"One sun rose on us today," Richard Blanco intoned from the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Millions of viewers watched on television, and President Barack Obama sat a few feet away, surrounded by the dignitaries gathered to celebrate his second inauguration. "Kindled over our shores, peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces of the Great Lakes," Blanco read on. The lines were more than just the opening to his acclaimed poem "One Today"; they were vividly worded landmarks in Miami history. On that cold January morning, Blanco, a native son raised in Westchester and educated at Christopher Columbus High and Florida International University, became the first immigrant, the first Latino, and the first openly gay inaugural poet. He hardly stopped there. By year's end, he'd had three other works published and gathered plaudits including the Paterson Poetry Prize and an honorary doctorate from Macalester College. Blanco may call Maine home these days, but it's the immigrant experience and the complex identities that collided every day of his Miami upbringing that still drive his work. "One Today," his inaugural poem read to the nation that morning in Washington, is a paean to America's diversity, but it's not difficult to find the DNA of Blanco's hometown in every line. In the weeks that followed that historic moment, he later told the Miami Herald, "I realized how much of a son of Miami I am."

The trouble began in San Cristobal, a hilly town hugging the winding border between Venezuela and Colombia. Jim Wyss was there to talk about contraband, the black-market goods that flood across the border in a country where Hugo Chávez's Bolivarian Revolution continues to wreak havoc on the economy long after his death. A promised interview with a border general turned into hours of waiting, though, and when Wyss tried to bail, he was suddenly thrown into a car and whisked away to a military intelligence compound. This was no interview, he learned; he was under arrest. Such are the occupational hazards of life as the Miami Herald's Andean bureau chief. As one of the last full-time American daily staffers on the foreign-reporting beat, Wyss carries a heavy load from his home base in Bogotá. Yet it's to his credit that writing about an entire continent hasn't led to an influx of dry reports about economic trends or political horseraces. Instead, between his hard-hitting updates on regional conflicts, Wyss has turned in wild narratives about a War of the Worlds-like radio show terrifying Ecuador, graffiti art taking over Bogotá, and Colombian Christmas ads aimed at shaming guerrillas straight. And as that day in San Cristobal shows, he has put his neck on the line to find the stories. For almost 48 hours after his sudden arrest in November 2013, Wyss sat in jail cells wondering whether Maduro's government planned to make an example of the Yankee reporter who had poked too deeply into the troubled regime's issues. With the help of American diplomats, though, saner heads prevailed and Wyss was released. And then? He wrote a killer story about the whole ordeal, of course.

After four years of barking at dishonest politicians and lobbyists, former Miami Herald reporter Elaine de Valle has pulled off a rare feat in this town: She's treated with the same respect afforded to credentialed journalists employed by the dead-lumber media companies. And it's no surprise why. The hard-nosed, old-school reporter tallied 18 years at the Herald before founding Political Cortadito, where she's become a go-to online watchdog sniffing out the latest shenanigans of South Florida's elected officials. From Homestead to Hialeah, de Valle has blown up corruption and unethical behavior and scored a parade of scoops. In the first half of 2014 alone, she broke news about Coral Gables City Manager Pat Salerno giving benefits and raises to his favored employees before abruptly resigning, the Doral City Council's surprise move to axe ex-Miami city manager Joe Carollo, and former state representative Ana Rivas Logan's shocking move to bail on the GOP and become a Democrat. Even when sources slam doors in her face or get her thrown out of rooms, de Valle — often writing as her alter ego "Ladra" — keeps nipping at their heels. Her relentless nature and work ethic have made her blog a must-read for thousands of followers who still care about changing Miami's banana republic political culture by using a healthy dose of transparency.

"All my jokes are tweets that were too many characters," local stand-up comedian Michael Maryanoff once proclaimed in his Twitter bio. It's not uncommon for standups to workshop jokes on the microblogging service, but — for all his humble-bragging — Maryanoff is actually one of the few local comedians making the most of 140 characters or fewer. Some recent gems from his feed:

"How to tell you're at a Cuban party: all the parents are dancing and it's not embarrassing."

"How were people even passive-aggressive before the internet? Especially you-know-who with his stupid office drama posts. Ugh, so annoying."

"Thankfully, the heat in Miami has moved from 'North Korea' to 'China' in terms of oppressiveness."

"You don't need a breathalyzer to figure out when I'm drunk. You'll know when I start calling my girlfriend 'bro.'"

But Maryanoff's road to the stage and Twitter comedy wasn't typical. He began standup as a hobby after being diagnosed with cancer at age 23, and his recovery from the disease has spawned Twitter gold as well: "Wonder when the weight comments are gonna go from 'You gained some good weight post-chemo!' to 'How does your girlfriend still fuck you?'"

If a guy can make a good chemo joke, well, he's probably someone you wouldn't be disappointed to follow.

Score Nightclub
Chris Carter

Just gay guys are reading this item, right? So we can fill this with a bunch of RuPaul's Drag Race references and you'll understand? Yes, gawd! After 15 years on Lincoln Road, Score's landlords told the legendary gay bar to sashay away, so like a panther on the runway, it shantéed to Washington Avenue last year. Before doors opened, all the South Beach gays were wondering, How is she, though? The answer: sickening! Inside, you'll find Pit Crew-worthy bartenders serving drinks, and enough trade on the floor for all your kiki-ing and kai-kai-ing needs. Weekend nights are packed to the rafters, but the Tuesday Latin party and Thursday pop party (hosted by South Beach's perennial drag superstars Daisy Deadpetals and Chyna Girl) provide perfect midweek diversions, henny. Though it's at a new location, Score remains the best place to feel your oats, feel your fantasies, and serve whatever type of realness you want. Okurrrr!

When you're looking for a laid-back evening of food and booze, sometimes it's best to get away from the bustle of South Beach and take a night off from hunting for parking in the Gables. Miami Springs might not be famous for hopping nightlife, but Woody's West End Tavern offers an easygoing getaway from all the Magic City madness. Woody's is a colorful little spot near Miami International Airport with a Florida-meets-Hawaii design. Panthers and Dolphins memorabilia and all the big screens make this an excellent game-watching scene, but it's more cheery than your typical sports bar, with ample seating both inside and outdoors, where there's a sandy ode-to-surfing area, comfy chairs, and a large screening wall for games. Live music nights on the patio Fridays and Saturdays bring in the biggest crowds, with jazz, blues, and rock bands playing late, while daily happy hour from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. gets you half-price appetizers and specials on drinks. Woody's has 15 draft beers — a mix of local, domestic, and seasonal spotlights that's continuously updated. You'll find great brews such as Kona Brewing Company and Dogfish Head Brewery for about $4.50 a pint or bottle. The tavern's made-to-order menu includes all the usual fixings, such as fries, wings, and burgers, plus a good bit of seafood. With its friendly staff, jukebox jams, and fair prices, Woody's makes spending a day in quiet suburbia a surprising treat.

Some folks like their drag queens on the tame side, expertly tucked and quaffed, and ready to smile through Katy Perry lyrics. But for the most part, that ain't Miami's style. This city's got flavor — a lot of Latin flavor, in fact — and the queens at Azucar serve it in abundance. Formerly called Club Sugar, Azucar offers a lethal dose of salsa, disco, and diva flair, plus a dash of dirty that suits this filthy town just right. Every Thursday through Sunday, the club's performers bust out song numbers and skits, all while keeping the energy at 11. There's everything, including Latina pageant gals lipping ballads and girls getting weird to Gaga. For the fiercest performances, however, Thursday night's Drag Wars is a bitch battle not to be missed. Dolls from all backgrounds compete for the weekly $100 prize and a chance at the semifinals down the road. At Azucar, you can surround the floor and they'll snatch your dollars like the hungry human claw machines they are. Sure, the show doesn't kick off till 2 a.m., but the crowd comes late and the cover stays below $10, so suck down a vodka Red Bull and get with it.

Draw up a list of the many possible places that a hub for newborn creatives might be tucked in Miami-Dade, and a cluster of warehouses stuck behind an Outback Steakhouse in Kendall would presumably be pretty close to the bottom. But get over the odd location and there's no denying the truth: Artistic Vibes brims with life and burbles with creative juices. Founded in 2010, the artist collective in a renovated warehouse gives a platform to a variety of performance art productions, from live music and poetry to stand-up comedy and theater. All genres converge every Thursday night for the most popular event, Open Mic, hosted by comedian Xander Rey and poet Quills Rodriguez. It wouldn't be a true open mike without a few rookies floundering or even some industry veterans filling the room with crushing awkwardness, but Artistic Vibes features some damn good performers who more than balance it out. Well-known local comedians Eric DaSilva and John Vargas and poet/musician Narciso Hilario Montas are just a few of the reliably great acts who frequent the stage. Artistic Vibes' atmosphere is homey and fun, a unique combination amid the typical stiff gallery or dark bar performance backdrop. Audience members can grab beer, popcorn, and other refreshments from the cash bar and settle into a sofa to watch the show. It's kind of like being in a dirty-humored, pothead-friendly version of your grandparents' living room. The AV family has an infectious enthusiasm for what they do, and the result is a well-organized but natural open mike that doesn't take itself too seriously. Best of all, cover is just $5 for nonperformers.

Gramps
Photo by Alex Markow

Karaoke walks a fine line between fun and sad. We've all seen that 40-something dude croon Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" three times a night or that dangerously drunk college girl cry-sing Adele's "Someone Like You." Enough is enough, karaoke mood killers. If you want tears with your tunes, head down to the basement of an Irish pub and jam your heavy hearts out. If you want to have a good time and unleash your inner rock star, sign up for Let's Sang! Described as "karaoke for nerds and music lovers," Let's Sang! was founded by Los Angeles native and Miami-based artist Oly Vargas. It began as a mobile karaoke event but recently found a home at Gramps the last Thursday of every month. There's never a cover, and from 8 p.m. to midnight, divas and karaoke virgins alike can choose from customized song lists that are filled with obscure numbers and posted online before each gathering. The pared-down playlists not only cut wait time but also eliminate those massive, sticky-paged songbooks. Before you rage at the loss of those Top 40 tracks, you can still request songs on Let's Sang!'s Facebook page before events. The selection is always satisfying and fresh, filled with everything from Peggy Lee, the Pixies, and Prince to Stevie Wonder, the Smiths, and Snoop Dogg. The most unique and fun aspect is the spontaneity. The event mixes up the playlist for holidays and special occasions and features interesting guest hosts, including musician Otto Von Schirach, artist Hugo Montoya, and beloved bearded drag queens Juleisy y Karla. Artist Liz Ferrer hosted the most recent ¡En Español!, with Spanish covers of karaoke favorites. Above all, Vargas' enthusiasm turns karaoke, which can often become a tone-deaf mess in lesser hands, into something truly special.

E11even Miami

If you had asked us last year what every Miami nightlife addict's bucket list should include, we would've responded with a till-morning rager at Club Space followed by a quick visit to Goldrush — a combination that represented the very best in Miami late-night debauchery. But then Goldrush closed in 2013, and from its T&A ashes rose E11even Miami — which touts itself more as a nightclub and cabaret than a strip club, yet it still features women dancing in all states of undress for your dollar bills. What E11even has really revolutionized is the VIP experience. At this strip, uh, cabaret there are 32 "conversation lounges" that run $450 for a half-hour and $750 per hour and include the personal company of a lithe young woman. But true ballers will want to experience the larger rooms, which feature private entrances, high-end appointments, giant TV screens, mirrored ceilings, and, of course, plenty of entertainment. The rooms don't come cheap, though, going for $1,500 to $5,000 a pop. But there are plenty of worse ways to spend your time or money. Live a little at this 24/7 party playground.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®