She didn't grow up planning on a career in the music industry, but fate found Ellen Moraskie anyway. As senior vice president for Latin music at the Warner/Chappell publishing company in Miami Beach, the caring mother of two nurtured such songwriting talents as Elsten Torres (Fulano), Jorge Villamizar (Bacilos), and Fernando Osorio (author of the last hits of Celia Cruz). Eager to open the circle even more, Moraskie joined Desmond Child and other like-minded souls to create the monthly showcase Songwriters in the Round that ran from 1996 through 2002 and gave local talents a place to test their mettle. Moraskie passed away on December 13, 2003, but her passion lives on in the beautifully crafted songs of the many writers she inspired.

After the out-of-towners get tired of the South Beach scene, load them in the car and drag them to South Miami-Dade for a tour of the old tourist attractions, the ones without neon and ex-models all over the place. If they were good enough for you when you were a tot, they're more than good enough for your ironic hipster guests. Start out with a morning tour of the ever-mysterious Coral Castle -- the place where fragile Ed Leedskalnin perched giant boulders in impossibly balanced positions. Follow that with a sweet treat at the Knauss Berry Farm, which is run by German Baptists who dress in their traditional garb. Here you'll get sweet, sweet shakes and baked goods made from freshly picked berries and fruit. Then you'll have the afternoon free to cage yourself at Monkey Jungle, where the resident primates roam. If you're lucky, maybe you can lose the guests here. The shame is that the Serpentarium no longer exists.

BEST ACTIVITY TO DO WHILE INTOXICATED

Sloshball

There was a temptation to write this item about great ways to sober up. But then we realized that getting sober is, quite literally, the last thing anyone wants to do when they're drunk. So we dug out (pun alert) some plans for all to have a sloshing good time. It's not baseball. It's not softball. It's Sloshball! The game is played like baseball, except in order to pass bases (second and home) runners must first drink a beer. Don't laugh just yet. People across the nation participate in brew leagues, and even compete in a Sloshball World Series. At the official Website, local boozehounds can apply to start up their own league. And you thought cricket was weird.

The quiet, reserved Manny Diaz came out of nowhere in his 2001 mayoral bid against opponents who were far more prominent. He had been a well-liked but low-profile lawyer who was thrust into the limelight as part of the legal team trying to keep Elian Gonzalez in Little Havana. Initially his principal qualification, aside from having Elian credentials, seemed to be that he wasn't Joe Carollo. But Diaz, in his understated way, promised a major revolution in city government, proposing to run the place more like a business and less like a Calle Ocho festival that has gone on far too long. After taking office, he eased out city manager Carlos Gimenez and hired Joe Arriola, a wealthy retired executive with a big mouth but considerable business acumen. Arriola restructured city operations and ousted several long-time department heads, among them the police chief, which cleared the way for a ball-breaker to come in and shake things up. Diaz and his lieutenants have made priorities of improving streets, services, and economic development in general. You can certainly disagree with specific actions and outcomes presided over by Diaz and Co., but the overall direction of change has been very good. The urban core is being revitalized and the city's bond ratings have soared.

The quiet, reserved Manny Diaz came out of nowhere in his 2001 mayoral bid against opponents who were far more prominent. He had been a well-liked but low-profile lawyer who was thrust into the limelight as part of the legal team trying to keep Elian Gonzalez in Little Havana. Initially his principal qualification, aside from having Elian credentials, seemed to be that he wasn't Joe Carollo. But Diaz, in his understated way, promised a major revolution in city government, proposing to run the place more like a business and less like a Calle Ocho festival that has gone on far too long. After taking office, he eased out city manager Carlos Gimenez and hired Joe Arriola, a wealthy retired executive with a big mouth but considerable business acumen. Arriola restructured city operations and ousted several long-time department heads, among them the police chief, which cleared the way for a ball-breaker to come in and shake things up. Diaz and his lieutenants have made priorities of improving streets, services, and economic development in general. You can certainly disagree with specific actions and outcomes presided over by Diaz and Co., but the overall direction of change has been very good. The urban core is being revitalized and the city's bond ratings have soared.

Once the thriving and prosperous heart of black Miami, Overtown has been in a downward spiral ever since brilliant bureaucrats thought it would be just fine to tear the place apart by running massive interstate highways through it. Today it is the poorest neighborhood in America's poorest city. Over the past decade roughly $70 million has been funneled into Overtown in a colossal, and colossally corrupt, effort at rehabilitation. Around here, that kind of public money is guaranteed to attract the greedy, the incompetent, the criminal. Clearly it did. Even a cursory tour of the area provides a compelling overview of what a city audit spelled out in detail last year: Tens of millions of tax dollars have been plundered and wasted. The Miami City Commission has appointed a panel to figure out what went wrong. It will be joining the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, state authorities, and the FBI in ongoing criminal investigations. About time.

Once the thriving and prosperous heart of black Miami, Overtown has been in a downward spiral ever since brilliant bureaucrats thought it would be just fine to tear the place apart by running massive interstate highways through it. Today it is the poorest neighborhood in America's poorest city. Over the past decade roughly $70 million has been funneled into Overtown in a colossal, and colossally corrupt, effort at rehabilitation. Around here, that kind of public money is guaranteed to attract the greedy, the incompetent, the criminal. Clearly it did. Even a cursory tour of the area provides a compelling overview of what a city audit spelled out in detail last year: Tens of millions of tax dollars have been plundered and wasted. The Miami City Commission has appointed a panel to figure out what went wrong. It will be joining the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, state authorities, and the FBI in ongoing criminal investigations. About time.

One thing Bayside Marketplace didn't have, until recently, was land-and-sea tours. Literally. Thanks to Miami Duck Tours, passengers ride around the streets on the odd-looking World War II style vehicles (it's a truck! it's a boat!) and see the sights. Then the vehicles slide into Biscayne Bay for a water-based view of other sights. By land and by sea, it's definitely a different way to get a look around, providing a tourist magnet and a new diversion for locals as well. And when the bus-boat completes its journey and patrons disembark, there is no enemy army awaiting to assault them. Not usually anyway.

Ever wonder what the animals do at night after all the gawkers have left the zoo? Find out for yourself at a Zoo-Inn slumber party. September through June, Miami Metrozoo hosts groups of 15 to 30 nocturnal guests for overnight adventures. While the giraffes and elephants eat their evening grub, you'll nibble on pizza. Then a zookeeper will lead you and your friends into one lucky animal's nighthouse. Get an up-close look at a Bengal tiger, a Galápagos tortoise, or an Indian rhino doing whatever it is they do at night. Then embark on a bracing zoo walking tour and a presentation at the Ecology Theater. When you're done, the group will bunk down in the air-conditioned comfort of one of Metrozoo's classrooms or boardrooms. Sounds like fun, right? Especially because Mom and Dad can hardly blame you kids if you spend the night acting like beasts!

Ever wonder what the animals do at night after all the gawkers have left the zoo? Find out for yourself at a Zoo-Inn slumber party. September through June, Miami Metrozoo hosts groups of 15 to 30 nocturnal guests for overnight adventures. While the giraffes and elephants eat their evening grub, you'll nibble on pizza. Then a zookeeper will lead you and your friends into one lucky animal's nighthouse. Get an up-close look at a Bengal tiger, a Galápagos tortoise, or an Indian rhino doing whatever it is they do at night. Then embark on a bracing zoo walking tour and a presentation at the Ecology Theater. When you're done, the group will bunk down in the air-conditioned comfort of one of Metrozoo's classrooms or boardrooms. Sounds like fun, right? Especially because Mom and Dad can hardly blame you kids if you spend the night acting like beasts!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®