Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Summer can be brutal in South Florida. While the rest of the country celebrates the first warm weather of the year, it's so hot down here that you need a shower after a short walk from your car to the door. But at least we get mangoes. All summer long, trees across South Florida are heavy with the delicious tropical fruit, and there's no bigger celebration of that silver lining than the International Mango & Tropical Fruit Festival. For the past 25 years, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's fête has been all mangoes, all the time. This year's July 14 and 15 event ($25 for the general public and discounts for children and seniors) will include cooking demonstrations, a tropical beer garden, and a display of the largest mango and tropical fruit collection in the world. Thanks to Fairchild, you can try them all, no backyard tree necessary.
A trip to the mall is called "retail therapy" for some, but for others, a day of shopping — especially holiday shopping — is its own reason for a trip to the therapist. Aventura Mall has found a much more amusing (and cheaper) escape for the shopping-averse. Last Christmas season, the mall debuted a 93-foot-tall spiral slide for guests of all ages. Designed by German artist Carsten Höller, the slide is supported by metal framing that glints in the sunlight, making an impactful visual statement. While kids, parents, and thrill-seekers zoom through a winding, enclosed tube with clear panes, they can look out at the hordes of shoppers bustling below. The ride down is steep enough to incite an adrenaline rush but fun enough to warrant a climb back up the stairs for another go. Admission is free, and the slide is open from noon to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Most locals know the 630-acre Matheson Hammock Park for its beach and boat ramp, but it's also home to a virtually untouched wooded expanse that sits across the street on Old Cutler Road. Matheson Hammock Trail is isolated but demarcated clearly enough so that even the most directionally challenged wanderers will get lost only in thought as they stroll or jog on its path. Get a glimpse of Old Florida's lush, shaded vegetation on this looping mile and a half before heading back across the street to cool down on the water.
If the water isn't what lured you to Miami or keeps you here, it's certainly an added perk. Alice Wainwright Park is a hidden jewel with a bayside view that counters even the most stressful nuisances of daily city life. The nature preserve offers picnic shelters canopied by Australian pines, beneath which you can admire the kiteboarders cruising Biscayne Bay or see the occasional manatee or dolphin. The kids will enjoy a well-equipped playground and a basketball court. But the sea breeze and the vista of the choppy blue water set this Brickell Avenue hideaway apart from the rest of Miami's many parks.
In the tropics, the closest most kids get to participating in winter sports is watching Frozen for the umpteenth time in an air-conditioned bedroom. But at Scott Rakow Youth Center, a winter wonderland awaits in the unlikeliest of places: Miami Beach. The center's 12,885-square-foot Barbara Medina Ice Rink offers public skating sessions at bargain rates. Figure-skating and ice-hockey lessons are available for only $15 to kids who live in Miami Beach, and nonresidents get to lace up for $20. Both rates include a skate rental fee. Public skating sessions take place Friday through Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 to 10 p.m.
Key Biscayne has long been a mecca for South Florida cyclists. Bike enthusiasts clad in brightly colored spandex shorts and helmets have made the scenic trek over the Rickenbacker Causeway to Crandon Boulevard for years. A trip on the barrier island can take riders through ritzy residential neighborhoods with an occasional view of the bay. Cyclists who wish to avoid sharing the road with motorists can cruise under the sea grapes and Australian pines at Crandon Park (on the north end of the island) or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park (on the south end). And there's no reason to feel left out if you don't own a bike. Last year, Key Biscayne became the first American city to team up with the bicycle-sharing app LimeBike. Users can track bicycle locations and rent one for $1 for every 30 minutes.
Nothing beats the feeling of a potent runner's high. But worrying about aching or stressed knees can dampen the euphoria. The paved rubber-mulch path at Kennedy Park is a welcome alternative to pounding pavement on an urban jog. If you want to turn that run into a full body workout, the park is also equipped with an outdoor exercise course with calisthenic equipment. And if it's one of those brutally hot days and you're not a calorie counter, you can cool down afterward with a frozen lemonade from A.C.'s Icees ($3.50 to $7), whose truck has been a fixture at Kennedy Park for more than 30 years. While you're at it, take a well-deserved break and sit on one of the many benches overlooking scenic Biscayne Bay.
Most local tennis aficionados are upset that the Miami Open will relocate from Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium next year, but no group will be as affected as the people who take advantage of the four free public courts at Calusa Park. Their close proximity to the neighboring Crandon Park Tennis Center — where the Miami Open has been held for the past three decades — allowed tournament directors to use Calusa as additional practice courts for the players. For the duration of this partnership, Calusa Park's courts have been resurfaced to the level professional players expect, and amateur guests have been able to practice their backhand without worrying about cracked surfaces or broken nets. The isolated location keeps the courts generally vacant with the exception of weekday afternoons, when local tennis prodigies hit the courts. It's difficult to predict how the Miami Open's move will affect the quality of Calusa Park's courts, but for now, they're among the best-maintained in town.
Some might consider it exploitative to take the bus for people-watching purposes, and perhaps there is some truth to that opinion. But the 119 and 120 buses that traverse between downtown Miami and South Beach offer a view of patrons beyond those riding the bus on their way to work. These are tourists from all over the world taking spotty public transportation from their South Beach hotels to Pérez Art Museum Miami, Bayside Marketplace, and Miami Heat games. Eavesdropping on intermingling cultures and languages can be interesting — just don't get so lost in observation that you become the jerk who doesn't give up their seat for the elderly.
South Floridians have a treasure trove of beaches to choose from, but Sunny Isles Beach is the shiniest of seaside jewels. For close to 40 blocks east of Collins Avenue, visitors can admire the turquoise Atlantic Ocean from various lounging and swimming spots. Public parking lots are available at 174th and 193rd Streets, and 21 access points lead visitors directly from Collins to the shore. Most entry points are ADA-accessible. Once you're lounging on the sand, feel free to give the one-finger salute to President Trump's International Beach Resort on 180th Street, or better yet, take a break from the national rancor and enjoy the sights tourists pay big money to see.
If one thing is certain when it comes to getting stoned, it's that reactions vary from person to person. Some people immediately get the munchies, while others just want to lie down. Then there are the adventuresome types who like to go exploring, while some just want to sit on a park bench and people-watch. No matter how you feel after getting ripped, the underrated SoFi neighborhood in Miami Beach can satisfy your every augmented sensation. If you get hungry, a seemingly endless list of restaurants, such as Prime 112, Fogo de Chão, and Joe's Stone Crab, can satisfy a doped-up palate. Feeling active? A scenic jog through beautiful South Pointe Park can burn off some of that energy. Check out the new South Pointe Pier for a trippy, Instagram-ready view of South Beach, or slow down and watch departing cruise ships in the distance. Boats, Jet Skis, scuba equipment, and snorkeling gear are also available for rental at the marina, though you should save those for a sober day.
When his season with the Miami Dolphins began, Kenyan Drake was little more than a spot-duty back-up running back and refreshing change-of-pace complement to then-starter Jay Ajayi. But after a shocking midseason trade that sent Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles and Drake into the Dolphins' starting lineup, he became much more than that. Drake wound up becoming the most capable Dolphins player on the field, and one of the best at his position in the entire NFL from December through the duration of the season. He finished the season with 133 carries for 644 yards and four touchdowns. Those stats might not seem like much, but for a guy who had only four carries in the first six games of the season, it was an unexpected level of growth in a short period of time. Drake also pulled in 32 catches in his abbreviated season, and the team improved with him taking the handoffs. In a season that didn't see much go the Dolphins' way, watching Kenyan Drake exceed expectations as a starting running back in the NFL was the most exciting development to emerge from last year's campaign.