Best Of :: Shopping & Services
Never let it be said that Miami is not a trendsetter. Well before pop-up restaurants and pop-up bars exploded in popularity, Miami began hosting a pop-up of its own: the Friends of the Library Annual Book Sale, which has been springing up during the holiday shopping rush for the past 11 years. For most of the year, the downtown branch of the Miami-Dade Public Library System is just an average city hub for book lending and covert napping. But for five days of every year, usually in early December, it transforms into this city's best bookstore. Tens of thousands of books, CDs, and DVDs are available for purchase, making it one of the largest book sales in South Florida. The prices reflect some killer discounts, so you can justify fleshing out your home library as well as picking up a couple of titles to wrap up as holiday gifts. And your friends and family won't be the only ones who'll benefit — sales proceeds go toward funding the library's cultural and literary programs. So when you buy a book to read, you're also helping others do the same. It's hard to get that warm, fuzzy feeling from downloading an e-book to your Kindle.
READERS' POLL WINNERES
Best Auto Dealership: The Collection
Best Bike Shop: Mack Cycle & Fitness
Best Bookstore: Books & Books
Best Clothing Boutique: Emporium
Best Gym: LA Fitness
Best Hair Salon: Control Salon
Best Hotel: Surfcomber
Best Liquor Store: Total Wine & More
Best Mall: Aventura Mall
Best Mechanic: Abana Auto Parts
Best Spa: The Standard Spa
At the risk of foiling any romantic chemistry between us, dear reader, for the purposes of this item we must describe our body. We are approximately 50 pounds overweight and have flat, wide feet. Imagine if a duck mated with Alfred Hitchcock. Now imagine that auteur paddling bird tried his hand (wing?) at basketball one afternoon and badly turned his ankle. Given the weight on his feet, the lack of supporting arches, and the seriousness of the injury, this would be a job for a masterful foot doctor. Especially if — we admit we're stretching the metaphor a bit here — the filmmaking duck had to catch a plane to the mountains of Utah for a hiking trip in two days hence. Let's tell the rest of the story straight: Dr. Gary Curson advised us against making the trip and offered to write a letter to the airline to assist in having the tickets refunded. When we refused, he prescribed industrial-strength ibuprofen, wrapped our afflicted foot like a mummy, outfitted it in an embarrassing boot, and gave us some ground rules for treating the appendage so it wouldn't be permanently damaged. All the while, he cheered us with some pleasantly corny wisecracks. There were no exorbitant charges on top of our insurance payments, and we enjoyed our trip — although we did much more drinking than hiking. Take it from a fat-ass duck: Whatever the opposite of a quack is, that's Dr. Curson.
Miami has a love/hate relationship with literature. Our beaches are littered with tourists' cast off pulp paperbacks. Our local luminaries are crime reporters cum authors. But that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the written word as much as your average American does. Just check out our libraries. Many of them are packed. And when Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez shut down dozens of them to save money last year, locals were rightly pissed. Luckily, Miami's best library was spared. No, we don't mean that pastel pleasure palace on South Beach. We like that branch, with its coffee shop, interior courtyard, and general law-and-orderliness. But downtown is our definition of a true library: a repository of rare and weird items such as limited editions of Florida authors and rare prints by Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. It's also where all Miamians — rich or poor, mansion owners or street dwellers — converge from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and, finding a spot near a window, lose themselves in a musty book. So ditch your Kindle. ¡Vamos a la biblioteca!
Ever visit a city where the public transportation actually works? Like Minneapolis, where people take the light rail from the airport? It feels like you've escaped from the hinterlands into the Capital. (Yes, that's a Hunger Games reference.) Miami will probably never have good public transportation, what with our perpetually inept and greasy-palmed collective of politicians. But depending upon your starting point, getting to Miami International Airport by bus is — believe it or not — pretty damn painless. The Airport Flyer, as the express route is called, travels from South Beach to the airport and back with only two stops: one in Mid-Beach and one at the Earlington Heights Metrorail Station. It costs $2.35, a far cheaper option than cabbing it or parking long-term. If you don't live on the Beach, your journey gets more complicated once you transfer at Earlington Heights — but hey, what do you think this is, Seattle?
Best is such a subjective word, especially when it comes to parking. The obvious answer is whatever is cheapest and closest, but no one wants to hear your stories of parking glory. "Oh, you found a metered spot right in front of the restaurant? Great, good for you. Guess what? I just parked in what is quite literally the most buzzed-about and architecturally important parking garages of all time." Yes, we're talking about 1111 Lincoln, the Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking paradise that's been featured in every publication from the New York Times to Vanity Fair. You know you wanna drive up in that thing. You know you wanna glide your car into the clean concrete and wide-open vistas. You know you're gonna take a picture from the edge. You know you're gonna casually mention it once you get to wherever you're going. Is it always the most inexpensive and convenient place to park? Probably not. Could you make a strong case that it's the best? Obviously. Just admit it, you newly minted parking elitist.
Johnny Jr. wanted to go to that chain place for his birthday. You know, that one with the beetle mascot, or is it a pigeon? What, it's a rat, isn't it? After eating ten slices of greasy pizza, however, his stomach protested. Sadly, with his eyes crossed after four hours of playing videogames, he couldn't quite find the restroom. It didn't end well. Little Carlita, however, opted to throw her birthday party at Miami's own Cool-de-Sac. Her guests dined on healthful pizza with a vegetable purée deceptively hidden in the ingredients. Mom and Dad chose the tuna tartare. After playing dressup in the salon, she achieved artistic nirvana while painting ceramics. Little brother, meanwhile, romped through the tunnels of the indoor playground and wound down by building a magnet tower in the science room. Not a single guest protested when Aunt Ileana pointed out they'd all had a nutritious and educationally stimulating time. They just wanted to stay longer.
Miami is the home of palm trees and gorgeous hotels, but it's also a place where thousands of cats and dogs wander the streets homeless or abandoned by owners who move back North. Most of these animals have pretty lousy endings — winding up hit by cars on I-95, starving, or falling ill. The lucky ones, however, make it to the Humane Society of Greater Miami Adopt-a-Pet, where caring staffers and volunteers take the time to nurse unwanted and confused creatures back to health. The shelter also makes it a point to socialize them and teach them basic commands so Fluffy and Fido are more likely to be adopted. The shelter also has a clinic, providing low-cost spaying and neutering to stop the cycle of unwanted pets, as well as inexpensive vaccinations. And yes, this shelter has a no-kill policy, meaning that once an animal is brought into the system, it's safe until it finds a permanent home. If you can't adopt, why not spend your Sunday volunteering at the shelter instead of watching that Real Housewives marathon? If karma is a bitch, the least you could do is take her for a walk — or take her home!
Life ain't always a picnic in one of the world's most beautiful cities: road rage on the Palmetto, that endless parking-spot search on South Beach, the eternal quest to stay thin amid a lifestyle of constant partying. Sooner or later you realize you need to slow down, chica! It's time for a staycation at one of the most luxurious spa resorts on the planet. The famous Canyon Ranch in Arizona, home to the rich and famous who need a quick way to lose ten pounds before the Oscars, also has a Miami Beach resort complete with an insane number of amenities. Check into the all-suite hotel and you'll meet a team of doctors, therapists, nutritionists, and personal trainers, all designed to whip your mind, body, and spirit into shape in about a week. Beginning with beach walks and meditations, you'll be massaged, colonic'ed, kneaded, analyzed, pampered, and destressed every minute of the day. For when you wind down, your suite comes with a kitchen equipped with a juicer, blender, and fridge (perfect to whip up some papaya smoothies), and instead of a lobby, there's a gathering space where you can sip an organic cocktail before having a heart-healthy meal from a menu custom-prepared for you. Then climb the indoor rock wall, learn kickboxing, do yoga, or relax at one of the four gorgeous pools. With rates starting around $400 a night (and reaching more than $2,000), it's not cheap. But it's a lot less expensive than a week at the local cardiac care unit or psych ward.
Let's face it. Sometimes you gotta take a book, newspaper, or magazine with you when it's time to use the toilet. When that need arises during a trip to downtown Miami, the main library is ready to accommodate you. Step through the front sliding glass doors, and stroll to the periodicals or the fiction and nonfiction book section on the first floor to pick up some reading material. Once you've selected your literature, head back toward the front entrance and hang a right near the checkout desk to get to the bathrooms, which are saturated with disinfectants to eliminate any leftover hobo germs. In fact, the bathrooms are so pristine that you don't have to worry about catching anything when your tush touches the toilet seat. All the urinals, toilets, and sinks are operated by infrared detectors, so there is no need to fiddle with flushers or faucets. The bathrooms also feature diaper-changing stations for the wee ones, plus there's an extra family restroom. Just don't forget to return that reading material when you're done.
Near Miami International Airport, the Florida Department of Transportation is entering the final stage of the agency's most ambitious project in Miami-Dade County. Known as the Miami Intermodal Center, or MIC, the facility will make connections to public transit much smoother from one of the busiest airports in the nation. Construction on the Miami Central Station, the center of the $1.3 billion project, is already underway. When it's completed in November 2013, county residents and visitors will be able to catch Metrorail, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, or a new commuter train servicing Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties from a sleek terminal that seems conceived by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas. With its aerodynamic metal and glass exterior, Miami Central Station's $88 million price tag is worth every dime that taxpayers invested. Two years ago, the transportation department finished the first phase of the project, the Rental Car Center, a four-level, 3.4-million-square-foot building that houses every car rental agency serving MIA. Air travelers can take a people mover there, providing a seamless connection. All aboard!
CDs are dead, cassette tapes are belt buckles, and eight-tracks are a cultural relic good only for dating period movies about the '80s. Yet somehow the grooved-vinyl predecessor to them all lives on in the hearts of music enthusiasts young and old. Vinyl records are a physical link between our present and past, and no one in Miami understands that sentiment better than Yesterday and Today Records, located just off the Palmetto Expressway on Bird Road. For more than 30 years, this place has pushed rock 'n' roll relics to customers looking for the rare and retro. The store has an extensive collection of garage, psychedelic, disco, folk, funk, jazz, dance, punk, soul, metal, experimental, and everything in between. Record prices start at $1 and average $8 to $20, and besides music, there are plenty of cool vintage shirts, framed photos, books, magazines, and other memorabilia for sale, along with players, needles, and all necessary accessories. You can purchase records in-store or by mail order through email@example.com, and the shop is happy to order anything you might want but can't find. But with literally thousands of records on hand, you're bound to find something for your collection.