Best People-Watching Spot 2012 | Dadeland Mall | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Dadeland Mall

Watching people is cool. Everyone does it, but because it's a mildly creepy activity, most do it in silence. That's why Dadeland Mall is perfect for the peepers. You can watch a flood of humanity to your heart's content with nearly perfect anonymity. At almost 1.5 million square feet, it's not the largest mall in Miami, but the sheer numbers of shoppers walking through the doors ensure the parade wandering past will be more diverse than the aliens hanging out at the Mos Eisley Cantina. Since President Obama just loosened travel restrictions for citizens of Brazil and China, expect to soon see an even more diverse crowd grasping at their slice of the American pie. The mall has several areas with comfy couches and chairs to kick back and watch the ebb and flow with a latte in hand. Just be sure to stay focused: Fall asleep on those couches, and security will have your ass.

Before drone strikes, cyber attacks, long-range missiles, and nuclear annihilation, wars were fought with cannonballs and other solid orbs of destruction. That mode of attack might help explain why more than 16 million bricks were used to build Fort Jefferson, and why the behemoth has never been completed. Construction of the "Guardian of the Gulf of Mexico" began in 1846; officials called it off in 1875 due to concerns that the sheer weight of all those bricks was too stressful for the tiny island and its water system, according to the National Park Service. Located about 70 miles west of Key West in Dry Tortugas National Park, the imposing structure is little more than a tropical ghost town these days. More than 160 years of storms and salty sea winds have taken their toll, but if you can get out to the small remote islands, you'll stroll around a one-of-a-kind artifact that would never be deemed feasible in these modern times.

Just north of the east-bound entrance to the Venetian Causeway is a living, lush example of urban planning at its finest. In the midst of towering condo high-rises, Margaret Pace Park is an eight-acre haven whose volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts; soccer fields; outdoor gym; running paths; covered playground; and eye-catching artistic elements stretch right out to an expanse of sparkling blue water. Load your basket with watermelon slices, sandwiches, and salads and take your pick of one of the handy picnic tables or a cozy plot on the grass. (Tip: Check your landing zone if you choose the latter option — some of the dog owners who frequent the park are less than considerate about poop scooping.) The on-site restrooms are easy to find and usually reasonably appointed. The only difficulty you might have is prying your kids' white-knuckled fists off the playground equipment when your alfresco dining is over. You might also find it hard to give up your noble status after you settle into one of the colorful mosaic "thrones" by the water. Don't forget to pack a Frisbee or football — there's plenty of field to spread out on, although chances are you'll have to share. There's always a lot of activity at this idyllic, eclectic city park.

In general, Florida's disdain for law and order can lead to some pretty scary chaos. (Just check out the assault weapon arsenal in the trunk of our Buick.) But sometimes Miami's libertarian tilt is refreshing. With few exceptions, you can pretty much let your dogs roam free in parks around the Magic City, even if it's technically illegal. And there is no greater little slice of dog heaven than Pinetree Park, a Miami Beach haven on Pinetree Drive just north of 44th Street. There are two fenced-in dog runs here, but why put Fido in a ghetto when the entire park is basically Lollapalooza for pooches? Just pick a park bench and let your dog do his thing with the butts and the sniffing and the lifting of the leg. Oh, and Pinetree ain't a bad place for humans either. It overlooks the water, and large trees make it shady and cool. Because the vast majority of dog owners in this part of town are vigilant about picking up poop, you can set down a picnic blanket without fear of finding an unwelcome surprise smashed on its underside.

Photo by osseous / Flickr

'Sup, humans. Princess the Chihuahua on the mike, here to represent the Haulover Dog Park. Yeah, you heard me. My name is Princess, mofos. You probably think that's real funny. But let me assure you that beneath the bling'ed-out collar and bows my caretakers insist I wear, I am one tough Miami bitch. Disrespect, and I'll cut you. Humans seem to think Haulover is just a hangout for naked people — which, dude, even I think human nudists are weirdos, and I am naked all the damn time. Anyway, in the dog world, Haulover is the hottest joint. The place is enormous, yo! I know Jack Russell puppies who can't run the whole way across it without panting. You've got your wet bar for dogs and humans, some picnic tables in the shade, and apart from that, it's just wide-open space. Haulover is separated into two fields, one for large pooches and one for small pups, but pretty much everyone hangs out in the big-dog section. Haulover Beach is open to canines and their humans on Saturday mornings. Man, you have not lived until you've faced the ocean head-on. I'm bein' straight here: I was born to run beside those waves. The smell of the seaweed, plus the smell of the saltwater, plus that wet-dog smell? When I turn in a circle and lie down for the last time, I hope that's where my soul goes. Whoa, man, that shit just got real.

Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

Greens, fairways, sand traps, blah, blah, blah. The exact dips, bunkers, and hills vary from course to course, but for the most part, many golf courses look like pretty standard seas of grass. Of course you can get your club on at any of these spots, but for a golf course that's an experience all its own, you owe it to yourself to play the links at Crandon Golf, Key Biscayne's slightly wild island paradise. It's only ten minutes from downtown Miami, but it feels like you've ducked out of civilization, what with the mangroves, wildlife, and tropical foliage that define the course. The seventh hole is known as one of the "greatest holes in golf," demanding that you send a zinger careening over the bay. At the signature 18th hole, take a few moments to absorb the incredible view of downtown (slow-play rule be damned!). This course isn't for newbies, however. It's considered one of the most difficult (and beautiful) par 72s in the state. If you feel out of your league, you could always skip the game and simply admire the course while you chow down on some great empanadas at the Links Grill.

What's clean and green and makes you wanna club things really hard? No, it's not a wheatgrass shot infused with anabolic steroids. It's a great driving range, and the Miami Beach Golf Club has the best in the county. Conveniently located just a few blocks north of all the sunning, drinking, and dining that South Beach has to offer, this club is much more serene than the ones lining Washington Avenue. And no bouncers will hurriedly toss you into a rotten-smelling alley if you hit something. In fact, it's encouraged! But like other area clubs, this one has a strict dress code. No jeans are allowed, and collared shirts are required. If you're into grass, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are your days to boogie. If you don't mind mats, Monday through Thursday is for you. Just $12 buys you a big-ass basket of balls; $8 gets you a more modest share. And once you've worked on driving those miniature Epcot Center-look-alikes into the wild blue yonder, don't forget to fine-tune your game on the well-manicured putting green next to the range.

Take a cleansing breath, young disciple; you are among friends. Yogis and newbies alike will find a warm mat and a warmer welcome at YOGiiZA's Karma Yoga Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Each week, gracious hosts Dawn and Mark Oliver invite tuned-in members of the community to their organic-clothing headquarters. There, open-hearted students benefit from a local instructor's karmic investment. A new class leader volunteers his or her time every week; past events have featured Arianne Traverso's AcroYoga, during which attendees learned to help their partners "fly" with grace, balance, and bone alignment, and Jennifer Pansa's Budokon Primary for advanced practitioners. Donations are welcome and, in the spirit of good karma, are often donated to animal sanctuaries or other charities. Guests are also encouraged to bring vegan or vegetarian dishes to share at the casual potluck and social, held Indian-style on the floor after class. Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP by emailing [email protected].

Lucky's Place is the Jimbo's of the Everglades — or technically, of the Big Cypress National Preserve. And proprietor Lucky Cole loves it when you stop in, browse the general store, grab a beer, take a seat under an umbrella, eat some barbecue, and peruse the hundreds of nude female portraits the 60-something-year-old has been photographing most of his life. Lucky lives on-site with his wife Maureen, and women from around the world visit to have their naked pictures shot on his property full of vintage and rustic backdrops. Naked ladies pose in front of the antique Coke cooler, in the outdoor shower, on an old motorcycle, and even in the slow-flowing waters of the grassy river near his home. He even has a (non-nude) shot of a young Eva Longoria. There's also a "redneck hotel" where you can stay the night in swampy paradise. Everybody is welcome at Lucky's, which is (usually) open to the public Saturdays and Sundays. It's a short drive west from Miccosukee Resort & Gaming and a long way from reality.

In the earliest days of civilized Miami, this area north of downtown and west of Biscayne Bay was all citrus agriculture and pineapple plantation. Today it doesn't get more urban. Along NW 71st Street, there's no bike lane to speak of, and you'll be riding between the Upper East Side and Liberty City, so this isn't a bike ride to take at night. But if you can weather the traffic and the shady-looking characters, there's magic on this trip. The view changes from mid-1900s residential architecture to bombed-out blocks of alien warehouses to foreclosed blocks of empty project housing. The proud Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a Miami educational landmark, looms near the road. You can stop for a bite and a cool drink at three excellent joints — Dogma, with its gourmet frankfurters; the Caribbean oasis of Naomi's Garden; and Miracle Fry Conch Fritters, a soul-food HQ. NW 71st Street might not be the prettiest stretch of Miami, but damned if a bike ride through here isn't a trip right to the urban soul of the Magic City.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®