Best Dog Park 2015 | Blanche Park | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Dog owners love to brag about how often they take their babies to the park. Though that canine activity is certainly important, we all know the real reason to go to dog parks: It wears your beast the hell out. The consistent pool of playmates at Blanche Park ensures your dog will be maniacally happy, full of energy, and ready to collapse in the car. A small fenced-in area in Coconut Grove, it is a nice respite from other doggie hangouts. While not as expansive as say, Tropical Park's Bark Park, Blanche has a tidier setup. The water station is easily accessible, the waste posts and garbage cans are plentiful, and the Astroturf foundation guarantees a cleaner dog on the way home. Some pups may prefer real grass for all that rolling around, but at least there's no risk of your dog going puddle diving here. Miami's regular downpours ensure that every other park in town gets a good helping of mud. Additionally, this park gets weekly cleanings and is restocked with tennis balls for those fetching types. Adding to Blanche's appeal is its people-friendly atmosphere. There are plenty of benches, shaded tables for groups, and generally sociable crowds. If you're the solitary type, Blanche might take some getting used to — these folks love to talk about their dogs.

Paddle through the mangroves out to Biscayne Bay and you'll enjoy a wonderland of sea life, weekend boating weirdness, and tiny islands where you can stop and take a dip. You'll see the scenic side of Florida International University's north campus and impressive sailboats moored, waiting for big wind. But rather than go solo, try one of the Blue Moon Outdoor Center's social kayak tours. You can enjoy sangria before sunset and then kayak under the stars on the Oleta River ($50 per person). Alternatively, on full-moon nights, these tours depart later in the evening — kayak for an hour to a private beach, roast marshmallows, and even sing around a bonfire ($50 per person). If you aren't looking to meet strangers but still want to kayak in a pack, you and your friends can schedule a private guided 1.5-hour inside-the-park beginner tour ($75 per person) that touches on local history as well as the park's fish and other animal species. Finally, the Blue Marlin Fish House Tour ($75 per person) begins with a ride through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Oleta River, continues along a 4.5-mile trip, and ends with a delicious lunch at the restaurant. The Blue Moon Outdoor Center is open seven days a week.

In this city of snarled traffic, high-rise apartment towers, and around-the-clock hustle, it can be difficult to find peace. Luckily, there are still at least a few green patches, like E.G. Sewell Park. The ten-acre Little Havana public nature park, named for an early-20th-century Miami businessman and mayor, is hidden so well even many longtime residents don't know it's there, tucked along the shore of the Miami River to the west of NW 17th Avenue. If you have little ones to look after, the park has an upper section with a playground and benches. If you're pining for something scenic, the lower section sits on the waterfront, the perfect hideaway in which to lounge on a warm afternoon. At Sewell, amid the chirping birds and soft river breeze, you'll forget you're only minutes from a traffic jam. Take a picnic and spread out on an expanse of some of the greenest grass in Miami, stroll under the soaring palms, and watch the boats glide by on their way out to sea. But most of all, relax — this is Miami, after all.

Jessica Gibbs

It was only a few years ago that Museum Park — the place formerly known as Bicentennial Park — was a collection of patchy sod and urine-soaked dirt. But thanks to the opening of Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the impending opening of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the park received a much-needed face-lift. You'll find some of the greenest grass in the city center and ample walkways that hug the edge of the park and give you a clear view of Government Cut and PortMiami. But don't stare at the bay too long. There's plenty to see around the park: Joggers, pet owners, museumgoers, and downtown residents take advantage of the green space. Unlike at the much busier Bayfront Park a couple of blocks away, here you can easily lose yourself in thought as you watch people stretch their limbs before they go for a run. You'll see French bulldogs chase balls and well-heeled ladies emerge from PAMM to take in the view. On a crisp Miami day, you can easily hang out at Museum Park for hours. When the temperature rises, take a seat on PAMM's veranda as the breeze blows in from the bay and the overhang shields you from the sun.

Readers' choice: Lincoln Road

Trump National Doral is unlike any other exclusive 18-hole course in the Magic City. It's the home of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. That, of course, takes place on the 7,000-plus-yard Blue Monster, which was inaugurated in 1962 and was recently renovated by Gil Hanse, the architect who designed the 2016 Olympic golf course in Brazil. But you don't have to be a professional golfer to join in the action. There are three other courses to choose from, including the Gold Palm, for all levels of putt-putt players; the Red Tiger, where most corporate tournaments go down; and the Silver Fox, which offers three of the toughest starting holes in the sport. Membership levels range from corporate to junior (for golfers 35 and younger) to social to full golf. They include access to the clubhouse, the resort spa, tennis courts, and Royal Palms pools. Depending upon which category you purchase, you may also receive a WGC-Cadillac Championship package. Joining the club isn't cheap, but what else would you expect from one of the globe's most powerful entrepreneurs?

Finding affordable parking — heck, any parking — in Miami Beach is a strategic and risky game. The goal is to optimize price, location, and availability, which alone would be difficult — even if you didn't have to try your damnedest not to run over jaywalking tourists. Next time you're circling around South Beach, distressed by this eternal quest, consider the following rules: ( 1) Stick to City of Miami Beach parking (lest you get hustled by an independent lot with a history of towing problems, or fork over a flat rate that'll cost you more than your dinner). (2) Shoot for a spot near Lincoln Road. Anything near SoFi will already be taken. Sorry. (3) Try the Pennsylvania Avenue Garage. Everyone knows about the 17th Street Garage — the behemoth across from the Miami Beach Convention Center — but few people realize that the adjacent Pennsylvania Avenue Garage, a fraction of the size, is much better. When it's a big holiday or festival weekend and Ol' Faithful is somehow already full (all 1,460 spots — we will never understand it), turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue and continue straight past gluten-free haven Oolite. Then make a left onto Lincoln Lane North (the alleyway behind Lincoln Road). To your left, directly across from H&M, you'll find the easily obscured but oh-so-magical word: "entrance." Tons of the 550 parking spaces are almost guaranteed to be open because few people realize that the 17th Street Garage's scaled-down, younger cousin is even there. The cost for parking is $1 an hour for the first six hours, which is a miracle in South Beach. And the location is perfect if you're catching a performance at the Fillmore or New World Center. It's also within walking distance of anywhere else between Alton Road and Collins Avenue you might wish to go. You can even walk to Ocean Drive to enjoy a giant frozen margarita.

Hialeah is more than agua, fango y factoría. In fact, the City of Progress is home to 515 acres of the great outdoors. From extreme watersports to mountain biking to a petting zoo, there's never a shortage of things to do at Amelia Earhart Park. For adrenaline junkies, there's the Miami Watersports Complex. Located on the park's 90-acre freshwater lake, MWC offers all sorts of wakeboarding, water-skiing, and kneeboarding. On a not-so-intense level, el parque also has less extreme water attractions like paddle boats and lush biking trails for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders. Animal lovers can feed goats and pet cows at the Bill Graham Farm Village and even take a hayride. With pony rides and the slides, swings, and balance beams at Tom Sawyer's Play Island, kids can run around for hours and burn off their energy until it's time to grab a soda from the general store across the Farm Village. There are even two giant hills that provide a bird's-eye view of Hialeah. With all of that nature, you might forget you're in La Ciudad Que Progresa.

Readers' choice: Oleta River State Park

The history of the swimming pool dates to the third millennium B.C., when the Great Bath was built in what would become Pakistan. Since then, pool technology has improved greatly thanks to breakthroughs like chlorine, filters, water jets, and pool skimmers. But perhaps the peak of pool technology is the lazy river. The history of the lazy river is sadly underdocumented, so we don't know who to credit with its invention. All we can do to honor that legacy is, well, sit in giant tubes as jets propel us along manmade rivers at leisurely speeds. Luckily, we can do that at McDonald Water Park in Hialeah. The oblong loop traverses the northern end of the park, and riders pass lovely palm trees and under walking bridges and arches. For the laziest among us, that will be enough. But the park also features a wave pool and splash pond for those who have not reached maximum amounts of chill. Admission costs $10 for adults and $7 for children; Hialeah residents get in for $5 (adults) and $3 (children).

Readers' choice: Venetian Pool

If you're in Miami and don't play in the water, have you even lived? Those of us who call the 305 home take the ocean for granted, and that's just not right. We need to get out there in the salt air. It's good for the soul. Miami doesn't have waves for surfing, but who needs 'em when we have paddleboarding? Want to see the world from a bird's-eye view? Hang tight on a parasail and get a change of perspective. Need to feel the wind in your hair? Climb onto a Jet Ski and let your wild side hang out. You can even rent a party boat with friends or step into the future on a mothereffing flyboard (you know, that crazy thing that lets you fly around like Iron Man). Miami Watersports is open from 10 a.m. till sunset every day of the week to help us explore the great watery world around us. It's also available for lessons, all-day getaways, and package deals. Prices range from $25 to $150 an hour, depending upon the activity, and packages start at $199. Don't let another summer snooze by without seeing how the other half — cough, tourists, cough — lives.

You know what should never be fancy? Bowling. We don't understand why, then, at the beginning of the millennium, "luxury" bowling lanes began popping up around the nation, including Miami. Bowling is about cheap beer, questionable footwear, and greasy bar bites. So when you're done overpaying for a lane and "chef-inspired" eats, head west to experience one of the last remaining old-school bowling lanes in the county. Bird Bowl boasts 60 lanes — yes, 60 — which means wait times are usually minimal or nonexistent. The cost to attempt a strike is regularly $3.95 per person during nonpeak hours and increases to $31.95 per hour (up to eight people) Saturday nights and $25.95 per hour Sunday nights. Though we occasionally enjoy a grimy bowling alley, Bird Bowl is clean and well maintained, meaning you won't be slumming it out in the burbs. The restaurant has a fully stocked bar — you'd be surprised how little you'll pay for drinks once you're outside the city — and the menu includes everything from chicken wings (starting at $6.99 for six) to burgers ($7.99) and a Cuban sandwich ($6.99). No fusion menu here. Don't want to bowl? There's also billiards and a game room. And if the kiddo is having a birthday party, Bird Bowl can host it for $19.95 per child.

Readers' choice: Bird Bowl

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®