BEST MAGIC CITY ICON The moon That's right, the big orb hanging supernaturally above the ocean on its twilight ascent, full and yellow and ghostly, shining brightly through a layer of hazy clouds. People stop and gawk, step out their doors and point heavenward, gather in primeval bands to bang on drums in celebration of its light. "Moon Over Miami," they sing of this lunar phenomenon, putting the "magic" in Magic City. As you drive east across the causeways, you see it -- hanging low over the horizon and beckoning you into the night, a tribal pulse that surges through your body. And it's there at the end of the night on your return drive, falling into the city over downtown, guiding you home like an old friend.

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 PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN www.eHarmony.com What's the hardest part about meeting women? They're pretty much always on the defensive. Internet match sites may not eliminate feminine defensiveness, but the good ones can reduce it significantly by giving women (and men) power to accept or reject at will. eHarmony.com is among the good ones, mainly because of extensive screening at the front end. More than 400 questions in almost 30 categories helps build a detailed profile that increases the chances you'll hook up with someone compatible. It's not the cheapest match site ($50 for one month; $250 for a year), but eHarmony boasts it has put together more engagements and marriages than any similar operation. (But who's keeping track?) The site is the brainchild of relationship guru Neil Clark Warren, a psychologist who has also written many books on the subject.

BEST LOCAL ARTIST Hernan Bas Finally a Miami artist worthy of the hype. There's a reason everyone from Mera Rubell to Michael Ovitz is singing the praises of New World School of the Arts graduate Hernan Bas. His evocative paintings are striking enough to have earned them a slot in the Whitney Biennial, though you hardly need an art expert to explain their appeal. The eye is immediately drawn to Bas's waiflike young men, homoerotically leaping into each other's arms or flitting across dreamlike landscapes. If his portraiture is at times a bit too enraptured with teen angst, well, Bas is barely out of his teens himself. And watching his talent continue to mature is going to be one of the Miami art scene's greatest pleasures.

BEST MIAMI HERALD WRITER Glenn Garvin Love him or hate him, Garvin has become a formidable presence at the Miami Herald, transforming the once staid job of TV critic into a prominent platform for a crusading conservative warrior. Simple sitcom reviews become launching pads for full-blown media criticism; even the slimmest of news pegs grows into a strike on cultural elitism. True, Garvin often still seems to be roaming the Nicaraguan countryside with the contras -- a bullet-dodging foreign correspondent role he played in the Eighties for the Washington Times -- with left-leaning Hollywood starlets and liberal press bias now standing in for the Sandinistas and Soviet expansionism. But that enduring Manichaean fervor is also what makes Garvin's writing so vital. Every piece is brimming with conviction, a sense that ideas matter, and that his words on those ideas demand to be read and pondered, whether he's mocking Dan Rather or shaking his head in disbelief over the mania surrounding Art Basel. In a newspaper that's far too full of stenography masquerading as journalism, with stories that often appear to be doing little more than filling space, Garvin is a welcome relief.

BEST HURRICANES FOOTBALL PLAYER Eric Winston In a year when Hurricanes football was down (no national title contention or Heisman Trophy candidates), why not recognize the usually unrecognized: the unsung heroes of the offensive line. For all the great quarterbacks, receivers, and backs the University of Miami has produced, there's been a legacy of equally outstanding offensive linemen, including NFL first-rounders Vernon Carey and Bryant McKinnie. This year the big man on campus is offensive tackle Eric Winston. Combining athleticism (he was recruited as an RB/TE for chrissakes), size (6-7, 310), intelligence, and power, Winston was switched from tight end to left tackle as a sophomore and excelled in that extremely important position. His efforts earned him MVP honors. Winston didn't need a griddle to make pancakes as he flattened opponents by the stack. Though he was sidelined with an injury in 2004, his senior year should place him among the elite in the nation and keep the orange-and-green offense moving forward.

Readers´ Choice: Antrel Rolle

BEST PLACE FOR ENGAGEMENT PICTURES Downtown Miami How many times has a hyper bride dragged you to the couch and forced you to page through pictures of her and her groom, dressed in white shirts and khakis, frolicking on the beach? Or standing under an arch at Country Club Prado? How about sitting on a rock at Matheson Hammock? If you want something with character when it's your turn to be the bride, try strutting, photographer in tow, through downtown Miami. The city provides the perfect backdrop for romantic pictures. Stop to kiss in a crowd or sit at a bus stop with a Miami ad on it. Lean on a pole near the water at Bayfront Park rather than against a column at the Biltmore. If you coordinate well, you could even take the pictures during one of the festivals that decorate downtown. Climb into a fair ride or just hold hands while you watch a free concert at Bayside. The photos will be more genuine, and the fun you're having will shine through the lens.

BEST PARTY OF THE YEAR MTV Video Music Awards Dear Diary: Something's up in the MIA. I don't exactly know what it is, but all week Ferraris and Lamborghinis with out-of-state plates have been zooming past me on the highway. Damn tourists with their boku bucks and flashy cars. Dear Diary: I was at a stop light today and Missy Elliot pulled up next to me. I'd do her! Dear Diary: I can't explain it, but everywhere I go I keep seeing Usher plastered on billboards and in newspapers. He's all over the place. I don't know what the hell people see in that Justin Timberlake guy. Dear Diary: Apparently MTV is having its Video Music Awards in Miami this year. That's what all the hype was about. I gotta find a way to get myself close to the action. Dear Diary: I came up with the perfect plan. I'm renting a limo and buying myself a pimpin' suit. The reason? I'm going to pretend I'm a rock star at the Ocean Drive after-party and I'm going to crash it. Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra are going to be there. Dear Diary: It's D-day. Tonight I'm going to party like it was 1999. The limo will be here shortly, the booze is on ice, and I have more plastic baggies than I can fit in my pocket. It's going to be some night. Dear Diary: Where the hell am I? I must have passed out. The last thing I remember was walking the red carpet with a shitload of celebrities like Dave Chappelle and the Beastie Boys. My celebrity whore girlfriend left me to party with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on some private yacht. I didn't care because my long hair, pimpin' shades, and rock star suit made people think I was the frontman of that shitty band Creed. Even John Surgent, one of the principals of some new club in Hollywood called Gryphon, came up and begged me to play at his grand opening. For a while there, I think I was dancing with Al Sharpton. Dear Diary: I shaved my head today.

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 HOTEL Four Seasons 1435 Brickell Avenue

Miami

305-358-3535 Not because it is housed in the tallest building in Florida, with hotel rooms between floors 20 and 29. Not because its staff is rigorously trained in the fine art of discreet and thoughtful service. Not because the rooms are smartly designed and tastefully appointed. Not because the seventh-floor lobby is so cool. Not because the snazzy bar, 14-Thirty-Five, invites you to linger. Not because the swimming pool and its Bahia bar and grill offer a spectacular setting and excellent cocktails. Not because it is, overall, the most sophisticated place in Miami. But because the building's owners, Millennium Partners, saw fit to hire New York art consultant Edsel Williams, who spent a full year, with the assistance of collaborator Joan Warren Grady, selecting the hotel's artwork. Forty artists are represented, and nearly all of them live and work in Miami. Don't let the hulking Botero sculptures mislead you about Williams's taste. A stroll around the public spaces is like a walk through a museum devoted to Miami's most talented artists, among them Daniel Arsham, Hernan Bas, Bhakti Baxter, José Bedia, William Cordova, Edouard Duval-Carríe, Nina Ferre, Jacin Giordano, Lynne Golob Gelfman, Maria Martinez-Cañas, Brandon Opalko, Martin Oppel, Vicki Pierre, Tao Rey, Karen Rifas, Mette Tommerup, and Annie Wharton. It's an amazing collection, capped by the stunning Glexis Novoa triptych on marble that looms behind the reception desk.

Readers´ Choice: Mandarin Oriental

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®