Dadeland Mall
Dadeland Mall

Even though it happened more than three decades ago, the sad truth is that far too many Miamians who aren't in the know hear "Dadeland Mall" and think of the infamous 1979 Cocaine Cowboys shootout in the food court. That's tragic, because these days, Dadeland Mall is one of the finest retail establishments not only in Miami-Dade but also in the nation. Get yourself lookin' fresh at the state's largest Macy's, grab some high-end electronics at the Apple or Microsoft store, and chow down at the Cheesecake Factory or the new Aoki Teppanyaki. In the newly completed south wing, a slew of fresh options includes Tesla Motors, Fit 2 Run, Porsche Design, Urban Outfitters, Bobby's Burger Palace, Aroma Espresso Bar, and the mall's latest edition, Texas de Brazil. There's luxury galore for the high-rollin' set and myriad mall favorites like Spencer's for the rest of us. With 166 stores and a constant rotation of special events, there's always something to see and do. Being a mall rat has never been better.

Readers' choice: Aventura Mall

Miami and Versace are as cosmically linked as any designer and any city on Earth. True, the label's founder, Gianni Versace, is Italian by birth. But it was Miami where he found his muse and made his legend with a beachside villa — and an infamous death at the hands of a serial killer on Ocean Drive. So it's no wonder that the outlet of Versace Home that opened in the Design District last year is the best embodiment of both the town and the designer: rich fabrics, gilded woods, ceramic leopards, and inconceivably elegant leather couches. It's as if a Jennifer Lopez red-carpet dress exploded and reformed itself into furniture. In short, it's the perfect Miami aesthetic, a deep commitment to classic gaudy that hints at self-awareness. The pieces are all so expensive that Versace Home doesn't even bother with price tags (if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it), but a trip to the store is worth an hour or so of your afternoon anyway. There's something sublime about ogling the furniture of the ultra-rich, and Versace Home is as escapist as it gets.

Miami Jewish Health Systems Thrift Store

That gaping, empty space on the west side of your living room has been taunting you for months: "Fill me," it says. "Fill me." Don't panic. Even if you're light in the wallet, there's a place where you can peruse acres of Lucite coffee tables, fly '80s lamps, retro-chic couches, and every other home decor you can imagine — most of it priced under a couple hundred bucks. That's thanks to the good people at the Miami Jewish Health Systems Thrift Store (once known as the Douglas Gardens Thrift Store), a mainstay for five decades in Brownsville. Items are almost always in near-perfect condition, and delivery costs only a small fee. Plus, those dollars you drop are for a good cause: Profits go toward charitable missions at the Miami Jewish Health Systems.

Between Amazon undermining brick-and-mortar book shops and major chains like Borders giving up the ghost, you might be tempted to think the era of bookstores is behind us. You'd be wrong. Bookstores aren't dead. They just need a little tweaking. A greater sense of community, perhaps, and a lower price point — starting at free maybe? And hey, a few boozy beverages on the side couldn't hurt. That's the model of Bookleggers, a monthly get-together that gathers book lovers to swap their tomes in fun locations around Miami. Founder Nathaniel Sandler (an occasional New Times contributor) calls it a "community mobile library," offering one free book to first-timers. But any good dealer will tell you the first taste is always free; once hooked, voracious readers will return again and again with books from their own libraries to trade for new-to-them novels — or, failing that, with cold hard cash. (You can buy a book for $2 at any Bookleggers get-together.) Bookleggers pop-up locations are all part of the fun. Its second anniversary was a cultural affair at Downtown Art Space; bars such as Gramps and the Broken Shaker have hosted other appearances; and for the O, Miami festival this year, it set up shop at Collins Park so readers could bring their dogs along for the ride. Try having that much fun clicking around Amazon.

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Readers' choice: Books & Books

Like other postal locations, the lines are long and the pens mysteriously disappear from the counters at the Miami Beach Post Office. But instead of having to endure petulant eye-rolling and foot-tapping in line, customers can enjoy awe-inspiring art deco design. The symmetrical, cylindrical structure and large, rectangular windows are characteristic of post-Depression-era style. Inside, the forest-green art on the ceiling makes everyone glance up upon arrival (don't trip on the inoperable fountain in the middle). Along the back wall that houses the P.O. boxes, three New Deal murals, painted by artist Charles Hardman in 1940, depict Spanish conquistadors like Ponce de León and de Soto fighting Floridian tribes. Yeah, you can get your stamps here, but this post office is more like a free museum than a government agency.

For most Miamians, photography has become synonymous with selfies. Aim, filter, upload, and — bam — you're a portrait-maker! But some people, like the staff at WorldWide Foto, still hold the art and practice of photography sacred. Open in Miami since 1978, WorldWide Foto is like taking a trip to those hallowed pre-Instagram days. The no-frills store is stocked with vintage cameras and digital devices, and it's a go-to for film enthusiasts. In fact, it's one of the very few places in Miami to buy different film for that Pentax or Yashica, plus developers, toners, fixers, and other supplies. If by chance WorldWide Foto doesn't carry a certain product, the knowledgeable staff goes above and beyond to find and order it for you. They can handle questions from experienced photographers, and although it's frequented by professionals, the company fosters photography interest at all skill levels with its friendly, welcoming attitude. If you don't know how to use that charger, filter, or even video tools, you can bring in your own equipment to ask questions. Unlike shopping online, WorldWide Foto allows you to try out its equipment before buying. And though you might get that film processed cheaper at a Walmart lab, places like those don't know squat about photography. Log off Instagram for a minute, grab that Nikon, and learn something about real photography at WorldWide Foto.

The Café at Books & Books
Courtesy of the Café at Books & Books

The hardest part about working from home is being stuck in the same residential box day in and day out. Sometimes you need to break free, but it's difficult to find the right spot to muscle through the day's to-dos. Coffee shops are full of overcaffeinated blabbers screaming into their cell phones, and restaurants do their best to hustle you away from your table to keep customers rolling in. At the newest outlet of the Café at Books & Books, situated amid the inspiring architecture of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, none of those concerns applies. It's a restaurant, true, but it's also a bookstore. Thinking, working, creating, and meeting like-minded individuals is encouraged and celebrated here. You can sit inside and enjoy the A/C, or head to the back patio for a table, some of which even have electrical sockets right next to them — score! If you get hungry, there's a great menu of food, teas, and coffees to keep you going through the hours. Need a break? Peruse the captivating literature selections, relax in a comfy chair, and waste a few hours in the latest Murakami. The good folks at Books & Books simply want you to enjoy the space, and that's something any laptop lackey can appreciate.

The only thing radder than Team Iguana Sports' logo — a totally gnarly, ripped green lizard dude shredding on a board — is the selection of mountain and road bikes priced to hit the road around $700 and up. This shop on the northern edge of Miami Beach is jam-packed with custom-painted skateboard decks and neon accessories, pro-quality bike shoes and helmets, and racks and racks full of cycles. Whether you're looking for a bike to get you to Publix and back or you're plotting a course through the French Alps, Team Iguana has you covered. The biggest attraction of all, though, is the shop's owner: Ron is the definition of cycling passion, an idiosyncratic big-talker who loves nothing more than telling tales from the road and getting you ready for your own bike adventures.

Readers' choice: Mack Cycle & Fitness

It takes a certain amount of confidence to dub your car wash simply "The Car Wash." Not Miami Car Wash. Not Shiny Wheels. Not Old Joe's Soapy Auto Emporium. Just The Car Wash. It implies you might as well be the only car wash in town, the only car wash people will ever need. For a decade, The Car Wash has been just that to its legions of customers. The lines of cars regularly seen under its familiar purple canopy attest to that. A conveyor glides vehicles through a touchless automatic wash, which features windows so you can keep an eye on your ride, and then efficient employees detail them outside by hand. Guests, meanwhile, can wait inside a clean, air-conditioned café adorned with the artwork of Stephen Gamson while enjoying coffee, juices, snacks, and free Wi-Fi. The best part is that this wash won't break the bank. Basic service starts at just $10, and specialty options such as leather cleaning and seat shampooing are available at affordable prices.

You're on your way to a friend's house for a little get-together. You're bumping tunes and feeling good, but you gotta stop at the gas station right quick. You've got three-quarters of a tank in your ride, and your friend riding shotgun is all, "What's the deal, bro?" Clearly, your friend has never been to Coral Gate Mobil before. It's cool. Tell your friend to take a deep breath as you walk through the doors and into the most exciting gas-station shopping experience of your life. Need beer for the party? Why not impress the guests with something from this one-stopper's extensive selection of craft and local brews, maybe Oberon or Terrapin, Santo or Cuvée des Trolls. Did your host ask you to pick up some noms? Tear your head away from the fine wines and order something from the in-house organic deli offering scrumptious and nutritious sandwiches for $7.99. Screw it — you might as well pick up a fresh, cold-pressed juice ($8.99) while you're at it, or a smoothie, or some boxed water, or some quinoa snacks. Um, dude, is this still a gas station? It must be. There's a groovy car wash outside, and people are pumping gas. Who would have ever guessed all of this was in here?

Readers' choice: Europa Car Wash & Cafe Chevron

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®