Raleigh Hotel

We don't know about you, but whenever we see porky-pie singer Beth Ditto take the stage, we can't help but get all wet with glee. So when we heard the powerhouse vocalist and her band the Gossip were headlining Deitch Projects Art Basel Miami 2008's opening bash, we made sure to plop ourselves on one of the chaises at the Raleigh Hotel's beachside patio to catch the show. And we certainly were not disappointed. The storied Art Deco hotel was packed with scenesters, hipsters, art lovers, and Miami's glitterati for an unbelievable performance under a breezy and clear moonlit night sky. It was so much fun that no one cared about paying $20 for one tumbler of Grey Goose and club soda (it helped that no matter where you turned, some serious chronic smoke was being blown in your face). The Gossip, along with drag king act the Kingpins, played against an artistic backdrop constructed out of fashion, protest, rock 'n' roll, and corporate T-shirts sewn together to create a tapestry of quotes. The party reached its crescendo when just about everyone rushed the stage for the Gossip's final set. Days later, YouTube videos captured the frenetic finale as the band played on despite a crush of fans dancing, bobbing, and jumping around Ditto, who looked absolutely fabulous in a shiny gold ensemble and gold-beaded braids.

With the city's constant influx and departure of nightclubs and promoters, it's difficult to keep up with the fast-paced scene. In comes Talk Nightlife, which broke off from rival CoolJunkie when former site partner Ryan Porter and forum moderator Dan Vidal joined forces. Though Talk Nightlife's guide can tell you where to go any given night, the forums are what keep this site interesting. In them, you'll find a community of South Florida night owls spilling the secrets that nightclubs would rather keep. Vidal and Porter, who post as "pod" and "techjunkie," respectively, give users free will to dish on everything from Louis Puig's company emails to Opium Group's code violations. It's these "super-enthusiasts," as Vidal likes to call them, who fuel the site's juicy content and keep readers coming back for more.

Your guests will demand to see South Beach and Little Havana. There is — as yet — no known way to get out of this horrific chore, but day three is always host's choice, so why not take your charges someplace that would have been first on the list had they known about it? The Miccosukee Indian Village is just a short ride down the Tamiami Trail into the heart of the Everglades. For only $8, your guests will get acquainted with Miccosukee culture, history, and arts, while you enjoy some good, old-fashioned gator wrestling. Afterward, chomp on frogs' legs and fry bread or standard American fare at the adjacent restaurant. The fun doesn't end there. Be sure to look like Mr. Bigshot by offering to pay for an airboat ride too. (At $10 per person, that's way less than a cocktail in SoBe.) Before you leave, though, encourage your guests to peruse the gift shop for the finest in Miccosukee textiles and other tribal crafts. The village closes to visitors at 4:30 p.m., which means you have plenty of time to drop in at the Miccosukee casino (500 SW 177th Ave., Miami) on your way home.

What happens out in the Glades... well, ends up in South Florida's faucets and sewers. Following the ups and downs of the water table that feeds Miami is key to understanding bizarre concepts such as "why you still can't legally water your lawn even though it's been raining for a month straight." While at first glance, this site might seem extremely dry, the journal is occasionally poetic, often funny, and always charming in its presentation of the watery world. It tackles all subjects on multiple levels, so everyone can understand the science on their own terms. The blog is also chock full of graphs and images, both the highly illustrative and the simply beautiful. When not directly addressing the rain-to-tap-to-ocean cycle, the blog looks at tangentially important aspects such as weather prognostication for Super Bowl Sunday, pigging out at food festivals, and the existence of skunk apes.

Flamingo Visitor Center

Ponzi scheme got you down? Go to Hell. Hell's Bay Chickee wildlife adventure campsite in the Everglades, that is. It's part of the 99-mile "Wilderness Water Trail" between Chokoloskee and Flamingo. The only way to get there is to paddle — no motors allowed. From Flamingo, it's an eight-mile "one way in-and-out" Hell's Bay canoe trail marked by more than 160 white PVC pipes that'll challenge your navigation skills as you traverse maze-like turns through mangrove tunnels before arriving at the open waters of Hell's Bay. Float up to your back-country chickee and hoist yourself up to the roofed, open wooden platform on stilts where you'll be sleeping. No fires are allowed, so bring a portable stove if you wanna cook. Now sit back and relax; you're in the middle of nowhere and your phone can't get a signal. The frogs croak, the birds squawk, the water ripples with fish and gators, and you can feel all the trivial pursuits melt away as you focus on the elements of survival. You'll want to make this trip between December and April; otherwise, the heat and mosquitoes will either kill you or drive you crazy. A camping permit is required and costs $10 to process and $2 a day per person (though it's free May through November, probably because of that heat and those skeeters). You can rent a canoe at the Flamingo Visitor Center, but if you wanna go to Hell's Bay, you have to BYOB (bring your own boat). Yes, the trip will literally take you to Hell and back, but at least you'll get some peace of mind along the way.

Mr. Moe's Restaurant and Bar

Mere blocks from the dark heart of CocoWalk's most touristy trappings, Mr. Moe's is probably the last place you'd imagine fishing for your dinner. Yet there, wedged alongside the other arcade consoles, such as Galaga and Pac-Man, is a highly unconventional crane game called "The Lobster Zone." Feed the machine two beer-soaked singles and the challenge is on. But rather than trying to pluck some plush toy from an overflowing prize pit, you've got exactly 60 seconds to snag one of seven live crustaceans wading in the saltwater tank. Remember though, no matter how lazy those little guys seem at first, they really come alive when that mechanical claw goes grabbing for them. So stay laser-focused because, if you succeed, Moe's kitchen will prepare your catch and serve the spread — with corn and coleslaw — at one of their winners-only picnic tables. However, if you fail on the first try, just spring for a few extra attempts. A lobster for the cost of a pint is still super-cheap.

We could explain why this video is so funny, but it's better to just let local poet and Hialeah native Yaddyra Peralta guide you through the entire thing: "Okay, when it starts, the guy's wearing a fat gold chain and hanging out with chongas — the gangsta-looking girls with tight clothes and loads of gold. Singer shakes hands with guy wearing a straw hat. These guys walk through traffic around 49th/103rd Street, selling water, flowers, churros, etc., and any reference to the canal is supposed to be funny because (a) they are ubiquitous in Hialeah and (b) you're not supposed to go near them because they are dirty, gross, and full of crocodiles (according to your mother, of course). When you catch guys swimming or fishing in them, it's supposed to be the most disgusting, ghetto thing in the world... 'The canals are not the beaches of Holguín, but I'll go for a swim.' Holguín is one of Cuba's most beautiful beaches and historically where Christopher Columbus first set foot. The singer inserts the English word swim, pronounced sween, which rhymes with Holguín. Of course, you know about the famed Hialeah Cuban Spanglish... More references to water, mud, and factories. There's a myth that it rains more in Hialeah than in any other part of Miami, probably because any amount of rainfall causes severe flooding... double-entendre food items... Chicharrones are more meaty and fatty than your standard pork rind and really good but eat too much and they'll kill you... Chancleta is flip-flop. A chancletera is a woman who always wears flip-flops no matter what the occasion... 'I give them the finger and say f*%$ you!' You'll see this happen anywhere: the mall, outside at school between parents, in traffic, the bus stop, dentist's office... The one thing I haven't referenced, because it might be obvious, is that the whole backdrop with the tires and the cars has to do with the popular Hialeah pastime of pimping out your car. There are loads of mechanics and body shops in Hialeah. Oh, and I never want to hear this song again. You owe me a beer."

It was fate that brought Chad Pennington and the Miami Dolphins together. During the off-season, the New York Jets waived Pennington after four solid seasons with the team, casting him aside like an old tire to make room for newly acquired Brett Favre. Yet when the Dolphins signed Pennington off waivers, the immediate reaction from most Fins fans was exasperation. Pennington entered the picture as the latest poster child for the Dolphins' ever-revolving door of middling retread quarterbacks since the great Dan Marino retired. Conventional wisdom said Pennington was too weak-armed and injury-prone, and his pair of prior shoulder surgeries only stoked the flames of doubt. But Pennington proved that leadership, class, a tireless work ethic, and pinpoint accuracy can be just as effective as a laser-rocket arm. Cool, collected, and sharp, he took charge of the once-hapless Dolphins from day one and led them to the greatest turnaround in NFL history.

During the last game of the regular season — in of all places New York, with thousands of rancorous, vitriolic Jets fans breathing down their necks — the Dolphins were fighting for their playoff lives. Win and they would pull off the improbable: finishing with an 11-5 record and a division crown a season after winning only one game. Lose and their season was dead in the water. Favre and the Jets had just taken a 17-14 lead late in the game with a quick-strike scoring drive that shifted the momentum back in their favor. Now, with the weight of an entire fan base on his shoulders, it was up to Pennington to save the game, and the season — against his old team. He answered that Jets drive — and his critics — by leading Miami on a six-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a perfect pass to tight end Anthony Fasano in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning, AFC East Championship-clinching touchdown. Revenge, redemption, fate.

"It's not a revenge factor," Pennington told the Miami Herald afterward, an AFC East Champions cap nestled firmly on his head. "It just so happened it had to come through New York. That's the only way fate would have it. It shouldn't and couldn't come out any other way.'"

Indeed.

Grapeland Water Park

Filled with brightly colored play areas designed by local artist Romero Britto, pools with slides, and a large lagoon, Grapeland Water Park — also known as Black Beard's Beach — is 13 acres of fun, refreshing, soak-filled insanity for tikes of all ages. The park opened only a year ago. It features two different play areas — Pirate's Plunge, with its low water level areas, water shooting seahorses, and toddler friendly slides for the little ones and, for the bigger kids, Shipwreck Island, which features a tower with fast water slides and a giant bucket that periodically tips over dumping water onto the folks below. Buccaneer River is a slow winding river that can be ridden lazily around the park on inflatable inner tubes. The family can then wind the day down near calmer waters at the large pool known as Captain's Lagoon. Admission is free for kids 3 and under, $5 for ages 4 through 13, $7 for Miami-Dade residents 14 and older, and $10 for non Miami-Dade residents 14 and older. Group rates are also available. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. October thru April. Days of operation vary, so check the park's website or call them directly.

Miami Dolphins fans haven't had much to cheer about since Don Shula hung up the clipboard. The list of coaches to patrol the sidelines has looked like this, in descending date and professional football coaching ability: Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, and Cam Cameron. When Bill Parcells was brought in to turn the franchise around, one of the first things he did was hire Tony Sparano from the Dallas Cowboys to whip the Fins into shape. Sparano did way more than that in his first season, guiding the Dolphins to a ten-win improvement, a division title, and a playoff berth. Sparano changed the face of the NFL when he introduced the "Wildcat" offensive package. A few weeks later, almost every team in the league had its own option package, and every defensive coordinator had a whole new problem on his hands when dealing with the Dolphins. The upcoming season is sure to be brutal for the Fins, but after last year, there's no reason to believe Sparano can't lead them into a new era of respectability and realistic championship hopes.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®