Best Gay Night 2016 | The Lab at Score | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Chris Carter

"This is my favorite weekly gay party, and it's not just because I'm at the door," says Miami Beach gay-scene veteran Tommy Strangie, better known to the LGBTQ scene and its allies as the brash and ballsy drag broad Shelley Novak. Every year, she hands out Shelleys, her version of the Oscars, for outstanding gay figures, venues, parties, and pals. If anyone knows SoBe's gay scene, it's her. So we'll let Novak tell you why the Lab at Score is the place to be. "I get to see all my friends and fellow drag queens," she says. "No matter what is going on or what other party is happening, you always end up at the Lab at Score. Score the nightclub has been around forever, and this night always has a great crowd thanks to Athena Dion and a cast of hungry drag queens who will do anything for fame, a great DJ Rob Sky, hot male strippers who have not yet learned English so they only feel semi-exploited, and cheap drinks served by smoking-hot bartenders whom I refuse to let wear shirts. Basically, everyone knows everybody. It's like a private club for the cool kids that lets in a few tourists now and then so we can bang them!" Doors open at 10 p.m. and stay open until 5 a.m. Cocktails are complimentary from 11:30 p.m. to midnight. Check the website for specials, and if you're a Florida resident, there's no cover.

Few things have been as enduringly cool as the game we call pool — or, if you're fancy, billiards. How cool is pool? Pool is so cool that, if you're really good at it, people call you a shark. And sharks are cool because they have a whole lot of teeth and are able to kill anything they want, including Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Deep Blue Sea. Pool is so cool that whenever a movie reaches a point where it needs to make its main character appear awesome, it either (1) shows that main character winning easily at a game of pool or (2) shows that main character snapping a pool cue over his or her knee and beating up an entire bar in a karate brawl. Luckily, the latter scene won't play out at Peg's Pocket, a beloved neighborhood joint where there are some seriously good deals for those looking to hit the felt. Monday through Friday, you can pay $8.50 for unlimited playing time from noon to 8 p.m. Or you can pay $6.50 per hour and enjoy free draft beers all day and night Tuesday and Thursday. But can you really put a price on being cool? You can't. Unless you're selling air conditioners.

Readers' choice: Lost Weekend

Like a stellar musical score, architect Frank Gehry's masterful New World Center is full of hidden strokes of genius that aren't evident upon first glance. Sure, right off the bat you'll notice the soaring glass atrium and the striking blank wall where hi-def projections of concerts draw huge outdoor crowds. But it takes a connoisseur's eye to spot a more subtle touch of Gehry's design beauty. Ascend in an elevator to the symphony's rooftop and you'll find jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of South Beach. Just to the east, the art deco spires of the Delano and National hotels pierce the sparkling-blue Atlantic horizon; to the west, sailboats dot Biscayne Bay with a Miami skyline backdrop. And you don't have to stand on unfinished tar shingles while you gaze — New World Symphony's top deck is graced with a stunning garden designed by Raymond Jungles.

Photo courtesy of Fontainebleau Miami Beach

Sure, there's the thumping nightlife and gleaming beaches, but a big draw of Miami Beach will always be its history. And among celebrities who've made Miami Beach their playground over the past 100 years, there are few cooler than Ol' Blue Eyes. And among Frank Sinatra's favored beach haunts was the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. He could often be found singing at the hotel's La Ronde nightclub or shooting films in the lobby — home to other iconic silver-screen moments such as James Bond's Goldfinger. Fair enough, these days you can't find eye candy on par with the leader of the Rat Pack or even '60s-era Sean Connery, but grab a seat at the Bleau Bar — the tricked out, glowing blue hot spot in that famed lobby — and you're still guaranteed to witness some entertaining and sexy Miami Beach gentry. Grab a stiff cocktail (because you can probably afford only one in this spot) and a seat in the open space and you'll feel like you've crashed an haute-trend commercial. During the day, the pretty people arrive to sip tea, while at night they crowd in and wait for the clubs to open. Stay long enough and you may just end up spotting your very own Sultan of Swoon.

Readers' choice:

It began, as all good things in Miami do, with a pissed-off, naked porn star jumping atop a white Porsche after a domestic spat. Law student and wannabe energy drink mogul Mario Melton couldn't have known it, but that angry, nude model was about to tip off police to one of South Florida's largest molly rings. Melton, the son of lobbyist and former Miami Herald reporter Eston "Dusty" Melton, had been using his family's shipping business to help import at least 40 kilos of the synthetic drug from China. Arrested along with a dozen others, he was the only one to reject plea offers, opting to take his chances at trial. It almost worked — jurors in Melton's first trial were deadlocked, causing a mistrial. But Melton was convicted of conspiring to import the drug at a second federal trial this past March, during which lawyers from both sides squabbled over the meaning of a crucially timed poop emoji sent to Melton from a codefendant, which prosecutors said meant the two knew the jig was up. Thought to be a flight risk, Melton will be held in custody until his May sentencing, where he faces more than ten years in federal prison.

Photo by Jacqueline Carini / Courtesy of Miami Bridge

Thousands of children and teenagers across Miami-Dade find themselves in abusive or dysfunctional family situations, living on the streets, or caught up in drugs and alcohol. Few things are more tragic than being forced to carry such a heavy burden at such a pivotal point in one's life. Thankfully, the people at Miami Bridge Youth and Families Services have dedicated themselves to providing a safe haven for dangerously at-risk youth. The charity operates the county's only 24-hour emergency shelter dedicated to youth and provides a number of other services, including mental health services, education and life skills training, family crisis intervention, and programs aimed at young victims of human trafficking. The charity is well worth a donation, but it also offers plenty of ways for volunteers to get involved.

In 2014, Daniella Levine Cava pulled off the near-impossible. Her defeat of Commissioner Lynda Bell, a Tea Party sympathizer who single-handedly tried to defeat an expansion of Miami-Dade's Human Rights Ordinance, was just one of a handful of victories of insurgent candidates against incumbents in the past few decades. Levine Cava, the former head of social services organization Catalyst Miami, has now become a much-needed outspoken progressive on the county commission and has used her position to fight for the little people. She has battled for paid sick time, an increase in the minimum wage, and additional public transit options. She has also become the leading voice from inside the local halls of power for campaign finance reform and more transparency in local elections, an issue on which voters of all political stripes seem to agree.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seems incapable of doing anything without a certain amount of chutzpah. The man seems physically incapability of acting with meekness or modesty. Sometimes it's hard to watch — like the time the multimillionaire mayor proudly uploaded a video of himself berating a FedEx driver for stopping in a street to deliver a package, an antic that was widely panned on social media. Other times, though, his audaciousness is exactly what the community needs. His administration pulled the long-delayed dream of Baylink, a rail system that would connect Miami Beach with the mainland, out of the graveyard of lost good ideas back into political thought and the realm of possibility. Often, it's hard to tell what the political ramifications of Levine's headstrong approach will be. This past March, he became the first sitting mayor of a Miami-Dade County city to visit Cuba in 57 years. Though the local political establishment of Miami was dead-set against it, Levine told the world he would welcome a Cuban embassy within his city's limits. His approach is fascinating to watch and has led him to be prominently featured in a number of national articles about the effects of climate change in Miami Beach. Vanity Fair even dubbed him "Bloomberg South." It's widely rumored that the former media magnate has his eye on running for governor of Florida in 2018, so it's not as if he minds the positive press. Levine's chutzpah can absolutely be an admirable advantage, though it's fair for voters to ask who is the ultimate benefactor, the City of Miami Beach or Levine himself?

Give developer Sandor Scher this: He had a bold vision, and he put his money behind it. Unfortunately for Scher, that epic dream — to knock down a block of historic North Beach hotels to build a 22-story luxury condo and hotel — was not shared by the voters who had to approve it. By the time the dust cleared on the November ballot, Scher and his allies had blown more than $700,000 trying to persuade voters to let him demolish buildings along Ocean Terrace to erect a 250-foot tower as a start; Mayor Philip Levine had thrown his full support behind the plan; and Scher had invested $70 million in all the properties he hoped to renovate. But as returns rolled in, it became blindingly obvious that voters had enough of runaway development on the Beach. They had specifically passed height restrictions to prevent outsize project's like Scher's. By the end of the day, Scher, Levine, and the project's other backers had lost big at the polls, 55 to 45. That's one expensive misreading of the public's mood.

As the seas inexorably rise and greenhouse gases cook our atmosphere like a microwave left on high, there's never been a more important time to protect and restore South Florida's natural environment. The region is at a crossroads: Either we get swallowed whole by the tides, or we take bold steps to make our shorelines healthier and more resilient. Yet many Miami lawmakers either live in denial (ahem, Marco Rubio) or consider any natural green space an invitation for a new condo tower. Enter Blanca Mesa, a Cuban-American writer, federally licensed health insurance navigator, and former realtor associate, who now doubles as one of Miami-Dade's loudest advocates for the wilderness. Mesa grew up enjoying a Miami where parks were actual parks, not concert venues or shopping centers. Over time, she watched those spaces deteriorate as lawmakers succumbed to the lure of urban high-rises and sprawl. In 2010, while the Virginia Key master plan was being developed, the former Miami Herald reporter decided the stakes were too high. She launched the popular blog View from Virginia Key to inform the public about the history and environmental significance of the area, as well as to encourage public participation in plans for the future. Most recently, Mesa, who works during the day at the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, fought to protect the public and natural resources in the face of the Miami Boat Show's relocation to Virginia Key. She plans to continue to encourage people to "speak up and show up," as well as push for the highest protections for the natural areas of South Florida. With Mesa at the helm, Miami could become an example for the world of climate resilience and innovation. Will lawmakers listen?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®