They say life is a series of checks and balances and that nothing is perfect. The price we pay to live in a world-class tourist destination with a growing population is traffic — lots of it. Sometimes the car you love turns into a hellish prison. Even that borrowed Porsche Cayenne can become a gilded cage of doom. Of all the twisted highways and byways, there is no piece of asphalt more maddening in Miami than the stretch of South Dixie Highway from the end of I-95 to SW 27th Avenue, the entryway to Coconut Grove. Or should we just call it the gateway to Hell? You swoop down off the interstate and then, abruptly, come to a complete standstill. It doesn't matter what day or time. You're not going anywhere. This stretch of road that should take, oh, five minutes to traverse, can take a half-hour, 45 minutes, six months? And that's on a good day. Just try this route on a festival day (and there are oh so many festivals in Coconut Grove) or when it rains, and you're in for a world of hurt. Why is this road worse than every other in Miami? It could be the confusion that occurs when the interstate just ends. It could be that it seems like the only route to all points south like the Grove, Coral Gables, and South Miami. Mix in bad drivers, lost tourists, and a heavily populated residential area, and you have the road to perdition. So you have a choice to make: Never, ever go south of Brickell again (which sucks when you want a burger from Shake Shack), or simply avoid South Dixie Highway and take SW Eighth Street west to 27th Avenue and hang a left. You'll thank us for the tip.

Miami Beach Edition
Courtesy of Purple PR

Walking through the main entrance, you're instantly hit with all-white everything: from the marble floors to the couches to the reception desk to the random pool table in the center of the lobby. The decor is reminiscent of Miami Vice mixed with a bit of Kanye West — but somehow it works. Once you're whisked up the elevator, you arrive in a hall of plush carpet and rows of doors, one leading to your personal restful paradise. The guest rooms are every bit as sleek as the lobby. Then there's the dining and entertainment. The Matador Room serves delicious lunch and dinner, and if you don't want to venture off the property to find some fun, a bowling alley and a posh nightclub are on the premises. It's safe to say the Miami Beach Edition oozes with Miami essence (yes, that's a thing). Rates vary by day and season, but you can find a room for about $400 per night.

Readers' choice: Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Kendall Ice Arena

Thanks to a million and one romantic comedies, ice skating holds a special place in popular culture. From Blades of Glory to Serendipity, countless flicks have immortalized the frosty charm of a skating rink and the weirdly aesthetic appeal of a lumbering Zamboni. Sadly, Miami doesn't have a Rockefeller Center, a frozen pond, or even a college ice hockey rink. It does, however, have Kendall Ice Arena. The neighborhood rink, a local fixture since 2000, offers open skating every night (hours vary), so you can bring a Tinder match anytime for a charming yet dirt-cheap date. Admission usually runs $8, plus $3 for skate rental, which is less than a drink at most Miami Beach bars. If you head there Friday or Saturday night when the DJ is spinning, you'll be transported back to your teenage years. Just be sure to dress for 2015, not 1997, or the tween mob may chase you back to Contempo Casual where you belong.

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Dreaming of winning the lottery and buying that yellow Lamborghini parked outside the club? Thinking of renting one and tooling through Miami Beach? What good is 510 horsepower on Ocean Drive when your Toyota Yaris can't even reach its full potential there? So try this: Take a Lambo for a test-drive on the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Certain days, the 1.6-mile professional track is open for amateurs to take their dream cars out for a spin. For about what you'd spend on bottle service at Mansion ($549), Miami Exotic Auto Racing will let you take a Lamborghini Gallardo out for six laps. Lambos not your thing? There are also Ferraris and Audis. Before you get behind the wheel, you'll be given instruction; taken out for a lap with an instructor, who will go over all 11 turns and two straightaways; and be fitted with safety gear. Then she's all yours. It's just you and her V10 engine doing zero to 60 in four seconds. Just try to keep your Yaris in second gear on the way home, OK?

miamiexoticautoracing.com

Miami isn't an easy place to raise kids. Although the city is lovely, the club scene ain't family-friendly. Yet you must keep your kids entertained or they'll turn into screaming balls of terror in your house. That's where Miami Children's Museum comes in handy. The museum has a wide array of permanent exhibitions meant to spark curiosity and instill a lifelong love of learning. Interactive exhibits include a child-size supermarket, a cruise ship, a climbing wall, and even a music studio for your budding American Idol. And if that isn't enough to keep a tiny person entertained, he or she can learn to swab the decks at the museum's Pirate Island exhibition, on view through September 6. Miami Children's Museum wears them out, engages their imagination, and gives you that smugly superior feeling that all parents crave. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $18, Florida residents pay $14, and museum members, military personnel and veterans, and children under 1 get in free.

Jungle Island

When was the last time you laughed so hard you fell over? Have you pushed your best friend off a high ledge into some salt water lately or run around for hours until you got sunburned — all without the aid of alcohol? Maybe you're looking to get a little exercise this summer but don't want to sweat the hard stuff. Perhaps you simply want to break out of your boring routine and give something wonderfully wacky a try. If you want some good, clean fun in the sun, there's no better destination than Jungle Island's floating obstacle course/water park, Rainforest Riptide. It sits curiously on beautiful Biscayne Bay, visible to passing cars yet seemingly miles away from the everyday hustle. A person can spend hours trying to climb to the top of the rope incline or clear the poleless vault. Race your friends to see who can run around those tight corners and make a full lap, which is hysterically next to impossible. Play on the trampolines, the balance beams, the catapult, and the swing, and before you know it, the sun is setting and you've worked up an appetite big enough to eat a whale. It's a great place to bring kids aged 3 to 93, as long as they know how to swim. Rainforest Riptide day passes, which include admission to Jungle Island, start at $31.95. It's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and hey, on the way out, you can stop and hang with the monkeys.

Sea cows, mermaids, manatees — whatever their moniker of the moment, these endangered mammals are in short supply. With an unknown number remaining in Florida (their numbers have diminished over the years thanks to careless boaters and reduced habitat), the gentle giants tend to stay out of sight. Luckily, though, they do take refuge 2.5 hours from Miami at Fort Myers' Manatee Park. The place offers a safe haven for these herbivorous creatures, mainly December through March, when Gulf waters dip below 68 degrees. One reason: The waters are heated by the nearby power plant. Visitors can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle out to see the hulking gray swimmers or simply stand and stare into the canal with cameras ready. Though spottings aren't guaranteed, they're pretty likely.

Politicians love to mention the mere 90-mile distance between Florida and Cuba. But there's another, lesser-known island neighbor that lies even closer to our shores: the Bahamian isle of Bimini. Once a sleepy fishing community, it now boasts a full-service resort with a casino, megamarina, and Hilton hotel — all just 53 miles away. If you're getting there via the Bimini SuperFast — billed as "the fastest cruise ship in the Americas" — it'll take you two to three hours. And in that time (a little more than half what it takes to get to popular road-trip destinations like Key West and Orlando), you can test your luck at the casino with table games and slots, dig into a meal at any of its six restaurants, and get drunk enough to dance to live bands. Embrace the vibe! You'll be rewarded with a weekend of lounging in infinity pools, snorkeling through turquoise waters, and generally living the Bahamian dream — all for a fraction of the cost of flying to any other nearby island.

rwbimini.com

If you grew up going to Walt Disney World, that Swiss Family Robinson attraction had a powerful effect. There's something about a treehouse that's magical, reminiscent of the years when your vivid imagination made everything seem possible. At Little Haiti's Earth 'n' Us Farm, you can hide out from the soul-sucking daily grind and take to the trees. One of Miami's most precious hidden gems, it includes a community of peace-loving, plant-eating residents. There's an organic garden, a cadre of rescued animals, and a genuine treehouse, available for rent via airbnb.com. The arboreal abode sits on the third level of a pithecellobium tree. It's accessible via a narrow staircase to the sky. With mosquito netting over the bed, fans instead of A/C, and the pleasant sounds of farm life below, it's like escaping to the Amazon. There's even an outdoor shower and an open-air community kitchen, so you can leave Patrick Bateman at the office and embrace your inner Tarzan. Plus, it costs only $65 a night (with a two-night minimum stay), so frequent escapes are affordable.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®