Best Of :: Shopping & Services
It's 1952. Harry Truman announces he won't seek re-election. Mr. T is born. The Brits detonate their first nuclear bomb. And in Miami, a dive master named Mike Kevorkian opens the Tarpoon Lagoon Diving Center. Sixty-two years later, Truman's regime is long gone and Mr. T's career has come and gone, but Kevorkian's shop is still going strong. The granddaddy of South Florida dive shops, Tarpoon has become a landmark for everyone obsessed with plumbing the depths of coral reefs and shipwrecks. But that's not to say Tarpoon is riding on its reputation. It boasts a brilliant selection of dive gear, with products from all the trusted brands you're looking for — Cressi, Aqualung, Scubapro — plus a full Mark IV diving apparatus standing guard over the sales floor. There's also a range of PADI certification and advanced diver courses, along with the only indoor heated pool in any dive shop in Miami. And at the newer location at Miami Beach Marina in South Beach, a 46-foot dive boat floats a mere few feet away. Tarpoon Lagoon is just about as good as it gets for combining convenience, quality, and consistency.
Rows and rows of Gibsons, Fenders, Ovations, and metal James Trussarts line the walls of Miami Vintage Guitars. Wide-eyed music junkies roam the shop's seven rooms, making their way upstairs to the electric and archtop room where they can get their hands on a red PRS signed by Carlos Santana himself, a road-worn Nashville six-string, and dozens of bass guitars. Hours go by, and the next thing you know, the same guy jamming away on the PRS is now in the vintage room strumming a Fender Stratocaster strung just like the one Jimi Hendrix used to play. Next door in the high-end acoustic room hangs a guitar from the 1800s, the oldest model on display, as well as some of the last guitars ever made with Brazilian rosewood. Back downstairs is the room where the store proudly reps its own brand of acoustic six-strings. In the main room, MVG showcases most of its electric models, as well as Fender and Behringer amps. The shredder room, lined with RGs and other models of the ilk, is where metal heads flock. Sure, it's easy to get lost in the maze of instruments, but store managers Jose Benavides and Artie Corces (who also happens to be an orthopedic surgeon) are very knowledgeable and will give a thorough tour to help you choose the guitar that suits you and your price range. The shop is also an authorized B.C. Rich, Dean, and Nash dealer, so if you don't find the exact model you want, you can always order it. There's also a shop on site where you can customize any new or old instrument. Prices vary widely depending upon what you're looking for — an evil-looking 2013 B.C. Rich "Son of a Beast" that would make Gwar jealous runs $480, for instance, while a cedar Blueberry Concert acoustic costs $1,600. But even if you're not looking to buy and just wanna jam with like-minded musicians, MVG will let you come in and play.
Hawking records is a rough game in these post-digital days. The average independent shop is barely making rent. Or already inflating its "Bankruptcy Sale!" balloons. Or even worse, slated to be demolished to make space for yet another neighborhood bank branch. But thankfully, there are still some indies that have somehow stuck it out — like Uncle Sam's, the South Beach music and merch emporium established in 1991. Last summer, owner Lisa Teger Zhen and her staff moved from the original Washington Avenue location they'd inhabited for 22 years to a smaller retail space down the street. It wasn't that biz was bad. "The store was just too big for us anymore," Teger Zhen told New Times. "The music business has changed a lot... So we pared down to stuff that we sell regularly." Among those enduringly popular products: adorable teddy bear ski masks, kitty-cat backpacks, "I Hate Molly" tees, and a solid selection of new and used records of all kinds. For hippest BFFs, snag a $30 white-vinyl version of Arcade Fire's Reflektor. For Tea Partying uncles, catch a $10 case of Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever. And for stoner bros with budding comedy careers, cop a vintage $18 copy of Cheech & Chong's Big Bambú, complete with an extra-large rolling paper insert. Now let's go buy a stack, spin some wax, and take a toke for another quarter-century of Uncle Sam's Music.
Welcome to the big leagues. As far as making music in Miami goes, there is absolutely nowhere with the kind of pedigree the Hit Factory has accrued over the past 56 years in business. To run through the entirety of Criteria Studio's history of artists would be a ridiculously lengthy affair, but allow us to list a few choice names just to emphasize what this place really represents in the landscape of music. The five studios at the Hit Factory have seen the likes of the Beach Boys, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Dr. Dre, Aretha Franklin, and R. Kelly crooning into its mikes. If you want to record in Miami, there's nothing that stands up to sizable music industry standards the way Criteria does, with everything you need, including the huge tracking room of Studio A and an immense catalogue of tape machines and microphones from over the years to help you sound just right. Between the history and quality, it's truly a one-of-a-kind place.
After Achilles was shot in the tendon and Perseus was turning folks to stone, Zeus lowered a flock of parking gods to Earth. From Washington Avenue street parking to spending your kid's college fund on valets, Miami Beach is a God-forsaken place for the four-wheel set. But there's a piece of heaven at the Flamingo Park lot on 11th Street, where you get three hours of free parking from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shifting your car into park and walking out toward your destination without stopping to jam nickels and dimes into a machine seems otherworldly at first. But stay out after the clock strikes 10 and a meter maid will leave a friendly note under your wiper reminding you that this is still Miami Beach and you now owe some bureaucratic entity $18 — which is arguably less than valet parking or even the 1111 garage.
You'll always be greeted by a slightly unsettling face at the Mondrian South Beach. No, that's not an insult to the great service. We mean there's seriously a weird Bratz Doll-looking, computer-generated portrait of a lady's head in each and every room. The official story is that they're "sirens" meant to protect the guests. It's just one of several surreal and delightful quirks in the Marcel Wanders-designed hotel. The overall décor is meant to evoke a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, but if there were to be a movie remake shot here, we'd have to imagine it would star Björk as Alice, Anna Wintour as the Queen of Hearts, and Julian Schnabel as the caterpillar. That's what kind of place it is. Besides those fantasies, the hotel also features what is perhaps the world's most glamorous vending machine (you literally can buy a car), the ever-popular Sunset Lounge, and undoubtedly the best pool deck on the bayside of South Beach.
In the big picture of gay rights, things have actually improved. But the sad truth is that many queer youths don't live a life right out of Glee. Perhaps 40 percent of LGBT youth attempt suicide in their teens, and about 40 percent of homeless youth in America identify somewhere on the rainbow. Even kids in better situations struggle with bullying, making friends, and getting relevant sex education. Pridelines provides much-needed support to gay youth between the ages of 14 and 24 by providing counseling, group meetings, a 24-hour support/help line, and other types of help. Pridelines also helps kids become leaders in their community and exposes them to culture as well. Gay rights are rapidly improving throughout the country. It's imperative Miami's youth survive to enjoy those strides.
Ah, Virginia Key at sunset. There's nothing more Miami than heading out on a buddy's sailboat and drifting toward Brickell while sipping champagne from the bottle. What could be more relaxing? Hanging out with your bros, listening to the soporific sounds of the gently lapping waves, drinking a liter of liquid. Uh-oh. Maybe you shouldn't have focused so hard on the gently lapping waves, huh? Stop. Don't panic. Consider your options. Peeing off the side of a boat would ruin the classy vibe if you're a dude — and is a logistical impossibility if you're a chick. Remember: The water is choppy, and if you fall, none of the drunk bros with you will come to the rescue. You have a dinghy, though, and there's a small ladder near the InterContinental Hotel, just to the right of the floating art gallery. Perfect. Motor over there, emerge from seemingly nowhere, scare the bejesus out of some loitering teenagers, and bolt for a beautiful bathroom in the lobby. It's well-lit, stocked with an absurd amount of paper towels, reasonably clean, and potentially life-saving. Maybe drink a little less champagne on the way back.
We know the story: You've tried a half-dozen Groupons, you've scouted out the neighborhood options, and maybe you've driven all the way to some far-flung suburb. And in the end, you've decided that laser hair removal just isn't worth the hassle. It's OK! Laser Center of Miami will restore your faith in science's follicle-destroying powers. Myriam Barrero started out as an electrologist and then opened Laser Center of Miami in 1993; she has been a laser technician for more than 16 years. All of her hair-removal specialists are certified medical electrologists (meaning they know what they're doing), and they have a resident medical doctor, Elena Valor. Not only are they punctual with their appointments (which come with regular email reminders), but you will also be out of there in time to grab lunch and make it back to the office before your break is over. Prices vary widely depending upon the areas where you want hair removed and how many treatments you'll need, but the consultation is free and the services are competitive. And while you're at it, you can also get a hydra facial (for $48.99), vein treatment, or even lymphatic drainage (costs vary depending upon the customer).
Some people go to the dermatologist for cosmetic reasons: Botox, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, fillers. Don't worry — Barba Dermatology has all of that good stuff. But Dr. Alicia Barba is also there for true medical skin emergencies, like a nasty case of tinea versicolor, when the yeast that lives on your skin gets a little out of control. Whether the appointment is to erase wrinkles or to eradicate that skin condition, Dr. Barba and her staff will make you feel at ease, assure you she can solve the issue, and send you on your way with whatever meds you need to head back to the beach in no time. Your skin is important — don't let anyone but the best mess with your bodysuit.
A wooden communal table adorned with a silver vase and ivory hydrangeas divides the manicure and pedicure sections of Gloss Nail Bar, but there's no strong scent of acetone. Instead, the room is filled with a whiff of lavender and eucalyptus oils. Though fresh flowers, earthy decor, and natural aromas aren't the usual accompaniments at a nail salon, those touches represent the deeper concept at Gloss, Miami's top spot for organic nail products. There are more than 100 colors to choose from, all of which are natural, nontoxic, biodegradable, preservative-free, and packed with nutrients. Even the nail polish remover is soy-based. With so many lacquers on hand, choosing a color isn't an easy feat. But because Gloss posts almost all of its manicures on its Instagram page, having a visual will help you decide whether to choose daffodil yellow or Monticello peach. The nail bar offers five types of manis, including the Gloss Essential basics ($20 for 25 minutes) and the Gloss Express for those on the run ($15 for 15 minutes). But the Gloss Sumptuous ($30 for 35 minutes) offers the entire package: nail care, shaping, and polishing, an organic raw sugar scrub, and a ten-minute hand and arm massage. It's a splurge, but you'll spend the next hour of your life sitting on a comfy couch at your personal nail station while getting pampered with citrus oils and drinking red wine. In the end, you'll feel as if you've walked out of mani heaven.
Facials might seem like a Real Housewives of Miami-esque splurge best suited for the rich, famous, and heavily Botoxed. But in a city where tropical heat combines with makeup to spawn blackheads that border on tar pits and eye bags reach Dame Maggie Smith levels of realness, professional assistance is often a medical necessity. Problem is, Miami offers a frightening abundance of facials, from strip-mall walk-ins to high-end promises of alien DNA injections. Thank the skin-care gods for Cleanskin by Isa, a comfortable, no-nonsense practice nestled in a quiet corner of Coconut Grove. After acquiring her aesthetician license in 1997, proprietor Isa Salvador worked in dermatology offices and spas for years before breaking out on her own. Her formula is simple but all too rare in the Magic City: She looks carefully at your skin, recommends whatever she thinks you need, and gives you all the options without aggressively upselling the latest in sci-fi gene technology. Plus, in addition to her wealth of skin-care knowledge, Salvador leaves ample time between appointments, meaning she won't rush you out while tackling that strange bump you just know your doctor is wrong about. Facials start at $75, with milia extractions and extensive extractions available for $20 and blue-light application (which can eliminate P-acne bacteria and reduce sebum production) for $10.