These are arguably the least congested toll booths on the turnpike's Homestead extension. Easily readable signs direct motorists to four SunPass lanes, four exact-change lanes, and eight change-provided lanes. The 75-cent toll also buys you a nice glimpse into the overdeveloped western fringes of Miami-Dade County, with cloned single-family houses to the east and explosive rock-mining operations to the west.

One can easily debate the wisdom of our city fathers having turned over a waterfront park to a mall developer who populated the place with chain restaurants and stores you can find most anywhere. But such concerns don't appear to trouble the brows of the hordes who routinely descend on Bayside every weekend and who look like they're having a whale of a good time. The worst offense associated with a tourist trap is the feeling you're being ripped off. In fact Bayside is home to some dining and drinking establishments that are not extortionately priced (there are even deals to be had at lunchtime) and have the advantage of decidedly pleasant views of the marina, the port, and the bay from the many outdoor terraces. Just be forewarned: Nights when a game or concert is on at the American Airlines Arena, parking rates skyrocket at Bayside's garage and nearby lots, and the resulting traffic jam on Biscayne Boulevard can make you question why you ever bothered to abandon the comfort of your couch.

Located at the more sedate, northern end of this beachfront strip, the Front Porch dishes up fair-priced, hearty portions from morn' till night. The best seats in the house are, as the name would suggest, on the front porch, where the scenery stretches from Lummus Park to the dunes to the Atlantic. Or lower your gaze slightly to watch the parade of pedestrians without anyone sashaying into your salad. Weekday breakfasts or late lunches are blessedly peaceful, but expect a wait on the weekend as locals line up for the bounteous brunch. And with a full bar, it's also an ideal spot to quench your post-beach thirst with a cocktail in a casual but civilized environment.

Just north of the SW 152nd Street exit from the Florida Turnpike, a pink-and-white checkered building with a 50-foot-tall rook's tower provides an odd counterpoint to the endless suburban sprawl of strip malls and cookie-cutter housing developments. The building houses the corporate headquarters of Excalibur Electronics (makers of electronic novelties) and the World Chess Hall of Fame & Sidney Samole Chess Museum. The museum, official hall of fame for the United States Chess Federation and the World Chess Federation, was founded in Miami by Shane Samole, whose father Sid in the Seventies created the first electronic chess game after watching Spock play chess against a computer during a Star Trek episode. The building's medieval theme continues outside, where a giant sword embedded in a boulder stands sentry at the front door, and inside, where suits of armor and stone façades set the aesthetic parameters. There are no audio recordings of Bobby Fischer ranting about the U.N. (although you can see Fischer's old competition table) but there are plenty of other tidbits to chew on. According to a chess timeline (weirdly set in a very dim hallway with pinpoint lights set like stars in the ceiling and ethereal music coming from unseen speakers), the word "checkmate" comes from the Persian "Shah mat," meaning "the king is at a loss," and the bishops seen in modern chess sets were elephants in the original version, which first appeared around 600 A.D. (medieval Europeans, most of whom had never seen an elephant, changed the piece to something they were a little more familiar with). You won't run into large crowds at the museum unless they're hosting a tournament, although Milena Migliorelli, in charge of PR, says they have a following among diehard chessheads: "People are always surprised we're here, although we do advertise in Chess Life."

SECOND-BEST REASON TO STAY IN MIAMI FOR THE SUMMER

Back-yard mangoes

They're sweet and juicy, big as softballs, and more numerous than flies on a cow. They're versatile, too. You can make them into breads, cakes, salsas, jams, or chutneys. And if you know someone with a tree (and who doesn't at least have a friend of a friend?), mangoes are free all season, from spring to autumn, when mango-tree owners actually are relieved to see the last one plop to the ground. What else could you ask for from a fruit? Only that it not crack your skull on the way down.

The master. Those familiar black forms and silhouettes that help us travel through Bedia's artistic journeys -- into exile, across seas, to the African motherland, into the spirit world -- returned better and yes, bigger this year, reminding us that the master of Cuban contemporary art lives right here. We saw his recognizable yet singular pieces at Art Basel, the Miami Art Museum, and especially the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. There in an exhibit of new works his black forms took literal shape, the spectral sculptures towering over his other creations, which included painting and installations that thematically meshed at the intersection of the spiritual and material worlds. His pieces are now held by museums across the globe, and he was recently spotlighted in two big shows in New York City and at Stanford University. But Bedia is still our best.

Think global, act local. Camillus House has been serving Miami's poor and homeless for more than 40 years, and given the way the economy is going, their unfortunate ranks are likely to grow. So start exploring your closets and dressers with this rule in mind: If it hasn't been worn in a year, it's time to go. Don't fret that those trendy togs may one day come back in style. Giving is always in fashion.

The mass of openings around Art Basel were incredible, but don't forget that there were 51 other weeks this year. On a Saturday night in March one show stood out above the rest. Holograms hung from the ceiling, sat on the floor, were mounted on walls. The images changed as you moved through the darkened warehouse space that is the Dorsch Gallery. Oops! As you twisted around to inspect one hologram (artist Koven taught himself how to make them) you ran smack into another viewer. Or wait, did she run into you? Indeed human "bumpers" were part of the show. As were two huge SUVs parked inside, with taped audio conversations emanating from their stereo speakers. You climbed inside and felt the expensive leather seats caressing your legs. Or wait -- maybe that was a "bumper" again. The single hologram hanging in the area with the massive "cars" looked like a hat. But as you moved closer to check it out, words appeared on the bottom: "This is not a hat."

The revolution may or may not be televised but it certainly will be litigated. The revolt here is aimed at decreasing the power of money over candidates and the civic process generally. Last year Miami Beach commissioners passed an ordinance to require lobbyists working the city to disclose their fees. They and their clients make money from the public so shouldn't the public know how much is going to lobbyists? Maybe if we knew how much a company with a city contract pays its lobbyists, we wouldn't pay the company so darn much. Lobbyist Rodney Barreto sees it differently and has challenged it in court. That was a good law but an even better one bans the mayor and city commissioners from accepting campaign contributions from a distinctive group of people: Miami Beach lobbyists who represent real estate developers or companies that sell things to the city, or are trying to. Under the law, the developers and vendors themselves also are forbidden from contributing to campaign accounts. Cool, huh? Let's hope it stands up under further review by the city commission.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®