Skydive Miami
Bored with lifeç Need to inject your miserable existence with a dose of daringç Nothing screams, "Holy shit I'm alive!" like stepping out of a perfectly good airplane 13,000 feet above the ground. It's not for the faint- hearted (or the light-walleted), but if you yearn to embrace the adrenaline junkie within, Skydive Miami is a must. For about $320 the team of certified professionals that runs the school will educate you on how not to get killed, dress you in the proper equipment, take you high into the sky, and even tape your fall from grace (it's $249 without the DVD). That way, when your kids tell you you're a boring loser, you can whip out your your custom-made movie and prove to them that you, too, were wild in your day!
You're a developer and city official in town stuck on Concourse A waiting for your delayed flight to Houston. Do you: (A) sigh, crack open your briefcase, and catch up on some reading, or (B) find a Texan named Karl, sidle up to the airport bar, and drop $130 on seven wines, four beers with whiskey, and amaretto backs. If B, then do you: (A) shake hands with Karl and call it a night, or (B) head for the gate and make a scene, demanding the airline provide a hotel room for Karl. If B, then do you: (A) sit down after you realize the police have been summoned, or (B) get more belligerent and throw up your hands at the cops when they react poorly to the question "Do you know who I amç" If B, then do you: (A) submit to excitable officers and await the opportunity to speak with your badass lawyer, or (B) head-butt one cop, kick another in the groin, and crack your head open trying to flee in a pair of handcuffs. If you answered B to all questions, then you might be a jerk, but you've got more chutzpah than you know what to do with. We salute you, Johnny Winton!
Bayfront Park
Photo by Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock
It's not every day South Floridians are given the opportunity to cavort in the manner of a lithe Russian gymnast. Miami, though lovely, is a city about as alien to aerial acrobatics as it is to snow (and by that we mean the real white powder). That is, until the Irish-born Marcus Gaffney and his Flying Trapeze School came to town a few months ago. Perhaps because we city folk have been sheltered from the glee that stems from soaring upside-down some 25 feet in the air, performing twirly, awe-inspiring backflips is probably not on your to-do list. But it can be. And it should be. Not only is it fun, but for those who pride themselves on their testicular capacity (meaning do you have any balls, or not?), it's a must. For $10 for a "try and fly" lesson ($40 for a regular two-hour lesson), you too can inch precariously up a wobbly 23-rung ladder and perch on a ledge the size of a bookshelf high above the green grass of Bayfront Park. Sure it gets the old ticker pumping, but that's nothing compared to the feeling of sheer helplessness that grips your entire being the moment you step into thin air. That's when you realize the only way down is to let go of the bar your sweaty palms are wrapped around, grab your knees, and dismount. Backward.
Jeb Bush signed this baby into law on June 9, 2006, and it will take effect this July. It could generate $30 million in new economic activity in the state and potentially create 400 new jobs for Florida's considerable hospitality industry, according to a study done by the Distilled Spirits Council. Whatever. This piece of legislation means a few more pennies in the pocket of every drinker. Taxes in Florida — one of only two states that applied a per-volume tax to on-premises alcoholic beverage product sales — already make up 52 percent of the average cost of a 750-milliliter bottle of spirits.
Rusty Pelican
Photo courtesy of Rusty Pelican
On August 3, amid the hubbub of the Republican gubernatorial primary, the state's gun lovers converged on the Rusty Pelican. They were all present for the delightful gala event, which was held in a cheesy ballroom in the waterfront restaurant — with all proceeds going toward Boys & Girls Clubs shooting programs and "educational things" like Eddie Eagle, the lobby's giant costumed mascot, who minces around in front of elementary school children and tells them not to pick up unattended firearms. The audience at the $50-per-plate soiree comprised beefy men in full camo and Latin ladies in cocktail dresses. No one really drank much because some were packing ... and that's against the law. Failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher popped in to perform a solemn pledge of allegiance and lamented, "There just aren't too many young people today who know what it means to be an American." "I know exactly what it means to be an American," a twelve-year-old muttered while demonstrating his cool hand with a trigger-guard-mounted laser sight. He had pulled the sight (mounted on a plasticine Beretta) off of one of several raffle item tables. Also on sale were shotguns, ornate eagle-related desk pieces, and a variety of hunting knives. One stand featured a trio of pretty young blonds auctioning a revolver using a deck of cards — $10 per card. Ah, Miami....
Normally there's nothing Miamians hate more than taking the Metrobus anywhere — even the more loathsome act of sitting in rush hour traffic day after day seems preferable. (We're not even going to discuss that thing called "walking.") But twice a year some of these same Miamians fight over the privilege of spending their Saturday mornings crammed together riding a city bus. Since 1994 Miami-Dade Transit has offered a free black history tour that winds through the city's oldest African-American neighborhoods. You'll visit Overtown, Coconut Grove, Liberty City, Allapattah, and Brownsville while knowledgeable staff rap about people like D. A. Dorsey and E.W.F. Stirrup, and places such as the Lyric Theater and Georgette's Tea Room. Even though the tour is barely advertised, it is so popular that you have to register in December to make sure you have a seat in February. The transit department added a Hispanic Heritage version in 2000 that travels through Little Havana, downtown, and the Orange Bowl area. It features Domino Park, a cigar factory, and other Hispanic points of interest, while introducing you to Cuban celebrities and revolutionary heroes. That tour is offered in English and Spanish. Both tours are free and last three to four hours. The black history tours are in February; the Hispanic tours are in October. Early reservations are mandatory. See you on da bus.
Okay, so it's bad enough that Miami International Airport is always under construction, and the parking situation is confusing at best and miserable at worst. But Magic City dwellers suffered one more airport-related indignity last year when it was revealed that the long-awaited airport train is $1.5 billion over budget and that its train cars are sitting empty where they were manufactured, in Japan. Yes, Japan. In April 2006 the county commission approved spending $1.98 million to "exercise" the train cars (in Japan) over the next two years. The cars can't run here in Miami because the tracks aren't ready yet. "I think some mistakes were made," John Cosper of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department told NBC News. Ya thinkç
Okay, so it's in Collier County, but it's close enough (about an hour-and-a-half drive) and the drive is more than worth it. Called the "Amazon of North America," this area is unparalleled for swamp-tromping. Twenty miles long by five miles wide, it's an explosion of flora and fauna, from the wetter swamps and prairies, to the drier islands of tropical hardwood hammocks and pine rocklands where Eastern indigo snakes and Florida black bears roam. Its groves of native royal palms are the most abundant in the state. Oh yeah, it's also the orchid and bromeliad capital of the continent, with 44 native orchid species and fourteen different kinds of native bromeliads.
Sometime during the 2006 legislative session, one Republican lawmaker dared to challenge Jeb Bush's crazy proposals on class size and vouchers. That man was state Sen. Alex Villalobos, and his refusal to support Bush's master plan for education cost him dearly. Punishment was swift: Villalobos was stripped of the honor of becoming Florida's first Cuban-American Senate president. Bush backed another Cuban-American to run against him (school board member Frank Bolaños, who was also endorsed by crazy drunk-dialer/state Rep. Ralph Arza). What ensued was the costliest — and meanest — state Senate race in Florida's history. Shady third-party groups spent $6 million to take down Villalobos, and at least $1 million was spent on nasty TV and radio ads in the week before the election. The campaign devolved into a theater of the absurd when Bolaños hired a man in a chicken suit to plague Villalobos at campaign events. Villalobos rolled with the joke ("A bunch of people rushed the chicken because they thought they could get Pollo Tropical coupons," he said), and his sunny nature prevailed. He squeaked by in the election. Now, some political insiders say, Villalobos is untouchable.
Robert Burr was born and raised in the county of Dade. His family came here in 1876, and traces of his ancestors' hard work can be found from Arch Creek Park to Burr's Berry Farm. As you might expect from a seventh generation member of a pioneering family, he knows the nooks and crannies of this city like the back of his hand. On any given weekend Burr is leading one of the many walking and driving tours he's created. He has introduced thousands to the pleasures of the Redland and Coral Gables through his ever-popular Redland Riot tour, as well as his Coral Gables Wine Walk, Gallery Stroll, and Pub Crawl. He's done this in person by leading the procession, although the front-and-center position isn't necessarily his favorite. "I really don't want everyone to go with me, per se. In the Gables, we're doing a wine walk tonight. And people will call and say, ÔOh no, it's already sold out.' And I'm like, ÔYou know whatç Go do a wine walk with you and your friends! I ultimately hope to set an example for how to go do this stuff yourself," explains the affable, silver-haired gent. Burr has single-handedly reinvented the concept of locals discovering Miami on their own. His comprehensive Websites offer print-it-yourself maps that highlight hidden gems in neighborhoods that people usually just drive through. The Gables tours focus on the area's rich dining and boozing prospects, and the Redland Riot Tour (and recently added Redland Riot Road Rallye) leads groups of explorers into the still-lush corners of Miami's rapidly developing back yard. Exploring the Redland is a Burr family tradition. "When I was a kid, when they said, ÔHop in the station wagon, we're going to the Redlands.' That meant we'd get to go see Uncle Charlie and pick some strawberries," Burr recalls. "One of the simple pleasures in life is to pick your own fruit. Someday it's going to be something that's just in the past, picking your own strawberries." The U-Picks are disappearing and the farmland is being converted into little boxes made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same. But thanks to the efforts of Robert Burr, urbanites seeking a weekend getaway will continue to discover the pastoral pleasures of the Robert is Here produce stand, Schnebly Winery, and historic Cauley Square, thereby preserving what's left of Miami's verdant past.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®