North Shore Open Space Park

It's easy to fall for the allure of South Beach, what with its art deco architecture, hard bodies, eccentric personalities, and 24/7 party atmosphere. Locals, however, tend to want to avoid that mess, opting instead to enjoy the sun and fun of the charming if scraggly northern Miami Beach enclave known as North Beach. (Did someone get lazy when coming up with neighborhood names for the Beach?) The slice of sand that seems to be the most popular is the strip that faces North Beach Oceanside Park, which is devoid of waterfront high-rises — a rarity in Miami Beach. The atmosphere is low-key, so if you're planning to bring a boombox and a cooler full of beer for you and 20 of your closest friends, just don't. After your dip in the Atlantic, grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood or in adjacent Surfside area and note that a good meal for less than $20 isn't too much to ask for. (Looking at you, South Beach.)

Pelican Harbor Marina
Photo by Bruno Fontino / Courtesy of the GMCVB

If it's a relaxing day on the water you seek, one during which you don't have to maneuver your vessel through throngs of fellow mariners and tour boats, Pelican Harbor Marina is the place for you. Nestled along the 79th Street Causeway betwixt the mainland and North Bay Island, Pelican Harbor avoids the cramped quarters of other Miami marinas closer to shore and provides uninterrupted views of the Biscayne Bay in all its splendor. Along with a 24-hour boat ramp, the marina offers kayak and paddleboard rentals by I Paddle Miami for beginners and pros, and its proximity to Pelican Island makes it an ideal launch point for anyone looking to have a fun outdoor adventure in Miami's crown jewel of a waterway. For landlubbers who prefer to stay on solid ground but savor that old salt atmosphere, Pelican Harbor hosts a food truck festival each Wednesday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Lovebirds looking for a quiet hideaway or families in search of an open place for a peaceful outdoor repast will find the perfect a perfect space to lay down the picnic blanket in the area adjacent to Miami Springs Golf & Country Club and the historic Curtiss Mansion in Miami Springs. Parking is available at the mansion, along the golf course grounds, and on nearby Curtiss Parkway, free of charge. There's plenty of shade, and entertainment in the form of watching duffers search for their stray balls. A walking path on the perimeter of the course invites you to walk off your caloric picnic intake or enhance the romantic mood with a hand-in-hand stroll, as the case may be.

Kennedy Park
Courtesy of the GMCVB

After a year stuck (mostly) inside, we've been eager to find new and vibrant places to go outside to stretch our legs — and so have our four-legged friends. For Miamians looking to spend an energetic day out with their doggos, there's no prettier place than at David Kennedy Park in Coconut Grove. With lots of open green space for on-leash walking and a fenced dog area with room to run, your faithful companion will love the park just as much as you will. The leashless area has fun obstacles and platforms for dogs to get a workout and show off their agility chops, and a seating area under a chickee hut means pet parents can get out from under the sun while their canines cavort. The park also has workout equipment for humans with an athletic inclination, and the A.C.'s Icees frozen-lemonade truck has a permanent spot in Kennedy's parking lot. (Just make sure to bring cash!) Hours: sunrise to sunset.

With the amount of change and new development in the ever-dynamic city that is Miami, there aren't a lot of touchstones that connect the city with its colonial past, but the Cape Florida Lighthouse acts as a beacon — both literally and figuratively — to illuminate Miami's roots. Located in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, the lighthouse dates back to 1825, when sailors used its light to navigate around the Florida Reef off the coast of Key Biscayne. The original tower was burned down in 1836 by Seminole warriors during the Second Seminole War, but it was rebuilt in 1846 and is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. The lighthouse grounds provide a peek into the life of lighthouse keepers and their families, with a replica keeper's lodging and stone water well demonstrating that St. Augustine doesn't have the monopoly on old Florida colonialism. The lighthouse itself is a resplendent white tower with a black top that peeks out just above an arch of palm trees as you walk toward it from the park — a beautiful site for its historic value and its picture-perfect view. The tower is open from 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m. Thursday-Monday; the grounds are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Sunday.

The best parks offer a chance to get away from your busy day and escape to the outdoors, and no place is better for escaping than Greynolds Park. The park almost feels like it doesn't exist in Miami; its wooded forests and hilly landscape make it seem as though it was plucked from a more northern state, and the park's built architecture is more reminiscent of castles and camp cabins than the wooden pavilions you see elsewhere. While other outdoor parks in South Florida rely on wide-open spaces and unobstructed views, Greynolds isn't afraid to use winding roads, diverse elevation, and dense tree cover to break lines of sight to ensure that visitors are always turning corners and discovering something new, creating an allure of wonder and mystery. Park facilities include a children's playground, bike paths, a bird rookery, and a boathouse and jetty on the Oleta River, which winds alongside the grounds and offers cool(er) riverside banks for visitors to lounge on beneath shady trees. As one of Miami-Dade County's oldest parks and a designated historic site, Greynolds Park is a beautiful spot for anyone looking to escape into a renowned wilderness. Hours: sunrise to sunset.

Whoever coined the adage about "having it all" may just as well have had Fairway Park in mind. In addition to the multiple playground-type areas, two hard tennis courts, a basketball court, and event space, a large swath of open field spans much of the park and often draws pick-up games of ultimate Frisbee, Spikeball. The park is adjacent to Normandy Shores Golf Course, far from any beach-related hustle and bustle, offering recreational opportunities for just about everyone. Fairway Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Being named the best coach in South Florida sports isn't a cakewalk. There's some stiff competition, particularly with Erik Spoelstra going on 20 years leading the Miami Heat and Brian Flores stewarding a revitalized Dolphins club. This past year, however, found coach Joel Quenneville and his Florida Panthers front and center on the local landscape, tallying one of the best regular seasons in franchise history before falling to eventual back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs. Though the season didn't end as Quenneville hoped, the future in Sunrise has never been brighter. The 2020 season saw Quenneville's squad transform from an annual disappointment to an NHL powerhouse no opponent wanted to see on its schedule. The 61-year-old Quenneville, it must be said, is no stranger to winning. A former defenseman, he's got four Stanley Cups to his name as a coach — one as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche and three as head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks. He brought that winning swagger with him to the Panthers when he took the helm in 2019. Watch out for this club in '21.

Xavien Howard was so incredibly good for the Miami Dolphins in 2020 that he nearly wasn't a Dolphin in 2021. Howard had ten interceptions last season — a performance that garnered him Defensive Player of the Year consideration, and, eventually, as a reward, a contract restructuring just before this year's preseason. He isn't just the best player on the Miami Dolphins, he's the best cornerback in the National Football League. His ball-hawking skills and knack for breaking up opponents' plans makes him a player no opposing quarterback wants to see when trying to find an open receiver. Before Howard had some help on defense, they just didn't bother. Teams avoided him. That became impossible last season, and the results were about what one would expect from Howard, who will surely be welcomed into the Miami Dolphins Ring of Honor after he retires.

Scoring 58 points for the Florida Panthers in last year's shortened, 50-game season was fantastic, but statistics don't begin to sum up what Aleksander Barkov meant to the Panthers in 2020 — and in every other season he's taken the ice for the club since they took him with the second overall pick in the 2013 National Hockey League draft. Barkov brings legitimacy to hockey in South Florida every time he takes the ice. He's a player who'd start and star on any NHL team. And in one of the weirdest seasons any hockey player, or fan for that matter, could ever imagine, Barkov provided one of his greatest performances — and one for the Panthers to build on going forward.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®