BEST MUSEUM Miami Children's Museum 980 MacArthur Causeway

Miami

305-373-5437

www.miamichildrensmuseum.org Finally housed in a permanent location, the Miami Children's Museum has been able to turn its attention to developing a world-class educational playground for youngsters. Permanent and temporary exhibits, day camps, and classes are the main draws, but there is also an intriguing film program for budding auteurs that is perhaps the crown jewel (and boasts its own festival). Some parents have complained about the excessive branding from corporate sponsorship. That just sets up the opportunity to teach the little ones an important lesson about tuning out intrusions.

BEST NATURE CENTER Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center 6767 Crandon Boulevard

Key Biscayne

305-361-6767

www.biscaynenaturecenter.org South Florida's splendid weather encourages people to play hooky, and it's a clever Miamian who figures out a way to do it without guilt. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is a grand schoolhouse integrated with the great outdoors. The wonderful complex is set against mangroves, nature trails, and even a fossilized reef that make this not-for-profit facility a unique learning center instead of merely a playground. (If you are learning, can skipping a regular class or a day at work be all that wrong?) Guides lead tours through the various environments native to the area while instructing visitors about topics mostly having to do with conservation of natural resources. Some educational displays, exhibits, and art are housed inside, so even bad weather isn't a problem.

BEST NEW DRAMA Does Jesus Drum? Sometimes great gifts come in small packages. Set during the Civil War, Robert Linfors's brief playlet packed a real punch by examining the anguish and fear of parents whose fired-up young son is ready to enlist in the Confederate army. Linfors's timeless dramatic dilemma clearly resonated in today's wartime environment, and City Theatre's cast, featuring Elizabeth Dimon as the grieving mother, made a lasting impression.

BEST NIGHT TRIP Annual Winter Star Party 386-362-5995 Named after the constellation, the venerable Southern Cross Astronomical Society has brought gazers the Winter Star Party for twenty years, usually at West Summerland Key during the new moon in February or March. Why the Southern Cross moniker? For the hundreds of starry-eyed visitors who trek down for the party, the southern tip of Florida is the only place within the 48 contiguous states where it is possible to see this looking-up favorite. The party lasts for several days and attracts both amateurs and professionals who appreciate the big, dark skies of the Keys. There are speakers, workshops, and vendors galore. Camping is available, and there are even day events for those smart enough to plan an extended stay. Yes, locals love it too.

BEST OUTDOOR ART Dead Mouse by Billie Grace Lynn The ladies and gentlemen up north whose view of Miami has been shaped by magazines may wonder how one could possibly make this fair city any more beautiful than the tropical paradise portrayed in glossy ads for luxury condominium towers. Art is not all about beauty, nor is blight always devoid of art. To wit: Dead Mouse, a 40-foot-long inflated vinyl sculpture of the Disney character dressed in military fatigues, supine next to a pool of blood and a semiautomatic rifle. Billie Grace Lynn dreamed it up and then blew it up for Omniart at Art Basel 2004 in December. The incident, which occurred outside one of several warehouses that a large gang of hard-core Miami-based artists transformed into gallery spaces, caused shock and awe. Tina Spiro, who co-curated the show, notes that in the context of current affairs the work was simultaneously humorous and "a serious antiwar piece." Lynn pumped up an encore installation inflation for Art Miami in Miami Beach in early January, where she proved once more that some art is bound to beautify, while other art is destined to incite. This time the sculpture caused a band of apparent Islamic extremists to jump up and down on one of the giant infantry-mouse's arms, puncturing the poor rodent. When the interaction ceased, the appendage was deflated and the perpetrators revealed to be instead a group of intoxicated aesthetes from right here in Babylon.

BEST PANTHERS PLAYER Kristian Huselius and Andreas Lilja Even though the NHL season was canceled this year, two homeboys still managed to make international headlines when they were accused of raping a 22-year-old woman in Sweden. Even though the charges were eventually dropped, for Zamboni-deprived fans it was as exciting as a hat trick to see our team living up to the high moral standards we've come to expect from our athletes. After all, aren't headlines about questionable multinational sex-related crimes what Miami and hockey are all about?

Readers´ Choice: Roberto Luongo

BEST PERIODIQUITO The Miami Post The periodiquito publishing community is Miami-Dade County's guerrilla propaganda machine. These little community newspapers serve a singular purpose: putting forth the political agendas of their publishers. However, the Miami Post, assembled by one Luis Tornes, an esteemed editor who in the 21st Century can be contacted only via a P.O. box, has an agenda that seems to fall right in the middle of partisan politics. Tornes has no qualms about pasting unflattering articles about George W. Bush and Fidel Castro side-by-side, above the fold, on the front page of his monthly rag. The best part of the Post is its version of "Page Six," aptly titled "Cortaditos de Mafialandia," a full page of gossip about Miami's civic leaders. In the March edition, the Post speculated about the true reason behind Alberto Ibargüen's departure from the Miami Herald Publishing Co. In the column, Post reporter "Mr. Colada" tells his readers that Ibargüen was forced out by Knight Ridder honchos because the Miami Herald had become a journalistic laughingstock compared to other major newspapers across the nation. You can find the latest edition of the Miami Post at your nearest bakery on Calle Ocho or in the downtown offices of the county commission.

BEST PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT The Margulies Warehouse

591 NW 27th Street

Miami

305-576-1051 Visitors to South Florida continuously marvel at the private art collectors here who have thrown their personal stashes open to the public, and real-estate developer Martin Margulies has more than risen to the occasion. He owns an array of cutting-edge modern photography that rivals any museum, and he wants to share it. His collection, hung inside a sprawling Wynwood warehouse, covers the field's titans, and whether your tastes skew toward Walker Evans or Cindy Sherman, there's truly something here for everyone. Although Margulies certainly appreciates the field's classics, he has also embraced some of today's hottest shutterbugs, from Dutch portraitist Rineke Dijkstra and her studies of charmingly gawky adolescents to New York's current bad boy Anthony Goicolea, who puts a whole new delicious twist on the notion of the self-obsessed artist. For those who have only seen these photos reproduced as small images in magazines and books, gazing upon the actual full-size shot isn't just a treat -- it's a public service. Did we mention admission is free?

BEST PLACE DURING A HURRICANE (THAT REALLY DOESN'T SHOW UP)

Miami Beach around First Street

BEST PLACE DURING A HURRICANE (THAT REALLY DOESN'T SHOW UP) Miami Beach around First Street You ignore the mandatory evacuation and stay home on the Beach. It's pretty obvious the storm is heading elsewhere, but now you're bored silly and the weather's not too bad. Watching the Weather Channel is no longer interesting, and the news channels won't have any gratuitous "disaster porn" until tomorrow morning at the soonest. It's still too early in the day to drink, so what do you do? Head to First Street to be smack dab in the middle of a wall of surfing fanatics. Great swells are rare south of Sebastian Inlet, so when a hurricane brushes past South Florida on its march up the coast, the surfers head to the beach and try to squeeze themselves into the horde between Government Cut and Third Street. You get to watch the beach patrol guys make every effort to get the surfers out of the water. You see the surfers look at the patrol guys like they're the crazy ones. It is rather unsafe, even if you are just sitting on the shore -- but you were crazy enough to remain on the golden sandbar in the first place. Note: parking still difficult to find.

BEST PLACE FOR A SECOND DATE Café Sambal Mandarin Oriental Hotel

500 Brickell Key Drive

Miami

305-913-8251 Oh, yes. The first date was smokin': great conversation, definite chemistry, you didn't want the night to end. Even though you said you wouldn't do that on a first date, you did, and now he's nudging you for breakfast. Even if you aren't staying at the Mandarin Oriental, you can still pretend to be vacationing in a sleek hotel and let the romance continue with mimosas, eggs, and alfresco flirting. The All American Breakfast menu lists the staples -- French toast, sausage, fresh fruit juices -- but with the shimmering water of Biscayne Bay, a spectacular view of downtown Miami, and sexual tension so thick you can cut it with your apple-butter knife, you might forget breakfast and find yourselves a room.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®