BEST PLACE TO PLAY SHUFFLEBOARD North Shore Park and Youth Center 501 72nd Street

Miami Beach

305-861-3616 Hey, we thought shuffleboard was going the way of lawn darts and horseshoes, but new courts are still being built in the area. This outdoor activity was popular in fifteenth-century England, made its way across the pond on the decks of glorious transatlantic cruise ships, and was introduced to Daytona Beach in 1913. The modern rules of the game were defined in St. Petersburg, where the National Shuffleboard Association was founded in 1931. So now you know why shuffleboard is associated with Florida retirees and cruises. But if you're not planning a trip on a big ship or ready to chill with the senior set, you have other options. North Shore Park opened this past summer with three well-lighted shuffleboard courts that are free for you to use during park hours. Simply check in at the front desk, swap your ID for discs and cues, and you're good to go. The courts are open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

BEST PLACE TO PLAY SHUFFLEBOARD North Shore Park and Youth Center 501 72nd Street

Miami Beach

305-861-3616 Hey, we thought shuffleboard was going the way of lawn darts and horseshoes, but new courts are still being built in the area. This outdoor activity was popular in fifteenth-century England, made its way across the pond on the decks of glorious transatlantic cruise ships, and was introduced to Daytona Beach in 1913. The modern rules of the game were defined in St. Petersburg, where the National Shuffleboard Association was founded in 1931. So now you know why shuffleboard is associated with Florida retirees and cruises. But if you're not planning a trip on a big ship or ready to chill with the senior set, you have other options. North Shore Park opened this past summer with three well-lighted shuffleboard courts that are free for you to use during park hours. Simply check in at the front desk, swap your ID for discs and cues, and you're good to go. The courts are open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

BEST PICNIC SPOT Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 10901 Old Cutler Road

Coral Gables

305-667-1651

www.fairchildgarden.org If the kindly volunteers who take your admission tickets see your picnic gear and suggest that you enjoy your repast on the tables near the Garden Café, smile and nod pleasantly. Then head straight for one of many secluded lakeside spots, far from the café, where you can spread a blanket and partake of a peaceful and leisurely picnic in a secluded, gorgeous setting. It's a mystery why Fairchild administrators don't actively promote this appealing aspect of a visit to the gardens. On the other hand, it's probably just as well they don't. This way it'll remain our little secret.

Readers´ Choice: Matheson Hammock

BEST PICNIC SPOT Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden 10901 Old Cutler Road

Coral Gables

305-667-1651

www.fairchildgarden.org If the kindly volunteers who take your admission tickets see your picnic gear and suggest that you enjoy your repast on the tables near the Garden Café, smile and nod pleasantly. Then head straight for one of many secluded lakeside spots, far from the café, where you can spread a blanket and partake of a peaceful and leisurely picnic in a secluded, gorgeous setting. It's a mystery why Fairchild administrators don't actively promote this appealing aspect of a visit to the gardens. On the other hand, it's probably just as well they don't. This way it'll remain our little secret.

Readers´ Choice: Matheson Hammock

Miccosukee Golf and Country Club
BEST DRIVING RANGE Miccosukee Golf and Country Club 6401 Kendale Lakes Drive

Kendale Lakes

305-382-3930 Planted deep in the suburban sprawl known as Kendale Lakes, somewhere between stucco housing development A and stucco housing development B, is the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club. Formerly the Miami National Golf Club, the land, just west of another holey spread at Calusa Country Club (shame on Miamians who say there's not enough green space) was purchased by the tribe in 2001. Don't have time between picking up the kids from soccer and CSI: Whatever to squeeze in a round on one of the three nine-holers? Not to worry. The MGCC driving range (open from sunup to sundown) boasts enough space for 50 Tiger or Annika wannabes, lights in the evening, large buckets of high-quality balls for five bucks, chipping and putting greens, a sports bar, and a restaurant -- all close enough to reach with a putter. If your putt is a bit off, resident pro Carlos Puerto might have a tip or two. And there's a pro shop staffed by friendly and helpful staffers. The only thing missing is a slot machine beside each mat.

BEST DRIVING RANGE Miccosukee Golf and Country Club 6401 Kendale Lakes Drive

Kendale Lakes

305-382-3930 Planted deep in the suburban sprawl known as Kendale Lakes, somewhere between stucco housing development A and stucco housing development B, is the Miccosukee Golf and Country Club. Formerly the Miami National Golf Club, the land, just west of another holey spread at Calusa Country Club (shame on Miamians who say there's not enough green space) was purchased by the tribe in 2001. Don't have time between picking up the kids from soccer and CSI: Whatever to squeeze in a round on one of the three nine-holers? Not to worry. The MGCC driving range (open from sunup to sundown) boasts enough space for 50 Tiger or Annika wannabes, lights in the evening, large buckets of high-quality balls for five bucks, chipping and putting greens, a sports bar, and a restaurant -- all close enough to reach with a putter. If your putt is a bit off, resident pro Carlos Puerto might have a tip or two. And there's a pro shop staffed by friendly and helpful staffers. The only thing missing is a slot machine beside each mat.

BEST PLACE TO BIRDWATCH Anhinga Trail Royal Palm Visitor Center

Everglades National Park

South Miami-Dade

305-242-7700 There are other trails where you're likely to see the full variety of South Florida's wading bird population, but none so accessible to the novice, and none with more of a certainty of close-up encounters with tricolored heron, great blue heron, anhinga, cormorant, egret (and egret rookeries), little blues, greens. It's touristy, sure, but even the wilder coastal trails, while offering a more pristine natural beauty, generally are less likely to have so many birds. This trail -- part paved path, part boardwalk -- snakes around and through a shallow-water saw-grass habitat, a hardwood hammock, deep ponds, and mangrove marshes where you will definitely see garfish, alligators, turtles, and maybe even an otter along with all the birds. The largest number of animals can be seen in winter, when parts of the Everglades dry up, leaving the available water and food (read: fish) supply concentrated in deeper channels like those at Anhinga Trail.

BEST PLACE TO BIRDWATCH Anhinga Trail Royal Palm Visitor Center

Everglades National Park

South Miami-Dade

305-242-7700 There are other trails where you're likely to see the full variety of South Florida's wading bird population, but none so accessible to the novice, and none with more of a certainty of close-up encounters with tricolored heron, great blue heron, anhinga, cormorant, egret (and egret rookeries), little blues, greens. It's touristy, sure, but even the wilder coastal trails, while offering a more pristine natural beauty, generally are less likely to have so many birds. This trail -- part paved path, part boardwalk -- snakes around and through a shallow-water saw-grass habitat, a hardwood hammock, deep ponds, and mangrove marshes where you will definitely see garfish, alligators, turtles, and maybe even an otter along with all the birds. The largest number of animals can be seen in winter, when parts of the Everglades dry up, leaving the available water and food (read: fish) supply concentrated in deeper channels like those at Anhinga Trail.

BEST PUBLIC PARK Tropical Park 7900 Bird Road

West Miami-Dade

305-223-8710 No place else in Miami-Dade County offers an array of activities and amenities to compete with 275-acre Tropical Park. Among them: baseball/softball fields (fields can be reserved; batting cages temporarily closed), lighted tennis courts, a fully equipped equestrian center (including several show rings and competition courses, covered seating, and more than 250 stalls), lakes, fishing for kids, canoes and paddle boats, basketball and racquetball courts, tot lots, hiking and biking paths, and food concessions. That doesn't include picnic areas with tables, barbecues, and pavilions that can be reserved. Plus there's Tropical Park Stadium, which has hosted everything from track-and-field meets to concerts to semi-pro football.

Readers´ Choice: Tropical Park

BEST PUBLIC PARK Tropical Park 7900 Bird Road

West Miami-Dade

305-223-8710 No place else in Miami-Dade County offers an array of activities and amenities to compete with 275-acre Tropical Park. Among them: baseball/softball fields (fields can be reserved; batting cages temporarily closed), lighted tennis courts, a fully equipped equestrian center (including several show rings and competition courses, covered seating, and more than 250 stalls), lakes, fishing for kids, canoes and paddle boats, basketball and racquetball courts, tot lots, hiking and biking paths, and food concessions. That doesn't include picnic areas with tables, barbecues, and pavilions that can be reserved. Plus there's Tropical Park Stadium, which has hosted everything from track-and-field meets to concerts to semi-pro football.

Readers´ Choice: Tropical Park

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®