El Car Wash (Pinecrest)
Photo courtesy of El Car Wash
El Car Wash (Pinecrest)

In Miami, we like it quick and we like it easy, and no matter what anyone tells you, sometimes size does matter. That's what separates El Car Wash from vehicle-tidying pretenders to the Best of Miami throne. The fast but thorough wash tunnel and easy-to-use pay station make for a headache-free experience for the dirty driver on the go, at a hard-to-beat price. With 15 parking spots and more than two dozen free, unlimited-use vacuums, the Little Havana El Car Wash throws a tasty bone to those who seek to do a little detail work, perhaps on the way home from the beach carrying more beach than they brought. Each and every one of El Car Wash's 15 area locations — including the biggest car wash in Florida, next to Zoo Miami — provides free microfiber towels, glass cleaner and is outfitted with free floor-mat cleaners for those especially filthy days, and each and every El Car Wash is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Check out the membership program!)

Plant lovers can treat themselves to instant joy in the aisles of Midtown Garden Center. Spend an afternoon exploring the center's jungle-esque enclaves brimming with pothos tendrils and stunning succulents. Afterward, enjoy a quick bite at the garden's on-site taco shop, Tacomiendo, or snag a refreshing smoothie at the juice bar. If you're new to plants, don't fret — the helpful staff are ready to guide you to the right plant, customize arrangements, and educate you on overall care and maintenance. The center also offers delivery services and installations for those who need an extra green thumb.

Miami Beach Bicycle Center
Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Bicycle Center

The Miami Beach Bicycle Center has been family-owned and -operated since 1977. Jack Ruiz opened the store when he was just 19; since then, the bike shop has become a local institution. Bikes are in the Ruiz family's blood. While other kids went to summer camp, Jack's sons, Alex and Danny, went to the bike shop. And now they help run the place. Nearly everyone who walks in is a familiar face. The Ruiz family know and love their regulars. They make sure each and every tourist looking for a bike rental or first-timer seeking repairs walks away feeling like part of the family. Ask Alex Ruiz what his favorite part about his job is, and he'll tell you it's working with his dad and brother every day. The Miami Beach Bicycle Center offers everything from bikes and clothes to spare parts and accessories. If you need a new bike, repairs, service, or rental, stop in and see for yourself. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

While not as immense or thoroughly stocked as some other art-supply stores around town (note: the spray paint selection is hard to beat), i.d. art Supply & Custom Framing makes up for it with the vast knowledge of its staff. No matter whom you talk to, it seems they can help with any type of artistic or craft endeavor, offering options, advice, or solutions as needed. Custom framing — no job too big! — ups the one-stop-shopping factor. Best to come in with a plan, though, and don't dawdle. Owing to its location on Biscayne Boulevard near the Miami-Dade County Public Schools headquarters, parking can be tricky. Your best bet is to park — semi-illegally — in the painted yellow-stripe area closer to the school district building.

Aside from purveying colorful flower arrangements and gift baskets, Trias Flowers carries decades of rich history. The florist's lively tale began more than 100 years ago in Cuba. Opened on the island by the shop's namesake, Pedro Trias, the shop relocated to Miami in 1967. While the store was brought to life in Cuba, it has thrived here. And today, more than a century after its inception, Trias Flowers carries on its generational success. The shop is open daily and offers same-day delivery for all local orders. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Best Bookstore
Photo by Monica McGivern

Nathaniel Sandler wants you to read, and he has put his profits (or lack of 'em) where his literature is: His nonprofit library has offered customers one free book every single day for the past nine years (each additional book costs $2). It's an eyebrow-raising business model that often leaves patrons exclaiming, "Free?! Really?!" Really! The radical bookshop is generously funded by the Knight Foundation and has given away 40,000 books in Miami to date. Billing itself as a no-kill shelter for books, Bookleggers happily accepts book donations at its green-and-white-striped book boxes around town, at its headquarters at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Wynwood (on Tuesdays), and by appointment. In May, the nonprofit launched a new Sunday pop-up from a former shoe store at 1600 Washington Ave. in South Beach, offering sunscreen, shot glasses, beach towels, bathrobes, and stacks of free books.

Locally owned independent bookstores have nearly gone the way of the dodo. The mom-and-pop locations that remain have survived for a reason. They've built a stronghold in the community and a reputation for being book-lovers' bookstores. Come for the books, stay for the atmosphere. Big Apple Books has all that going for it and more. NPR could stage a Tiny Desk Concert here and you'd hardly know it was a remote shot. One day you might walk in to the scent of incense burning and Bob Marley playing, the next you might hear jazz or the Beatles blaring. Rob, the longtime owner, is constantly stocking his shelves with books, records, CDs, DVDs, and anything else he thinks his clientele might find of interest. He takes in so much, he doesn't have room to display all of it, so there are always boxes of yet-to-be-discovered gems scattered around. Oh, and everything is priced at $4 or less. If that's not a throwback to a better time, what is?

Museo Del Disco
Photo by Jessica Gibbs

When you waltz into a record store, there's at least a 50 percent chance you're absolutely clueless as to what you're looking for. Maybe you're just there for the experience, maybe you're looking to see if a random record calls out to you from the shelves. Either way, you might as well have as many options at your disposal as possible. At Museo del Disco in Coral Terrace, you can browse 10,000 square feet of music. It's South Florida's largest music emporium, and its spacious aisles allow shoppers the room to peruse English-language and Latin selections to their hearts' content — all while remaining socially distanced.

Goblin's Heist Comics
Photo by Joshua Ceballos

As any card-carrying comic book nerd will tell you, a good comic book store needs more than comics to keep you coming back. With digital comics and online retailers all vying for your hard-earned cash, a shop needs to make you feel like a part of a community — and a league of your own. Goblin's Heist Comics (formerly Tattoos and Comics) fosters that sense of community and camaraderie among geek culture aficionados in a way that makes you want to come in every week for a comic but stay for the conversation. Aside from offering a wide selection of new and old comics, graphic novels, figures, toys, and stickers, this Hialeah comic shop serves as a gathering hub for the local geek and art scenes. Once every other month, Goblin's Heist hosts "Goblin Fest," a block party and arts festival that includes video game tournaments, music performances, and local artist showcases. You can also buy a ton of comics at majorly reduced prices, so you can catch up on the latest Avengers and Justice League escapades for a bargain deal. The next Goblin Fest is slated for October, and you can check the store's Instagram page, @goblinsheist, for more info on scheduling. Even if you can't make the fest, stop into the shop and strike up a conversation with the staff. If you don't know what kind of comic you're looking for, they'll help you find it, and you'll more than likely make some friends along the way. Open daily noon to 9 p.m.

Natural K9
Courtesy of Natural K9 Supplies

Its shelves bursting with top-quality organic, all-natural and holistic products, Natural K9 Supplies is dedicated to giving your dog a healthy lifestyle. The store, which has locations in Miami and Pembroke Pines, prides itself on its nutritional knowledge. Find anything from handcrafted goat's milk soap ($7.29) to "Pumpk'n Spice" chewy treats ($5.49). And while it's not implied in the name, the store carries products for your cat, too. Hours at the Miami store are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®