On a scale of fun things to do, looking for a used car falls somewhere between undergoing anesthetic-free root-canal surgery and eating raw sand. The salesmen are sharks looking to rip you off at every turn, and the cars are gussied-up lemons waiting to explode on the Dolphin Expressway. But this is Miami, and you need a ride. Thank the car gods for Esserman International Volkswagen. Whether you're looking for a fresh new VW or a pre-owned model, Esserman is set apart by its quality sales associates, who treat customers like real people, not potential sacks of money. They put away their gimmicks and make their smiles look genuine. There's no "let me get my manager" routine here, but rather a group of people who let the quality of German engineering do most of the work for them, and they work with customers for the best possible deal on a future car, from used Toyotas and Chevys for $10,000 or less to shiny new Jettas for around $18,000.

Readers' choice: The Collection

Tony Saladrigas is the kind of guy every car owner wishes he knew. Just west of downtown, the 55-year-old Cuban American runs a Meineke garage, which he bought 12 years ago. If your brakes are squeaky or don't work correctly, he'll fix 'em — and take half off the cost of the brake shoes and pads when you print out the coupon. He can repair almost any problem with any car — except maybe a Lamborghini — or refer you to the right alternative. And he can do it fast. For a regular oil change, Tony or one of his three co-workers will have you out in just 15 or 20 minutes. The cost is only $29.95. Most comforting of all, he's a mechanic you can trust. And that's about as easy to find in Miami as a needle in a snowbank. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturday hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The rides are killer, but this is a limo company: You already knew it'd be rocking some sweet wheels. What makes Majestic Limousines a cut above the rest are the men and women who pilot those rides. Their kind, professional, and in-the-know demeanor makes these drivers perfect for handling grade-A celebrity clients (like Madonna, who they say they picked up during her last visit to the Magic City) or just you and your friends when a special event arises. Based in the breathtaking Biltmore Hotel, Majestic Limousines is ready and willing to escort you around town and even point out a few landmarks. Need a car for a wedding? Corporate or business event? Heading in or out of the airport? Just want to show off that big promotion or milestone birthday? Call for a free quote or check one of the special offers online. Cars are available in as little as one to two hours, and payments can be made conveniently online. Rides are made hourly or as directed in everything from a Lincoln Town Car to a Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac sedan, Suburban, or, of course, plenty of stretch limos. You can even go all out with a Hummer limo, but at that point, maybe just get the minibus. Hummers start at $175 per person per hour, and regular stretch limos come in at $95 per person per hour.

Amid the constant construction, the traffic chaos, and the fast-paced power lunchers stands one of Miami's littlest pet shops — StarDog — where the benefits are anything but small. Established in 2011, StarDog is a family-owned dog specialty store packed with high-quality organic and all-natural foods (they've got cats covered too). Though plenty of Miami stores cater to organic food preferences, StarDog matches them in selection and beats them in both price and service. The shop carries dry, canned, raw, and freeze-dried food and treats from brands like Acana, Orijen, Earthborn, Stella & Chewy's, and others at decent prices. A 16-pound bag of Stella & Chewy's freeze-dried duck dinner patties costs $28.50 — a full eight bucks cheaper than the nearest competitor we could find. Adding to StarDog's cost-effective appeal is free same-day delivery to Brickell, downtown, midtown, and Coconut Grove — available on all orders placed before 8 p.m. Shoppers also have access to trusted supplements, dental care items, grooming products, and flea and tick controllers. The store is stocked with dog outfits and toys as well (as any Miami shop should be), but more important, StarDog has a friendly, knowledgeable staff — including its hands-on owner — ready to answer questions and help you make the best choices for your pet.

It's not often you run into someone with a Southern accent in Miami, which is ironic considering geographically we're about as Southern as it gets without sailing into Key West. But Dr. Steve Woodby isn't your average resident of the 305. He's all about common sense, charming colloquialisms, and a refreshing restraint with the prescription pad. Growing up on an East Tennessee farm, he decided at the tender age of 6 to become a vet. Fast-forward to now, and he's been healing dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and other critters in South Florida for more than three decades. He's reasonable, realistic, and totally honest, which are key factors when dealing with your beloved fur kids. Unlike other vets, he won't overprescribe, overbill, or overreact, and that's a combo you're not likely to find elsewhere.

Cage-free ain't just for chickens. If your vacation is plagued by pet-abandonment guilt, there's an Old West-style oasis where Fido can feel at home on the range. Dog Dude Ranch removes the typical isolation that comes with boarding, beginning with a doggie meet-and-greet to determine which group is best for your pooch based on size, age, and temperament. Once dogs are grouped, they get to go hog-wild on more than two acres of private, fully fenced land in Miami-Dade's horse country. At the ranch, mutts enjoy hours of socializing, exercise, and play with their fellow canines, all without fear of too much Miami heat and sun. Shaded spaces are abundant, plus mist sprayers and wading pools provide a cool, wet diversion. Plus, whether it's playtime or naptime, dedicated "rangers" keep an eye on all the animal friends, which include chickens, horses, cats, and even a potbellied pig. When your bud is dog-tired from all the fun, he has the option to sleep with others or alone in the climate-controlled stables, where classical music keeps everyone relaxed. Dog Dude Ranch is open seven days a week, even on holidays, and offers a pet shuttle service for pick-up and drop-off weekdays at Bayfront Park. Boarding, including daycare, costs $40 per 24 hours or $50 if you'd like your dog to have a private room. Several add-on options are also offered — 30-minute one-on-one personal playtime ($15), 30-minute long-hair coat brushing ($10), and a flea/tick bath (if seen on arrival, $15), though a departure bath ($15) is mandatory. Your dog will most likely be crazily happy and covered in mud, after all. As for grub, you can get Dog Dude Ranch food for $2 per meal, or you can stick with your dog's own food served per your instructions. Medical services are also available if needed, and the ranch welcomes everyone, from tiny teacups to seniors and pups with special needs. If you're still unsure about enrolling your best friend in this doggie summer camp, you can bring him in for a free meet-and-greet sniff session and even a free day of daycare by signing up online.

You know that old saying "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas"? Well, it's especially true in Miami in the summertime. And you don't want to find yourself lying next to Fluffy and watching those vermin leap off his fur into your bed. Luckily, the Pet Mode is here to help. Less like a dog groomer and more like a quaint little fur salon, the Pet Mode will have your Chihuahua that likes to roll in cat poop smelling like the princess you want her to be. Got a poodle that looks like a sheep? Pet Mode will shear him down to a respectable pedigree worthy of a seat at any Parisian bistro. They even groom cats, so when Mr. Winkle is keeping you awake choking on hairballs, take him in and they'll fix him right up. Baths start at $30 — a small price to pay when you think that creature is sharing your bed at night. The Pet Mode also does doggie-sitting and overnight boarding — in case you need some alone time with another biped. Of course, a clean dog needs a bunch of accessories, so peruse the boutique for a good selection of everything from beds to treats to blinged-out collars.

Some people can see into your soul and know everything about you without ever having spoken to you before. Things like your relationship with your estranged father, or the family heirloom you recently got that has a mystical history. Alexis Reyes is one of those people. Believe it. She's been clairvoyant since childhood and later found her life purpose: helping others see what they cannot see for themselves. That's a feat she attempts ten times a day (her strict limit on how many appointment she'll book). For $60, you get unlimited access to her powers for an hour. Think you can stump Reyes? Unlikely. Police have even sought her help with disappearing acts (not the magical kind). Remember the young woman who went missing during Art Basel 2014? Reyes had a hand in uncovering her whereabouts. No crystal balls or gimmicks here. Just you, a deck of Spanish-language cards, and your spirit entourage that Reyes communicates with to let you in on what they're not sharing.

The French know romance. They also know chocolat et vin. So it was entirely à propos when Frenchmen and restaurateurs Cory Finot and Claude Postel, the duo that's also behind Buena Vista Deli and Buena Vista Bistro, opened Buena Vista Chocolate & Wine in 2013. This NE Second Avenue shop's bonbon cases are filled with saffron-infused and merengue-topped chocolates made according to ancient family recipes inherited from Postel's ancestors, who once crafted candy for the kings and queens of France. However, it is the 100 or so bouteilles de vin lining the store's shelves that les ivrognes chics would call dessert. Some shoppers might complain about the limited selection, but Finot and Postel have conscientiously created a collection of fine French and American wines — Bordeaux, Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blancs, champagnes — for either after-work sipping, dinnertime drinking, or pairing avec les chocolats. And unlike a lot of other booze boutiques, Buena Vista has decent prices. Get a bottle a day starting at $10 or quelque chose de spécial for $400. Oh, and Buena Vista Chocolate & Wine is open late, till just two hours before minuit. You know, in case of an unexpected rendezvous romantique.

Hall and Oates. Guava paste and pastelitos. Little Havana and cigars. Some pairs are just natural. All it takes is a quick cruise on SW Eighth Street to see why that last marriage has been so enduring, and nowhere is the love affair more evident than at Top Cigars. Here, the wooden shelves are lined bottom to top with boxes of rolled tobacco — whether you're into maduros or claros or prefer toro over robusto, Top Cigars has options for days. Next to the storefront window stands a domino table whose every seat is occupied by someone clacking down tiles while rolling fresh stogies. Ah, it smells and sounds like home. The average cigar costs about $10, and if paying in cash, you can usually negotiate a deal.

Readers' choice: Little Havana Cigar Factory

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®