Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill 2017 | Private ghost hunting at the Deering Estate | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Courtesy of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

In 2015, future U.S. president and golf course hobgoblin Donald Trump sent an unsolicited bid to remodel Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne in exchange for a 99-year management deal on the property. Without making any judgments about the merits of the deal or its artistry, we're happy to report it did not work. Feckless satisfaction at Trump's past failures notwithstanding, there are even better reasons than Schadenfreude to visit Crandon Golf. The course offers the purest form of tropical golf available at relatively low prices (thanks in no small part to the absence of the Trump name). It is an amazing place to possibly encounter an alligator, lose your ball in the mangroves, and bask in the beautiful, lush greenery of South Florida's landscape. And though we can't fully erase Trump's presence down here, we can give our greens fees to the county in a small act of resistance on this serene patch of land and hope it remains Miami's forever.

Tennis has a reputation as a sport for sensitive sorts who don't like to get dirty. Images spring to mind of all-white Wimbledon outfits and carefully manicured country clubs. But anyone who believes that lie has never had the pleasure of playing on a clay court. Luckily, Salvadore Tennis Center in Coral Gables gives weekend warriors and aspiring pros the opportunity to see why clay is superior — and, yes, much dirtier — than hard-court. Salvadore Park has 13 clay courts available at the reasonable rate of $4.60 an hour per player before 5 p.m. and $8 an hour per player per hour after 5. All the courts have lights for night matches. Plus, clay is actually easier on the joints than the heavy-impact hard court, and the balls bounce higher and slower, giving you a better opportunity to perfect your strokes. The only downside: You'll spend a lot more time washing your socks.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®