Biscayne National Park
BEST SNORKELING SPOT Biscayne National Park 9700 SW 328th Street

South Miami-Dade

305-230-1144 Perennial winner and favorite of locals who want to avoid the famously crowded place next door, Biscayne National Park isn't the easiest spot to get to -- unless you have your own watercraft. Fortunately the concessionaire has a wide range of tours, boat and equipment rentals, and trips, including jaunts to the mere five percent of the park that sits above the high-tide line. (Yes, this park is almost completely submarine.) Especially intrepid divers should consider visiting the archaeological wrecks on the eastern flank. Reservations are highly recommended because access to the park is limited, a fact that contributes to its continued vitality.

Readers´ Choice: John Pennekamp Coral Reef and State Park

BEST SNORKELING SPOT Biscayne National Park 9700 SW 328th Street

South Miami-Dade

305-230-1144 Perennial winner and favorite of locals who want to avoid the famously crowded place next door, Biscayne National Park isn't the easiest spot to get to -- unless you have your own watercraft. Fortunately the concessionaire has a wide range of tours, boat and equipment rentals, and trips, including jaunts to the mere five percent of the park that sits above the high-tide line. (Yes, this park is almost completely submarine.) Especially intrepid divers should consider visiting the archaeological wrecks on the eastern flank. Reservations are highly recommended because access to the park is limited, a fact that contributes to its continued vitality.

Readers´ Choice: John Pennekamp Coral Reef and State Park

Personal Best Programming librarian Samantha Haber hosts a weekly club for anime enthusiasts thirteen and older to watch films, discuss graphic novels, and practice drawing in the Japanese style at the South Miami Branch Library. (The downtown branch also offers a club for younger fans ages nine and older.)

This cool, stereotype-busting individual loves the kids but knows how to parse the contents of the shelves as well. "A library is a place where everyone has equal and free access to books, music, maps, movies, and all types of information," Haber says. "But what drew me to librarianship is the fact that a library is the place where people and books often connect for the first time. It is often where imagination is first experienced. I always wanted to be the facilitator of that experience."

Best comic-book shop: Am I allowed to say your local library? I mean, c'mon, I am a librarian here.

Best cheap thrill (either for teens or adults): Lincoln Road on South Beach, without a doubt. There's no cost to check out the art galleries, clothing shops, bookstores (Books & Books is amazing!) and unbelievably freaky street performers. It's the best people-watching in town. If it's too hot to stroll, try the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Only three dollars for students and five for grownups.

Best reason to stay in Miami for the summer: I guess answering the beach would be much too obvious, huh? In that case, I would say, the music. I don't know what it is about Miami in the summer, but every indie band and their mom seems to end up on tour down here. Specifically, check out clubs like I/O, Churchill's, and Soho Lounge. The shows aren't that expensive either.

Best used bookstore: Fifteenth Street Books in Coral Gables. But again, libraries have lots of used books (I know, I know -- I couldn't resist).

Best local writer (for youngsters and adults): There are so many of them. For children, Joanne Hyppolite and Ana Veciana-Suarez top the list. For teenagers, I'd say Edwidge Danticat and Alex Sanchez (a part-time Miamian). For adults, poet Campbell McGrath and nonfiction writer Jim DeFede take my literary cake.

What will public libraries be like in 2035? Libraries must adapt to meet the needs of the community. When books on tape became popular, we bought them. When books on CD became the new thing, we bought those. Whatever the latest thing in 2035 is, you can bet we'll have it.

Personal Best Programming librarian Samantha Haber hosts a weekly club for anime enthusiasts thirteen and older to watch films, discuss graphic novels, and practice drawing in the Japanese style at the South Miami Branch Library. (The downtown branch also offers a club for younger fans ages nine and older.)

This cool, stereotype-busting individual loves the kids but knows how to parse the contents of the shelves as well. "A library is a place where everyone has equal and free access to books, music, maps, movies, and all types of information," Haber says. "But what drew me to librarianship is the fact that a library is the place where people and books often connect for the first time. It is often where imagination is first experienced. I always wanted to be the facilitator of that experience."

Best comic-book shop: Am I allowed to say your local library? I mean, c'mon, I am a librarian here.

Best cheap thrill (either for teens or adults): Lincoln Road on South Beach, without a doubt. There's no cost to check out the art galleries, clothing shops, bookstores (Books & Books is amazing!) and unbelievably freaky street performers. It's the best people-watching in town. If it's too hot to stroll, try the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Only three dollars for students and five for grownups.

Best reason to stay in Miami for the summer: I guess answering the beach would be much too obvious, huh? In that case, I would say, the music. I don't know what it is about Miami in the summer, but every indie band and their mom seems to end up on tour down here. Specifically, check out clubs like I/O, Churchill's, and Soho Lounge. The shows aren't that expensive either.

Best used bookstore: Fifteenth Street Books in Coral Gables. But again, libraries have lots of used books (I know, I know -- I couldn't resist).

Best local writer (for youngsters and adults): There are so many of them. For children, Joanne Hyppolite and Ana Veciana-Suarez top the list. For teenagers, I'd say Edwidge Danticat and Alex Sanchez (a part-time Miamian). For adults, poet Campbell McGrath and nonfiction writer Jim DeFede take my literary cake.

What will public libraries be like in 2035? Libraries must adapt to meet the needs of the community. When books on tape became popular, we bought them. When books on CD became the new thing, we bought those. Whatever the latest thing in 2035 is, you can bet we'll have it.

BEST PLACE TO KAYAK Virginia Key Marine Sanctuary Put in either at Crandon Marina on Key Biscayne or from the Virginia Key beach. Your destination is the northwest quadrant of Virginia Key's offshore waters, an area from which all powered vessels are banned. What you'll see once you get there: rays lounging on patches of sandy bottom, manatees year round, all manner of wading birds, a decent variety of fish, and the occasional pack of cruising sharks. You'll also discover (sooner or later) the natural lagoon that penetrates deep into the key. It's startling to look up from this pristine marine environment and gaze across the water toward the mainland. Brickell high-rises loom as if from a different world. Note: Avoid low tide if possible -- and please don't tell anyone about this secret place.

BEST PLACE TO KAYAK Virginia Key Marine Sanctuary Put in either at Crandon Marina on Key Biscayne or from the Virginia Key beach. Your destination is the northwest quadrant of Virginia Key's offshore waters, an area from which all powered vessels are banned. What you'll see once you get there: rays lounging on patches of sandy bottom, manatees year round, all manner of wading birds, a decent variety of fish, and the occasional pack of cruising sharks. You'll also discover (sooner or later) the natural lagoon that penetrates deep into the key. It's startling to look up from this pristine marine environment and gaze across the water toward the mainland. Brickell high-rises loom as if from a different world. Note: Avoid low tide if possible -- and please don't tell anyone about this secret place.

BEST BEACH Virginia Key Beach Once the playground of the unwanted, Virginia Key has been a refuge for nudists and, during segregation, African-American bathers. The island is also home to a landfill and a big, stinky water-treatment plant. It was an environmental ghetto just a hop, skip, and jump from some of the fanciest real estate in the world, but the past few years have seen dramatic changes. A vast revitalization plan has begun to do wonders for the filthy beach. The usual exotic suspects like Brazilian pepper and Australian pine are gone, and with the tender care of naturalist Juan Fernandez and his team, the native habitat has been reborn. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also begun shoring up the beach itself to fight dreaded erosion. That effort has far to go: The war in Iraq siphoned off money earmarked for restoration, and debate rages on about how much development would be a good thing and how much would be too much. But the improvements, the sense of history, the ecology, and the genuine wonderfulness make this place special.

Readers´ Choice: South Beach

BEST BEACH Virginia Key Beach Once the playground of the unwanted, Virginia Key has been a refuge for nudists and, during segregation, African-American bathers. The island is also home to a landfill and a big, stinky water-treatment plant. It was an environmental ghetto just a hop, skip, and jump from some of the fanciest real estate in the world, but the past few years have seen dramatic changes. A vast revitalization plan has begun to do wonders for the filthy beach. The usual exotic suspects like Brazilian pepper and Australian pine are gone, and with the tender care of naturalist Juan Fernandez and his team, the native habitat has been reborn. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has also begun shoring up the beach itself to fight dreaded erosion. That effort has far to go: The war in Iraq siphoned off money earmarked for restoration, and debate rages on about how much development would be a good thing and how much would be too much. But the improvements, the sense of history, the ecology, and the genuine wonderfulness make this place special.

Readers´ Choice: South Beach

BEST PLACE TO HIKE Big Cypress National Preserve Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) approximately 54 miles west of downtown Miami

239-695-1201

www.nps.gov/bicy/sandytrail Why drive more than an hour just to find a place to hike? Because the drive across the Everglades is itself engrossing, and because Big Cypress boasts far more hiking trails, and a greater variety of trails, than anywhere else in South Florida. The Website address above will take you directly to the preserve's hiking page. You'll be surprised what you find, not least of which are the warnings: difficult terrain, waist-deep water, disorientation. There are a number of trail options for light hikers, including some that stay high and dry all year. But you know you're in marvelously challenging territory when park service experts practically scream at you to carry a GPS unit with extra batteries -- and you'd better know how to use it!

BEST PLACE TO HIKE Big Cypress National Preserve Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) approximately 54 miles west of downtown Miami

239-695-1201

www.nps.gov/bicy/sandytrail Why drive more than an hour just to find a place to hike? Because the drive across the Everglades is itself engrossing, and because Big Cypress boasts far more hiking trails, and a greater variety of trails, than anywhere else in South Florida. The Website address above will take you directly to the preserve's hiking page. You'll be surprised what you find, not least of which are the warnings: difficult terrain, waist-deep water, disorientation. There are a number of trail options for light hikers, including some that stay high and dry all year. But you know you're in marvelously challenging territory when park service experts practically scream at you to carry a GPS unit with extra batteries -- and you'd better know how to use it!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®