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

For some reason that baffles us, a lot of local public servants don't seem to understand that the public's information is as precious as its purse. But Oliver Kerr, supervisor of the Miami-Dade planning and zoning department's demographic unit, does understand and sets the gold standard for info-currency. He represents Miami-Dade in the Urban Institute's National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, which is committed to "democratizing information" in order to help build "vibrant and sustainable" communities. For example, he brought it all home when the U.S. Census data for Florida finally came down the Internet pipeline last fall. Although he was deluged, not only was this twenty-year county veteran available and cordial but he provided the figures efficiently and quickly -- even to pesky reporters. They gave him the boundaries of a specific neighborhood; he gave them the stats on income, unemployment, housing, and the like. Kerr knows the formula. Information fuels knowledge. Knowledge is power. Obstruct the info flow and you abuse the power.

Sunny Isles goes up, Fontainebleau mural goes down, DCF kids go missing, Rilya still missing, Stierheim stays, rain stays, Mas Santos seeks a dialogue, Alonso seeks a defense fund, gay rights are challenged, priests are accused, more rain, more DCF kids missing, DeFede goes mainstream, Beach Memorial Day goes on, Stiltsville goes public, Cubans get smuggled, Warshaw gets released, Alex Diaz de la Portilla gets off, cops kill, DCF kills, lightning kills, Elena Burke dies, Leonard Miller dies, George Batchelor dies, more priests are accused, more rain falls, more Haitians arrive, Nicole Guillemet arrives, Carrie Meek retires, Kendrick Meek is anointed, Reno hits the road, Bad Boys II hits town, traffic stops, tempers flare, temperatures rise, summertime sizzles, bus benches sizzle, more priests are accused, more DCF kids are missing, Haitian kids kill, Maysie Beller dies, Ellen Morphonios dies, Humbertico gets released, Al Gutman gets released, Ecstasy smugglers get busted, anti-gay activists get busted, Miami poverty gets famous, Marcos Jiménez takes charge, Joe Arriola takes charge, Alonso is charged again, Muhammad Ali returns, classics return to radio, the Gusman returns to splendor, Shiver meddles at MIA, MIA's Richard Mendez is convicted, Sal Magluta is convicted, Vaclav Havel arrives, Oswaldo Payá arrives, election monitors arrive, Hurricane Andrew turns 10, Calle Ocho turns 25, Bushwacker Lounge dies, Mike Gordon's dies, the Taurus dies, gay rights survive, Natacha Seijas threatens, Rick Sanchez threatens to return, elections turn to chaos, more cops shoot, more Haitian kids shoot, Art Basel arrives, David Leahy quits, Carlos Gimenez quits, Chuck Lanza quits, Ira Clark quits, Florida Philharmonic goes bust, Performing Arts Center busts budget, Miami Beach busts lobbyists, hurricanes stay away, tornadoes arrive, Bill Perry dies, Maurice Gibb dies, Laurie Horn dies, Reno tanks, Dolphins tank, Canes tank, Cubans hijack, Graham runs, cruise ships sicken, Haitians still detained, DCF still kills, but finally some good news for those who think the bad guys always win: North Miami Beach detectives were after Henry Box, Jr., wanted for attempted murder. They got a hot tip and chased it. After securing the area where they hoped to apprehend the suspect, they had a clerk get on the intercom: "Mr. Box, please come to the front office. Mr. Henry Box." He did just that, sauntering from the jury-pool room at the criminal courthouse, where he was doing his duty, into waiting handcuffs and a short stroll across the street to jail.

No local sportscaster has a meaner task than Ducis Rodgers. His hosting duties on WSVN's weekly Sports Xtra should earn him combat pay. In addition to sifting through local team tidbits, commenting on star athletes' antics, and providing steep segues for boring golf highlights, he is required to referee the two most indigestible personalities on South Florida television: fellow reporter Steve "Snide" Shapiro and super agent Drew "Jerry McGuire" Rosenhaus. Ducis always seems to be in their favor as they clamor for his support, but he always puts them in their place with a smiling, backhanded compliment, and they love him for it. He also gets away with saying things other sportscasters won't, speaking between the lines of his engaging observations. When Mike Tyson shammed boxing fans by beating Clifford Etienne in a ridiculous 49-second bout, Ducis introduced the highlights with a subtle cough and question-marked grin as he dragged the word fight from his throat. The man also happens to be quite the cool Miami cat who's a regular on South Beach's glitz-and-glam club circuit. Go, Ducis.

Readers Choice: Jimmy Cefalo, WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

Okay, Closer isn't really a 'zine, and it really isn't from Miami (nightclub owner -- Blue, Respectable Street -- Rodney Mayo publishes it out of West Palm Beach), but there's definitely a freewheeling, anything-goes attitude typical of 'zines running through its pages. A recent issue offered the requisite fashion spread, poetry, a story about Miami Beach's Aquabooty club, a reprint of a Salon interview with Camille Paglia, a profile on breakbeat producers Jackyl and Hyde, features on visual artists Jiae Hwang and Alex Barrera, and contributions from long-time New Times scribe Marli Guzzetta. In other words, Closer is all over the place, just like South Florida.

Readers Choice: Ocean Drive

Since 1989 the Krishnas have been serving up excellent vegetarian grub to anybody who walks into their Coconut Grove garden. The dal and rice are plentiful, and the perfumed curries are sweetened with coconut. No matter how broke you may be or how defeated you may feel, the food and atmosphere at Govinda's will make you feel better -- no strings attached. Really. Have no fear, there is no drumming or cymbal-playing here. Instead the lonesome wanderer is nourished in a peaceful dining room with servings fit for a god. Donations are accepted, of course, and there is a dinner club for those who can afford a five-dollar meal. Those donations, in turn, help buy food for the poor and homeless. The temple provides about 100 meals each day to the homeless through its Food for Life program.

The young developer topped even himself this year. Robins has always been involved in the cultural life of Miami-Dade County, from his days rehabilitating South Beach to his move over to the Design District. It's there that he showed the world what we could be if we tried. During Art Basel, Robins's company, Dacra, opened many Design District buildings to local artists, who transformed the spaces into a hub of cultural activity the likes of which we have never seen. The streets were filled with live music, the drinks flowed freely (and for free), the impromptu art galleries were stuffed with locals and international visitors, and performance artists took to the hallways and streets, showing the world that something's happening here. Robins threw open the doors again for Art Miami a month later. While that event couldn't compete with Basel overall, the local artistic life that arose in the Design District was another spectacular success. Thanks, Craig. We needed that.

The Count, as he's known at Miami Beach City Hall, is a small man struggling to balance magnificent obsession with an abiding interest in historical minutiae. Both qualities are satisfied by the Count's 27-year quest to claim a share of the European fortune of distant German relatives, lost somewhere between the demise of Prussia and the Holocaust. But since 1994, when the Count moved from New York to Miami Beach, local politics has been his all-consuming hobby. Nearly every day he can be spotted lurking around city hall's fourth floor, sometimes smoking a cigar on a balcony and keeping a keen eye on the comings and goings of the movers shaking down the latest city deal. "To be honest with you, I have nothing to do," he shrugs. The Count's passions run to public access and the rights of the working class, from opposing the closing of public roads to demanding low-cost housing, to promoting candidates he feels aren't beholden to the Beach's entrenched power structure. "The greed here is unbelievable," he observes. "If I can do a little to upset that, it's a good thing." Of course the Count has his detractors. Some believe he's actually evil, having cast a spell over weak-minded elected officials, and that he has subverted the best intentions of well-meaning bureaucrats. The Count merely laughs at that. "My objections are philosophical, not personal," he says. "I mean, I love these people, but it's one thing after another."

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 terrible situation that has befallen the country that was once the most solidly middle-class in Latin America has resulted in an exodus. Many Argentineans, especially the younger generation, have relocated to Miami. It is our gain and their homeland's unfortunate loss. Yes, we recognize that a hefty percentage are here illegally, but like other immigrant groups before them, we appreciate their willingness to work (it seems every valet and restaurant hostess hails from Argentina) and the cultural and culinary sensibilities they carry with them. Argentineans have long embraced café culture; even the most humble of their establishments here will have tables and chairs inside as well as outside if there's room. Plus they have a special way with a number of key food groups: beef, pasta, pizza, gelato, dulce de leche, and coffee. ¡Che, bienvenidos!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®