Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill 2013 | Private Airboat Safari in the Everglades | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

It is said that there's nothing like going on safari in Africa and watching the sun rise on the Serengeti as wild animals roam the African plains. Here's the problem — it takes two whole days and lots of green to get to Kenya. But what most Miamians don't realize is that they can take a wildlife safari just as exotic without ever hopping on an airplane. Everglades National Park comprises about 1.5 million acres of land and is home to more than 350 species of birds, 27 species of snakes, 40 species of mammals, and hundreds of other reptiles and amphibians. The "River of Grass" has been called one of the great biological wonders of the world. Unlike many other wildlife areas, much of the Everglades cannot be accessed by foot or car — only by airboat. Fortunately, an airboat is one of the coolest modes of transportation ever. A flat-bottomed boat, powered by a gasoline engine with a big propeller, is fast, fun, and a little deafening. A two-hour private airboat safari for two starts at $375 and traverses about 17 miles of a secluded section called the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, which is abundant with wildlife. Are you a birder? Do you want to be surrounded by alligators? Or do you simply want to go fast? Tell your captain what you want to see and he'll tailor the safari to suit. Although no animal sightings are guaranteed, you are sure to have a wild time without ever getting your passport stamped.

Parents, rejoice! Entertaining your children no longer has to be at the expense of your sanity. Play Au Lait is among South Florida's largest active play gyms. It'll make Junior happy and active in a safe, clean, environment while you enjoy delicacies from the gourmet café or get some work done on the free Wi-Fi. Three play areas separated by age are designed for having fun, releasing stress, and building healthy bodies. Parents can host catered parties or join events like Kindermusik, an educational music and movement program, or LOTUS Parent Series, a support discussion group on raising kids. You can read in peace here and sip on champagne. Yes, it has that too. Admission rates vary per age, and the price includes two adults: up to 24 months old, $9.95; 2 to 5 years old, $11.95; and 6 to 12 years, $18.95. It's open Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. And hey, with summer here, there's also camp for age groups 4 to 6 and 7 to 9, and a preschool prep camp for 2- and 3-year-olds.

Courtesy of Wynwood Walls

OK, so you've been to the Second Saturday Art Walk, and all you can think is, I would never bring my little ones here! It's full of drinking and debauchery. Well, hold on a minute! The arts district that's south of NW 28th Street and Second Avenue is the most interesting slice of Miami. The reason isn't the galleries, it's the street art. Park near the Wynwood Walls at NW Second Avenue and 25th Street, enjoy dozens of paintings and the Wynwood Doors exhibit, then head over to NW Third Avenue and 26th Street, where you can see Eye and Fly by Scott Debus. Continue south and check out Dal East's Wireman at 31 NW 23rd St. and Ballerinas by Anthony Lister at 2300 NW Second Ave. The kids should be worn out by then, so shove 'em in the car and head for lunch and ice cream at Bayside Marketplace.

This place Trumps the Blue Monster! The Biltmore and Crandon Park? They command princely greens fees. So our choice is Miami Springs Golf & Country Club. Miami's oldest muni course and site of the Miami Open, the Springs has hosted Sarazen, Snead, Nelson, and all the greats from the game's golden era . These days, it welcomes scratchers and duffers alike. Fees are reasonable — weekday rates are $25, and weekend rates are $35 (plus cart and tax) — and there's plenty of yardage to challenge Bubba. Miami pioneer Glenn Curtiss and a group of fancy golfers who called themselves the Miami Coconuts built the course and clubhouse in 1923 for $101,000. Four years later, Curtiss sold it to the City of Miami after the Coconuts could not afford the maintenance. For 30 years, the Miami Springs Golf Course hosted the Miami Open. The last one was played in 1955. Later that year, the city burnt the clubhouse to the ground after deeming it an unsafe structure. In 1997, Miami sold the golf course to the City of Miami Springs for $3 million. Today, the course is the forgotten jewel among its more popular cousins in Doral and Coral Gables.

The best place to practice your golf swing in Miami is off the back of your megayacht, placing your perfect golf ball atop a gold-plated tee and swinging your custom titanium driver across the square of real, live Bermuda grass that you had imported from Bermuda (where else?), which was expertly manicured just hours earlier by Ernesto, your attractive (but not threateningly so) yacht gardener. But it turns out that sending golf balls into the ocean like tiny, pockmarked missiles is bad for the environment. Miami manatees have enough problems without having to dodge your shanks. Besides, you're broke. Luckily, the driving range at the Country Club of Miami is the next best place to improve your golf skills. Its grass is well-maintained, and it's open from dawn until dusk. And when you've tired of working on your big swing, there are nearby chipping and putting greens. Head over during Friday-night driving-range happy hour, when buckets of balls sell for $1 from 4 to 7 p.m. (the range is open 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays). Hey, until you and Ernesto sail off into the sunset, it'll have to do.

It's your one-stop park for every outdoor activity. Visitors to Tropical Park can find everything from tennis courts to soccer fields to a football field that regularly hosts high school games. Then there's the equestrian center, where horse enthusiasts can rent stables and participate in regular competitions. Among the courts for basketball and racquetball, you'll find a boxing center offering an amateur program. There's also a two-acre dog park with an obstacle course and lots of shady trees. There are paddle-boat rentals on a lake and another body of water with large-mouthed bass, bluegill, catfish, and more. For those looking to picnic, there is an array of options, from idyllic, hidden-away lakeside spots to rows of shelters for parties. There's even a grassy hill that is among the, ahem, highest pieces of earth in South Florida. It can make for a heck of a ride for daredevil dirt bikers, not to mention one precarious King of the Hill game.

Your dog has simple needs: Food, water, a little exercise, and something — be it rawhide or the remote control — to chew on. So when it comes to dog-park amenities, it's all about catering to dog owners. And East Greynolds does a great job of exactly that. Some of the place's amenities are solely for the dogs, of course. There are separate sections for large and small breeds, ensuring Princess the Chihuahua won't get trampled by any rough-housing direwolves. Fountains are on hand to make sure pups don't get dehydrated while they're prancing around in the hot Miami sun. But you'll find all those things just about anywhere. Greynolds stands out because of its human touches: shaded pavilions in both large and small dog areas, for example, so dog owners can stay comfortable and sunburn-free while their pups play. Parking ($2 per hour) is plentiful, and the location is picturesque, with a thin forest to the north and a dock overlooking Maule Lake to the south. There's even a public and clean (by park standards, anyway) restroom right outside the dogs' play area, ensuring you won't have to pop a squat, Fido-style, when you've gotta go.

Courtesy of the GMCVB

It's hard to preserve waterfront property in Miami. If high-rise developers aren't locked in a bloody battle over a parcel, it's destined to become a gaudy mansion. Every now and again, a municipality gets a sliver of land to maintain for the masses. Alice C. Wainwright Park is a gem hidden among multimillion-dollar mansions on a hard-to-find spot south of downtown. To the north are Brickell's glittering office and condo towers. To the south is still-Bohemian Coconut Grove. The park is a narrow strip of green space that ends at Biscayne Bay and offers sweeping views of Key Biscayne and the edge of downtown Miami. The best place to roll out the blanket, before depositing the cheese and wine, is next to the water, which is separated from the rest of the park by a short, rocky drop-off. If you want to take things to the next level, fire up the built-in charcoal grills.

There's no disputing that downtown Miami provides one of the most gorgeous vistas in this town. From the JFK Causeway to the arch of the Rickenbacker, the arresting sight of Downtown dominates Biscayne Bay. And no matter what the weather or time of day, from flaming sunset to cool-blue midnight, it provides a special patch of sky-high glass and colorful noise that's unnervingly pretty. And nowhere gives you a more complete and undisturbed view than the dock along the west side of Watson Island. Park your car in the empty lot in the shadow of the Miami Children's Museum — there's rarely more than one or two other cars there — and wander over to the edge of the seawall, where huge rusted moorings hark back to a time when the skyline across the bay was a simpler, smaller thing. Bask in the glory of the city's majesty. From the Omni to the Port of Miami, the view from Watson Island captures a panorama teeming with madness and neon and beauty. It's a paradise lost and reclaimed, home to an international array of raving lunatics and geniuses, murderers and poets and princes. It's damned near perfect.

Whether you're driving a shitty car that requires a double-pump of the clutch to work properly, riding a bike that's rusted into eternal sixth gear with a half-flat tire, or walking back to your Mid-Beach hotel at 6 a.m. with blisters after dancing the night away with foreign strangers at LIV, this stretch along the water is unbeatable. It starts right around Brittany Park on Indian Creek Drive. Then, going south, it fluidly becomes less about the shitty day you had at work or the fight you had with your BFF and more about the surroundings. Close your eyes and feel the breeze. Look at the sunset peeking through every building. Study the stellar mansions of Millionaire's Row. Palm trees are perfectly placed along the water, so photo ops are unavoidable. Fancy yachts from Italy and the French Riviera line the docks for weeks at a time. At night, the 41st Street Bridge lights up like a deep-sea creature with bioluminescent capabilities. Lampposts lining the bridge show bright, interchangeable colors. This is the Magic City at its greatest.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®