17th Street Garage
Sure, it's ugly, and being situated a mere six blocks from the gorgeously designed 1111 Lincoln Road garage doesn't help. But you just can't beat this behemoth, city-run parking garage. Rare is the day you cannot find a spot to park in one of the 1,460 spaces. The first six hours cost only $1, with the rate jumping to $2 after eight. After that, it's only $15, with a max of $20 for a 24-hour period — which is a bargain in parking-space-starved South Beach. Then there is the location. Lincoln Road, the Fillmore Miami Beach, the Miami Beach Convention Center, and the New World Center surround the five-story structure, and areas such as Collins Avenue and the beach are only five blocks away. Quick tip: If you are leaving a major event or concert, pay before you return to your car for a faster exit. Otherwise, take a 30-minute stroll on Lincoln Road while the mad rush dies down.
Every landlocked mile in Miami-Dade County has a fatal flaw. Ocean Drive: Yeah, yeah, Lamborghinis, neon, fake boobs — what are you, from Ohio? Miracle Mile: It's fun if you're a South American multimillionaire with a pastel sweater on your shoulders and an Iglesias CD in the stereo of your Bentley. Being an alt-weekly, we could have chosen some gritty stretch of urban hyper-realism — we're talking to you, Biscayne Boulevard between 50th and 70th streets — but then you'd probably get stabbed with an infected syringe, and besides, we did that last year. Clearly we're fed up with people of all ilk, so we're devolving, sprouting fins — or at least donning some rubber ones — and heading back to the primordial soup. Located just off Miami Beach — but far enough away that the Jersey Shore camera crew is but a distant nightmare — is the Wreck Trek, an artificial reef of sunken barges and tugs. Fish dig that kind of shit, and who doesn't dig fish? All colorful, happy, and free, none of them wearing tank tops or getting tribal tattoos or running Ponzi schemes or yelling about Obama's birth certificate. Go there with a scuba instructor. If our ratios are correct, an hour underwater will allow you to tolerate two months on land.
South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center
Good luck looking for last year's winner in this category. There wasn't one. Past Kendall Drive heading south, you might as well have left your cultural sensibilities behind. But, finally, it's boon time in the boonies. The South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center opened earlier this year and raised one giant middle finger to its highfalutin northern neighbors. The $39 million, Arquitectonica-designed, 966-seat performing arts center is primed to become the epicenter of all things cultural south of the county's Mason-Dixon Line. It's barely been open a couple of months, and already the venue has hosted high-profile guests from both coasts. Credit should go to the county's Cultural Affairs Department and center general manager Eric Fliss for making sure to include the surrounding southern neighborhoods and communities in workshops with the traveling dance and theater companies visiting the center. There's also a concerted effort to use the venue for community gatherings such as farmers' markets and other events outside the strict definition of performing arts. We wouldn't be surprised if the venue could soon challenge the Adrienne Arsht Center for best cultural venue in the whole county, pound for pound. After all, Kimbo Slice, Dada 5000, and back-yard brawling were born in the southern stretches of Miami-Dade, so we like their chances in any fight.
Olympia Theater
Jessica Gibbs
Remember your high school days? Funny hair, funnier fashion sense (JNCOs were the bomb!), great friends, prom. The only thing that really sucked was having to go to class. But it was a great opportunity to nap in a pool of your own drool until your Ben Stein-look-alike teacher dryly called your name during attendance. And regardless of whether you were a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, or a criminal, you were a John Hughes fan. The historic Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center in downtown Miami brings back its Flickn' Summer movie series for a third year, and this time it will pay tribute to Hughes, the ultimate teen-movie magic-maker. With monthly screenings of much-loved Brat Pack classics Pretty in Pink (June 23), Sixteen Candles (July 28), The Breakfast Club (August 25), and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (September 22), it's enough nostalgia to make you want to bust out your Psychedelic Furs albums, claim you're the Sausage King of Chicago, eat sushi in detention, and give the class nerd your panties. Tickets cost $10, and each screening ends with a totally gnarly onstage afterparty set to an '80s soundtrack so you can step-touch-kick your way over to your own personal Jake Ryan, and maybe, just maybe, he'll have cake — and a kiss.
Do you believe in ghosts? Does the thought of the paranormal make you shudder more than the cover charge at a WMC party? If so, a Key West ghost hunt is for you. Check in at the La Concha Hotel on Duval Street, home to a half-dozen apparitions, including a waiter who fell down the elevator shaft and a girl who jumped off the roof on New Year's Eve. Some guests feel a strange tapping on their shoulders, only to find no one there. The Original Ghost Tour starts in the La Concha lobby and ventures out to haunted churches, movie theaters filled with ghost children, and the original home of Robert the Devil Doll. After dinner at the Hard Rock Café — visited by the spirit of the original owner, a malicious man named Robert Curry — grab a drink at Captain Tony's Saloon, where the original Key West hanging tree still grows and Hemingway is said to roam in search of one more drink before last call. When you wake up (if you wake up), head to the East Martello Museum on your way out of town to meet Robert the Doll face-to-face. Take a picture if you dare, but remember to ask his permission. The museum walls are filled with letters begging Robert to lift his curse on them. Then get the hell out of Key West before anything follows you home.
Venetian Pool
Photo courtesy of the GMCVB
Ever since you moved to Miami from Cleveland, you've been emailing your friends and family back home photos of flaming-pink bougainvilleas and palm fronds silhouetted by gleaming blue skies. You artfully cropped out all the eyesore condos and empty strip-mall storefronts. The jig is up, though. Ma, Pa, and Sis are coming for a visit and will finally realize that your 305 life contains about 10 percent tropical paradise and 90 percent ugly urban sprawl. Here's how to maintain the illusion a tad longer. Pick them up at Miami International Airport, blindfold them, and drive swiftly to Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. Don't take off the blindfold until they're safely inside its pastel stucco walls and wrought-iron gates. Built in 1924 from an old coral rock quarry abandoned in 1921, the lagoon-style pool is as classic-Miami beautiful as it gets. Designed by architect Phineas Paist (who also gave us the Miami Federal Courthouse), it features a Venetian-style bridge, mooring posts (no gondolas though), coral rock grottoes, a waterfall, vine-covered loggias, shady porticos, and three-story lookout towers. Every day, 820,000 gallons of water rush into the old quarry from underground artesian wells, making it the largest freshwater pool in the United States. But all the crisp, blue-green water isn't what will impress your relatives. It's Venetian Pool's lush Mediterranean atmosphere. They'll be squealing, "I can't believe you live here!" within 15 minutes of arrival. Milk it while you can. By the end of the day, you'll have to drag them around construction, road rage, and foreclosed homes en route to your crumbling duplex in Doral.
Manor Lanes Bowling Center
An emblematically obese owner of an awesomely rustic bowling alley in Cleveland, Ohio, once told us: "A true bowler will not go to a martini bar." He was referring to the yuppie ten-pin establishments that have been popping up in cities all over the country, where the lanes are impossibly glossy, the lights are strobing, and some rapper with Lil before his name is droning over heavy bass. Listen, that's not America. That's not even bowling. It's some bastardized farce of the sport that Rush Limbaugh will be forced to play in Hell. We miss that solemn, old, oak-laned Cleveland temple to the converted 7-10 split. And here in Miami-Dade, the martini bars posing as bowling alleys outnumber the real thing by a count of, oh, six to one. No slight to Coral Gables' Bird Bowl, a fabulous place, but it's often overrun by teenagers, with their cell phones and their hair and their dastardly chewing gum. It's enough to make a true bowler sojourn a county north to Manor Lanes Bowling Center, where the lanes aren't too waxed, domestic brew comes $8.50 a pitcher, and — we aren't nearly cruel enough to make this up — on Tuesday and Thursday nights, unlimited bowling costs $10. Until 2 a.m. There's no catch. Welcome to America.
If Jaime Bayly is to be believed and the Peruvian ex-presidential candidate is actually dying of a mysterious liver ailment, his nightly talk show is a helluva Irish wake. First, there are the free tickets and booze for the 30 or so audience members. More important, however, is the production itself. The hourlong mix of witty monologue, biting political commentary, and saucy interviews (all in Spanish, we should add) is spectacular in the strictest sense of the word: Past guests have ranged from a man with two penises to Bayly's pregnant 22-year-old girlfriend. If Jaime doesn't leave you laughing, fuming, or choking on your arroz con pollo, he's had an off night. Rare are the episodes where the bisexual novelist doesn't divulge a scandalous secret about the rich and famous, or delve into his own soap-opera lifestyle. No one analyzes Miami's gaudy absurdity better. Si tú hablas español, tienes que ir. If not, what the hell. Show up anyway.
Amelia Earhart Park
There's nothing like a trip to the park in the summer when you're hurting in the wallet and your kids are driving you bananas. Unfortunately, most parks around town are flat, raccoon-infested wastelands where there's nothing much for tots to do but broil their flesh all day on unkempt playgrounds. Sure, parks are pretty. But you didn't bring them here to compose a sonnet. You came here to pry them away from their PlayStation games and SpongeBob episodes and give them a thrill that takes place outdoors. That's where Amelia Earhart Park comes in. What Earhart lacks in beauty, it makes up in activities. There's a barn where youngsters can meet a real-life pony and then ride it. They can pet goats and donkeys and see sheep get sheared, horses get their shoes changed, and cows milked. For older kids (or moms and dads), there's a huge lake where the family can water-ski, wakeboard, or rent paddleboats. There are plenty of open picnic areas, including tables and barbecue pavilions. There's also a convenience store selling refreshments. The entire park is an oasis from the humdrum, hot summer days, and best of all, it won't burn a hole in your wallet. Weekend pony rides cost $2 per child. Park entrance costs $6 per car on weekends.
Forget Jon Stewart, the Onion, and Wonkette.com. Victoria Jackson is simply the finest political satirist working in America today. When the Miami native and former Saturday Night Live star lampoons the Tea Party and other right-wing fringes, it's simply mesmerizing to watch such a fine comedienne commit herself so fully to painting a picture of an unhinged political partisan. The way she hilariously cites false information (like the time she claimed Muslims wanted to tear down the Statue of Liberty), carelessly throws around terms without context, plays ukulele songs declaring the president a communist, clings to outlandish conspiracy theories, and occasionally incites a cultural war (like she did when, in character, she called a gay kiss on Glee "sickening") is pure parody gold. Clearly no actual conservative activist behaves this way, and Jackson takes things way over-the-top for comedic effect, yet like all great humor, it rings true. Wait. What's that? This isn't a dedicated Andy Kaufman-esque act? She earnestly believes all the things she says? Never mind, then. This woman is clearly bonkers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®