Best Urban Bike Ride 2012 | NW 71st Street between Biscayne Boulevard and 15th Avenue | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

What makes the perfect run? A beautiful course that's free of cars, rabid dogs, and bicycles is a good start. A great, ever-changing view helps, as do plenty of friendly fellow runners and walkers. Throw in good lighting for evening runs and a forgivable surface that's easy on the knees. There's at least one route that matches all of those dreams: the Miami Beach boardwalk from 23rd to 46th streets. This stretch of wooden walkway is elevated above the shoreline, allowing the ocean winds to cool even the hottest summer run. There's also an ever-changing view of bathing beauties, kite surfers, power walkers, artists, crazy people, and every other walk of life sharing the beach scene. Run the entire route and back for a solid four-miler. Bonus: When you're finished, you're close to about a million places to celebrate with a cold beer.

OK, so forget the two cops who recently tried to render aid to a stopped car and instead got shot by a crazed bandit on Florida's Turnpike. Pay no attention to the fact that the state legislature renamed it in honor of Ronald Reagan, the president who changed the tax structure and really caused the lasting economic mess we are in today. In just about every way possible, this 450-mile highway that runs through 16 counties just stinks. Not many people remember the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1964 for describing the luxury living of the guys who ran the Turnpike authority — and the fact that the price of the damn thing was four times their projections. On top of everything else, today people on the Turnpike just drive too damn fast. Try puttering along at 65 miles per hour. Just try it. Motorists will flash their brights at you. They will honk and hassle you. You just can't go the speed limit on this road. If you do, you're as good as dead.

This narrow two-lane road cutting through the heart of Miami's Shorecrest neighborhood is like a living, breathing time capsule. It's a place where you find yourself slowing down to take in the rich history of one of Miami's oldest residential communities. A hard run becomes a light jog. An intense bicycle ride turns into an easy-going journey. A stressful auto commute transforms into a scenic cruise. You'll find a mix of MiMo-style residences with abundant tree canopies, and pre-World War II estates with massive lush settings, including one of the last Miami-Dade homes made of coral rock. You'll cross a small bridge over a tranquil inlet that leads into Biscayne Bay. It's the perfect spot to rest.

Miami is a fast-developing city, where old buildings are quickly demolished and replaced with shiny new ones. But the 25,000-acre Aerojet Dade Rocket Facility, an industrial relic of Miami's past, has remained virtually untouched for decades. In the 1960s, Aerojet manufactured rocket boosters here, but the plant was shut down in 1986 after the company lost its contract with NASA. Now the facility sits empty, rusting away and unprotected. It's a popular place for scrap metal thieves, graffiti artists, and young urban explorers looking for a weekend adventure. Three miles into the facility stands a building that houses a silo with the SL-3, the world's largest solid-fuel rocket booster ever built. Exploring Aerojet's factory isn't exactly legal — but then urban exploring wouldn't be half as much fun, would it?

True story: The sun sets every day over all of South Florida. But that doesn't mean all sunsets are created equal. You call that wan, pinkish glow you glimpsed through your office window at 7:45 last Tuesday a sunset? Hell, no. Give this a shot: Late in the afternoon, hop into your car and point it south. After you hit Homestead, stick on U.S. 1 for a few more miles until the first greenish specks of the Keys start popping out of the ocean. Take the very first, poorly marked exit, hang a right after the underpass, and cruise into one of the area's least-talked-about gems: Gilbert's Resort Tiki Bar, a thatched-roof oasis of beer and rum nestled into a moon-shaped bay. Grab a Corona, plop down on the wooden pier, and watch closely what happens: That, my friend, is a sunset.

If you are an intrepid boater, you load your fishing pole, kids, and GPS and head out to sea Saturday mornings in search of wahoo. If you are more like us, you stow your Weber grill, some burgers, and maybe a few dogs and putter around Biscayne Bay for five minutes before pushing up on a spit of island, jumping into the water, and relaxing a bit. Or a lot. Maybe you head to a small island just south of Oleta River State Park and cook while your buddies or little ones paddle around in the water. Biscayne Bay is peppered with small picnic islands. Some — such as Monument Island — are popping party scenes with loud reggaeton, while many others are tiny, quiet oases. Wherever you stop, you'll drink a few beers and fall asleep afterward, and when you wake, you'll be as red as a lobster that fell into a pot of boiling water. But you'll be happy. And this is why summer in the Magic City is grand.

FLA Live Arena photo

In the mysterious alchemy of professional sports, it's often damn near impossible to determine what turns a losing streak into a glittering championship run. But in the case of South Florida's suddenly successful hockey team, the special ingredient is clear. When the Florida Panthers signed Tomás Fleischmann last summer, the left winger's career was in jeopardy. He had shown flashes of offensive-minded brilliance with several other teams, only to miss large chunks of the two previous seasons with potentially fatal blood clots. The Panthers were also in bad shape, earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first NHL team to fail to make the playoffs for ten straight seasons. But ever since signing the 28-year-old Czech, the Panthers seem to have finally grown a furry feline pair. The team fought its way back into the postseason this year thanks in large part to Fleischmann, who during the regular season led the team in shots on goal, goals, and points, and finished third in assists. The left-winger played in every single game.

Courtesy of the GMCVB

The most disorienting, kinetic, eye-searing installment in the new Marlins Park isn't that neon-colored home-run sculpture. It's José Reyes legging out triples. Have you seen the Miami Marlins' new shortstop round three bases? The dude smiles and pants like a lab chasing a tennis ball. The stealthy Dominican kid — poached from the smoldering ruins of the New York Mets — does not do jaded. Until a few years ago, he shared an apartment with his parents in Flushing, Queens. He recently bleached his hair in tandem with the Marlins' previous shortstop — and current third baseman — Hanley Ramirez, who is apparently his new BFF. Yes, he's the kind of ballplayer you can take home to Mama. He's Wade Boggs with Vince Coleman's legs and a young Ken Griffey Jr.'s joie de vivre. If the only reason the Marlins scored Reyes from the Mets is because the Queens team was financially ruined by investing with Bernie Madoff, well, finally something good has come to Florida from a Ponzi scheme.

Michele Eve Sandberg

When the Miami Dolphins signed Reggie Bush last spring, Fins fans feared the running back would be more TMZ than, you know, good. Bush came out of the University of Southern California with promises of being the next Gale Sayers. Even though he helped the Saints win a Super Bowl, Bush became better known for his game with the ladies (especially tabloid princess Kim Kardashian) than his game on the field. When Bush arrived in Miami as a free agent, his famous ex-girlfriend had just married some basketball player, and he was expected to do nothing more than catch passes out of the backfield. Early in the season, he couldn't get anything going. It was looking like he'd gone completely bust in the aqua-and-orange. Then, midseason, Kardashian got divorced, and Bush began to tear it up. Coincidence? Nobody knows. All we know is that, at the end of it all, Bush set career highs in carries (216) and rushing yards (1,086). He also scored six touchdowns for the Dolphins, matching his career high. His 5.03 yards-per-carry average was the second highest of his career. And now he'll enter the new season as the primary back over second-year man Daniel Thomas. Bush has sparked a career renaissance in Miami.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®