Last year MoCA featured a large exhibit of works by Jack Pierson, a midcareer American conceptualist in his early forties. While certainly grateful for the attention, Pierson expressed surprise, even embarrassment, at having a museum retrospective so early in his life. But that is exactly the sort of thing we've come to expect from MoCA. Museum director Bonnie Clearwater has made a commitment to show and acquire works by emerging artists such as Pierson, and in doing so has become a national trend-setter, not to mention creating the most dynamic art museum in South Florida. MoCA also has made a commitment to our local community of young artists, and has provided them with exposure and experience they couldn't hope to find in most large metropolitan areas. Not every MoCA venture has met with universal praise, but we applaud the willingness to take risks.

No doubt about it, the hands-down winner this year was the touring production of the long-running, groundbreaking Broadway musical hit, featuring director Julie Taymor's stunning visual imagination. Using a blend of lithe, live actors; huge carnival-like puppets; and an array of exotic theatrical traditions, Taymor took the popular Disney animated movie and did it one better, reinventing it as spectacular, unforgettable theater. The Lion King blended traditional American musical elements with classic literature (the story of a dispossessed lion cub is a reworking of Hamlet) together with a joyful celebration of African culture. The show was also a happy merger of art and commerce as the Broward Center for the Performing Arts was packed throughout the show's sold-out run.

Although this past season featured several premieres, the best of them was Nilo Cruz's steamy, sophisticated saga with its heady blend of raw emotion and poetic language set against an era of wrenching cultural and political change. The play was commissioned by the New Theatre and its artistic director Rafael de Acha, and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Cruz, who was born in Cuba but came to Miami at age ten, now spends much of his time in New York. His reputation skyrocketed recently when, in the course of one week, he was honored twice -- first with the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award and then with the Pulitzer Prize, both for Anna in the Tropics. Despite his now widely recognized talent, Cruz has been largely ignored in his hometown. Fortunately the New Theatre has commissioned yet another play -- and residency -- for next season. As Miami struggles to reinvent itself as a cosmopolitan, world-class community, perhaps it's time for us to recognize that world-class artists like Nilo Cruz are already here.

Okay, the art itself wasn't outdoors; it was inside cargo containers clustered on the sand across Collins Avenue from the Bass Museum in Miami Beach. But let's be serious: This was outdoor art at its best. Hundreds of works of contemporary art were displayed in twenty containers, each housing an alternative gallery from around the globe. From Madrid, from Tokyo, from Los Angeles, from London, from Berlin -- cool stuff you'd never seen before landed right on the beach. Some of it was challenging, some pleasing, some outrageous -- and all of it was an amazing contribution to Miami's cultural scene. See you on the beach next year.

The best man on a mediocre team, center Jokinen leads the Panthers in points, goals, and assists. He was expected to be a star after Los Angeles selected him third in the 1997 draft, but he ended up being wildly inconsistent his first four seasons. Since then he has greatly improved, which is good news for the Panthers, who've been losing steam (on the ice and at the box office) since handing the 1996 Stanley Cup to Colorado. Today Jokinen and goalie Roberto Luongo are playing almost as if hockey actually matters in South Florida. Does it?

Readers Choice: Roberto Luongo

When you're baked, nothing beats a carnival of lights. Santa's Enchanted Forest, which runs from early November through the first week of January, is a great place to bug out and munch out. First you go through the acid-inspired Christmas displays, enhanced by more than three million flickering Christmas lights draped overhead in the forest of Australian pines. Along the way you encounter the off-the-chain performances of Kachunga the alligator, Dondi the Elephant, and Randall's High Diving Pigs. For the truly adventurous, test your limits by climbing aboard any of the looping, twirling, twisting carnival rides operated by substance-impaired carnies. Talk about a thrill. But best of all, Santa's is a great place to alleviate the munchies. Succulent turkey legs, tangy barbecued chicken, jumbo-size corn dogs, piping-hot ears of corn, and our personal favorite: sweet elephant ears.

The damn car's A/C broke. Hurricane season has begun, with temperatures never dipping below the average on planet Mercury. And you're stuck in that perpetual traffic jam next to the airport. Life couldn't get worse. But hark! There is a very thin silver lining. Bring on the heat! Bring on the sweat! Bring on the tractor trailer that cuts in front of you and comes to a complete standstill! You are experiencing the cheapest and easiest diet program known to Miami Man. The longer it takes to get to Kendall, the more the pounds will melt away (do carry a water bottle, though, as we want you to remain alive). And remember, if you do happen to gain back a few pounds, September is just as hot!

You should, of course, advise visiting friends to arrive on a daytime flight, window seat, the better to appreciate the sparkling azure waters as the plane swoops down toward MIA. Their appetites whetted, sign 'em up for Action Helicopter's 30-minute, 45-mile aerial tour. It lifts off from Watson Island and includes the port, the downtown skyline, Vizcaya, and Key Biscayne before heading up Miami Beach to Bal Harbour then looping around the west side of the bay for just $149 each (a quick, four-minute look will set you back only $35). If you're not feeling that munificent, you can always go asea on one of the Island Queen or Celebration bilingual boat tours ($15) that leave from Bayside Marketplace. Your guests will love ogling waterfront celeb homes (and you might just like it, too). Too touristy for you? Designate your driver and order a libation to ease the pain.

Readers Choice: South Beach

The South Beach flesh market might be a little intimidating for a woman of a certain age. You can only visit so many malls. And sunbathing at the beach does bring up the ugly specter of skin cancer. The perfect answer to entertain and impress a visiting matron, an activity that will in fact make your mother feel like a queen, is to partake of a proper English tea at the Biltmore. Several courses are involved, beginning with those little watercress sandwiches with the crust cut off, followed by tender scones, clotted cream, and chocolate-dipped fruit. Plus your choice of a series of fine teas, all in the elegant grandeur of a landmark hotel. Everything but the fog. At $18.82, plus tip, it's a bargain. Available from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Call ahead to make reservations.

Over the past several years the name Adrian Castro has been a frequent sight in this paper as a contributor, as well as a 1994 Best of Miami winner for Best Poet of the Spoken Word. But this bard's work is worth a fresh look if only for the joy of immersion in bilingual verse. Chanting phrases, stitching lines together as long prose poems, then repeating the lot in Spanish, Castro, as demonstrated by his much-reprinted Cantos to Blood and Honey and numerous contributions to literary magazines and journals, is a true stylist on the written page, to say nothing of his talents with the spoken word.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®