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.

The Ground Miami
Karli Evans

Being a music fan in Miami can be hard if your favorite genre isn't house, techno, or EDM. Much-loved venues such as Grand Central often pass on simply because Miami's geographic isolation makes it difficult for certain acts to schedule a tour stop in South Florida. When Club Space opened its ground floor as a live music space called the Ground, it made a much-needed impact. Now metal bands, up-and-coming rappers, R&B acts, and even experimental percussion ensembles are playing at the 555-capacity venue alongside unconventional DJs. Downtown Miami isn't just for dance music anymore.

CMX - Brickell City Centre
Courtesy of CMX

If you're the type of unpretentious film fan who didn't make a beeline for the "Best Arthouse Cinema" category, you'll probably enjoy Brickell City Centre's CMX theater. It's a high-end experience for people who feel no shame about their excitement for the latest Disney-Marvel-Star Wars CGI-explosion slugfest. This is the place to go to make an event out of an event movie. Amenities include blankets and pillows, high-end audio and projection, portable caption devices for non-English speakers and the hearing impaired, and in-theater food service — because why should you have to miss Black Panther's latest battle to go order some jalapeno poppers?

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
Iwan Baan

Last year, just in time for Art Basel, the ICA Miami reopened in its new permanent location, an immaculate metal-faced building in the ritzy Design District, just a stone's throw from Tom Ford and Maison Margiela. Its debut exhibition, "The Everywhere Studio," featured work by artistic heavyweights such as Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein. While the art world can often seem elitist and impenetrable, the ICA is different. It comes down to a single policy: The museum does not charge admission. Simply provide your email address and take in three floors of world-class art, as well as a backyard sculpture garden. The works you'll see are not only made by artists with blockbuster names. ICA also includes conceptual pieces from rising international artists, as well as work from local, regional, and immigrant artists. At a time when museums elsewhere are making access to art more difficult, this small Miami museum is taking an egalitarian approach.

Best Music Festival
Photo by Karli Evans

Before 2017, III Points was a small, forward-thinking, yet continually troubled festival. Its lineups, mixing together local talent with major underground names such as Flying Lotus and Earl Sweatshirt, were among the best in North America. But issues plagued the fest, especially in 2016, when Hurricane Matthew nearly slammed into the city and forced headliners LCD Soundsystem to cancel. Cut to last year's festival: A massive crowd packed in front of the main stage at Mana Wynwood sings along with Damon Albarn of Gorillaz as he belts his way through "Plastic Beach." In a city maligned for its connection to EDM and lowest-common-denominator thrills, III Points has become an institution that champions unconventional regional and international artists of all stripes.

Best Record Label
Photo by Koury Angelo

Club Space has long been known for its all-night parties and famous terrace. But you might not be aware of this record label started by local impresario David Sinopoli and rebooted last year by electronic producer Nick Leon. You might assume, given its namesake club's reputation, that Space Tapes releases dance music records. But a Space Tape doesn't sound like Club Space — it sounds like outer space. Its small but growing collection of releases from artists such as Get Face, Austin Paul, and Leon himself traverse the stars, mixing ambience, bass, and other alien sounds. This isn't like any music that has come out of Miami before. Space Tapes may produce locally, but they're thinking cosmically.

Best Visual Artist
© Dara Friedman, courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York

Dara Friedman's most famous short film, Dancer, shows dozens of Miamians dancing across the city. They step, grind, pirouette, slide, and tumble on bridges, under overpasses, against building walls, and even atop skyscrapers. It was one of many films featured in "Perfect Stranger," a retrospective of Friedman's work featured at Pérez Art Museum Miami that confirmed her lasting importance to the city's art legacy. Ironically, what makes her art so essential is us — the people of Miami. In films such as Dancer and Government Cut Freestyle, we are the art — she's only holding up a mirror.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®