There's a simple equation to explain which criminal cases touch our emotional nerve: The more heinous the crime, the sweeter the justice. By that measure, the conviction handed to Grady Nelson last December stands as one of the most gratifying in Magic City history — if only because his crime, and the years of warning signs leading up to it, were so horrific. Back in 1991, Nelson was convicted of brutally raping a 7-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood, yet he earned only ten years of probation. Soon thereafter, he was hit with an eight-year term for cocaine possession — but served only two years. Then in 2000, despite all of that gruesome history, Miami-Dade's Human Services Department hired him as a social worker's aide. In the next four years, everyone from the police to the State Attorney's Office to the Department of Children and Families received reports that Nelson was sexually assaulting the children of his wife, Angelina Marcel Martinez. On January 6, 2005 — hours after Martinez obtained a protective order against her husband — Nelson entered her home, again sexually assaulted both of her children, and then fatally stabbed her more than 60 times, leaving her with a slashed throat and a knife sticking out of her head. He also stabbed her 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, though both survived. Nelson's first court hearing in 2009 ended with a mistrial. Would he again escape punishment? Not this time. Last July, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder. In December, he was sentenced to life behind bars. Sweet justice? You bet.
According to the vintage superband Chicago, "everybody needs a little time away." Unfortunately, though, sometimes you just can't pick up and hit the road or even sail away, but you can still find serenity within the confines of South Florida. We're not talking another cheesy staycation at a beach hotel so you can rub elbows with tourists and share your expertise on all things local. Instead, take a breather from the average day thanks to the county's Eco-Adventures program. The Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation Department (fabled to be the inspiration for the NBC comedy) is the third-largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 263 parks and more than 12,848 acres of land that might or might not include highway medians and the cute little trees planted there. Eco-Adventures include Redland bike tours, snorkeling at Crandon Park, moonlight kayaking along Key Biscayne, camping expeditions in the Everglades, and swamp field trips to Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. Prices range from $25 to $165. You can go alone for some much-needed solitary refinement or plan a group expedition and prove "you're the inspiration."
OK, OK, so Rick Sanchez was never particularly good, in any quality-connoting sense of the word. As a hyperkinetic, airheaded anchor for WSVN-7, the Hialeah kid was famous for squatting over a floor map while discussing the Gulf War and getting into an accident that paralyzed a pedestrian near Joe Robbie Stadium. (Sanchez, whose blood alcohol content was .15, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI.) He rose from those humble beginnings to national prominence on CNN as the Hyperkinetic, Airheaded Anchor Who Thinks Hawaii Is Off the Coast of Peru and Writes Dumber Tweets Than Justin Bieber. But then in September, this sparkling reputation self-destructed when Sanchez declared on a radio show that Jon Stewart was a "bigot" and intimated that Jews control the media. He was canned from the cable network and has responded by launching a disingenuous comeback crusade, backed by a website called Friends of Rick Sanchez and holding a $25-a-ticket public meeting with "America's Rabbi" Shmuley Boteach. In fact, this publication was supposed to gain access to Sanchez during his glorious return to glorious glory, but that ended when his "people" got pissed that we suggested Friends of Rick Sanchez was written by Rick Sanchez. He did tell us this over the phone, concerning his comments about Jon Stewart: "Some days I wake up and I just want to find the highest mountain and scream, 'That's not me!'" OK, Rick, but do us all a favor: Stay up there on that mountain — where you can't get Twitter on your phone — and spend the rest of your days foraging for berries and anchoring a Forest News show. Maybe you're just meant for the squirrel world.
At some point in their subtropically tanned lives, Miamians inevitably flip on the TV set and linger momentarily on a strange scene: a lithe, young athlete on skis slaloming among snow drifts during the Winter Olympics, knees snapping up and down like pistons in a hot-rod engine. But few here realize that to re-create the challenge, all you have to do is drive south on Indian Creek Drive in Miami Beach. As the street winds erratically alongside tiny Lake Pancoast, manholes protrude every 20 feet, forcing a constant stream of SoBe-bound taxis to swerve like Lindsey Vonn in and out of lanes. As in the Olympics, wipeouts are common on Indian Creek — only without soft powder to cushion the busted bumpers or shredded shocks. And just when the road straightens long enough to make you think you're home free, you spill onto the almighty clusterfuck that is Collins Avenue. That's where, stuck behind lowriders blasting bass at 5 mph or a cab with its door open for a puking passenger, you realize your Olympic aspirations are as fake as the boobs strutting past you. But who cares? The only gold we need is on our grill.
Miami seems like a relaxing place. We have the blue skies, the long beaches, the nightclubs. The thing is, when you're driving to work in a suit, the A/C isn't working, and the drinks you had the night before are revisiting your throat, it's almost as if the parrots' squawks are mocking you, the sun is your natural enemy, and the beach is giving you the middle finger. Stop partying like a Kardashian on South Beach, take off your suit jacket, and explore a shady environmental gem hidden right near downtown Miami. Earth'n'Us Farm in Little Haiti is a sanctuary in an unexpected neighborhood. This urban paradise is a permaculture farm with dense tropical greenery, bees making honey, and organic food growing. The residents include goats, emus, chickens, and a lucky bastard who gets to live in a tree house. Check them out as you stroll on the wooden walkways that connect little picturesque houses. In this perfect natural retreat, you can get married, take a yoga class, or attend a permaculture workshop with native edibles. Sure, you live in a land known for its superficiality and nightlife, but hanging out at a sustainable farm is always way cooler than clubbing.
New Yorker Boutique Hotel
Miami is a stylish city — so stylish, in fact, an entire postwar architectural movement sprang up in the Magic City during the '50s known as Miami Modern, or MiMo. And at the forefront of the architecturally artistic uprising was Norman Giller, the legendary architect responsible for designing more than 10,000 Miami-area buildings, including the original New Yorker on Biscayne Boulevard. Designed as a traditional roadside motel in 1953, the two-story property relied on then-popular neon signs and "space-age" design to lure road trippers. Over the years, the area around the New Yorker declined, succumbing to Miami's seedy underbelly of streetwalkers and crackheads. But then a cultural revolution manifested a few years ago, and the MiMo district rehabilitated itself with the help of Miami's artistic community. It's quickly becoming one of the city's most sought-after neighborhoods for its retro design and overall 305 history. Last year, New Yorker owner Shirley Figueroa and her husband Walter renovated the property and transformed it into a boutique hotel — a damn good one. They spruced up the exterior with traditional white paint, redesigned the rooms for a more contemporary feel, and outfitted the place with some subtle pieces of pop art. They added a free breakfast buffet and complimentary Wi-Fi — plus, most important, they made it affordable. Summer rates start at just $65, and you're a short cab ride from everywhere. It's the perfect off-the-beaten-path getaway for the anti-tourist — the person who wants to eat, sleep, and breathe the real Miami.
Chuck a Frisbee from the east edge of Belle Isle, and if you have a halfway decent arm, you'll hit South Beach. So how can a neighborhood this underrated, this cool, and this historic be hiding in plain sight of Miami-Dade's most famous hood? Belle Isle, the easternmost tip of the man-made Venetian Islands, was once home to retail zillionaire J.C. Penney's exclusive estate. Today, unlike its stuffy, rich-kid siblings, it marries the Venetian's quiet, exclusive vibe with a more bohemian, South Beach cool. Sure, there are million-dollar luxury lofts in the eye-popping Grand Venetian, but there are also charming, squat waterfront apartments that once housed military barracks and quiet, sandy lanes with palm-shaded one-bedroom houses. The island's center is a newly renovated park, and a footpath on the perimeter leads to clear-water views of Biscayne Bay reefs. Just to top it off, Belle Isle is home to hipster paradise the Standard, an über-chic hotel with South Beach's best spa, an Anthropologie-approved lounge, and the Lido Restaurant, a vegetarian-friendly eatery with ridiculous bayside table views. Next time you're in SoBe, take the hike across the bridge — your new favorite neighborhood has been hiding in the middle of the bay all this time.
You see her every time you travel on the MacArthur Causeway to and from Miami Beach. She's so popular that when TV networks broadcast big games featuring the Heat, Hurricanes, Dolphins, or Marlins, she gets a lot of air time, showcasing her immense beauty as she basks alongside the shimmering waters of Biscayne Bay. Some 4.1 million people a year stop by to say hello to her on their way to the Caribbean aboard whimsical vessels straight out of a sun-drenched daydream. And she's quite the workhorse, pumping out an annual 6.8 million tons of cargo from around the globe. This gal is quite the moneymaker too, creating an economic impact of approximately $17 billion for Miami-Dade. She is the enchantingly beautiful Port of Miami.
The last thing you think you'd want to see in our-shit-don't-stink and don't-park-pickup-trucks-overnight-in-our-city Coral Gables is a museum celebrating how wonderful, rich, and cultural the City Beautiful is (even the town's moniker is annoyingly narcissistic). But you'd be wrong. Turns out the recently opened Coral Gables Museum, which was built in the city's old police and fire station, has exactly what the Gables so often tries to fabricate: legitimate history and great architecture. Built as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939, the museum boasts a coral-rock façade and architectural details, such as busts of two real-life Gables firefighters, on par with the most ornate buildings in the area. And even better are the historical exhibits on display inside a structure that itself tells the story of the city's rise to prominence — which wasn't always pretty. As well as housing firemen and fuzz, the building also held the city's first court, witnessed the murder of a police officer, and suffered through a fire that almost killed prisoners. How's that for history? After the police and fire departments relocated to a larger and uglier structure in 1975, the building went through a number of uses before city officials realized it would best serve as a museum. They added a 3,000-square-foot wing and a 5,000-square-foot plaza, which will feature traveling exhibits and open-air concerts, respectively. The museum's location, adjacent to Books & Books and across the street from the new Coral Gables Art Cinema, might make this block the single most culturally significant spot in South Florida.
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Ever since he hung up his shingle in the late '70s, Fredric Snitzer has been a driving force behind the South Florida contemporary art scene. The graybeard dealer and Wynwood pioneer has long been a mentor to homegrown artists. He also has been a staple at Art Basel since it parachuted into town a decade ago and remains the sole Miami representative on the über-exclusive Swiss fair's selection committee. Ground zero for the sizzling Second Saturday arts crawl, Snitzer's Wynwood gallery boasts top-drawer talent, including big names such as Hernan Bas, Bert Rodriguez, Luis Gispert, and Naomi Fisher. The kingmaker's exhibits have always been edgy and polished and often leave viewers' heads spinning. An artist himself, Snitzer has always given those in his stable the freedom to follow their vision without caving to the bottom line. Not to say Snitzer's reward hasn't been big. He is a shrewd businessman who is both respected and envied by competitors who covet his blue-chip list of collectors and willingness to endure long waiting lists to snag his artists' works. But at an age when others at the top of their game might slow down or spend more time on the golf course than at the office, Snitzer is still punching the clock and nurturing emerging talent, such as Michael Vasquez, and regularly selling out entire shows. Thanks to Snitzer's homegrown hustle and uncanny eye for talent, Miami is now a serious contender on the international stage.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®