Fifty nautical miles east of South Beach's art deco decadence, a seven-mile strip of land moonlights as Miami's Bahamian playground. Want to spend a Sunday scarfing down fresh conch fritters and drinking fruity cocktails topped with paper umbrellas? Then split the cost of gas on your rich friend's boat and leave the country for a few hours. Bimini is closer than Key West and cheaper than a couple of piña coladas at Mangos. In the '30s, Ernest Hemingway lived on North Bimini while writing To Have and Have Not. If he were alive today, he'd probably buy his bait and tackle at Fisherman's Village, a marketplace adjacent to the 5-year-old Bimini Bay Resort, and hit the deep blue in search of 500-pound marlins. He'd get drunk at a swim-up bar, hop on a golf cart, and cruise the island for Bahamian hotties. Then he'd jump on his boat, Pilar, and motor back to Miami just in time for a Heat game. Isn't South Florida great?
We live at the edge of the miraculous, or so wrote Henry Miller. The fantastical can be tough to spot, however, when you have a homogenized skyline of Bed, Bath & Beyonds and Staples. But the miraculous is out there; you just need the right guide. Bas Fisher Invitational, an artist-run gallery in the Design District, can lead us out of our doldrums with its trio of Weird Miami bus tours. Local artists Christy Gast, Adler Guerrier, Clifton Childree, and Kevin Arrow have navigated yellow school buses through side streets and around back yards, jolting us awake to how wonderfully strange Miami still is. The magic bus has pulled into Little Haiti farms — tiny fertile crescents that brim with emus, goats, and plywood tree houses. It has visited a Native American ceremonial sand mound, plantation slave quarters, and an aquaculture lab where complex, glowing sea creatures are cloned. It has stopped at a Tibetan Buddhist Dharma center tucked inside a seemingly typical suburban house with a back yard full of stupas. The Weird Miami tours remind us it's possible to escape our mundane reality through a simple staycation. It's like Mr. Miller always said: One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.
Early last season, Panthers left winger David Booth was coming off the best year of his career (2009) and hoping to earn a spot on the U.S. team ahead of the 2010 Olympics. Then Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers blindsided him with a vicious hit. Instantly, Booth's dream of Olympic gold ended. He missed 45 NHL games before returning to the ice. Less than two months later, another concussion forced him to sit out the rest of the season, putting his hockey-playing future in doubt. This season's prospects for the Panthers are just as dire as the past ten. The team became the first to miss the playoffs for a decade straight. No playoffs. No prospects. Same Panthers. Except for this: Booth is back. He's among the top goal scorers on the team and is using his speed and stick-handling to whiz by defenders and re-establish himself as one of the best wingers in the NHL. Any doubts about his future and confidence vanished with one sweet move in a February shootout against J.S. Giguere of the Toronto Maple Leafs. After missing his first two shootout attempts of the year, Booth pulled out the spin-o-rama move and left Giguere clutching for air as he roofed his backhand shot. Even though a flying puck smacked Booth in the throat, which required yet another visit to the emergency room, he was back taking slap shots the next game. It seems any remaining misgivings about whether Booth is back have vanished. Now it's about whether he'll be back next year — with the Panthers.
Have you ever waited in line for an hour at the MIA security checkpoint and fantasized about what it would be like to have your own private plane? Channeling your inner mogul for the day is easier (and less expensive) than you think with Platinum Aviation, a flight instruction operation that teaches on Cirrus Aircraft, basically the Ferrari of airplanes. These babies cost about a cool half-million, and you, poor schmuck, can get behind the stick without any previous training and take to the skies. This bad boy is yours to fly just about anywhere in Miami — along the beach, over the Everglades, or for a fly-by of your ex-girlfriend's condo — it's up to you. You can even bring a passenger. The cost for an hourlong "fantasy flight" is about $280, which includes plane rental, fuel, and private flight instructor.
Revo Soccer
Ever since the movie Tron came out in 1982, we've been dreaming of some neon-colored alternate world where we were totally awesome in sports. Now, with the help of some liquid courage, we've finally found it: glow-in-the-dark soccer. With the flip of a switch, Revo Soccer transforms its small indoor soccer field into a spectral, glowing galaxy. With a shot or three in your system before the game, you're sure to feel like you're playing on the surface of the moon instead of in a warehouse just off Biscayne Boulevard. Under UV lights and blaring speakers, the soft, synthetic turf fades into a black abyss beneath your feet, while the phosphorescent ball zings back and forth between the boards. Revo Soccer hosts regular matches seven days a week, so the best way to set up a game of "glow soccer" is to call ahead. Rates generally run $120 an hour, or slightly cheaper the longer you play. If you tipple before taking the field, be careful not to crash into the wood and Plexiglas walls surrounding the pitch. And, of course, make sure you have a sober driver to take you home.
Magic City Casino
Whether you smoke rapper weed from mediCali, downtown brown bags, saguesera hydros, or superphonik krypto is not important. The point is, you're stoned, you're bored, and you're looking for something to do — preferably free, and with munchies and cold drinks available. You might have been to a casino before, but Magic City is different. For one, it's located smack in the center of the city of Miami, which anybody here on vacation will tell you actually increases your high by as much as 37 percent. Catch the chauffeured golf cart (whoa, I feel like I'm flying) from the parking lot to the front door, show the off-duty cop your ID, and head up the escalator. The rugs are trippy as hell, there are blinking colored lights everywhere, and more bells and whistles than you can throw your life savings at. Now, a crucial aspect to this adventure is not going there with the intent to gamble. Losing your rent check, kid's dental payment, or food money will totally blow your high. Trust us. There's still plenty of entertainment for the discerning burnout. When the dogs aren't running, the place throws big-name classic concerts (America, War, Rey Ruiz) in the amphitheater. The casino bar overlooks the action on the floor, and Secada's serves up a mean $12 lemon drop martini. Grab a $2 Bud (the beer kind, dummy) for happy hour Monday through Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and wander around the place. Gamblers are funny to watch, so the laughs are easy here. And the employees are friendly and courteous. When they catch you staring off into space for ten minutes without moving, just tell them you're looking for pizza. They'll point you in the right direction, and a slice is just $2.50. If you're really hungry, there's a seafood buffet for $16 every Friday from 6 to 11 p.m. And if you hit a lick, it's like they're paying you to be there. But anybody who thinks he's going to beat the house must have his head in the clouds.
Shake A Leg Miami
Because we're perched on the edge of the great blue Atlantic, tropical wildlife flock, swim, and grow just steps from Miami's busiest intersections. Coconut Grove is not only the appropriate place to score your next date and suck down a Call a Cab, but also ideal for viewing historical sights and nature in its habitat, all from the water. In addition to teaching kids with disabilities to sail, Shake-A-Leg affordably rents kayaks. The nonprofit organization has adopted two spoil eco-islands lush with native mangroves, sea grapes, sea grass, and coconut palms that offer homes to birds and critters. One of the islands has a dock, a beach, and picnic tables, where a packed lunch, a healthy amount of curiosity, and a bathing suit equal a day of relaxation and exploration. After you spy on small fish living in the mangroves, a paddle north presents a taste of the Italian Renaissance on the bay with a view of Vizcaya. You can't gain entry from the water, but the mangrove hammock is home to pelicans, ibis, egrets, anhinga, cormorants, and the underwater creatures they might eat, as well as snapper, stingrays, angel rays, and leopard rays. Heading south, you'll spot the Barnacle, built in 1891 by Grove pioneers. It isn't merely a beautiful old house; it's one of the last remnants of Miami's natural hammock. Hourly rentals cost $15 for single or $20 for double.
If not for Mario Cristobal and his scrappy, young FIU Golden Panthers, this city would be devoid of good football teams, what with the Dolphins and Canes sucking things up in monumental ways. During Cristobal's four seasons as the Golden Panthers head coach, we've seen the team go from so-so to SoFla darlings, firmly planting their flag in the nation's college-football-watching psyche. As Cristobal's recruiting classes took shape in the first three seasons under the Columbus High grad, the team finished with a combined 16-33 record. This past season, after stumbling out of the gate with four straight losses, FIU quickly righted the ship and finished the season 7-6. The team went on to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship with a 6-2 conference record and ultimately snagged its first bowl game after taking down Toledo 34-32 in a nail-biting Little Caesars Pizza Bowl victory. There used to be a time when the FIU football program was an afterthought in Miami. No more!
In a sport that has given us Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, The Cinderella Man, and The Fighter, a boxer's rough-and-tumble life story is as vital as his left hook when it comes to carving out a place in pugilism history. Lucky for Erislandy Lara, he has a killer swing and a hell of a backstory. The five-foot-nine southpaw, a native of Guantánamo, Cuba, caught the world's attention in 2005 when he bested a heavily favored Magomed Nurutdinov to take the world amateur crown in Moscow. The next year, he won gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games. But disaster struck in '07 when he tried to defect before a bout in Brazil. Local cops caught the young fighter and shipped him back to Havana, where his punishment was a ban from sparring. Faced with a life without boxing, Lara in 2008 took the ultimate risk: He hopped a speedboat for a treacherous cross-gulf journey to Mexico. He survived, made it to the States, and has been knocking suckas out ever since. As a pro, Lara has gone 15-0 and shot up the middleweight ranks. He has fought on ESPN2 and Telefutura, and played to Vegas audiences seven times. This past January, he destroyed Delray Raines, a highly ranked kid from Arkansas, in less than five minutes with a devastating left hook to the jaw. Hollywood, you payin' attention?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®