Haulover Beach Park
Photo by osseous / Flickr

Do you like dogs? What about naked people? Or kites? You've gotta like kites! OK, that combination might make a strange Venn diagram of hobbies, but bear with us: The point is there is one beach in Miami-Dade where all of these interests come together, and it's at Haulover Park. The 1.4-mile stretch of white sand is one of only two public beaches operated by the county, and it sits on 177 acres of glorious barrier island. On the north end of the park sits the self-proclaimed "best clothing-optional beach" in America. You'll know you've hit it when you reach signs warning, "Attention: Beyond this point you may encounter nude bathers." The south area of the park, meanwhile, is home to the county's only canine-friendly beaches, where dogs are welcome to romp through the surf from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. every day (and till dusk in the dog park itself). To top it off, as the only stretch for miles without any beachfront high-rises, Haulover boasts incredible winds that make it an ideal spot for an annual kite-flying festival every February. Grab your dog and your kite or just leave your clothes at home, and head to Haulover.

Best Cheap Thrill
Visitor7 at Wikimedia

Strolling on the recently renovated pier at South Pointe Park is already cheap enough. For the low price of zero dollars, you can walk along the Atlantic Ocean, bask in beautiful sunrises in the morning, and watch massive cruise ships float by a few feet away in Government Cut in the late afternoon. But unlike the rickety old pier that used to be a favorite spot for teenagers to do backflips into the channel, there's now a strictly enforced no-jumping rule at the new structure. Luckily, right next to the pier is a long rock jetty that juts into the ocean seemingly forever. Hopping from rock to rock tests your agility as you try to reach the horizon while waves crash below and churn up salty spray. How far will you go? And more important, just how big was the crab you just saw scurry under that stone?

Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill
Photo by Armando Rodriguez

No matter who you are or where you're from, there's one thing we all have in common: We are going to die. If that thought freaks you out, you might take comfort in finding out whether something awaits on the other side. The Deering Estate, the more than 450-acre homestead of South Florida industrialist Charles Deering, is said to be one of Miami-Dade's most haunted places, rife with paranormal activity. Guests have reported seeing the ghosts of everyone from a Native American to a little boy who likes to move furniture. Why not check it out yourself with the help of some professional ghost hunters? The Deering Estate holds regular ghost tours, but you can also set up your own private ghostly encounter. You'll have the run of the estate and the use of divining rods, EVP meters, and digital recorders to discover all manner of things that go bump in the night. The private tour: $1,000. Knowing there's life after death: Priceless.

Best Kids' Thrill
David Rolland

Sure, childhood is all about adventure — kids gotta stretch their boundaries, explore the world, use that imagination! But even if your inner child wants your kids to have a share of thrills, your inner parent wants to make sure they don't anything too thrilling. The playground at Village Green Park on Key Biscayne can scratch both of those itches. One corner of the park is custom-built for the really little ones, with a tiny school bus and car that spring up and down, along with a slide for toddlers. Bigger kids can engage in slightly riskier activities. A spiderweb made of rope beckons daredevils to climb to its peak, and twisty slides and ladders reach much braver heights. The key aspect of this playground, especially during the sweltering months, is that much of it is shaded, so parents don't have to fret about nasty sunburns. Even better: A central splash fountain spits water all over your grateful sweating children. That's the thrill of a successful summer outing.

Best Park
Bruno Fontino

Golf? Check. Megaplayground? Check. Peaceful, shaded areas for picnics or quiet walks in the woods? Check. Greynolds Park is the place you need to relax in overdeveloped, overpopulated, overshopped, get-over-it South Florida. This 249-acre, 81-year-old gem offers shelters for birthday parties or family gatherings at a reasonable $126 per day plus tax. There are also cabins and a real hill with a tower on top that dates to the Depression-era Works Progress Administration. (Machinery is buried underneath it.) A nine-hole round of golf here costs $12 or $22 (depending upon whether you walk or ride), and it's $10 or $18 after 3 p.m. Get away from it all. You deserve a break, and Greynolds is the place to take one.

Best Kayaking
courtesy of iPaddle

If you're going to survive in South Florida, you have to find a way to make the water a part of your life. Scuba diving is one possibility. Buying a boat is another. Both of these options are expensive and require a serious commitment, however. iPaddle Miami allows you to rent a kayak or paddleboard at a reasonable price and then wander through the islands near the John F. Kennedy Causeway at your leisure. Stop and swim for awhile. Have a picnic. All you need to do is call a bit in advance, and the iPaddle people will set you up. Rentals are available from sunrise to sunset. Buy a membership for as little as $300 for 30 hours of kayak or paddleboard use, or simply pay $50 for two hours or $90 for the day. Trust us: Join this club, and you'll like living in sunny South Florida more.

On the banks of the historic Little River, wedged up against the newly bustling neighborhood of Miami Ironside, sits a patch of grass where you can lie about and let your dog run around. On its surface, Manatee Bend Park isn't particularly majestic or visually striking, but its name is not just a legacy of Miami pioneers or a Parks Department brand. It's where the Little River actually bends and where hordes of manatees often hang out, just lolling around, blissfully doing charmingly lazy sea-cow stuff. The herds are attracted to the brackish water and congregate here (yes, sometimes so they can engage in the manatee nasty). Don't touch them or scare them away, though. They are rare and need room. Pro tip: The potential for manatee encounters rises exponentially if you head west. (There's also road access behind the shopping mall off NE 82nd Street, though that area is not technically part of the park). If you want to commune with Mother Nature's favorite underwater cow, this is the place to do it.

Best Dog Park
Jessica Gibbs

For most dog owners, a big, wet, sloppy kiss on the face is all it takes to turn a crappy day into a pretty good one. Think how often your pooch has saved your mood after yet another terrible meeting with middle management. And now consider all that your dog wants: a few minutes in the park to romp after a tennis ball and maybe engage in a little recreational butt-sniffing. Is that so much to ask? Take your canine to West Kendall District Park already. This green paradise is massive, with two fenced-off areas where dogs of all sizes have the freedom to go buck wild from dawn till dusk. There's dog-friendly exercise equipment, including tire jumps. If you arrive on a weekend, though, your dog will definitely make some friends — and who knows, you might meet some cool fellow dog owners yourself. Your pup gives you a lot. Give back with a trip to West Kendall District Park.

Best Picnic Spot
Jessica Gibbs

Salsa blares from tinny-sounding stereo speakers. The savory aroma of mouthwatering churrasco wafts through the air. Baseballs fly, and children squeal. It can only be a weekend in Tropical Park, a green oasis of barbecue grills and infield diamonds where Miamians have gathered for decades to play softball and drink Presidente. Sure, you might wish it were the holidays so you could pay your respects to the almighty Santa's Enchanted Forest, but if you listen closely enough, you can probably hear "Mi Burrito Sabanero" playing on the radio in the distance year-round. There are two picnic options at Tropical Park: The planners out there who want to picnic in style can reserve a small or large shelter (for a rental fee of about $200 or $240) that comes with a barbecue pit, picnic tables, electricity, and water. You'll probably need to book that bad boy two to four months in advance. For a more mellow and spontaneous picnic, bring a blanket, a good book, and some snacks and plop down under a tree. Tropical Park is massive, so there isn't a shortage of picnic spots, but don't miss some of the quieter areas near the lake. You won't miss out on any of the sights that make a Tropical Park visit so very Miami, but you might avoid getting hit in the head by one of those baseballs.

Best Soccer Field
courtesy of Sports Turf One

Every year, an average of 60,000 fútbol fiends lace up for a game of footy on the four fields at Morgan Levy Park in Doral. That means more than a million cleats ripped into the synthetic turf since the fields were completed in 2007. Beymar Pirquive, director of the Doral Soccer Club, says the fields had become a hazard for the children and teenagers playing in the youth programs his organization runs at Morgan Levy. "After nearly a decade of use and abuse, the turf had gotten very worn out," Pirquive says. "There were a lot of holes." It was time for a serious renovation. And Doral leaders came through for the city's soccer lovers, spending $932,470 installing new, high-tech turf worthy of Wembley Stadium. The revamped fields reopened for play in January. "This turf is a lot better," Pirquive raves. "It feels more natural." Thankfully, Doral Soccer Club doesn't have exclusive use of Morgan Levy Park's soccer facilities. When the kids aren't practicing or playing league games, the fields are available to the public for free.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®