"Um, we need to talk." Oy, you've been putting this off for months, but it has to be done. You are a Sagittarius and he's a Taurus, so you should have known this would have never worked out. But you stuck in there because he's cute and smart and he loves your pets as if they were his own. You really thought this maudlin experimental musician could have been the one, until he began complaining about your fun-loving, free-spirited attitude -- yes, the same attitude he fell in love with three years ago -- and now you realize the bull loves the same old routine while you are ready to fly off to Myanmar at a moment's notice. There is no use delaying the inevitable -- it must be done so you can both move on -- you just don't want to do it at your place or his (too many memories, too easy to backslide into the bedroom, too complicated). Just tell him to meet you at Noir Bar. You can have a drink, and the annoying techno remix version of "Mr. Brightside" bumping from the crackling sound system will add a bit of irony to the incident. The view is obstructed, the bartenders are a little clingy, and the martinis are a bit too dry -- kind of like your soon-to-be ex. Beer may never leave him, but you certainly will, so you might as well do it in a place that you would prefer not to go back to.
This spacious garage is usually almost empty, which means you can park your Bentley without risking door dings -- even when other lots are overflowing. It's also cheap (a buck an hour), clean, well lit, and conveniently located. You can catch the S and W bus lines nearby on Alton Road, and the 25-cent South Beach Local on West Avenue. This means easy access to all the Beach hot spots. Not that there's any need to travel. The stretch of West under the garage is one of the sweetest spots on the Beach. Where else can you get a massage, kosher-vegetarian fare, frozen yogurt, Italian shoes, and a good cult film all on the same block?
Alice C. Wainwright Park
Courtesy of the GMCVB
Open space and seclusion are two things not often found together in Miami. Power lines, palm trees, buildings, traffic, and other obstructions make it difficult for peace-seekers to find a retreat. Alice Wainwright Park is hidden in an oceanfront lot just north of the Vizcaya mansion. This oasis in the center of Miami's metropolitan madness offers a sweet taste of the simpler pleasures in life. And speaking of simple pleasures, the park's concealed and spacious character makes it a natural choice for kite-flying. The salt-scented breeze is enough to tickle your flying rhombus into an airborne dance while keeping you cool under the notorious South Florida sun. You don't have to worry about honking cars shaking your concentration, electrocution ruining your day, or gnarly branches snagging your kite. The air traffic is limited to a few sparse gulls that don't mind sharing the current with a fellow flying object. Command your kite and the interest of park dwellers by standing at the water's edge or atop the small coral cliff that overlooks hand-holding honeys and a sprawling lawn. As if the vision of clear blue skies weren't awe-inspiring enough, the panoramic view of the ocean and Key Biscayne will beckon your attention and admiration as you reel and guide your stringed wind glider.
Unfortunately too many drivers use the JFK Causeway to simply speed from the mainland to the Beach, never bothering to slow down and sample the treats of this curiously ungentrified island neighborhood. If they bothered to pull over (plenty of free street parking west of Vichy) they would find a modest grouping of midcentury architecture gathered around the Normandy Fountain (1926). Most of the stores are devoted to residential needs -- doctor's offices, laundromats, pet shops, gym, hardware, auto parts, et cetera -- but there is also a diverse assortment of ethnic restaurants, including French, Thai, Greek, Japanese, and Argentine. On Saturdays the Normandy Village Marketplace takes place on Rue Vendome under the fountain; vendors offer vegetables, plants, clothing, and other sundries in an atmosphere of music and arts. Before your visit is over, grab a gelato and wander down Normandy Drive to the bridge that crosses Indian Creek.
Creak. Crackle. Hissssss. Caw! Buzzzzzz. "Jesus!" you shout as you take off running down the trail, away from the scary flying insect and swooping osprey. High and bright, the noon sun has nowhere to hide in the ceramic blue sky. You are hot and you have to pee. As you turn and see the sandy trail wending through the palmettos and uprooted sea grapes, your mind slowly releases thoughts of taxes and work assignments and begins to wonder if anyone would hear you scream if one of those noisy critters attacked you. Relax. You are not lost in the Everglades with the aliens and pythons; you are barely fifteen minutes from downtown Miami, on the tip of Key Biscayne (and there are public restrooms around the park). It is the perfect escape for those who may not be the outdoor type but suddenly have a strong urge to run away from the city for a few hours. Hike the trails around the mangrove wetlands and No Name Harbor, and then follow the seawall until you see the stilt houses in Biscayne Bay. You'll be a new person by the time you sit on the sand next to the lighthouse and lose yourself in the vast expanse of the Atlantic.
If you're the type of person who likes mountains, hills, and the sweet sound of the word topography, then you're bumming in Miami-Dade, where a decent-size speed bump could qualify as a hill. But fret not. Though God, nature, and plate tectonics have failed Miami, civil engineers have not. The first stretch of the Rickenbacker Causeway -- the roughly half-mile between the mainland and Virginia Key -- is where Miami goes vertical. On any day of the week, stud bike riders, triathletes, and (sometimes) Olympic speed skater Jennifer Rodriguez can be found huffing it to the apex, up and down this roughly 30-degree, quarter-mile hump. Although this may not be the Pyrenees, rest assured you will need to use your lower gears. Also once you've summited Mount Miami, the big payoff: The view of downtown -- just to the northwest -- is one of the city's best.
Yes, it says walking path, but this tiny key is the perfect place for a relaxing Sunday-morning jog. It's surrounded by water, so the view is consistently spectacular. The path is paved and dotted with lovely art, such as the massive, sensuous, impressive Tequesta sculpture at the mouth of the Miami River. There's also a free-form sculpture garden a few blocks down and a beautiful view of the Mandarin Oriental. Parts of the path are shaded, so it's comfortable, even in the summertime. Now that's a runner's high.
It's called Windsurfer Beach for a reason -- it's one of the easiest, safest places to windsurf in the nation. The Biscayne Bay water is warm, the winds are reliably swift but not scary, and it's shallow -- only a few feet deep. Just a tenth of a mile past the Rickenbacker toll plaza, right before you reach Virginia Key, make a quick right and head for the colorful sailboards; this is the home base of Sailboards Miami. For twenty years a small group of windsurfer dudes has operated a school out of a trailer. Nowadays the Sailboards crew, chiefed by master instructor Ovidio DeLeon and also including Nick Sternberg and Diego "Young Ripper" Femenias, is famous for its bold claim: Give us $69, two hours, and we'll make you a windsurfer -- guaranteed. With beautiful views of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, Windsurfer Beach offers a picturesque, convenient place to give this exhilarating watersport a first try. In winter, lessons begin at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. every day except Wednesday and Thursday. In summer they start at noon, 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Advanced lessons are also available.
Paying a $1.50 toll on a highway can be fun. Seriously. Don't believe us? Then take the other route to the Keys. On Card Sound Road, after about ten miles of cruising through the never-never land of mangroves, you will come to what could be the world's cutest toll plaza. Forget the Florida Turnpike toll moment -- ten or twelve booths, the scramble for change, the worrying about the dude behind you (i.e., Am I in the SunPass lane? Does he have a gun?). No such worries at the Card Sound Bridge -- there's only one tollbooth. And there's no android change-giver here; there's a real-live human. You can actually talk to the guy. Suggested small talk: "Where's a good place to get conch fritters?" "Who's the weirdest guy to ever drive through here?" Take your time. You are in the middle of nowhere. In addition to the quaintness and mellowness, the thing that makes the Card Sound toll plaza worthy of recognition by the National Register of Historic Places is its signage. No green metal expressway placard here. The Card Sound sign reads, "Welcome to the Fabulous Florida Keys," in a cursive typeface that is a rare, perfectly preserved example of Sixties-style Florida Tourism Font. So vintage, so kitschy, such an appropriate gateway to the Keys.
You don't have to be a geography genius to realize that Florida -- with a not-so-majestic peak of 350 feet above sea level -- is incredibly vertically challenged. As states go, ours resembles a slice of Swiss cheese floating in water. So how, you may ask, is there any decent off-road biking in these parts, let alone a spot that reigns supreme? Answer: What Markham Park lacks in verticality it more than makes up for in technicality. Manufactured from fill leftover from when the park's lakes were first dredged, trail conditions range from rocky to hard-packed sand. And with a combined distance (novice, intermediate, expert, and pro) of roughly ten miles spread across some 90 acres, these trails ride like and resemble a mini version of the northern trail Razorback -- undeniably the best in the state. According to the weekend warriors who flock here en masse, Markham offers something for everyone: fast, flat sections punctuated by short technical climbs and technical descents, with some double-track roads for newbies. The climbs may not be long and the downhill drops not overly steep, but designers have cleverly thrown in water breaks, steps, logs, rocks, small ramps, and a host of other obstacles that place more of a premium on how well you handle your bike going down, as opposed to how fast you go. Seriously intense, dude! And upon spotting trail names like Middle Earth, you would totally be forgiven for thinking you were nowhere near the Sunshine State -- right up until the moment a swarm of mutant-size mosquitoes tries to eat you alive. Which reminds us: Bug spray is as essential as a water bottle. The park is open in winter from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; summer from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Entrance fee is $1 per person ages five and older.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®