You can get sofas, chairs, beds, tchotchkes of all kinds, and from every country. A recent scene: Hairstylist who frequents the place had her eye on one of those darkly tarnished replicas of Donatello's David, about a foot high, bronze-going-green. "That lidless, lipless decadence," she whispered mischievously. "Donatello would have gotten down on the Beach!" After some haggling with Amelia the salesgirl, the price was right, coming down from $45 to $25. "We're the best!" Amelia bragged. "You can spend hours in here. Look! Real aluminum ice-tea glasses from the Fifties in fruit colors -- creamsicle orange, Saturn red, TV yellow ... snowsled silver!"

Opa-locka/Hialeah Flea Market
Following a 2002 incident when a Key Biscayne resident drove into a parking lot via the exit and punctured all four tires on those mean-looking spikes they have at rental car outfits too, this flea market's general manager, Scott Miller, put up "about 500 traffic signs" so navigating the streets and parking lot "is no longer an adventure," he promises. Once you get inside, however, that's a different story. Open seven days from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the market -- eighteen years and going strong -- is teeming with more than 1000 vendors, including 70 offering farm-fresh produce, plus thirteen eateries. Shoppers and sellers come from around the world, and these days record crowds are pouring in, mostly on weekends, with an average of 85,000 hunting the sprawling grounds over two days. You can find most anything at this flea, but Miller notes, "We do not do gold-filled teeth." That was at a flea market across the county line in Broward, and supposedly those parking-lot dentists were shut down.

No one along the Boulevard of Broken Dreams that is Biscayne has done more to beautify the strip than florist Geraldo Rios. While the police mount sweeps of hookers and tricks and pimps, and city bureaucrats issue code-violation fines, Rios has taken his own initiative to improve his block by decorating the two-story building that houses his shop with hundreds of stuffed bears and other fuzzy friends to celebrate Valentine's and Mother's Day. Rios's decorations are not just beautiful, they're a kind of public service for all of us who forget about our sweeties and, heaven help us, even our mothers on these special days. The sheer excess of Rios's decorations reminds us of the approaching holiday -- and his special 24-hour schedule allows any errant son, daughter, or lover to drop in and pick a bouquet on the fly.

Readers Choice: Trias Flowers, Antiques & Gifts

A misnomer if we've ever seen one. Dan had a lot of loyal customers, so when Manfred and Josephine Wenzel immigrated here from Germany and took over the business 26 years ago, "We didn't change anything," Mrs. Wenzel says today. Completely utilitarian shop space, with all the artisan tools Mr. Wenzel brought from the old country, where he studied camera repair for three and a half years in the great German tradition: "No computers! Za more sophisticated za camera, za more trouble! I'm an old man from za old school! [Film] transport and electronic shutter speed are complicated." It's why virtually all of Miami's professional photographers patronize Dan's. Wenzel, of course, will work on digitals, which he predicts will take over completely in ten years. He's sophisticated in not wanting to name a "best" camera, but his voice rises when you mention Rolleiflex and Voigtlander, two traditional German camera manufacturers who, like Leica, set the standard. "Right now we're in business. Later, when za digitals vin, I'll sit at home and vatch the pool through the back door. But not yet!"

Brightly colored beaded flags depicting vodou gods, snakes, and apparitions decorate the walls of Papa Paul's emporium of the spirits in Little Haiti. The flags drape above vitrines full of powerful objects such as wood-carved saints, hand-stitched satin kerchiefs in myriad hues, and cloth dolls with no faces. Painted maracas, devotional beads, and various perfumes and tonics for luck, love, and batting down evil spirits all can be found here. Papa keeps things friendly and welcoming, especially to the uninitiated. He also has space available for private consultations. If you're lucky, you might receive a tour of the back room -- a spacious garage decorated with worship murals used as a temple. You'll be luckier still if you are able to witness one of Papa's intense and beautiful ceremonies performed there.

Not much separates scooter rentals. Most are located on South Beach, often in small storefronts, and rental rates don't vary that much. Groov-E-Skootz, however, stands out for its selection of scoots for sale, in-store and online. In the gas-powered arena, they carry lots of Kymco's models, but also have Moskito and Hyosung. Among the electrics you'll find Bladez, City Bug, X-port, Currie, Charly, Schwinn, and X-Caliber. Also mini-gas scooters from Bladez and Go-Ped, plus electric bikes by E-Go and Voloci. As if that weren't enough, Groov may be unique in that you can also dance for your scooter. That's right. Every few months the store sponsors a break-dancing contest and the winner (these guys are really good) takes home a scoot.

It's hard to believe that Worldwide News stands alone in this major metropolitan area as an excellent, independently owned resource for newspapers and magazines. Other contenders like South Beach's News Café come to mind, but Worldwide trumps them by carrying an enviable selection of small-print 'zines, foreign publications, trades, and nudies. It doesn't have everything, so you may have to go to Borders to pick up the latest issue of the Village Voice. Yet Worldwide's continued dominance in this category (more than seven awards) speaks volumes about its admirable collection of titles and the frustrating lack of good competition for magazine lovers.

Crown, a frequent Best of Miami winner, relocated its Coral Gables store in September, and the new spot -- just a couple of blocks away from the old -- lives up to Crown's well-deserved reputation. Whether you're interested in wines (Crown took advantage of the increased shelf space at the new location to improve on its heralded selection), booze, or beer, the place remains in a league of its own. For a little something to go with your beverage purchase, check out the food. "We have a huge deli counter, with fresh baked bread and eight artisanal cheeses," says Crown wine consultant Fred Barger. "Pâté, fresh caviar -- you name it."

Readers Choice: Crown Wine and Spirits

Books & Books
Courtesy of Books & Books
The eternal winner, and deservedly so. Given that so much of the overall retail scene is dominated by chain stores, and that in books the competition is especially stiff, it's heartening that Books & Books has managed to survive, indeed thrive. The store deserves kudos for its informed staff, its hosting of a wide variety of book-discussion groups, its hefty schedule of author readings and other events (of which a fair number are in Spanish, including the just-launched readings for niños), and its gem of a main store, with its delightful courtyard. And unlike the cafés at a number of the national bookstore emporiums, which have about as much charm as a college student center, the café at Books & Books is a decidedly pleasant enhancement to literary pursuits.

Readers Choice: Books & Books

Think science is boring? Then check out Dr. Einstein's, where you can pick up all kinds of nifty gear, from videoscopes to books on Elvis, Rubik snakes, and Hoberman toys, a weirdly charming set of building blocks inspired by Legos. The prices are affordable and there's a wide selection appealing to all ages. So when you think toys (at least Dr. Einstein's toys), don't just think kids.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®