Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3559

It's hard to go out on the beach without getting mobbed by tourists in YOLO T-shirts and shutter shades. Note that we didn't say impossible. That's because there's a bar built into an otherwise ordinary West End condo building that's the aesthetic opposite of MTV Spring Break 2007. In fact, even though there's a wide-screen TV constantly blaring cable news into the otherwise-dim VFW Hall on South Beach, it seems like no one there has been fazed by a single cultural phenomenon since the Vietnam War ended. While the beach is a constantly replenishing population of transients, you can always count on finding the same scene at the ol' VFW. There's the guy playing the casino videogame in the back room, the back-slapping old-timers, and the no-nonsense barkeep who possesses an almost supernatural ability to know when someone's dangling a cigarette over the pool table. Miami is a place of nearly constant anonymity, and the VFW Hall is our closest equivalent to Cheers — a place where if you go there enough, there's at least a 5 percent chance someone will remember your name. But more important: Where else can you sip a $2.50 beer and take in a panoramic view of South Beach?

Some call it "Spring Break for Chefs"; others term it a "Bacchanal on the Beach." Whatever its title, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, soon to celebrate its 14th year, is a multiday extravaganza for those of us who love to eat, drink, and mingle with the likes of Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray. The festival, which boasts more than 70 events, parties, seminars, and dinners, takes over Miami Beach and, like a Pinot-scented kudzu, is slowly creeping over midtown Miami as well. Sure, ticket prices can be steep, but who would put a price on the opportunity to share a burger with Food Network stars like Geoffrey Zakarian and Martha Stewart or be in the audience when Paula Deen rides Robert Irvine like a pony? Even the festival creator, Lee Brian Schrager, has become a celebrity, hosting his first seminar this past year. Can't afford a $300 ticket? You'll still have your shot to eat, drink, and be merry with your favorite famous foodies — just hang out at a favorite watering hole like Club Deuce or the Broken Shaker and wait for Anthony Bourdain or Scott Conant to stroll in for a nightcap. What puts the cherry on this cake? The entire weekend — next year planned for February 19 to 22 — benefits Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center.

North Shore Park Band Shell

Take a swig of rum, close your eyes, and picture the perfect concert. Palm trees sway in the cool breeze sliding off the ocean just a few feet away. The band — let's say world-renowned Malian guitarist Bombino and his desert-rock outfit making their South Florida debut — jams out in a restored art deco band shell with perfect acoustics. The crowd sways under the stars, pressed close in the intimate space. It's no fantasy, amigo. That was just the scene at this year's Heineken TransAtlantic Festival, one of Miami's great recurring series in the Magic City's finest outdoor music venue. The North Shore Park Band Shell, tucked just off Collins Avenue in the center of North Beach, has become a key piece of Miami Beach's music scene since a nine-month renovation in 2011 restored the deco gem. Between regular free shows featuring local symphony orchestras and jazz groups (and weekly free outdoor movie nights for locals), the band shell is an astounding place. It also hosts more ambitious efforts like the TransAtlantic Festival, which bring acclaimed international acts — like Bombino and Chilean electro-stars Astro this year — for their Florida debuts.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®