Friday, July 5, 2019

Things to do 'South Florida Style' = Miami-Dade version

Happy Spring-Summer ya'll!!! 

This is such a great time of the year to be in Florida...the weather has gone form somewhat mild to super hot!!!  Though summer is great here as the amount of people on the road noticeably lessens and there is always some kind of outdoor activity going on.  I know this isn't necessarily related to gardening but I thought what tha' heck let's shake it up a bit since my garden is in flux right now.  So whether you live here or are visiting, I put together a detailed list of things I think you might enjoy to get a bit of 'South Florida Style' in your system!  Some are total Florida 'must-do's', some are historical visits, some local hangs and some are just for the fun of it.  But they all will give you a totally South Florida experience like you know what you're doing and/or if you've never done it before!

I added links to some great websites giving you more information on the places I talk about.  But don't let my suggestions stop you from exploring on your own to some local-yocal-off-the-beaten-path with anything in life be mindful of your surroundings, be respectful of the environment, stay safe and enjoy.
Just a side note: I put this together myself, I'm not getting paid by anyone or endorsing anyone....just endorsing my awesome state of Florida and some great things to do here!  Keep checking back as I will be adding to it along the way.
This is my Dad, my sister, me and my brother canoeing in 1980-something.

First 'must-do' is: you must visit at least one of our beaches...
Pick one any one....Miami-Dade County is a fairly large county BUT most of the beaches are on the barrier islands in the northeast end of the county.  Sunny Isles Beach, Golden Beach, Haulover, SurfsideMiami Beach, Biscayne National Park and Key Biscayne.  This is partly due to much of the middle to lower section of the county being protected preserves and sanctuary's in order to keep the coast line a healthy ecological system.  Having our coastline full of it's native mangroves and plant life helps buffer storms/tidal surges plus it keeps the ecosystem untouched for animals, plants and waterways to continue thriving.
Mangroves in Biscayne National Park from my kayak
Here's a satellite view from the can see how much coastline is
mangroves and protected land then look at all the over development
behind it.  We need to build less and redevelop natural habitats! Just saying!

The second 'must do' here in South Florida is to visit our parks...
whether it's a state park, county park or city park, we have some great ones. Each one has it's own unique amenities, some are even aquatic parks ya'know!  Some are parks in the sea that you snorkel in!
Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables
Coral Reef Park in Palmetto Bay (my stomping grounds as a youngster)
Dante Fascell Park in South Miami (another one we used to frequent)
Crandon Park in Key Biscayne
Biscayne National Park in the bay
Haulover Park in North Miami
Oleta River State Park in North Miami
Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables
Kendall Indian Hammocks Park in West Kendall (aka K-town)
You can even camp at some of the parks which are usually a state or county park.
Our campsite last November...we camped with 6 of our friends' families
for Thanksgiving and it was so much fun!

Third 'must-do' is to do something salty...
like a fishing charter or kayaking or SUP (stand up paddleboard) or canoeing or rent a boat or go sailing.  Some great places to seek out fishing charter captains and/or a local guide are out of:
Black Point Marina - Capt. Mark Hall,
Matheson Hammock Marina Remix SportfishingCapt. John Emery
Coconut Grove Harbour Marina - Double Threat Charters, Hot Shot Charters, Nomad Charters, Miss Britt - Coconut Grove also has a sailing club
And many, many more in the downtown Miami and Miami Beach marina's.
Climb on board a water taxi to cruise the intracoastal waterway and see Miami from a different vantage point.
Rent kayaks to get a more personal perspective.
Visit our protect bay called Biscayne Bay with one of these trusted guides.
Oleta River State Park
Kayak rentals on Virginia Key
Kayak or SUP from Deering Estate or Chapman Park
We rented kayaks at a state park and caught (& released) some red drums!
This is us boating in the intracoastal waterways.

Fourth 'must-do' is eat at one of our old-school Florida style restaurants...
Here are my and our families fav's that we've been going to my whole life.
Starting from the ones furthest south going north...
Black Pointe Ocean Grille is a local secret.  It's a great casual place with live music located right in Black Pointe Marina right off Biscayne Bay.  Insider tip: they even cook your catch!
Shivers BBQ is an old school place down in South Dade and one of the last OG BBQ joints in So. Fla...nutin' fancy just awesome every time with a great staff!
Golden Rule Seafood in 'P-Rrine', ok it's really Perrine but that's how us kids said it.  Either way you say it, this place was a staple in our lives growing up. Delicious fresh seafood at a great price.  They now have a restaurant as part of the market & goodness it's good!  Another place that will cook it right from their seafood market for fresh and delicious is that!?!
Sandbar Sports Grille in east Cutler Bay is cool local place to hang with great Florida fare!  Try their alligator tacos or their ribs or their philly cheesesteak! Not only do they have lunch specials but daily ones as well.
Captain's Tavern in Pinecrest, is another family favorite that you won't be disappointed...they also have a fish market on site.  This place is a local favorite so it's a good idea to call ahead. Try the frog legs, they're better than you might think.
Shorty's BBQ in another OG BBQ in South Miami that has been in the original location for almost 70 years!  They have multiple locations in Dade they're so you know their good!  Insider tip: there is usually a wait time at the Dadeland location, so call ahead.
Flannigan's started out as combo lounge liquor stores- smoking lounge on one side and liquor store on the other side with a pass through door into each side.  Since then they've made the lounge into restaurants and a few still have a flagship liquor stores adjacent to the restaurant.  There are multiple locations in the tri-county area and are known for their grilled chicken teriyaki sandwich & their baby-back ribs.
Greenstreet Cafe is one of the last original restaurants that's just pure deliciousness in a constantly revolving door of restaurants in Coconut Grove.  As well as The Last Carrot, a small vegetarian sandwich & juice shop still serving my favorite veggie pita on Grand Ave!
What used to be Scotty's Landing in the Coconut Grove marina is now Grove Bay Grille, same beautiful views of Biscayne Bay, with a similar menu but has elevated itself outta the dive bar status.
Rusty Pelican out on Virginia Key is another one of our family's favorites...try it and you will see for yourself how delish their food is and gorgeous the views are!  One of Miami's best places to happy hour!
Then of course to round out this food fest is Joe's Stone Crab on Miami Beach.  This is not for the faint of heart with finances so be prepared to spend some cash but you'll leave with good times and a full tummy.  Also, a good idea to call ahead for reservations because wait time can be insanely long.  Insider tip, you save a few bucks by getting some 'to-go' at their take away shop and head to South Pointe Park for a picnic.  They have tables there as well just in case it's too hot for a picnic.
The complete opposite of Joe's is the historic Blue Marlin Fish House in the Oleta River State Park for some super casual fare, delicious smoked fish dip and fresh fish dishes! Easy on the wallet too!

Or visit one of our 'dive' bars... 
around town for some tall tales, unique local folks and a nice cold one!  We got lots of the above!
Peg's Pocket is an off the beaten path pool hall tucked away in the pocket of a strip mall which backs up to my old neighborhood of Palmetto Bay. This place is still around and lots of no frills fun!
This picture was taken at one of my brothers' birthday parties at Peg's Pocket
sometime in 1980-something. That's me in the white shirt just in cast ya
wanna know, hee hee.
Keg South is a small joint that has withstood the test of time; even Hurricane Andrew tried with all its might.  The Keg South sign ended up in our neighbors pool after H. Andrew blew threw in 1992 and we lived about 5 miles away from Keg South!  Still known to this day for their infamous burgers and brews.
Hole in the Wall Pub actually is a cool place with great food, it used to be kinda divey but now it's totally a local secret with delicious food cause its such a great place to keep coming back to.  So you're welcome ;)
Club Deuce is just the best! We were Deucie's in the early to mid 1990's when Miami Beach was just called "The Beach", it was the epitome of grunge in So. Fla. and most places were cheap rent with lots of live music venues and art shows.  Now it's super expensive and super high end but "the Deuce" is still there and hopefully stays there for a long time to come!
Little Hoolie's was a spinoff from another local hangout called Hooligan's (which isn't around anymore) but is a more casual sports bar/bar food version of it.  It's a place where all of us locals would come hang out when college was out and/or when you came home for a visit to catch up with friends also in town.  It's still like that today but not so krusty but, lol.

The rest is a general list BUT gotta check just one off at a rush...sit back, relax and enjoy.

Ok let's get Down in Dade! County that is...let's do this!

Let us start in the heart of Miami-Dade County by taking a drive through the lush verdant streets of Coral Gables on your way out to the Everglades.

While you are in Coral Gables, you may want to stop in at The Biltmore hotel for either a round of golf, indulge in one of their spa packages, have a delicious Sunday brunch and/or just site see this beautiful historic hotel.

Rent or bring bicycles at Shark Valley in the middle of the Everglades to see alligators, birds, butterflies and diverse wildlife.

While you are out there you can visit Everglades City and go kayaking, hiking, boating or fishing.

Go on an exciting air boat ride out in the Everglades at the Miccosukee Indian Village then watch the professionals "wrestle" alligators, definitely don't try this on your own.  The Miccosukee Tribe is trained and it's actually more of respectful  choreograph movements between the gator and handler, uhm still dangerous yeah so do not do this at all!  While you are on their reservation, take some time to learn about the Tribe's history and talk to some of the Miccosukee Tribe members to hear their stories and perspectives. You'd be glad you did, we need to support our Native American cultures!

On your way back, either jog north to visit the heart of Hialeah to stroll down Calle Ocho, aka 8th Street.  Or head south to visit Homestead/The Redlands area.

If you turned north to Hialeah, you must try at least one or more of these delicious latin flavors empanadas, cortadito coffee, guava & cheese pastries, lechon asado, croquetas, media noche sandwich and/or cuban sandwich.  Versailles Cuban Bakery is an iconic place to go but there are so many delicious Cuban restaurants to visit you can't go wrong.

If you turned south or went east from the Everglades then driving into Homestead/The Redlands area to sink your sweet tooth into Knaus Berry Farms infamously de-LISH-ous cinnamon rolls and drink their milkshakes at (fyi. they're seasonal so check before you go since they're closed in the hot summer month and it's cash only).  You can also pick strawberries and tomatoes here and buy fresh vegetables.

While you are in The Redlands, don't be scared to stop along the way and sample all kinds of roadside foods along Krome Avenue, buy a chicken or goat or bring home some orchids or plants.

Redland Fruit and Spice Park always has some cool event or festival happening.  Spring and Summer months are a perfect time to visit because you can taste all of the edible fruit in the park as long as it has fallen on the ground (no picking from the trees so others can enjoy too).  Make sure you read the park rules because it's important to know before you go.  And always a good idea to bring water, hat and sunscreen since our summers can be extremely hot with intense sun.

For the adventurous shoppers, this is one of our local places with serious charisma, Redlands Market Village, a combination flea market and farmers market and sooooo much fun!  It's on Dixie Highway either on your way back to the north county or on your way down south to The Florida Keys.

Zoo Miami is a really cool place to experience an outdoor activity with the kids especially if ya'll are physically active.  Side note: is it's all outdoors so you could have full sun and/or rain to deal with and there is lots of walking.  Although you can rent a bicycle type of golf cart to get around.  Good idea to bring umbrellas you can use for sun or rain, sunscreen and hats.
Circa 2011 when we ran/walked Zoo Miami's annual walk for the animals.
I took this picture in 1988-89 at Zoo Miami

Great places we love to stop along the way for tantalizingly delicious quick bites:
-Gotta check out Flava's in Perrine...delicious soul food with Caribbean flair!
-Meet "Ms. Babe Froman" (fyi not her real name lol) at her amazing butcher shop Babe's Meat & Counter on US1 in Palmetto Bay known for her sausage & meats.
-North of Babe's on US1 is Kings Bay strip mall where two great places are, House of Bagels are my fav 'go-to' for lunch in high school was to race here for an egg bagel toasted with lox cream cheese and a diet coke, then head back to school. Oh take me back!
-And next door is Delices of France is a French bakery and OMG good!
-Just a few buildings north of Kings Bay still on US1 is the The Butcher Shop known for their Cuban cafeteria style food and butcher shop.
-Keep heading north on US1 for some delicious Greek food at The Daily Bread, we used to pick up fresh baked breads, falafels, spanakopitas.
Now you know some local hot spots're in the know now!

Cool down on a hot day with a swim in Miami's famous landmarks, Venetian Pool, an old rock quarry turned public pool which is fed by a natural underground spring in the heart of Coral Gables.

Check out the old Parrot Jungle which is now called Pinecrest Gardens, they also have a rockin' Green Market every Sunday with ah-mazing BBQ guys, kettle corn, my favorite Jamaican ginger sorrel slushie (look for the smiling dancing Jamaican), Zak the baker, poke bowls, plant people galore and so much more.

Vizcaya Gardens  and Matheson Hammock Park are two gorgeous places in east Coral Gables to visit with spectacular views of Biscayne Bay.

If you visit the Coconut Grove area drive through the beautiful streets full of tree canopy, gorgeous landscapes and incredible houses along Old Culter Road.

From Coconut Grove, head north along Bayshore Drive to take a trip east across the Rickenbacker Causeway to visit some really unique places on the many Keys out there. You can access the Keys either by bike or by car.  For the more bohemian adventurer try Hobie Beach which is litereally just a stretch of sand connecting the mainland to the Keys that we turned into a "quasi-beach".  You can try your hand at windsurfing or stand up paddleboarding. Take some Instagram pictures at the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key.   Bike around historic Virginia Key Beach or rent kayaks at Virginia Key Outdoor Center.  Still feeling adventurous, jump back on the causeway and head out to Key Biscayne Crandon Beach to sun your bum at the nudist beach.  There's no sign you just have to ask around but it's on the north side of Crandon Beach.

Not getting that tingling feeling of adventure...probably partly due to that party hang over or just wanna chill, then stop to check out historic Virginia Beach park while you are winding your way through to the Village of Key Biscayne.  On your drive, slow your roll and enjoy the lush verdant surroundings.  The north end of Crandon Beach has some beautiful massive parks with lots of nature trails to walk through that can lead you to the beach; very au natural, wink wink nudge nudge.  Maybe have a BBQ picnic at Crandon Beach then walk over to one of Miami's best kept secrets...what used to be the old Crandon Zoo was miraculously saved and turned into a quiet yet gorgeous park you can walk through.  Amazingly many of the animals still live there on their own accord.  Though be respectful and look at the animals please do not harass or touch them.  No one wants to ruin a good thing and I told you a secret, sooooo you gotta represent goodness yeah!  Keep going south to the end of the key and you will drive right into Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  There is an entrance fee but it has a disappearing sinkhole, historic lighthouse, beautiful beaches, a cafe and grille, Robin's birding trail, biking, fishing and a harbor with no name.
If you wanna get fancy and dine at some posh places then Key Biscayne has some serious delicious fares to find.

On your way to Miami Beach via MacArthur Causeway, stop in at one or both of these awesome places for the kids, Jungle Island which used to be Parrot Jungle and the spectacular Frost Science Museum which recently opened.
My handsome Dad at Parrot Jungle circa 1969?

Of course Miami Beach is Miami Beach but on steroids, not the same as it was when we hung out there in the 1990's & early 2000's.  Honestly it's not for everyone but is good to experience nonetheless.  Insider tip, bring lots of patience, remember it is an island so there isn't much parking, the streets are usually one lane and usually one way, people jaywalk across streets all over the place so go slow.  Also you will be towed lickity split and/or ticketed if you park anywhere but designated parking locations and that is a huge expensive bummer to your day.  So don't be surprised what you will pay for parking, just shut up and pay it cause it's cheaper than hocking your car from the tow truck compound, especially if you don't speak Spanish or some version of it.  Oh yeah don't park in someone's made up parking lot telling you can park there for cheap, chances are they are just making a quick buck.  But go have fun, enjoy Miami Beach before it disappears under water, lol, no seriously just check it out, it's an experience.
Boating South Florida's waterways

Wow, looks like you did make it to Miami Beach, well while you are here...
get your groove on salsa dancing at Mango's Tropical Cafe;
take a nice stroll down Lincoln Road to people watch, eat & shop;
grab some to-go at Joe's Stone Crab take-away or make a reservation for a sit down meal there (don't forget to say hi to Joe);
watch the cruise ships while walking through South Pointe Park;
be a patron of the arts by experiencing all the splendid galleries and museums; visit one of the many Miami Beach iconic hotels like The Palms (my sister had her wedding there), The Delano, Eden Roc or The Fountainebleu;
you can be posh for a day while dining at some world renown restaurants;
and yes Miami Beach has a botanical garden so go see it!

There is always an art walk, street fair or outdoor event to be a part of!

Back on mainland and heading to the north of the county, you can check out the new section of downtown Miami called Wynwood that borders historic Overtown.  This area now a trendy hot spot called Wynwood, was run down and derelict like other parts of the downtown but is now expensive and gentrified.  Overtown (a historically black neighborhood with so much amazing history) still houses the original Miamians who are still poor, still struggling and are still in need of major help.  In my opinion the city pretty much glossed their eyes right over Inner City Miami to focus on big building, tourism and other BS which is ultimately pushing the people in these neighborhoods right out with no where to go.   To create places like Wynwood and the downtown high-rises, others end up sacrificing.  Don't let me stop you from getting your Instagram face on in front of the trendy "Wynwood Walls."  Though while you are in the area please visit the surrounding local shops in Overtown, Liberty City, Brownsville, Model City, Little River, Lemon City, Allapattah, Little Haiti and help support local businesses.  Help keep the local people in their homes and support a balanced fair place to live by understanding what is actually going on in their lives.  So now you are woke to what's happening in the downtown're welcome! ;)   There are so many amazing  people to meet, restaurants to eat at, boutiques to shop at, salons to get gorgeous at and places to visit in these areas so please don't skip out on it or you'll miss out on a true OG Miami experience.
South Florida sunsets are always spectacular!

Ok, so once you've experienced some of the downtown areas, head a skip-n-a-beat northwest to see some amazing revitalization along the historic Miami River and packing district.  Stop for a break at Sewell Park or Lumus Park Historic District.  Or eat at one of the delicious fancy restaurants along the river for a true Miami experience like Casablanca or  Kiki's .  If that's not your style, keep heading NW along NW North River Drive (NW 20th Street) to El Palacio de los Jugos (AKA. Juice Palace) for some authentic Cuban food and fresh made juices, a Miami favorite!  Or dip south of the river to go to La Camaronera, a family run Cuban seafood place, delish!
South Florida natural area with saw palmettto & sabal palms, pine trees and oak trees.

With your belly sated, your heart happy and your spirit full of Miami soul you are either going to head to Miami International Airport to fly back to your home sweet home if visiting or take a short drive back to your casa if local.   Either direction you head, thank you very much to hanging out with me in Miami-Dade County ya'll...hope you come back to visit the next three counties on the list of travel...Monroe County to the south while Broward and West Palm Beach Counties are to the north.  Come on an adventure with me cause I know you'll have lots to talk about and experiences to share!  As always a few tips when traveling: be nice to others, pick up trash when you see it (keep our planet clean), talk to locals about their lives (sometimes you get great local recommendations), look out for wildlife, have fun, be patient and be safe.
My niece & nephew say, "sad to see you go but excited to see you next time!"
Happy Gardening my lovelies and enjoy your weekend!
Best Wishes,
Sheri B.


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