Best Reason to Stay in Miami for the Summer

Venetian Pool

Venetian Pool
Photo courtesy of the GMCVB

When summer temps threaten to hit triple digits, there's one place in Miami that stays a consistent 76 to 78 degrees: the historic Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. Fed by a natural spring and drained nightly, the 820,000-gallon pool built in 1923 is ideal for a midday soak if your backyard is waterless or you find yourself terrorized by obnoxious drunks when you venture downstairs to your apartment's pool. This isn't just any neighborhood pool, either — with waterfalls, rock features, and faux Mediterranean ambiance, it's the only swimming hole in America on the National Register of Historic Places. For $13 for adults and $8 for kids (with extra discounts for Coral Gables residents), you'll get the most bang for your buck if you get there early and make a day of it. Bring your own snacks to avoid the lines at the concession stand, and put the money toward a chair rental so you'll have a place to sprawl out and stash your sunscreen. Take one last dip before the pool closes (around 4:30 to 6:30, depending upon the day and time of year) and ride home with the windows down so you can feel the hot wind against your wet hair. And if even that fails to shake your stubborn summertime blues, you have full permission to pull into the nearest parking lot and rock back and forth in the air conditioning.

Sure, you can take your non-Miami friends club-hopping in South Beach or exploring the artsy streets of Wynwood, but let's face it — that's so cliché. Though the 305 takes pride in its hard-core party rep and burgeoning arts scene, to really give out-of-towners a taste of the area, you have to show them the weird side. And Coral Castle Museum is the epitome of all things strange in these parts. Constructed by Edward Leedskalnin — a five-foot-tall, 100-pound Latvian man with a fourth-grade education — using nothing but his bare hands and simple tools, the coral-rock fortress is rumored to have been built as a tribute to Leedskalnin's love, Agnes Scuffs, whom he referred to as his "Sweet Sixteen" because she was 16 years old, a full decade younger than he was. Leedskalnin and Scuffs had planned to get married, but she called it off the eve of their wedding. With a broken heart and crushed spirit, Leedskalnin left Latvia. He lived in Canada, California, and Texas for some time but, after developing tuberculosis, ended up in Florida in 1918. He had begun construction of the castle in Florida City in 1923, a few miles south of its current location. But after hearing of a ten-acre site for sale, he moved to Homestead in 1936 and took the colossal stone pieces with him. It is said to have taken Leedskalnin three years to move the rocks. Construction at the current site began in 1936 and was completed in 1951, the year Leedskalnin died. However, no one really knows how he erected the castle. Some people say aliens helped, while others contend the whole backstory is a sham. He swore he "knew the laws of weight and leverage well," which is how he precariously balanced multi-ton rocks atop one another. Regardless of how Coral Castle was built, your out-of-town buddies will definitely have one hell of a story to tell back home.

Readers' choice:

There's a better way to see Miami than from a traffic jam on I-95 in your Ford Focus. A sunset helicopter tour will set you back about 200 bones per head, but it's the fastest and prettiest way to see Miami Beach and the surrounding area. TourHelicopter.com's choppers can fit up to six guests, but you need at least two to book a flight, so bring a favorite long-distance friend in town or that impossible-to-please love interest you have yet to wow. If you call ahead and time it right, you can catch the last bit of sunset and then transition into a nighttime tour of the city's lights as you head back on the half-hour excursion (which is also by far the dopest way to check out Christmas lights if you book around the holidays). If you're celebrating, and why wouldn't you be, it's A-OK to bring a bottle of champagne or your beverage of choice. But keep it classy — you're on a helicopter, not a frat party bus.

There's nothing better after you've smoked a tree than to be surrounded by them. West of Brickell, a soft mist lingers above the Roads. Just below sits one of Miami's best-kept secrets: Simpson Park Hammock. The Garden Center's coral-lined cottage entrance gives way to a true urban oasis, where a winding nature trail's seashell-lined path offers a blissful reprieve from the traffic roaring just a block away. There's silence — nothing but verdant humidity and rustling leaves. Miami's blue sky is engulfed by trees. In the distance, a family of raccoons rushes into red stopper bushes, shrouding the speeding Metrorail. Even sober, the place is magical.