Best Photographer
Photo courtesy of Josh Aronson

Josh Aronson has made a name for himself photographing actors and models, like Jordan Fisher and Karlie Kloss, for glossies such as Teen Vogue and Allure. He also recently shot for a national Kate Spade campaign. In addition to his editorial work, Aronson self-published his first photography book, Tropicana, in 2020. The limited edition sold out in a handful of weeks. Tropicana featured photos of young artists and activists Aronson photographed over the course of a year in different parts of South Florida. From the swampy Everglades to the sands of Miami Beach, he captures the essence of what life in Florida is like for twentysomethings in this era. In early 2021, he showcased prints from his book in an exhibit aptly titled "Tropicana" in a gallery space in the Design District.

Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art

At the intersection of NE 125th Street and NE Eighth Avenue in North Miami sits the charming Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Its most striking feature is a vast fountain at the entrance that's often activated to showcase some sort of floating or water-friendly art piece. The plaza space through which visitors pass before heading inside is often dressed with art as well — whether hanging from the palm trees or strung in the air, the MOCA makes use of every cubic inch to display art to the community. Once inside the intimate space, one can always expect to be awed. Recent exhibitions include a sprawling collection from the Mexican artist Raúl de Nieves, complete with a life-size carousel inside the museum proper, and a moving show of works by the late Jamaican artist Michael Richards, who was killed in the World Trade Center attacks 20 years ago this month.

Superblue
Photo by Andrea Mora

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to float through the clouds, Superblue is the place for you. It seems like Miami is the newest hot spot for immersive art, with traveling experiences popping up nearly every month — many of them zeroing in on Van Gogh, but whaddayagonnado? If you're new to immersive art, think of it as an exhibition that allows visitors to view what's on display from inside it. (It's also the art that looks really cool on your Instagram page.) Thankfully, rather than skip town after one show, Superblue opened its magical doors to the public this spring and stuck around, having chosen Miami as its first location. Visitors can float through the clouds, get lost in a maze of mirrors, or look up at a breathtaking floral installation that hangs from the ceiling. Don't know anything about art? Don't worry! Rather than a traditional museum where you're surrounded by "masterpieces" you're supposed to gaze at in ignorant awe, Superblue invites you to create your own experience.

Best Art Gallery
Photo courtesy of Primary

Located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Little River, not far from the railroad tracks, is a sleek white building nestled in a residential area. You might pass by and not think much of it. But behind this discreet façade is Primary (stylized Primary.), an art gallery founded in 2007 that features works from local, national, and international artists. Its interior, with exposed concrete paired with fresh white walls and wooden beams overhead, make the space feel like the ideal setting for all sorts of works of art. A recent exhibition, titled "Can't Wait to Meet You," was organized to highlight bright, fun works that would be suitable for children. Why, you ask? Because two of its founders, Books Bischoff and Cristina Gonzalez, just welcomed their first child together.

Barceloneta Miami
billwisserphoto.com

As South Florida — and the world — attempts to come out of its social hibernation, it's time again for the mating dance of alcohol, tobacco, and bad decisions. Fewer places in South Florida are as accommodating to the ritual as Barceloneta, with its ready supply of out-of-this-world gin and tonics, a United Nations-like array of patrons (many seeming to favor harsh European smokes), and an outdoor seating area that practically begs folks to interact with one another. The food — sensuously plated and meant to be shared — offers another opportunity for mingling, but the drinks are the true stars here (try the Farmer's G&T). The very air in this Sunset Harbour restaurant seems seductive. So shoot your shot, friends: There's no time like the present.

Mama Tried
Photo by Karli Evans

You enter beneath the neon sign and through the heavy doors into a space that's dark and velvety but somehow warm and inviting. The lights are dim and good music is playing. Some dweebs are hogging the pool table, but that's OK because you aren't here for idle games. You make your way to the bar. When you order a serious cocktail from the list of serious cocktails, you take note that the bartender makes actual eye contact with you. No, you're not in the Twilight Zone, you're at Mama Tried. At one end, classic leather booths are there for the taking, or you might opt for a high-top adjacent to the area for dancing at the other. But for now you hang at the bar and peruse the menu. After a bit of liquid courage, you scope out the place. If it's a weeknight, you spot the clusters of coworkers who stopped by for drinks and to bitch about work. If it's a Friday night, the crowd looks ready to jump until 3 a.m. In either case, there's like a 97 percent probability that a reasonably sober dude will catch your eye and ask you what you're drinking. And if he doesn't, remember you can do whatever the hell you please and ask him what he's drinking. (Every year, we employ a rule that no business may be honored with more than one Best of Miami award from the editorial department. But at heart, we're a bunch of rule breakers; see "Best Happy Hour.")

Helmed by cofounder and creative director Akia Dorsainvil, cofounder Ashley Solage, and art director Terrell Villiers, Masisi is Miami's black queer Caribbean party. The fourth member, says Dorsainvil, is the community that has made Masisi what it is. A Haitian Creole word that translates to "faggot," the collective's name is a reclamation of the term and relates to the unification of the masculine and feminine. The party was born from the flames of the radical queer feminist activist group (F)empower, where the founding members met. Their mission is rooted in political activism and the need for a safe space and nightlife event for queer and trans people of color, to, as Dorsainvil puts it, "come together and share mind, thoughts, theory and body and soul. This is a party that is geared towards and prioritizes black and queer pleasure." Fed up with being discriminated against by bars and clubs with exclusionary dress codes and door covers, the creators sought to make a space for their community that's both iconic and intentional — and that's precisely what they did. Springing up in warehouses and other venues around Miami, Masisi serves the community by holding space for black artists and revelers alike.

Honestly, who knew it was even remotely possible to have a night out in Miami Beach for $25 — and during a Pride event, no less? The 2021 Miami Beach Pride Bar Crawl, which was presented by Miami Beach Pride organizers on June 16, made that happen. Twenty-five bucks got you a drink at five of the area's most-frequented LGBTQ watering holes: Gaythering, Axel, Nathan's, Palace, and Twist. For plenty of folks, the month of June marked the first time in more than a year (thanks, COVID!) that people felt comfortable enough to venture back out socially into the bar scene. Attendees drank, danced, and drank some more at each of the five bars. The well-attended crawl attracted a diverse crowd from across the LGBTQ community, making for a refreshing deviation from a usual night out surrounded by mostly cisgender white gay dudes. Simply put, the Miami Beach Pride Bar Crawl is one hell of a party.

Best Comedian
Photo by Courtney Armitage

You've heard it before from some New York transplant, or worse, a tourist. Miami is NYC's "sixth borough." It's patronizing, it's soul-wearying, and it minimizes how culturally significant the Magic City is in its own right. It almost makes you want to denounce all the great things we have here that got their start in New York, like the Russian & Turkish Baths, Smith & Wollensky, and Brittany Brave, the hardest-working comic on Miami's stand-up circuit. Brave has been performing, seemingly nightly, from South Beach to Boca Raton, since moving to Florida last fall. Her sets are frenzied blends of self-deprecation and feminism, with a healthy smattering of raunch intertwined throughout. Her crowd work is natural, playful, and (mostly) kindhearted, aside from instances of putting hecklers in their place every now and then, which she accomplishes with admirable tact. It may be painful to give this honor to someone who made a name for herself in the Big Rotten Apple™ — but hey, she did grow up in Kendall.

Fanatics make a point to visit jazz clubs in the South and Northeast that were revolutionary decades ago. They sit in dusty rooms, pay too much for cocktails with too little booze in them, and fight the boredom that comes with watching old cats trying to replicate the traditional sounds that they, and the rest of us, though afraid to admit it, are a little tired of hearing at this point. They ought to take themselves to Little River, where, hidden among quaint old houses and warehouse spaces is a sprawling jungle called the Center for Subtropical Affairs. A nursery and "ecological learning center" by day, this botanical serves up cutting-edge live music, original cocktails, and a plethora of Instagram-worthy backdrops by night. It feels like you discovered something when you walk into the place, which at first glance looks to be some guy's backyard. But it's not. Every Thursday is Jazz Night, which draws some of Miami's finest musicians. The place is huge: You can easily find a spot to sit and chat with friends or mack on your date without being a jerk and interrupting the performers. Or, you know, you could find a seat near the stage and have your mind melted by the crazy sounds Miami's jazz kids are concocting these days.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®