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 LOCAL POLITICIAN State Rep. Dan Gelber Miami Beach office: 305-531-7831

Tallahassee office: 850-488-0690

[email protected] It's not easy being a Democrat in Tallahassee these days. Not easy, that is, if you want to be effective. Dan Gelber, whose District 106 encompasses the coastal communities from Miami Beach to the Broward County line, is one Democrat who has managed to be quite effective despite the Republicans' stranglehold over both House and Senate. How has he done it? By being way smarter than most elected officials in Tallahassee, in particular his colleagues in the Miami-Dade delegation. Of course, Gelber himself would never admit this, but it's true. Because he's smart, he knows when to stand firm and when to compromise. Because he's smart, he understands the value of building lasting alliances, even among political foes. Because he's smart, he knows when to stay in the background and let someone else take credit. Because he's smart, his fellow Democrats earlier this year unanimously chose the 44-year-old former federal prosecutor to be their House Speaker-Designate for the 2006-2008 term. Okay, being smart isn't everything -- Gelber can also hold his own shooting hoops. Plus he's a genuinely nice guy.

Readers´ Choice: Marta P´rez

BEST PLACE TO SEE MIAMI LIKE A NATIVE -- A NINETEENTH-CENTURY NATIVE

Twelfth Annual Miami International Map Fair

BEST PLACE TO SEE MIAMI LIKE A NATIVE -- A NINETEENTH-CENTURY NATIVE Twelfth Annual Miami International Map Fair Hosted by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, the Map Fair drew a slightly less boisterous crowd of out-of-towners than the Boat Show or the Winter Music Conference, but one no less enthusiastic about a shared passion -- collecting vintage maps. Florida was a particular fave on display, and though the prices rarely started below $500 (and often climbed to twenty times that), the window-shopping among various dealers' tables was priceless, if a bit depressing. It was bracing to watch Miami's charted boundaries explode -- and those of the Everglades shrink -- from era to era. Of course there's still reason to be hopeful: That Louisiana Purchase outlined on one map looks mighty promising.

BEST MOVIE SHOT ON LOCATION Code 33 The filmmakers behind this crime documentary prove that footage of reality can be more dramatic than some overblown fictional Hollywood production that requires shutting down major traffic arteries. Code 33 is an ode to Miami's cultural diaspora pegged to one of the biggest local stories of 2003: the Shenandoah rapist. New York-based auteurs David Beilinson, Zachary Werner, Suki Hawley, and Michael Galinsky gathered more than 150 hours of footage from which to edit a raw, gripping film that transports the audience to the world of Cuban-American homicide detectives Fernando Bosch and Elio "Chills" Tamayo as they patrolled the streets of Little Havana, pulling over men who matched Miami-Dade Police Department forensic artist Samantha Steinberg's sketch of the suspect. The movie does a fantastic job of capturing a wide array of viewpoints, from the cannibalistic television coverage to the terror residents felt during the rapist's spree.

BEST PLACE TO MEET INTELLIGENT WOMEN Synergy Yoga Center 435 Española Way

Miami Beach

305-538-7073

www.synergyyoga.org If engaging conversation is what you desire from a potential mate, perhaps a jolt to the proper chakra will soothe that yearning heart. Bring your mat and position it strategically in the center of the studio room. Get there early and show lots of enthusiasm by learning the difference between hatha funyasa and jivamukti yoga. Pretty soon you'll be surrounded on four sides by fit, limber women who'll look with interest at a man who shares their interest in things metaphysical. The center offers studio classes day and night, or you can opt for lessons right on the sand at the beach nearby. Prices range from $5 to $14. That's a lot cheaper than an audition date would cost. Short of an IQ test, this is the best way to encounter a woman who at least is smart enough to take care of her body, mind, and soul.

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 POLITICAL CONVICTIONS OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Jacques Evens Thermilus and Richard Caride It didn't start out as a political case. It began as an inquiry into a simple heist -- albeit a long-running one. For years employees of private companies that work at Miami International Airport were stealing the valuable jet fuel by the truckload. When a multiagency team of investigators cracked the case, though, they uncovered a hive of politically connected companies and individuals fraudulently billing the airport for work that was either never done or vastly overpriced. As a result, several defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the State Attorney's Office. Jacques Evens Thermilus took a plea and led investigators to a similar scheme he was working with Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele, who was then arrested. Another MIA defendant, Richard Caride, pleaded guilty and told investigators about scheming with businessman Antonio Junior to defraud the airport, and also about Junior's close ties to county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler. Consequently authorities have opened another investigation.

BEST KING MANGO STRUTTER Bill Dobson You must be someone special when the grand dame of Miami journalism, Edna Buchanan, comes out of retirement to write your obituary. When Dobson died October 22, 2004, at the tender age of 49, Miami lost a unique gem. Some knew him as a dedicated county employee blessed with the sense of humor needed to navigate county hall's treachery and skullduggery. He served three county commissioners during his tenure, and even old colleagues who parted ways philosophically with Dobson during his last stint working for Commissioner Katy Sorenson admired his generous heart and sharp wit. "He certainly liked his cigarettes and his rum," says a former commission aide. But more people knew Dobson for his true loves -- friends, family members, and the King Mango Strut, the irreverent annual celebration of current events he co-founded 23 years ago.

BEST RADIO STATION 99 Jamz (WEDR-FM 99.1) www.wedr.com Many debate which is the best urban station: 99 Jamz or The Beat (WMIB-FM 103.5). It's a tough call, but 99 Jamz has a killer mix-show roster (including DJs Khaled, Irie, and KD), as well as several distinctive on-air voices, particularly the morning team of Big Lip Bandit, Supa Cindy, and Benji Brown. Then there's the music itself, which, while sometimes formulaic (this is commercial radio), often includes hot new local artists such as Dirtbag, Jacki-O, and most recently Prettie Rickie and the Maverix.

Readers´ Choice: WLRN-FM (91.3)

BEST ARCHITECTURAL EYESORE Miami Herald Building 1 Herald Plaza

Miami Plans for construction were announced in 1958, and before you could say Ugh! the views of Biscayne Bay from Overtown and the MacArthur Causeway were obliterated by this squat, hulking orange monument to stifled imagination. Clearly it was at the vanguard of a style (American Utilitarian?) that would inspire for decades to come the builders of high schools and inner-city housing projects. This is no Tribune Tower in Chicago, an Art Deco ode to that city's daily paper. Nor is it the stately neo-gothic 43rd Street headquarters of The New York Times. It's not even the Freedom Tower just down the road, for many years the distinctive home of the Miami News. This is just a generic orange splat gobbling up our precious waterfront. But there's hope on the horizon. This past March the Terra Group bought the building and the property for $190 million. Terra hasn't announced plans to raze the structure, at least not anytime soon. But one can always hope.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®