Miami: South Beach
DRINK Raleigh Martini Bar
Inside the Raleigh Hotel, 1775 Collins Ave., 305/534-6300
Chic, wood-paneled spot for sipping signature martinis like the Campari-heavy Bitter Queen. Jazz and 1940s classics provide the appropriate soundtrack.
SHOP Bal Harbour Shops
9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305/866-0311, balharbourshops.com
Head north for 15 minutes or so along Miami Beach to reach the most famous mall in Miami. Home to every designer name imaginable as well as a few more-wallet-friendly labels.
SHOP Banana Republic
1100 Lincoln Rd., 305/534-4706
A local branch that merits a visit for the space, not the styles. Once a bank, the store retains many of its original features: The fitting rooms, for instance, are in the old vault, complete with huge, swinging metal door.
PLAY Lincoln Theatre
541 Lincoln Rd., 305/673-3330, nws.org
Home base for the New World Symphony, which is composed of grad students from across the world who endure rigorous auditions to secure three-year fellowships. The performances are consistently superb. Occasionally free, tickets from $12.
1921 Collins Ave., 786/276-6132, myntlounge.com
There's a 30-foot waterfall cascading down the wall in the main room and an enormous mosaic-tiled bar at this reigning hotspot. Dress up and be prepared to sweet-talk the bouncer. Cover $20 on weekends, free on Wed. and Thurs.
1445 Washington Ave., 305/531-5027, crobarmiami.com
Hardest-partying nightclub on the beach, with young, frenetic dancers and thumping music in its massive honeycomb of rooms. Cover from $20.
A four-hour drive down the US-1 highway, Key West is the "anything goes" capital of the United States. It's full of artsy locals, old wooden houses, and laid-back bars and restaurants. It was a hippie hangout in the 1970s before becoming a popular gay destination. Now, it's rapidly gentrifying while trying to hold on to its avant-garde edge. Rent a car and make sure to allow plenty of time for the journey: Traffic can be heavy, though at least you'll catch views of the other keys along the way. Best spot for an overnight stay is undoubtedly one of the cozy cottages at the Key Lime Inn (725 Truman Ave., 305/294-5229, keylimeinn.com) where doubles start at $109. More info: fla-keys.com.
Rent a car and head south from Miami on US-1, following the signs for the community of Homestead. From there, it's a short drive to The Everglades, a waterlogged, mysterious national park that fills the southern tip of Florida. You can stare out across a horizon with nothing but the occasional tree interrupting the acres of knee-high grass; see alligators swim wild in the rivers; spot rare nesting birds; or kayak through the ragged, mangrove-crammed coastline. If you want to stay in the park, it's best to camp, though there is a no-frills hotel, the Flamingo Lodge & Marina (239/695-3101, flamingolodge.com, doubles from $65), at its southernmost tip. More info: nps.gov/ever.
THE TOP BEACHES
The Miami Beach sandbar is edged with beautiful beaches, but the strip down at 3rd St. by Ocean Dr. is the best place for families-it has lifeguards, restrooms, picnic tables, and showers. If you're more adventurous, there's a popular nudist beach a few miles north at Haulover Beach Park. Note that the beaches at Sunny Isles Beach, heavily promoted for family fun, are less appealing-the vicious riptides near the shore can make swimming tricky.
TipSalsa on the cheap
Miami specializes in the square dance-style salsa called Rueda de Casino. Brush up with a free hour-long lesson at Café Mystique (7250 NW 11th St., 305/262-9500, Thurs. at 11 p.m.).
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