Highway. But the adage "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" isn't likely to apply to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Besides, most of us get our daily recommended dose of automobile exhaust with no effort at all. This metropolis has precious few pathways left where the air is virtually pristine. None is purer than the place where the Atlantic Ocean, that vast watery plain where cars and trucks fear to tread, delivers its well-traveled winds. Specifically with the jogger's winged feet in mind, the sandscape that begins at 21st Street and stretches north is optimal. A large public parking lot is located just west of the boardwalk, whose planks offer a firmer firmament than the beach itself. But one can also dash through the sand without requiring a one-horse open sleigh because it tends to be packed alongside the dunes. Floodlights shining down from the mountain range of Collins Avenue condos and hotels make night jogs a pleasant alternative, especially in the heavy heat of summer.
Late at night, as commuters sleep, our infamous river of congested concrete welcomes vehicles as a junkie does a fix. Windows down. Stereo blasting. The ethereal glow of street lamps. The wind a soothing subtropical balm. In the quiet wee hours, I-95's engineered beauty emerges, unclogged and serene. Inviting. The southbound HOV flyover, high above the Golden Glades interchange, presents a magical panorama: an endless carpet of lights, a brooding horizon, the glimmering skyline of downtown Miami. You are approaching Oz. At 75 miles per hour. With virtually no one else in sight.
We're talking about way up at the northern tip of the park near Bear Cut, the swift-moving channel that separates Key Biscayne from Virginia Key. This is the very essence of serene. Outside of adventurous nudists and the occasional school science class trolling for sea specimens, few people explore this last vestige of Miami's natural coast. Get there early on a bright morning and you'll think you've stepped into a travel brochure, shuffling through virgin sand and splashing in crystalline water. Looking to the east you'll see nothing but open sky and ocean. Turn your gaze northward and you can pity the poor souls trapped in traffic or attached to cell phones in the big city. But move quickly if you want to enjoy the place. Fashion photographers increasingly use the beach's vistas and lush backgrounds, and the county parks department recently completed a boardwalk that will deposit too many visitors.
Scientifically speaking, the highest density of toplessness in this urbanized region has been recorded at the official nude beach at Haulover Park. Using the latest global positioning satellite technologies, our researchers have determined this is still the case. But in science, as in art, quality and quantity are two entirely different forms of measurement. In the field of toplessness, gender and relativity also come to bear: Quality is determined not only by the observer but also by the observed (i.e., the topless). Our field-survey crews recently detected high rates of female toplessness along the southernmost reaches of South Beach, especially vectoring east from Third and Fourth streets. Smaller populations were observed as far north as the Eighteenth Street vector. One survey team also monitored a high concentration of chemically enhanced male toplessness somewhat south of that location on the sands east of the dilapidated Victor Hotel. For the topless who prefer solitude, our field experts recommend the northeastern curve of the beach at Key Biscayne's Cape Florida State Park, far from the gaze of scientific research.

This trail doesn't really have a name. In fact it's barely acknowledged by park officials. But if you stop at the visitors' center on your way in and ask for a map of the Long Pine Key Trail (bicycles permitted), you'll receive a photocopied, hand-sketched diagram on a single sheet of paper. Here's what to do with it: Drive nine miles from the park entrance and look for a dirt road on the left (south) side of the park's main thoroughfare. The intersection, marked by a stop sign for drivers re-entering the main road, is the beginning of the Long Pine Key Trail. Park there or drive on to Pine Glades Lake, about a half-mile, where you'll find an unimproved parking area. The hike-and-bike trail formally begins at a nearby gate. Less than a mile ahead the trail forks, with the main branch continuing straight. Take the smaller fork to the right. (Bicycles prohibited.) In time you'll exit the pinelands and the vistas will open wide as you enter the savanna. Here you'll experience the Everglades' vastness and subtle beauty like nowhere else -- broad plains of sawgrass punctuated by hardwood hammocks shimmering like distant islands, the sky a dome of richly saturated blue highlighted by brilliant white clouds, hawks circling high, screeching in the distance. It's as if you've intruded on a hidden and private world. Roughly three miles ahead the trail turns sharply and runs parallel to an old canal carved from the oolite bedrock. In the dry season expect to encounter alligators. Herons and egrets fish the banks throughout the year. You can continue all the way to the junction with a paved road (it leads to the Daniel Beard Research Center), just prior to which a side trail heads north and hooks up with the Long Pine Key Trail. The loop back to Pine Glades Lake adds up to roughly thirteen miles. Some people may find the canal portion of the trail somewhat tedious. If so, consider following it for a mile or so then doubling back, retracing your path. Total distance will still be roughly thirteen miles but you'll get a double dose of the magnificent savanna. Bring plenty of liquids and insect repellent.
The paradoxical poetry of the name comes from the proximity to Mt. Trashmore, the alpine pile of refuse that looms up from the landscape at the edge of Biscayne Bay. With that in mind, it might be a good idea to visit when the wind is not coming from the southeast -- as it usually is. The ripe aroma of rot can be overwhelming. But you know what? The birds don't mind. In the flooded fields south of the mountain are a vast variety of wading birds and ducks. Recent sightings reported on the Tropical Audubon Society Website (www.TropicalAudubon.org) include American avocet, greater flamingo, northern shoveler, ring-necked duck, and white pelican, along with more everyday species such as great blue heron, tricolored heron, and kingfisher. Watch overhead for bald eagles and wood storks. And Mt. Trashmore itself is almost always topped with swirling black-and-white clouds of vultures and gulls. Directions: Take the 112th Avenue exit from the Florida Turnpike Extension. Turn right to SW 248th Street. Turn right and go past Mt. Trashmore on the left. Just outside the entrance to Black Point Marina, park off the road and cross to the south side of the canal. Walk west until you see the marsh on the left.
Want to know what a "Dead Rat Tree" looks like? Want to know how the "Old Man Palm" and the "Shaving Brush Tree" got their names? How about strolling through a simulated rain forest or watching iguanas bask in the sun? You can do all this at Fairchild Tropical Garden, as well as find the perfect spot for a quiet picnic. The best way to get an overview of the garden's 83 acres (and learn tons of fascinating plant trivia) is to hop on a guided tram tour. They depart on the hour. After the tour, which will leave you back at the main gate, you can grab your blanket and picnic basket and take a long, leisurely walk on shady paths or through wide-open stretches of grass dotted with native and exotic botanicals until you find a little patch of serenity to call your own. Sit under a tree on the banks of one of Fairchild's lakes, sink your toes into the cool, spongy grass, and relish the only sounds breaking the silence: chirping birds, rustling leaves, lizards scurrying through the underbrush. But leave your charcoal at home. No grills permitted. And just as well, really. Once you stray from the visitors' center, there's virtually nothing artificial to come between you and a splendid day amid nature's wonders. Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is eight dollars for adults, four dollars for children ages three to twelve, and free for members and children under three.
Hard-core mountain bikers will understand why Oleta has won for the third straight year. It's by default. There isn't any real competition in Miami-Dade County. (Amelia Earhart Park has drawn too many complaints about reliability and availability to be a contender.) So that leaves Oleta, which isn't bad at all, given that South Florida mountain bikers must do without actual mountains. It's just that it's so crowded. And it's inconvenient if you happen to live down in Kendall or Pinecrest. (Many bikers are irked at the lack of any sanctioned tracks in South Miami-Dade. To get an eyeful check out Roger Sunderland's mountain-bike Website and click on Snapper Creek under the listing for Miami-Dade: http://members.aol.com/ cyclerog/page4.html.) On the plus side, Oleta is well organized and maintained, and it gives novices a chance to get the hang of the sport. Helmets required, a rule that is enforced.
Without doubt this park is the greatest gift ever bequeathed to the public in Miami's history. Back in 1940 the Matheson family, which had owned most of Key Biscayne since early in the century, agreed to a deal proposed by Dade County Commissioner Charles Crandon. The family would donate the northern two miles of its holdings for use as a public park. In exchange the county would construct a causeway from Miami to the island. As Crandon later wrote, the Mathesons "recognized that it would make the remaining land they owned immensely valuable once the causeway was built and in use, which is exactly what happened." The 975-acre park, named in honor of the commissioner, opened along with the causeway in 1947. Since then the Mathesons have been vigilant in protecting their gift from commercial exploitation by government bureaucrats hungry for revenue. Stretching from the Atlantic to Biscayne Bay, Crandon Park comprises more than most people realize: a marina, boat ramps, moorings, and a dive shop adjacent to Sundays on the Bay restaurant; Crandon Golf Course and its driving range, clubhouse, pro shop, and restaurant; the sprawling tennis center and its associated facilities; various storage and maintenance yards; Calusa Park and its tennis courts, playground, and recreation center; a county fire station; the lovely Crandon Park Gardens (the old county zoo); the new Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center; an extensive kids' play area featuring a grand carousel; rental cabanas, concession booths, and many picnic areas and athletic fields along the park's eastern half; three significant archaeological sites; three ecological preserves of several hundred acres; and of course the world-famous beach itself. Need we say more?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®