Max Rameau is rather soft-spoken for a radical freedom fighter. An organizer, author, and political theorist, he has become the voice of this city's disenfranchised and underserved citizens. As leader and spokesperson for two major projects — CopWatch and Take Back the Land — he makes eloquent arguments for why housing is a human right and justice is necessary for all. Throughout his campaigns to "take back" vacant public housing and to fight against the expansion of police power, Rameau has offered his message calmly and without violence. Ask him about his top accomplishments this year, and he'll talk about his advocacy for the Liberty City 7 (6? Whatever.) and dealing with the aftermath of the Umoja Village fire. Then he'll tell you about his most important project this year: raising his two-year-old son. This is a man who has his priorities straight.

Less than an hour from Miami, this nearly seven-mile portion of the Florida Trail is not for the wimpy or those unwilling to get wet. Don't be stupid and wear flip-flops, either. Lace up the hiking boots: You'll be stomping among snakes and sticks in shin- to waist-high water.

Coming from Miami, take a left off U.S. 41 at Loop Road near the wildlife check station. The marked trail begins about a dozen miles into the swamp. Along the way, play wildlife shutterbug and gawk at the bounty of birds and alligators that makes it feel like you're driving through an awfully nice zoo. Then park the car on the side of the road and look for the trail head. Enter the alien landscape of saw grass prairies and cypress swamps that was South Florida before the damn Yankees up and ruined it.

The only down side is the distance. You might want to drop a car at the preserve's Oasis Visitor Center on U.S. 41 if you don't plan to hike the trail there and back. At 13 miles, it could be a grueling day. Hiking six miles in the swamps can take at least four hours, so the one-way trip is much more doable. And pleasant.

Last Chance Bar & Package

This old biker bar sits on the border separating Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Hitchhikers are usually sitting across the bar's parking lot, an ideal spot for a few reasons: First, South Dixie Highway ends here and becomes the two-lane Overseas Highway, which goes south to Key West. Two, if you are heading north, this is where South Dixie Highway meets Florida's Turnpike. And three, there is plenty of space for drivers to pull over and pick you up. Hitching with bar patrons is not recommended.

In 2005, during those dark days following Hurricane Wilma, a bunch (gaggle? den?) of burrowing owls decided to take refuge in a grassy area at 3000 NW 199th St. in Miami Gardens. Problem was, the city planned to build a $15.2-million community center there. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission protected the owls, so that meant the community center developer had to work around them (a familiar problem if you've read Carl Hiaasen's Hoot). City workers ended up transporting the owls' nests to another corner of the grassy lot. By the time that happened, the cost of construction had dropped because the housing bubble had burst. "The owls probably saved us more than $1 million," says Miami Gardens City Manager Danny Crew. If only the owls could have saved the rest of Miami from real estate woes.

Jamaica Motel

If you are visiting the area, and you want a real taste of M.I.-yayo, this is the perfect place to stay. Since Miami never sleeps, neither should you. Located on the infamous Calle Ocho, this motel is decorated with red neon lights and mirrored ceilings. The toilets are equipped with bidets. In fact some folks consider the motel to be a historical landmark, since the film Jamaica Motel was released in 2006. It was shot on location and caused some controversy (check out the director's MySpace page, www.myspace.com/jaydeph). The rates are convenient and inexpensive: $70 per night, or $50 for two hours. Yeah, mon.

Don't let the red rope dissuade you. You're smart and good-looking enough, and — gosh darn it — the rich people inside the Sagamore will find some reason to like you. Plan ahead. Leave the flip-flops and ratty cargo shorts at home. Spiff up a bit. Smile when you arrive at the entrance. It's worth the act to take a peek at what's inside one of the best art spaces in Miami Beach. (The Sagamore says the collection is public, but we've spied unattractive people turned away at the door.) Hotel owners showcase their contemporary collection of oils, photography, and sculptures throughout. In October 2007, the hotel opened an exhibition from Spencer Tunick's photography sessions with 500 naked Miami residents at the hotel. But perhaps the best reason to pretend you're a guest is the video art reserved exclusively for paying visitors.

Despite another embarrassing season for the Canes, Graig Cooper has provided UM fans with a light at the end of their dark, dark tunnel. The freshman running back solidified his status as a rising star against Bobby Bowden's dadgum Seminoles in October. G Coop rushed for 682 yards and four touchdowns during his inaugural season, and looks to match that in just one game when the Hurricanes visit the Florida Hators ... umm, Gators ... next September. Best remembered for his ankle-breaking juke against Texas A&M at the Orange Bowl, Cooper is a triple threat with soft hands, quick feet, and a hard-nosed style of play. A fan favorite who has shown flashes of much-anticipated greatness, G Coop is a Category 5 player that will blow by rival defenders as UM football begins a new era at Dolphin Stadium.

UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Some kids would rather portray the Bad News Bears than actually be part of a championship baseball team. If your little cherubs happen to fall into this category, forget Little League this summer and treat your children to Creative Camp instead. Here some of the town's top acting teachers will introduce the wonderful world of theater. Kids get to write and produce their own movies, incorporating new skills from acting, directing, dance, music, and other performance fields. They also learn to use video and audio equipment, musical instruments, and a professional stage. If that isn't enough, they'll enjoy field trips to theatrical productions and local attractions, and receive goody bags filled with magic tricks, juggling supplies, and a T-shirt. You can choose from two locations, one in Kendall and the other in the Gables. Costs range from $380 to $1,600, depending on length. (Scholarships are available.) Just remember to thank us at the Oscar ceremony.

Best Leisure Activity Other than Clubs or Movies

Miami Skydiving Center

Miami Skydiving Center

It's the weekend, or maybe it's just Tuesday, and people are shuffling into the clubs all over Miami and dancing until they produce enough sweat to fill a small pool. To the rest of the world, that is all Miamians are willing to do — and many natives believe this myth. But if you are dreading another night of clubbing, there is hope. Skydiving, a sport once believed to have been reserved for slightly demented adrenaline junkies, has been around long enough that it's not just for the insane anymore. It still isn't for the faint of heart, but the sheer thrill of dropping from an airplane flying two miles above land is sure to leave your heart pumping faster than any night at Mansion. Miami Skydiving Center offers tandem jumps, which means your instructor is strapped to your back and all you have to do is enjoy the fall, for $169. However steep that price might seem, you'd spend that on drinks at the club, where it's a lot less fun to fall down.

Everglades National Park
Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service

Let's face it — the Everglades isn't exactly the Appalachian Trail. There's nothing to climb, and vistas are scarce. Hiking paths are few and far between, and where they exist, they tend not to go anywhere special. When you get right down to it, the Glades is just a big old swamp; so if you want to see it the right way, you've got to get swampy. Luckily Everglades National Park affords an opportunity not available in the dry climes up North: slough-slogging, an activity described in unusually poetic language on the park website as "wading through the shallow waters in search of wildlife and the secrets of water." Plus it's as cheap an outing as the cheapest cheapskate could desire; all you need is a willingness to spend the day waist-deep in muck and mud, soiled from head to toe, your limbs bloodied by saw grass. Wearing a pair of rubber boots (available at most hardware stores for a couple of bucks) isn't a bad idea. You can slog anywhere there's enough muck to stick a shoe in. Just watch out for alligators. And pythons. And snakes. Don't forget the snakes.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®