Best Party Venue

Parties: Fun. Finding party venues in Miami: Excruciating. Unless you want to get ripped off, you'll spend hours scouring reviews, mapping GPS sites, and making phone calls to check availability in this mecca of fiestas. Luckily, Villa Woodbine in Coconut Grove is a sure thing. Whether you're organizing a wedding, bar mitzvah, birthday party, or especially classy liquor-soaked soiree, Villa Woodbine provides a setting straight out of a high-budget rom-com — with a dash of Miami history worth the price (which varies depending upon how many guests you'll expect, though there's always a $3,000 deposit). Built in the 1930s as a winter retreat for a Wisconsin paper baron, the Mediterranean Renaissance building was designed by renowned architect Walter De Garmo, who peppered it with touches from Cuba such as handcrafted tiles shipped from the island. These days, the setting is bolstered by amazing catering and a pleasant staff. Woodbine isn't some warehouse for a rave; it's a place you'll make the kind of memories you want to hang onto for a lifetime.

Best Art Festival

Art Basel and Miami Art Week, at heart, are a rich person's playground, full of white tents housing bajillion-dollar works of art that you need a PhD to really appreciate. But then Superfine! hit the scene. The organizers of the 2-year-old fair devised a business model that reduces costs for exhibitors, allowing a broader and more diverse group of artists to participate. Visitors strolling through Superfine! in midtown Miami last year got to see local artists Jen Clay and Christin Paige Minnotte, among many others, selling pieces at prices far more affordable than those at nearby Art Miami and Scope. And Superfine! pulled it all off without dropping any of the flashy extras of your traditional white tent. An immersive, helium-based sculpture installation by Asser Saint-Val greeted visitors, while Miami collective Nice n' Easy created a psychedelic picnic party and seating lounge for guests. With all the perks of Art Basel but without the excruciating costs, Superfine! is a safe space for your wallet during Miami Art Week.

Pérez Art Museum Miami
Photo by MannyofMiami.com

Thursday is so close yet still so far away from the weekend. So a Thursday-evening drink requires the Goldilocks standard of imbibing: enough booze to properly pregame for the weekend, but not so much that you're hung over for what is already the longest workday of the week. PAMM Third Thursdays, hosted by Poplife, are the perfect early transition to that weekend mood. The parties offer a chance to schmooze with other art lovers in a relaxed environment, all while overlooking some of the best views of the Magic City at dusk. Happy-hour drink specials are available from 5 to 7 p.m., and Poplife books world-class DJs such as Arthur Baker to spin on the shores of Biscayne Bay. Each monthly event also spotlights some of Miami's best musical talent, including acts like the Tremends, Native Youth, Psychic Mirrors, and Modernage. Admission is free for PAMM members and $16 for nonmembers.

Best Arthouse Cinema

Thanks to projects like Borsht Film Festival and its most famous offspring, Moonlight, a new, young indie film scene has evolved into a driving cultural force in the Magic City. But Miami Beach Cinematheque, the city's original alternative movie theater, precedes them all. The Miami Beach Film Society screened its first film, Sunset Boulevard, in 1993, a full decade before anyone would've described Miami as having a true film culture. Its members launched the permanent cinematheque ten years later, luring Miami film lovers to a cozy screening room on Española Way. And since MBC moved to a larger and more historic building in the heart of SoBe on Washington Avenue in 2011, the venue has remained as relevant as ever. Foreign films and domestic indies alike make their Miami premieres here every month. And director Dana Keith expands the filmgoing experience far beyond the screen by scheduling lectures and panel discussions with local film experts, bringing filmmakers and stars to make appearances at the theater, and hosting screenings and events for just about every film festival in town. There have never been more options for moviegoers in Miami, but with its combination of thoughtful programming, exciting events, and community support, Miami Beach Cinematheque remains at the top of indie fans' lists.

Readers' choice: O Cinema

Best TV Show Set in Miami

When it comes to making Miami a Hollywood star, it's hard to match the staying power of an '80s TV show about an undercover narcotics detective who drove a Ferrari and lived on a sailboat with a pet alligator. Miami Vice framed the Magic City in vibrant pastel colors and B-roll footage of the city's skyline, Ocean Drive, and Biscayne Bay against the gritty fictionalized account of the heady Cocaine Cowboys era. But give HBO hit Ballers credit for taking that formula and running straight down the sideline with it. The dark comedy starring Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson about the crazy world of professional football channels Miami Vice in just about every episode. But instead of drug dealers and narcs, the main characters are football players and sports agents. Ballers is chock full of Miami clichés and stereotypes, but — just like Vice — pulls it off in a campy, gloriously over-the-top production that makes locals appreciate the glitzy façade that often lulls unsuspecting out-of-towners into a sense of security. For instance, Ballers has a lot of cocaine, exotic cars, beautiful people, and public sex romps. But the show also dives headfirst into the city's very real appetite for hucksters and bamboozlers looking to come up by any means necessary, including resorting to blackmail and double-cross deals. Unfortunately, Florida legislators have called an interference play that has led to Ballers' departure from our sunny place for shady people. After the state refused to renew film incentives, the show's brass decided to pack up for La-La Land. Though Ballers will still claim Miami, its future seasons won't ever quite capture the Magic City's Zeitgeist the same way.

Best Art Gallery
Photo by Monica McGivern

The stone building on the corner of NE 39th Street and North Miami Avenue looks just as swanky as any other showroom in the high-end haven of the Design District. But there's one major difference: Inside, instead of handbags and shoes more expensive than your monthly rent, there's art. Really good art, actually. This is the new home of Primary Projects, the space started by the Primary Flight crew shortly after it made waves by bringing a massive installation of murals to Wynwood. (Look how that worked out.) Primary Projects ran a small space on the other side of the Design District for several years and then spent a brief time in downtown Miami before returning to its original neighborhood in a newly luxurious form. Few local artists have the chance to exhibit their work in a gallery with tall, retail-style windows and a prime position among the 1 percenters, but that's exactly what Primary offers. Since it opened at its new address in September 2016, it has shown works by Miami stars such as Autumn Casey, Kelly Breez, and Beatriz Monteavaro. And though the building melds effortlessly into the Design District landscape, Primary's artists and curators aren't trying to blend in. Just imagine high-strung shoppers with Louis Vuitton bags accidentally wandering into a recent exhibit of fake newspaper pages with political headlines reading "Fuck It Will Set You Free." It's a lovely idea.

Readers' choice: Bakehouse Art Complex

Cinépolis Coconut Grove

You can't please all the people all the time, especially not when those people are extremely opinionated movie buffs. But Cinépolis comes close. It shows all the big Hollywood films, from superhero movies to goofy bro comedies, all screened with Sony 4K digital projection to perfectly capture each explosion and off-putting fart joke. But Cinépolis also regularly programs indie fare, giving fans of lower-budget features a swanky spot to catch the latest releases. Its theaters have both traditional (but still relatively new and comfy) seating and also four Premier screens with plush leather seats and food trays, so you can decide to take in a flick the old-fashioned (AKA cheaper) way or impress your date by splurging on comfort. The only real downside to Cinépolis is its popularity — you'll probably want to buy your tickets in advance on weekends. But, hey, it's popular for a reason.

Readers' choice: Cinépolis Coconut Grove

Best Movie Shot on Location

At this point, there's really no debate: Moonlight was the single best film of 2016. In fact, by most critical takes, the Best Picture Oscar winner is an all-time great destined for decades of adulation among cinephiles. So let's take a step back for a moment and realize how extraordinary it is that two young Miami natives created such an exceptional work of art centered on a tale of a young black man dealing with poverty, a drug-addicted mother, and his emerging sexuality in the projects of Liberty City. The heartbreaking and honest performances of Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes were representations that millions of Americans needed to see and feel. But for Miami natives, Moonlight's meaning was amplified tenfold. After movies have portrayed Miami through endless shots of Biscayne Bay, Ocean Drive, and Star Island over the decades, the contrast of the lush landscape and dilapidated street where we first meet Juan is like a painful breath of fresh air. Thought we might convince ourselves otherwise, most of us aren't variations of DJ Khaled or Pitbull. To have native sons Berry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney create such searingly honest portraits of real Miamians is a gift we can't take for granted and one we won't soon forget.

Best Play

You need not love basketball to marvel at this magisterial hoops drama from M Ensemble. Directed with precision and perfection by its writer, Layon Gray, the play dramatizes the tumultuous 1939 season of the New York Renaissance, a hardscrabble all-black basketball organization from Harlem, whose players overcame obstacles to win 2,588 games across segregated America. Did everything happen exactly as Gray presents it? That's doubtful, but veracity is immaterial: His production was a mesmerizing argument for poetic license — emphasis on the poetic. The players' practice drills became the tactile pulse of Kings of Harlem, the choreographed sprints, passes, and dribbles attaining a Zen-like quality that would make Phil Jackson smile like Buddha. It was basketball as ballet, buttressed by elegiac music selections, cinematic projections, heavenly lighting, and a fully immersive scenic design that transformed a theatrical venue into a hardwood basketball court with spectator seating on either side. Inspirational sports stories come and go, but M Ensemble's production lingers long after the final buzzer.

Best Musical
Photo by Diego Pocovi

There's something about the traditional Broadway musical that feels, well, staged. Even the deftest directors can't conceal the inherent, disruptive artifice of characters bursting into song. That's what made Actors' Playhouse's production of this rock 'n' roll road show so unique. Million Dollar Quartet, which imagines the rollicking music, humor, and infighting of a studio confab among Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, is in its own way as whimsical as people-gobbling plants and demonic barbers. But artistic director David Arisco's naturalistic direction and his cast's remarkable verisimilitude overrode the perception that we were watching a fantasy. We were eavesdroppers of an apocryphal hangout, witnessing four legends shoot the shit when they didn't want to shoot one another. And it was a loud hangout: The songs, arriving organically and ending with little fanfare, had an amped-up, raw imperfection that seemed to filter from the convincingly accurate onstage recording booth. The production was another reminder of the boundless creativity Actors' Playhouse can achieve in its flexible upstairs venue.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®