BEST MALL North Miami and Aventura strip-mall tour Biscayne Boulevard from 135th Street to 206th Street You've schlepped through many a shopping mall. And let's face it, they're all pretty much the same. Take a break from the mall-rat race to appreciate the booming development along Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami and Aventura. Here's your itinerary:

1. Keystone Plaza at 135th Street for Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Ben & Jerry's, Chicken Kitchen, or Einstein Bros., because you'll need the fuel.

2. On My Own clothing boutique at 180th Street for unique (albeit pricey) finds, like colorful embroidered tunics from India.

3. Pier 1 Imports at 186th Street for decorating inspiration. (It's hip and affordable.)

4. Loehmann's at 187th Street for top-of-the-line designer duds at rock-bottom prices. Barnes & Noble for a snack and for posing as an intellectual.

5. Bed Bath & Beyond at 192nd Street for bathroom accessories (because, admit it, your bath towels are downright ratty!). DSW Shoe Warehouse for inexpensive shoes and Old Navy for casual basics.

6. Circuit City at 206th Street for your partner, who's been so patient. The Birkenstock shop, Michael's craft store, and Marshall's, for yourself. (Prowl the discount racks and explore the improved home furnishings and accessories section in the back.)

7. And finally: the bar at Chili's at 199th Street for an El Niño Margarita, because a stiff drink is the only proper way to end a day of consumer frenzy.

See? Urban sprawl ain't so bad after all.

BEST MATERNITY BOUTIQUE Mommy's Place 5845 SW 73rd Street

South Miami

305-663-5636

www.mommysplacematernity.com When your belly is expanding, your feet are swollen, and you're not feeling like your usual sassy self, you still want to wear stylish (but comfortable) clothing. And because you never know when the next mood swing will kick in and you'll suddenly find yourself irrationally hating plaids or polka dots, you want the clothing to be affordable. Mommy's Place has eveningwear, swimsuits, lingerie, casual, and career clothing from hot maternity designers such as Olian, Tummi, Japanese Weekend, and Belly Basics, plus sexy denim from Earl Jean. And with tops and dresses priced from $40 to $150, you can be a cool mom with some change left in your pocket.

BEST MODEL TRAIN STORE Ready to Roll 831 NW 143rd Street

North Miami-Dade

305-688-8868

www.readytorolltrains.com Models from Z to G! No, these are not the words of a confused alphabetizer, it's what you'll find at Ready to Roll. The store has the widest selection of model train supplies in South Florida. Tracks, gravel, paints, even tiny trees, materials to build your models from scratch and prefabricated scale buildings can all be found at this shop. Five operating layouts in various scales are the highlight of the store. The O-scale model is as large as an average bedroom. Locomotives travel over bridges and through tunnels as miniature people stand nearby. The HO layout is smaller and more likely to fit in most homes. It has beautiful detailing, gravel specks and street signs, even a little fisherman, with rod in hand, standing in a sparkling lake. The staff at Ready to Roll will help with all your modeling needs -- special orders, layout advice, even custom paint jobs. And if it's a repair that you require, they can help you get your train back in perfect shape.

BEST MODEL TRAIN STORE Ready to Roll 831 NW 143rd Street

North Miami-Dade

305-688-8868

www.readytorolltrains.com Models from Z to G! No, these are not the words of a confused alphabetizer, it's what you'll find at Ready to Roll. The store has the widest selection of model train supplies in South Florida. Tracks, gravel, paints, even tiny trees, materials to build your models from scratch and prefabricated scale buildings can all be found at this shop. Five operating layouts in various scales are the highlight of the store. The O-scale model is as large as an average bedroom. Locomotives travel over bridges and through tunnels as miniature people stand nearby. The HO layout is smaller and more likely to fit in most homes. It has beautiful detailing, gravel specks and street signs, even a little fisherman, with rod in hand, standing in a sparkling lake. The staff at Ready to Roll will help with all your modeling needs -- special orders, layout advice, even custom paint jobs. And if it's a repair that you require, they can help you get your train back in perfect shape.

BEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STORE Sam Ash Music 5360 NW 167th Street

Miami Lakes

305-628-3510

and

11421 NW 12th Street

Miami

786-331-9688

www.samashmusic.com Sometimes bigger is better when it comes to a great music store, as it's all about selection, a place where both newbie guitarists who don't know the difference between nylon and steel strings and dudes who have Flying Vs older than said newbies can get their hands on anything and everything required to rock out. Crobar meets New World Symphony meets Churchill's in this 46,000-square-foot space, which houses everything from orchestral instruments and sheet music to DJ gear to all the drums, guitars, basses, and amps your inner Metallica can handle. The store also holds periodical clinics -- guitarist Alan Holdsworth and bassist Jeff Berlin are on the schedule -- and yes, you are allowed to play "Stairway to Heaven" (if you must).

BEST NEW MUSIC STORE Sweat Records 2320 NE Second Avenue

Miami

305-573-5681

www.sweatrecordsmiami.com This brand spanking new independent record store had its grand opening in Wynwood in March, and more than 500 people showed up to give a symbolic high five to its owners, former Poplife and Revolver DJ Lauren Reskin and former WVUM-FM (90.5) DJ Sara Yousuf. Posters of Napoleon Dynamite and Interpol watch over CD bins filled with everything from Yo La Tengo to Bloc Party. Within its turquoise walls, Sweat also sells used CDs, albums by local bands, DVDs, underground music mags, Japanese toys, vinyl, and works by area artists. The space boasts a back-yard patio as well as a DJ station sporting the latest equipment, which spinners can sign up to use any time -- that is, when Sweat isn't hosting one of its many in-store hootenannies. "Notice there is no ö.99' in our prices. That's because we know you're not stupid," reads a sign taped above the CDs. You would be stupid, however, if you didn't check out Miami's latest attempt to keep it real.

BEST PLACE FOR DJS TO BUY VINYL Uncle Sam's 1141 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach

305-532-0973

www.unclesamsmusic.com This was a toughie, with honorable mention going to Grooveman. In the end, however, Sam's amazingly expansive selection (which they should consider cataloging into a computer) coupled with the fact that DJs can drop their potential wax on the needle before they commit, is what put the Uncle over the top. This independent record store has been a staple of the underground music scene since it first opened its doors in 1992. Some of the most influential DJs in Miami know that if they need a juicy, little-known track to get the party bumpin', they'll be able to find it here. It's not just the locals either. Deckmasters from around the world can't help but drop in to check out the latest and greatest. The life of a working DJ usually doesn't begin till well after the sun goes down and Sam's knows that. They stay open till 2:00 a.m. daily, allowing for late-night perusing of all the goods, including exclusive vinyl not to be found anywhere else to merchandise and even concert tickets.

BEST PLACE TO BUY LATIN MUSIC Lily's Records Various locations in Miami-Dade County

305-856-0536

www.realpagessites.com/lilirecords When you get that itch for a little Johnny Ventura or Thalia you must know where to go. Since 1976 Lily's has had the largest supply of merengue, salsa, cumbia, and various international CDs in Miami. If they don't have exactly what you're looking for, they'll order it. But more than likely patrons will be able to find the hip-shaking jams they couldn't find anywhere else. With five locations, Lily's makes it convenient for customers and musicians alike to immerse themselves in a virtual library of flavorful jams. The stores also offer musical instruments like bongos, claves, güiros, guitars, and maracas to permit any listening experience to evolve into an interactive musical session. What's more, the shop provides complete production services and serves as a CD manufacturer.

BEST PLACE TO GET A USED BIKE Victor's Bicycles & Supplies 3434 NW 27th Avenue

Miami

305-638-1443 Grease cakes Osvaldo Rojas's fingers. His stained, callused hands are the mark of a meticulous man who takes pride in refurbishing bicycles. Rojas is part of a family-owned business that has sold used bikes for more than 30 years. Open Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Victor's has a wide selection of used bikes ranging in price from $30 to $75. The shop's selection includes children's bicycles by Huffy, professional racing bikes from Cannondale, and most everything in between. Victor's is easy to find: It's the big royal blue building with the billboard-size black sign with gold lettering.

BEST PLANT NURSERY Richard Lyons' Nursery 20200 SW 134th Avenue

South Miami-Dade

305-251-6293

www.rarefloweringtrees.com This place is an utterly charming antidote to the mega-nurseries that never surprise. Mr. Lyons is a Miami-based real estate attorney who loves plants and has run a nursery on his South Dade property since 1961. He grows and sells the standards (including orchids), but he also specializes in exotic flowering trees and vines such as brownea ($150 for a small tree), bombax ceiba ($35 for a small tree), and jade vine ($45 to $150). This is also a fun place to simply walk around -- there is a distinctly intimate feel, with foliage of all types sprouting from every available space around Lyons's garage and house, air plants tagged for sale growing in the crooks of trees in his front yard, friendly cats prowling about, and bathtubs full of water plants here and there. The one drawback: Lyons's place is tucked away in a very rural part of the county, and is consequently difficult to find. Drivers should not try to take Eureka Drive to 134th Avenue -- the two streets don't intersect. Instead, take Quail Roost Drive to 134th Avenue.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®