Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill 2023 | Santa's Enchanted Forest | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Is it possible to put a price on nostalgia and the fond, twinkly holiday memories of our collective Miami youth? Well, after 40 years of business, Santa's Enchanted Forest has certainly tried with a $43 admission ticket for adults, a $28 express pass to skip the long weekend lines, and preferred VIP parking spots for as much as $35 per vehicle. No matter. We love it all the same. We'd fork over another $43 if it meant we could move the seasonal amusement park from its recently relocated home in a small notch between Doral and Medley back to its rightful home in Tropical Park. We're not sure whether it's the Spanish versions of classic Christmas tunes blasting over the speakers, the dulce de leche churros, or all the subtropical depictions of Santa on Jet Skis, but take one lap around the park, and we guarantee your heart will have grown three sizes. You'll feel like a kid again and be glad you paid for the privilege.

It has been said that "anyone can be an artist." That's probably hyperbole, but that shouldn't stop you from at least trying to express any untapped creativity. That's the idea behind Raw Figs, a free figure-drawing class that pops up in various indoor and outdoor establishments around Miami, including at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Understory in Little Haiti, and Planta vegan restaurant in South Beach. The pop-up was created by local artist, model, and flight attendant Vida Sofia, who wanted to create a space for like-minded people to gather and create. Whether you're an experienced artist, a first-time painter, or a prospective model, the classes are free of judgment and show off not only Miami's unique cityscapes but a contingent of locals who come together for the simple sake of making art.

This is not your mother's mattress store. Hästens is the Hermès of mattress stores. Located in the Miami Design District, this Swedish brand handcrafts each mattress with cotton, wool, flax, and curled horsehair strands that create a built-in ventilation system to keep you cool while you sleep. It's beloved by stars like Drake, who owns Hästens' top-end model, the Grand Vividus, which, at $400,000, costs as much as a modest bayfront condo. You, on the other hand, might be able to trade in your Honda Civic for the entry-level Hästens, which goes for roughly $20,000 in king-size.

Whether taken in via walk, bike ride, or short drive, the 5,280 feet spanning from the Barnacle Historic State Park on Main Highway to Monty's on Bayshore Drive somehow manages to exude Old Florida charm in the 21st Century. The starting point is home to the Barnacle — literally the oldest house in Miami-Dade County still in its original location. Head northeast on Main Highway; the rickety brick sidewalk, though a tripping hazard, is charming. Some of Miami's most beloved local businesses operate along this stretch, including outposts of Panther Coffee, Books & Books, and Harry's Pizzeria. When you turn right again on McFarlane Road toward Peacock Park, you'll catch sailboats bobbing on the horizon on Biscayne Bay. Curve left onto Bayshore Drive past — or, if on bike or foot, through — Kenneth M. Myers Bayside Park until you arrive dockside at Monty's, where a frozen rum-based cocktail awaits.

Beware the MacArthur Causeway. It's disguised as a six-lane highway that connects downtown Miami and South Beach across Biscayne Bay. But drive it enough times and you'll know it can warp time and space to its will, transforming a simple three-mile trip along the shimmering blue-green bay into an hour of white-knuckling the wheel. When it was completed in 1920, a handful of lanes was probably all that was needed to efficiently accommodate folks looking to shuttle across the bay. Now it's a sea of brake lights. Avoid at all costs. Detour to the Venetian Causeway or Julia Tuttle.

South Florida Photograph Collection / HistoryMiami Museum

The Miami Circle offers more than a gorgeous public waterfront but a prehistoric one that some researchers date back to the Tequesta tribe 1,800 to 2,000 years ago. The 38-foot circle, formed by 24 holes in the oolite limestone, was uncovered in 1999 and recognized as a national historic landmark a decade later. In a city that was founded less than 130 years ago, it's hard to believe people have been gathering on that spit of land where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay for so much longer. While there are ample spots to take in the blue-green waters of the bay or the enormity of the Brickell and downtown skyscrapers, there's no better fodder to fuel hours-long pondering than to stare into the Circle's captivating circumference.

Karli Evans

Comfort is important, especially when a person has decided to, er, marry iguanas. Air-conditioning, dim lights, an inviting couch, and a good sound system should be on any lizard officiant's checklist, and the Ground Miami checks all these boxes. If waiting in line to get in feels dicey, rest assured that the mild panic of being surrounded by loud, intoxicated people is worth it. Once you're inside, there's typically some sort of niche show going on. Whether eyebrow-raising local musicians or far-out international DJs, these acts encourage the patron to achieve a higher plane of existence to achieve optimal appreciation. There's also a bar, but it's the cute little snack counter called Space Odyssey that lures us in via the gravitational pull of savory spinach-and-cheese empanadas.

Brightline photo

Bumper-to-bumper traffic, never-ending construction, and a blatant disregard for turn signals are the name of the Miami driving game. What if there were another way? Thanks to Brightline, the "higher-speed" train with stops in downtown Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach, it's easier than ever to dash around the tri-county area. Now that the privately owned rail line has extended service to Orlando, it's possible to head to Disney in under three hours — a feat no driver could duplicate without a radar detector. Brightline's appeal is the journey itself: no traffic, no GPS, no worries.

Variety is the spice of life and people-watching. There is arguably nowhere else on the planet where one lone individual can witness such an exceptional smorgasbord of humanity as it does along the strip of South Beach that forms the eastern border of Ocean Drive from Fourth Street to 14th Street. Spend a few hours lounging on a bench, and you'll no doubt encounter the overly buff taking advantage of muscle beach, the overly agile tending to the volleyball courts, the overly sunburned running to the nearest CVS for aloe vera, and the overly intoxicated waddling out of Wet Willie's. It's in these moments that one can appreciate the true diversity of our species. Early morning people-watching sessions might motivate you to renew your gym membership. As the day matures, you'll encounter a more debauched crowd that'll remind your liver that things could always be worse. Even the staunchest misanthropes can, at the very least, gaze beyond the human catwalk that is the winding Lummus Park path to admire the art-deco masterpieces to the west or our dear Atlantic coast to the east.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®