BEST BOOK BY A LOCAL AUTHOR Come with Me, Sheba by Preston L. Allen Another convoluted Magic City tale, written in a style that lurches between Charles Willeford's blunt prose and Carl Hiaasen's hysteria, the story Allen has concocted is unmistakably Miamian. A mystery man, an oddball millionaire, and a violent criminal who goes by the unfortunate nickname "Lethal Coon" revolve around the title protagonist in this adrenalized revel by the author of Hoochie Mama and Churchboys and Other Sinners.

Readers´ Choice: Anything by Dave Barry

BEST BUS RIDE Route 102/Route B Riding the entire length of Metrobus Route 102 and its Key Biscayne connector, Route B, you don't see all of Miami-Dade County, and yet you do. This trip is expansive in geography and culture, traveling as it does from one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States (once home to Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, faithful pal of President Richard Nixon) to Hialeah (home to many Latin American immigrants who serve the needs of those in the 149). The circuitous, meandering route also passes by Government Center Metrorail Station in downtown Miami, Crandon Park, and Cape Florida State Park. But Route 102's true charm is its median destination, Miami International Airport. So there is, after all, a way to get to the airport that doesn't involve a taxi, private limo service, or being forever beholden to friend or neighbor. And it costs only $1.50.

BEST COMEBACK (ANIMAL KINGDOM) Miami Blue Butterfly Once more prevalent than cars on 836, the Miami Blue (Hemiargus thomasi bethunebakeri) wasn't doing so well thanks to humans and, mostly, their always encroaching development. (Habitat loss, natural disasters, and mosquito-reduction spraying are the three biggest destroyers of little flying things in South Florida.) It was even thought to be extinct after Hurricane Andrew charged through in 1992, but the bug was still hanging on -- roughly 50 of them hiding out at Bahia Honda State Park. The tiny blue-winged insect was destined to be wiped out during the next big blow, but thanks to a University of Florida breeding program, the Miami Blue is on the rebound instead. Several generations have been bred in captivity and hundreds were recently released into the wild. To keep an eye on the high-minded effort to preserve a bit of nature's bounty, check with the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (www.miamiblue.org or 305-666-5727).

BEST CONVENTION OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS OtakuCon Anime Convention Fontainebleau Hilton Resort

4441 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach

305-538-2000 Hordes of imagination-fired freaks and geeks took over a landmark Miami Beach hotel in late December to celebrate the colorful and expanding world of anime. The three-day gathering was overrun by people, young and old, who find an especially animated pleasure in pretending to be cartoon characters with oversize eyes, mouths, and personality disorders. At OtakuCon, which translates to "hyper-fan convention," anime cultists had a chance to live out their fantasies. Leggy women with waist-length hair paraded around in skimpy homemade costumes, bringing to life their favorite anime pin-up girls. Boys of all ages bopped around in ninja and samurai getups. When they were not busy attending seminars about how to pick up dates or how to destroy Majin Buu (a bubble-gum pink warrior from Dragon Ball Z), OtakuConventioneers took part in "cosplaying," which is the art of playing scenes with other anime characters. Unreal? Surreal? Real cool.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN Ellis Tillman The Constant Wife As the resident costume designer for the Coconut Grove Playhouse, Tillman has been turning out first-rate work for years. But he outdid even himself with this stylish, dryly funny design scheme for Somerset Maugham's Jazz Age comedy. With what seemed an endless parade of snazzy outfits, Tillman's designs helped define the play's characters -- subtly suggesting their conformity, fashion obsessions, and slightly ludicrous tastes, and in the process perfectly reflecting Maugham's acerbic wit. Encore, Ellis!

BEST DANCE COMPANY Giovanni Luquini Performance Troupe www.luquinidance.org "Straight out of Miami, and into the world, we bring you groove, myth, and athletic fury," Giovanni Luquini declares on his Website. If it sounds like an intense statement for a dance company, well, it is. And rightly so. There is nothing soft or delicate about this troupe (the members will happily leave the tutus-and-tights fare to the Miami City Ballet), because Luquini, who formed the GLPT in 1996, a year after he moved from his native Brazil to Miami, insists on pumping dance, theater, athletics, and raw emotion into every stretch, turn, and jump. His performances are a multimedia sensory overload -- urban poetry, pop culture, and real emotion rolled into one dynamic performance. His latest work, Slices, is no exception. The moving neo-noir poem incorporates superheroes, belly buttons, and DJ Le Spam. Dance is supposed to make you tingle, not fall asleep, and Luquini delivers just the right amount of caffeine.

BEST DAY TRIP Clyde Butcher's Muck-About Big Cypress Gallery

52388 Tamiami Trail

Ochopee

239-695-2428; 888-999-9113 The Swamp. Is it a place of psychedelic gases and weedy monsters? Do alligators battle pythons for dominion over a few feet of muck? Are creepy crawlies lying in wait for a hapless tourist to wander by? Is it fodder for comic books and horror movies or simply a place of misunderstood beauty? At Everglades photographer Clyde Butcher's studio on the outskirts of the Big Cypress Preserve, the swamp becomes a friendly, inviting place. Every Labor Day even the most citified flatlander can get up-close and personal with the complicated wetlands that give life to the tail end of Florida. There are photographic workshops, displays, music, food, and other festivities, but the real gem is the popular Muck-About. A guided tour wanders through a pristine cypress strand. This is no prance across an elevated walkway. It's a down-and-dirty plod in brown water and decomposing matter sure to destroy some article of clothing. You'll observe nature in its mostly quiet glory. And in case you are wondering, the gators and monsters mostly snooze during the day -- unless disturbed.

BEST DIRECTOR Michael Hall The Loman Family Picnic The veteran Hall has long been known for consistent professionalism, but this time out his direction of Donald Margulies's oddball memory play really excelled. Hall's compelling visuals were easy to spot, and to admire, while his subtle, beautifully paced scene-work and careful coaching of two child actors were far more subtle but just as effective. The result was a carefully orchestrated, fully realized theatric vision that was the highlight of the season.

BEST DOLPHINS PLAYER Randy McMichael During what was arguably the Dolphins' worst year, tight end Randy McMichael caught 73 passes for 791 yards (passing Keith Jackson for the Dolphins' single-season records for catches and yards), averaging 10.8 yards per reception. At times McMichael seemed like the sole offensive weapon, and though he posted career-best stats, he probably would have had an even better season if he'd been playing with passers more capable than those in the Dolphins' rotation.

Readers´ Choice: Jason Taylor

BEST DRAG QUEEN Adora Out of costume Adora is a seriously cute Latin boy by the name of Danilo. In costume she's one of Miami's hardest-working girls, surviving the trends of fickle Miami for the past fourteen years. Her trademarks are platinum tresses, glittering red lips, and ostentatious eyelashes. She's loud, funny, and of course outrageous. Her style is campy glam, heavy on the Fifties fashions with a Cuban accent. Her favorites -- songs by La Lupe, Yma Sumac, and Maria Callas -- still kill onstage. So how does a girl keep her act fresh after so many years when other queens have come and gone? "It's a lot of work," Adora admits. "If you blink, you can bore people. You have to be alert to what's going in the news so you can be funny. I can't explain it. It's like a baby. You have to feed it and wash it and always be on top of what's going on with it." Adora works weekly at Back Door Bamby -- crobar's Monday-night party -- and holds down regular gigs at Score, Twist, and O'Zone.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®