Category Archives: Local Interest

Things to Do in Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne is a not-too-close, not-too-far escape from both the city grind of Miami and the tourist haven of its beaches. Active travelers, boaters, cyclers, and nature-lovers will benefit from a day trip here. It’s an island just past Virginia Key, which requires either a car, boat, or bike to get to.

Parking and public transportation at Key Biscayne
Crandon Park is located on the northern end of the island, and offers $5 parking. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is south, with parking included after paying an $8 entry fee. Walkers and bikers pay $2 – 4. Biking from Miami Beach to the end of the island is roughly 30 miles long, with several bridges to cross before reaching Key Biscayne.

Best and worst time go to Key Biscayne
To beat the crowds and traffic, weekdays are best for visitors. Boater’s Grill, also known as No Name, is a popular restaurant for both boaters and pedestrians and fills up quickly at lunch time on the weekends.

Admission to Key Biscayne
Entry to the island itself is free of charge. Key Biscayne is home to a little more than 10,000 residents, making it almost a suburb of Miami. Venturing through neighborhoods lined with mansions, dining in local restaurants, and shopping in fancy boutiques are several alternatives to the natural draw of the island. State parks generally charge an entry or parking fee, see above.

Must see/do at Key Biscayne
Bill Baggs or Crandon Park are must-sees. Both parks, aside from providing a natural oasis from the city, have areas for hiking, picnicking, beaching, and biking. The historic Cape Florida Lighthouse is open Thursdays – Mondays with short, guided tours twice daily.

Other places to visit near Key Biscayne
Boater’s Grill is a very popular, word-of-mouth restaurant located on the water in Bill Bagg’s Park. Known for its fresh fish, especially the whole fried fish, and cold beverages, it is a great spot to enjoy a casual lunch with a gorgeous view.

Insider tip for visitors to Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is misleading in that one might mistake it as a Florida Key. It is not. The first official Florida Key is Key Largo, which is about an hour drive from Miami International Airport.

Read more at MapQuest Travel

The Bass Museum of Miami Beach

Miami’s art scene is exploding beyond Art Basel. Wynwood is sprinkled with indoor and outdoor galleries from local and international artists. The Design District is the place to go to find the latest fancy furnishings for your home. Perez Art Museum showcases changing contemporary exhibits, and South Beach proudly boasts Art Deco architecture from the 1920s and 30s. With all of these options, it is easy to overlook one of the most classic art museums of the city: the Bass Museum.

Clean, quiet, and peaceful, the Bass Museum is a great escape from the highly energetic Miami Beach crowd. The exhibits change often, so members and locals never get bored. Artifacts from ancient Egypt are presented alongside international modern art pieces.

Admission to the Bass Museum
Depending on your membership and/or age status, the admission can range anywhere from $0-$10.

Must See/Do at the Bass Museum
The first Friday of every month, the museum presents “Beats After Sunset,” a DJ-accompanied Happy Hour that allows access to the latest exhibit for a flat fee.

Parking and Transportation at the Bass Museum
There is a metered parking lot across the street, as well as metered street parking surrounding. The 120 bus and South Beach Local stops are directly across the street. Taxis are plentiful, as the W Hotel is caddy corner to the museum.

Other Places to Visit at the Bass Museum
Close to the museum are restaurants and some boutique shopping options. Next door is Miami City Ballet. One block away is the beach, outlined by a lovely promenade on which you can stroll after your museum visit.

Insider Tip for Visitors to the Bass Museum
At present, the times advertised on the door are incorrect. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Read more at MapQuest Travel

Grow A Garden Anywhere

It’s fun, it’s healthy, and, let’s face it, it’s just cooler to walk onto your balcony and grab an extra handful of cilantro for your homemade guac.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables in a tiny outdoor space or balcony might initially seem impossible, but it’s totally doable. According to Déva Presence of Permaculture Miami, as long as you have access to sunlight (and really, here in Miami we have more than our fair share), a watering system, potting soil, and good fertilizer, you can grow your own dinner. All it takes is a little TLC for that green thumb to appear. And even with a small space, there’s plenty of options. But first, “Know your plants!” says Presence.

Read more at The New Tropic

Sustainable Living in Miami’s Urban Paradise

While it can feel like we’re bombarded with news of our crippled environment, we’re in a great place to make small changes that will permanently change our future.

Permaculture is more than just eating organic or conserving water, it’s a design system that combines architecture, engineering and social sciences to create a living or working space that functions solely off the earth’s natural processes. It involves using alternate energy systems like solar, perfect for sunny South Florida, and designing sustainable systems that use or reuse rainwater. Indoor plants and gardens carefully designed to grow food for you and the community are also an important part of any permaculture system. And while it may not be feasible for most of us to live completely off the grid in Miami, there are plenty of smaller steps we can take to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Read more at The New Tropic

A Local’s Guide on Where to Dance

“Dancing? Um, no thanks.” I reply as my out-of-town friends suggest a night out club-hopping. The idea of scantily clad twerking tourists spilling drinks all over my conservative white cotton button down and reasonably long shorts gives me immediate chills. “Oh come on, it will be fun! We need to move,” they beg. After a few minutes of convincing with a side of wine, I agree to a night on the town with the stipulation that we would not visit any mega-clubs. The girls agreed, opting anyway for less dramatic venues where we could really let loose like nobody was watching.

Some may say that this cannot be done in a town of Ferrari-driving hoteliers and their plastic, long-legged girlfriends 20 years their junior. That’s because they’re not locals. Not only are there plenty of low-key, down to earth dancing options around the city, there are also real reasons why we should be doing it.

Let’s start with the why. Dancing, freestyle dancing to be specific, has multiple benefits for both the mind and the body. As we all know, movement is key to a healthy heart and body. It’s a much better option for your Saturday night plans than sitting at the local watering hole with your friends, chatting for hours about the highs and lows of the latest political drama. While yes, these topics are certainly discussion-worthy, save it for brunch.  Aside from getting the blood pumping and increasing your heart rate, freestyle dancing can tone your muscles and burn fat. It improves balance and coordination, and in some cases, can improve self-esteem. (Probably the less booze the better if you’re seeking that latter benefit)

Dancing is also extremely good for the mind. When a DJ leads the party, we don’t know what beats to expect next, so we are forced to make an almost-unconscious rapid decision of what to do with our bodies. This highly strengthens the mind-body connection. With the mind stimulated and the body following suit, stress and tension release, for at least a few hours.

Last but certainly not least, according to a study at the well-known Stanford University, freestyle dancing can lower one’s risk of dementia by a whopping 76 percent. Dancing can  strengthen your brain better than crossword puzzles, reading, or golf. Every night out you bust a move is a little more brainpower in the bank for after your knees give out.

Read more at The New Tropic

Tackling Trash in East Little Havana

About 5 years ago Corinna Moebius, cultural anthropologist, author and longtime Little Havana tour guide, noticed an increase in, well, trash. In the four previous years she had lived there, occasionally neighbors would put usable, unwanted household items on display prior to collection day, but it was a rare occurrence. As the recession escalated, the amount of discarded items seemed to spin out of control, she said. Unwanted sofas, tables, and television sets were making their way to the streets and vacant lots of East Little Havana. “What looked liked whole apartments” were being dumped on the sidewalk, says Sharif Salem, also a 9-year resident of the neighborhood, and photographer behind the Instagram photography series Sofas of Little Havana. Moebius and Salem’s beloved neighborhood was turning into an open-air dump. “There was no way the residents of East Little Havana themselves could dump so much,” Moebius recalls, which lead her to one conclusion — residents from neighboring areas had to be leaving their unwanted furniture here too.

According to the City of Miami’s Solid Waste Department’s website, bulky trash, including furniture, is collected once a week. Items can be left in front of your house the evening before the scheduled collection. There is also a Mini Dumping Facility located on NW 20 Street, which is cleared weekly.

So why would people choose to discard trash and furniture in Little Havana? Even after the city installed “No Dumping” signs, the problem persisted and grew. Week after week, East Little Havana locals found discarded sofas, chairs, and tables in empty lots in their community. It’s been five years, and nothing is changing. Personal and organized cleanups, while temporarily effective, are fruitless in the long run. Slapping a Band-Aid on a deep wound doesn’t cure anything, and the issue needs to be cleaned out at the source, Moebius said.

Read more at The New Tropic

Five things we learned on the Emerging City Bike Ride

Miami is an eclectic mix of different cultures, languages, foods, opinions, architectural styles, and colors. Even the smell of Little Havana is drastically different than that of South Beach. At any given point we can travel to Haiti, Cuba, or Argentina, without ever leaving the city.

Enter the Emerging New City Bike Tour, which aimed to highlight development projects in Coconut Grove and Little Havana, but was even more successful in showing outsiders a new insider’s view of this vibrant city.

Group leader Brian Lemmerman reminds us that there is so much more to a city than what people initially see, saying, “So many different people with so many different stories, so many different circumstances, places, histories, we could spend our entire lives learning” the truth behind Miami.

Almost 40 riders set out to learn more on Saturday afternoon. Starting at Bayfront Park, representatives from Celebrate Diversity Miami, The New Tropic, and Emerge Miami, as well as community-based partners from Coconut Grove’s Collaborative Development Corp. and Little Havana Tours, led us through a fascinating journey of Miami’s past and its future.

Read more at The New Tropic

Take in the view from these Miami Rooftops

Oh Miami, how lucky are we right now. The skies are blue, the clouds fluffy, sun is shining, the first taste of heat is in the air, but the daily afternoon rains are still a few weeks away. It’s the ultimate time to … chill on a roof!

Grab your friends, your hat, and your phone to blow up your Instagram and make your friends in the rest of the country jealous. Head to one of these fabulous Miami rooftops for an afternoon of sun or an evening of fun with some of the best views in town.

Read more at The New Tropic

Things to do when it Rains in Miami

A good rain in Miami is equivalent to a blizzard up north. Exciting for the locals, bummer for the tourists. Official rainy season lasts from June through September. Dark clouds swell to a breaking point and pound the city with short, intense bursts of cooling rain. Showers often hit hard in the late afternoon, lowering the temperature during the brutally hot summer months.

However, rainy days can occur at any time of year, so be prepared. Pack a colorful umbrella and a camera to capture the weather’s dramatic effect on the sky. Walk when you can. Miami traffic slows to a near-halt when the roads get glossy.

Here are five ways to make the most of your time when the rain falls in Miami:

Read more at MapQuest Travel

Things to do in Little Havana

Miami is a collection of neighborhoods representing many cultures, from Haitian to Argentine to Cuban, and beyond. Little Havana, a traditionally Cuban neighborhood, has developed into a melting pot of Latin American cultures. It still, however, keeps its Cuban vibe with cigar shops, Cuban restaurants and salsa-inspired dance clubs. Missing a tour of Little Havana would be the ice-cream sundae without the cherry on top — it’s an essential ingredient in Miami’s colorful platter of experiences.

Don’t Miss in Little Havana
Calle Ocho is the main drag in Little Havana, where you can find a Hollywood-esque Walk of Fame dedicated to Cuban stars like Celia Cruz. Be sure to check out Domino Park on SW 15th Ave., where locals gather to try their hand at dominos. Stroll to Memorial Boulevard on SW 13th Ave. to see the ceiba tree, a sacred symbol of life in the Santería religion. Take in a bit of history at the Bay of Pigs Museum, or enjoy a Cuban-style ice-cream at Azucar, with wild flavors like avocado, guava, or cafe con leche. Sip a mojito as you dance the night away at the historic Ball & Chain, a classic nightclub from the 1930s that has recently reinvented itself as a live music and salsa venue.

Must See/Do in Little Havana
Cultural Fridays, or Viérnes Culturales, take place the last Friday of every month from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Expect live music, open art galleries, and typical street food.

Parking and Transportation at Little Havana
There are several low-cost, even free, parking lots available around Calle Ocho. The bus is also an option as several lines run from Downtown to Little Havana.

Other Places to Visit Near Little Havana
No trip to Little Havana is complete without trying a cafecito, a typically strong Cuban coffee made for sharing. Jump on the Number 8 bus and head to Cafe Versailles for quite possibly the most famous cuban coffee in the city.

Insider Tip for Visitors to Little Havana
While significantly safer than in years past, it is important to be careful while wandering Little Havana, especially at night. Stay on the main drag and avoid East Little Havana, which begins east of SW 17th Ave.

Read more at MapQuest Travel