BEST STARGAZING Southern Cross Astronomical Society 1400 SW 107th Avenue

Miami

305-661-1375

www.scas.org

and

Bill Sadowski Park

17555 SW 79th Avenue

Palmetto Bay

305-255-4767

www.miamidade.gov/parks/parks/ bill_sadowski.asp When the Southern Cross Astronomical Society was founded in 1922, members would gaze at the skies with a five-inch Clark refractor from the Royal Palm Hotel and Park. Now they meet at Bill Sadowski Park and bring their eighteen-inch Dobsonian reflector. Whether you're a professional astronomer with a laptop attached to your scope's tracking system or a nine-year-old with a fascination for the stars, the friendly members of SCAS are happy to share their platform with you. They'll tell you where to find the Seven Sisters or let you look at the craters of the moon through their telescopes. And if it's the planets you're interested in, the Society's reflector will allow you to see the storm on Jupiter and the space between Saturn's rings. Members of SCAS like Bill Sadowski Park because of its proximity to the coast, east of South Dixie Highway. The stars begin their rise over the bay, which allows for a clear view before they descend toward the light-polluted city. Be sure to turn your headlights off before passing the gate, otherwise you'll ruin everyone's night vision.

BEST STORYTELLER Jan Mapou It's no surprise Jan Mapou is one of Miami's most well-versed storytellers, for the man possesses a lifetime of rich material. Born in Haiti, Mapou spent time in jail for speaking in Kreyol on a Port-au-Prince radio show, moved to New York in the early Seventies and then to Miami in the mid-Eighties, where he opened the Libreri Mapou in Little Haiti and started the cultural organization Sosyete Koukouy. But for Mapou, who writes plays and poetry as often as most people write grocery lists, it isn't his biography he likes to share with his audiences, but rather the magical stories of Haitian folklore. He told many of these tales on his radio show in Haiti, for which he took the on-air moniker Jan Mapou (his real name is Jean-Marie Willer Denis). The pseudonym translates to "the tree that never falls." Audiences at the many cultural events where he speaks often fall -- in love with his words.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Ian D. Clark Clark's delightful turn as a cuckolded husband was a classic cameo role and another bright moment in the Coconut Grove Playhouse's quite bright staging of The Constant Wife. Appearing in only one short scene, Clark demonstrated superb comedic timing, a spot-on British Midlands accent, and an inventive physicality that turned what could have been a throwaway part into a little gem of a performance.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Lorena Diaz Diaz, a resourceful actress with extensive range, delivered an outrageous, over-the-top performance in Betty's Summer Vacation (a Christopher Durang satire) as Mrs. Siezmagraff, the lunatic landlady from hell. Diaz was as fearless as she was shameless, creating a nightmarish cartoon of a character that ran away with this Mad Cat Theatre show, no minor accomplishment among a cast of real clowns. If there's any negative about Diaz's work, it's that it isn't seen often enough.

BEST THEATER FOR DRAMA Coconut Grove Playhouse 3500 Main Highway

Coconut Grove

305-442-4000 What's going on over at the Playhouse? The venerable theater has had its troubles in years past, but this season just about everything worked in its favor. Arnold Mittleman's slate of shows was challenging, a mix of classics and new scripts serving up drama, high comedy, and musical delight. This was backed with superior staffing -- a range of abundantly talented directors and designers, and a welcome blend of locally based and visiting actors. There's no telling how long this good run will continue, but for now the Playhouse sets the standard for top-quality theater in South Florida.

BEST THEATRICAL PRODUCTION The Loman Family Picnic Caldwell Theatre Company

7873 N. Federal Highway

Boca Raton

561-241-7432 Donald Margulies's funny, sad play about one unhappy Jewish family in 1965 Brooklyn received a startling, dynamic production from the Caldwell team, a noted departure from that troupe's usual safe fare. Visually striking staging was matched with an engaging cast and outstanding work from the resident design team. It all added up to an unusual, and memorable, production that played like a strange dream -- fascinating, sometimes illogical, always compelling.

BEST TOUR Redland Riot 305-443-7973

www.redlandriot.com Sunday morning. Rapidly approaching afternoon. Check list. Grind sticky green; twist Chonger for road. Print booklet from Website, crank up music, head down for Redland Riot. Cruise through area's fruity, tropical history in purple haze -- past quaint, funky Cauley Square. Hold joint low when rolling through downtown Homestead. Turn tunes up louder; sing joyfully. Visit Knaus Berry Farm; feast on delicious, oven-fresh, sticky-sweet buns. Profusely thank German Baptist farmers -- praise their heavenly munchables. Stop, stretch, stock up on fruit jelly and fresh veggies at Burr's Berry Farm. Satisfy ganja-related dry mouth at Robert Is Here. Stare goofily at animals while slurping fresh-fruit milkshake. E-mail friends about bus being spacious and comfortable. No loud, rickety airboats. No shady tour guides grasping; no money-grubbing at all. Just sweet relaxation. Down-home treats. Amazing key lime milkshake. A clear view of the glory found in South Miami-Dade. From list check off having blast.

BEST TOURIST TRAP Little Havana Little Havana is perfect for the tourist who wants to soak up local culture the way Cuban bread soaks up lechon juice. Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park is the main axis point of the neighborhood and a gathering spot for old-timers to play dominoes while arguing the finer points of exile politics. Visitors will be blown away by the guayaberas, the cigars, and the colorful expressions of the players. Everyone can pick up a set of dominoes and some kitschy souvenirs at nearby stores such as Little Havana to Go or grab a box of perfectly rolled cigars at one of the tiny factories such as El Credito Cigars. Lily's Records is packed with rump-shaking Cuban classics, and for full effect, there's Viernes Culturales, a street party offered on the last Friday night of each month. On other evenings Hoy Como Ayer provides a mix of classics and modern favorites for Havana-style clubbing. Almost no vacation to Miami is complete without a visit to Versailles for a little coffee and some authentic island food. There are plenty of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings in the area, including the Tower Theater. For out-of-towners it's an exotic international trip. For Miamians it's -- well, you know.

BEST TRADE (SPORTS TEAM) A.J. Feeley from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Miami Dolphins Forget Shaq. The Miami Heat's signing of the Big Diesel over the summer was a no-brainer. The deal that really turned things around for a South Florida sports team was the Dolphins' decision to give up a second-round pick in this year's college draft for quarterback A.J. Feeley, who could never really distance or distinguish himself from the Fins' other QB, Jay Fiedler. Where the heck is the positive in this? Feeley led the NFL in interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by opposing teams. And when Feeley wasn't throwing interceptions, he was getting knocked out of the game. Feeley's performance on the field obviously underscored the multitude of problems that wrecked the gridiron franchise last season. Here's the positive: The Feeley acquisition was one of many factors that played into team owner Wayne Huizenga's decision to replace head coach Dave Wannstedt with Nick Saban, the most coveted football guru available. Saban is a disciple of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team has won three of the past four Super Bowls. Saban was so hot he was turning down offers from NFL teams until Huizenga took him for a ride on his helicopter. With Saban around, Feeley may still have a shot at becoming a winning QB.

BEST TV NEWS ANCHOR Dwight Lauderdale WPLG-TV (Channel 10) With or without the mustache, and even sans Ann Bishop, no local TV journalist is more trusted and respected than the man behind the news desk at Channel 10. Since 1976 Lauderdale has been disseminating the grimy nonfiction of our sinful streets to an adoring public. Why is it that fans line up whenever he makes a public appearance? Maybe it's because, unlike some of his contemporaries (Shepard Smith), he's never punched out anyone over a parking space or announced the death of a pope 26 hours before the man actually passed away and then publicly blamed the mistake on a producer. When the big-time cable networks come calling, he, unlike Smith or Rick Sanchez, doesn't abandon the populace he's served for so many years. His longevity in a world of ten-second clips and a rotating cast of talking heads has made him a human institution in this town. Now he has earned an overdue spot in our winner's circle.

Readers´ Choice: Matt Lorch, WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®