Carousel Ride at Crandon Park
Here's one very enjoyable way to experience this 975-acre jewel of a county park, the lasting legacy of the Matheson family: On a weekend morning, load up the bikes and drive to Key Biscayne and the public parking lots on either side of Sundays on the Bay. (Parking here is free.) Unload the bikes and head to Crandon Boulevard. Just south of Sundays' entrance is a street crossing. On the far side a bike path meanders for nearly two miles through the Bear Cut Preserve, an ambitious and successful reclamation project. You'll move through palm thickets lush with ferns before reaching an intersection. Turn left to a recently opened observation deck overlooking Bear Cut and the vast Atlantic. Double back and continue past the intersection and through more wild greenery. Eventually the bikeway opens onto Crandon Park proper. Just beyond the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, turn onto the concrete promenade that separates beach from parkland. The ride along this path is a journey through multiethnic, polyglot Miami, as all variety of families will be gathered under shade trees and pavilions for birthday parties and barbecues, music and impromptu dancing. Keep to the left and the famous white sands of Crandon's beaches appear as if on a postcard. At the promenade's southern end you'll come upon a cluster of charmingly restored rental cabanas. Turn right to enter the expansive children's area, featuring a carousel, cushioned skating area, and several water attractions. The Gardens of Crandon Park (last year's winner of this award) lies at the edge of the parking area. Consider this your turn-around point, but before returning, take plenty of time to explore the gardens, where many surprises await. After a picnic lunch on the garden's grounds or at one of two concession stands, survey the park's interior, where you'll find more family areas, a full-size running track, athletic fields, and baseball diamonds. Yes, it's a lot to take in, but it's a big and beautiful park -- Miami's best.

While many would say the Venetian Pool at 2701 De Soto Blvd. in Coral Gables is the obvious winner, there's another spring-fed swimming hole in Miami-Dade that deserves attention and attendance. The 35-acre lake that serves as the centerpiece of the Larry and Penny Thompson Park boasts white sandy beaches and three water slides that are open on weekends throughout summer. Not only do bathers have more space to play around in, but bored landlubbers can make use of paddleboats or fish from the pier. There's much more to the park than just water activities. Camping, bridle trails, hiking paths, and playgrounds are spread over 270 acres. An almost secret treat in South Miami-Dade, and, as pools go, a natural source of wonder and fun.

While many would say the Venetian Pool at 2701 De Soto Blvd. in Coral Gables is the obvious winner, there's another spring-fed swimming hole in Miami-Dade that deserves attention and attendance. The 35-acre lake that serves as the centerpiece of the Larry and Penny Thompson Park boasts white sandy beaches and three water slides that are open on weekends throughout summer. Not only do bathers have more space to play around in, but bored landlubbers can make use of paddleboats or fish from the pier. There's much more to the park than just water activities. Camping, bridle trails, hiking paths, and playgrounds are spread over 270 acres. An almost secret treat in South Miami-Dade, and, as pools go, a natural source of wonder and fun.

You've gotta have balls to play the tenth hole at this course, formerly known as the Links at Key Biscayne, and still known as Key Biscayne Golf Course, Crandon Park Golf Course, and Crandon Golf Course (all the same place, we promise): With water on both sides and frequent gusts of wind, the most seasoned pro risks lobbing a couple of shots into the school of barracuda swimming the ocean shallows. To make the par five even trickier, the Crandon crew keeps the grass short and the green fast. Zip. Zing. Splash! There goes another one just like the other one. But for all the damage to your ego, the challenge can prove invigorating and the view breathtaking. With the Miami skyline to one side and what looks like the whole expanse of the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you won't mind losing a Titleist or two. Okay, three.

You've gotta have balls to play the tenth hole at this course, formerly known as the Links at Key Biscayne, and still known as Key Biscayne Golf Course, Crandon Park Golf Course, and Crandon Golf Course (all the same place, we promise): With water on both sides and frequent gusts of wind, the most seasoned pro risks lobbing a couple of shots into the school of barracuda swimming the ocean shallows. To make the par five even trickier, the Crandon crew keeps the grass short and the green fast. Zip. Zing. Splash! There goes another one just like the other one. But for all the damage to your ego, the challenge can prove invigorating and the view breathtaking. With the Miami skyline to one side and what looks like the whole expanse of the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you won't mind losing a Titleist or two. Okay, three.

Arrrr, mateys. Ya can join th' landlubbers over at Pennekamp or Biscayne National, sissy sinking it's called, or ya can have a real ol' time adventure down the way at San Pedro's grave. Way the hell back in 1733, a husky blow doomed a Spanish treasure fleet to Davey Jones's place, and another time a 270-ton ship of Dutch origin known as the San Pedro sank to her watery end a little more than a mile off Indian Key (in eighteen feet of sapphire-color seawater) at a place name o' Hawk Channel. While some dag-blamed scalawags have stripped her of her treasures, there remains a mother lode of excitement at this spot near Islamorada. Crusted ballast stones mark out the shape of the Dutch galleon (the wood body, like the golden age of seafaring, is long gone), while replica cannons and the ship's actual anchor add picturesque elements. At 271 years of age, the San Pedro might be Florida's oldest "artificial reef," but the fish and crabs judge not. Mooring buoys provide anchorage for schooners and kayaks alike, and if ya be without sails, hire a boat and captain at nearby Islamorada ("the purple island"). Have a mug or three of mead while ya wait.

Arrrr, mateys. Ya can join th' landlubbers over at Pennekamp or Biscayne National, sissy sinking it's called, or ya can have a real ol' time adventure down the way at San Pedro's grave. Way the hell back in 1733, a husky blow doomed a Spanish treasure fleet to Davey Jones's place, and another time a 270-ton ship of Dutch origin known as the San Pedro sank to her watery end a little more than a mile off Indian Key (in eighteen feet of sapphire-color seawater) at a place name o' Hawk Channel. While some dag-blamed scalawags have stripped her of her treasures, there remains a mother lode of excitement at this spot near Islamorada. Crusted ballast stones mark out the shape of the Dutch galleon (the wood body, like the golden age of seafaring, is long gone), while replica cannons and the ship's actual anchor add picturesque elements. At 271 years of age, the San Pedro might be Florida's oldest "artificial reef," but the fish and crabs judge not. Mooring buoys provide anchorage for schooners and kayaks alike, and if ya be without sails, hire a boat and captain at nearby Islamorada ("the purple island"). Have a mug or three of mead while ya wait.

One of South Florida's natural bragging rights is the ability to see both sunrise and sunset over vast expanses of water. We cry for the people of Iowa and Kansas every time the purple and orange and yellow paint the horizon with fire. Try it: Find the precise sunrise and sunset times for any day of the year (aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html is one source). Begin your trip from the pier in South Pointe Park at the southern tip of Miami Beach, where you'll see the sunrise over the Atlantic and perhaps meet some straggling, staggering clubbers on their way home. Then hop over to Little Havana, load up on café and pastelitos. Take the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41, or, in the city, SW Eighth Street) west. Stop at the Shark Valley Visitors' Center for a glimpse of the Everglades while strolling away the leg cramps from all that driving. The Miccosukee Indian Village is the next stop, the perfect place to grab some lunch and see how the natives survive in their Everglades. If you're ahead of schedule as you pass Everglades City, visit Tin City in Old Naples for super shopping. Stay south while heading west in Old Naples and you'll easily locate Naples's beach and its venerable pier (25 Twelfth Avenue S.). Dolphins often gather beside the pier, picking up lost bait and the fish attracted by all those anglers. Go to the end, lean on the wooden rail, and enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Ponder the notion of coming back.

One of South Florida's natural bragging rights is the ability to see both sunrise and sunset over vast expanses of water. We cry for the people of Iowa and Kansas every time the purple and orange and yellow paint the horizon with fire. Try it: Find the precise sunrise and sunset times for any day of the year (aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html is one source). Begin your trip from the pier in South Pointe Park at the southern tip of Miami Beach, where you'll see the sunrise over the Atlantic and perhaps meet some straggling, staggering clubbers on their way home. Then hop over to Little Havana, load up on café and pastelitos. Take the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41, or, in the city, SW Eighth Street) west. Stop at the Shark Valley Visitors' Center for a glimpse of the Everglades while strolling away the leg cramps from all that driving. The Miccosukee Indian Village is the next stop, the perfect place to grab some lunch and see how the natives survive in their Everglades. If you're ahead of schedule as you pass Everglades City, visit Tin City in Old Naples for super shopping. Stay south while heading west in Old Naples and you'll easily locate Naples's beach and its venerable pier (25 Twelfth Avenue S.). Dolphins often gather beside the pier, picking up lost bait and the fish attracted by all those anglers. Go to the end, lean on the wooden rail, and enjoy the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Ponder the notion of coming back.

After a costly two-year construction delay, the ice rink at the Scott Rakow Youth Center is finally open. The rink, at 125 feet by 60 feet, replaces the cramped one, which will be turned into a gymnasium as renovations continue. Most of the facility's, um, facilities are new. Because of the special times assigned to different age groups (particularly adults), be sure to call the center before visiting. Go ahead and sweat it up, then enter this comfortably cool oasis, where a bit of figure skating or hockey will keep the perspiration coming. Then go jump in the full-size swimming pool. It's not new. But it sure is wet. And refreshing.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®