Best Festival
Photo by Karli Evans

Miami has undergone a drag renaissance in recent years, expanding the definition of the term beyond the traditional RuPaul aesthetic. Local queens and kings increasingly use avant-garde, gender-bending modes of dress and performance inspired by everything from aliens from outer space to art films to Kellyanne Conway. Nowhere will you find a better or more diverse representation of South Florida's legion of creative queer performers than at Wigwood, the annual festival celebrating all kinds of queer performances. The festival only launched in 2017, but it has since expanded into an extravaganza of queer culture taking place at multiple venues and drawing hundreds of attendees dressed in their weirdest, wildest attire. Frankly, the world could use a lot more of Wigwood's welcoming, anything-goes culture, in which the only qualification for acceptance is an open mind.

Best Film Director
Courtesy photo

When Agua Viva, the animated short film by Alexa Lim Haas, debuted at the Borscht Film Festival, it had plenty of competition for buzz. Other crowd-favorite films that night included a weirdly terrifying reproduction of a Red Lobster commercial and a documentary about an internet-famous millennial bro who somehow befriends local deer. But Haas' dreamy, melancholy tale of a Chinese woman working at a Miami nail salon made an impression on local audiences. Haas expertly evokes the emotions of feeling lost in translation, a familiar sensation to anyone who's navigated South Florida's patchwork of diverse languages and cultures. Agua Viva continued to impress at film festivals such as SXSW 2018, where it was the jury award winner for animated short. But awards only confirm what Miami audiences already knew: that beyond the Scarface and Bad Boys stereotypes, there's a quiet, introspective side to the Magic City.

Best LGBTQ Party
Courtesy of Gender Blender

Is there anything more punk than being queer? Both communities take a stand against discrimination and for rights and nonconformity. And there's no better mashup of the punk and queer aesthetic than Gender Blender, an LGBTQ party that originated at Little Haiti punk haven Churchill's and has since moved to new but crusty Allapattah venue Las Rosas. Every fourth Sunday of the month, Gender Blender stages live performances by visiting artists and locals alike, blending drag, booze, and a healthy dose of rock 'n' roll into one glitter bomb/Molotov cocktail hybrid of a dance party.

Best Movie Shot on Location
Courtesy photo

A casual trip to the grocery store turns into a sharp, funny indictment of the pregnancy-industrial complex in Rhonda Mitrani's short film SuperMarket, which wittily skewers society's treatment of the so-called miracle of life. Shot at a local Sedano's, the film follows Jasmine (Heather Lind), a woman in her mid-30s, who finds herself in a Twilight Zone-esque alternate universe the moment she strides through the supermarket's sliding glass doors — and discovers she's pregnant. Filled with bizarre baby products and eerily well-meaning women who bombard Jasmine with unsolicited advice and opinions, SuperMarket will resonate with any viewer who's been publicly pregnant and therefore privy to the belly-touching and concern-trolling that comes with growing a fetus in the U.S. With equal parts sarcasm and compassion, Mitrani offers a hilarious and cringe-inducing reflection of a society hell-bent on encroaching and capitalizing on one of the most deeply intimate experiences a woman can have. But despite the heavy subject matter, SuperMarket is also a bright, light, even cautiously uplifting comedy.

Best Street Artist
Photo by Ben Morey

Loud and proud Miamian Ahol Sniffs Glue is prolific as hell. This tattooed, bearded, golden grill-wearing street artist has painted his sleepy eyeball murals and tags all around the city — on electrical boxes, metallic store shutters in downtown Miami, inviting walls in Wynwood and South Beach, and the interiors of residential, commercial, and office spaces. Ahol is devoted to the Magic City's art hustle. In the last year, he opened a downtown pop-up souvenir kiosk that sold "A hole in one" golf balls and other knickknacks, dropped an art book titled Cellular Fuckery, added solid 14K gold necklaces in the form of his quirky Miami character illustrations to his luxury jewelry line, and partnered with a Brazilian shoe company to release a line of chancleta sandals. And though he's been invited to show his art and do projects all over the world, Ahol is fully committed to his hometown of Miami, frequently reinforcing his love for the 305 with his signature tag line: "Miami Full Time."

Best Play
Photo by Justin Namon

When you're angry and overheated in Miami, nothing relieves the tension quite like saying the f word. For the sake of the children, swap your usual for ¡Fuácata!, a Cuban term that is the phonetic equivalent to the sound of a slap, and the title of a hilarious one-woman play by Elena María García in collaboration with Zoetic Stage director Stuart Meltzer. Written by a Latina about Latinas and performed by a Latina, ¡Fuácata! explores the spectrum of the Latina experience in Miami through the satire and parody of over 20 female characters found in the Magic City, from the stereotypical Miami party girl obsessed with selfies and fun drinks to an ultraconservative Cuban immigrant running for political office. ¡Fuácata! sold out its 2017 run at the Arsht but will be returning to the venue's Carnival Studio Theater August 1 through 19, with tickets starting at $50.

Best Theater Company
Photo by Rodrigo Balfanz

Fort Lauderdale's Slow Burn Theatre Company is the crown jewel of the Miami musical theater scene. The company is known for its diverse programming, such as past productions of Tarzan, Avenue Q, Rent, and Little Shop of Horrors. Audiences have laughed, cried, and screamed along with the cast and crew during the nonprofit theater company's nine years in existence. This season, Slow Burn's selection of popular picks will make any contemporary musical theater lover squeal with excitement, from the new adaptation of family film favorite Freaky Friday (October 18 through November 4) to queer classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch (November 8 through 25) to the musical version of Elle Woods' law school revenge saga, Legally Blonde: The Musical (December 13 through 30). Omigod, omigod, you guys!

Colony Theatre
Courtesy of the GMCVB

"We're not interested in what was popular in New York last season; we want what's perfect for Miami this season." That is the artistic mission statement of the Colony Theatre as told by its artistic director and cofounder, Michel Hausmann. The 415-seat venue opened in Miami Beach in 1935 as a Paramount Pictures movie theater. Over the decades, it has transformed into an intimate performance space presenting Miami's top dramatic pieces with a multicultural flair. The building itself is a masterpiece, from its iconic art deco exterior to the pelican mural that greets guests inside the theater. This past season's highlights included Hausmann's multilingual, Miami-centric reimagining of Thornton Wilder's Our Town and the spicy drama Queen of Basel.

Scarlett's Cabaret
Courtesy of Scarlett's Cabaret

This is South Florida and there are many places to see boobs. The occasional European on the beach? Sure! The periodic drunk lady at the grocery store who wants to show you her, uh, melons? It happens! But there is one place where the experience is almost transcendent: Scarlett's Cabaret. This is a true gentlemen's club and an entertainment destination. In 2017, the Hallandale Beach institution was acquired by strip club conglomerate Rick's Cabaret International, resulting in all-new furniture, fixtures, carpeting, and more. The place is swanky, the light shows are mesmerizing, and the sound system gets people moving. Oh yeah, the girls are hot, too. Scarlett's is a utopia you never really need to leave — you can even order some chicken tenders or filet mignon as you watch a performance or the latest UFC fight. Is this real life?

Is Aunt Gladys in town, wanting an authentic Miami experience? Make sure she naps and gets fully energized, then hit Hoy Como Ayer, located on Calle Ocho in Little Havana. This Latin club has been going strong for 18 years. The keys to its ongoing success are regular performances by some of the best Latin acts in the city, ranging from singers such as Amaury Gutierrez to music groups like Los 3 de La Habana. A cozy dance floor and wonderfully strong mojitos enhance the experience. Obviously, this place isn't just popular with visiting Aunt Gladys. Nearly two decades in, Hoy Como Ayer continues to grow its loyal, local fan base.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®