Miami: South Beach
SEE The Holocaust Memorial
1933-1945 Meridian Ave., 305/538-1663, holocaustmmb.org
A contemplative, sobering experience, nodding to the large number of Holocaust survivors who chose to make Miami Beach their home. Graphic and unflinching, a massive cast-bronze hand reaches for the sky, surrounded by black granite panels etched with the names of victims. $2 donation for brochure.
SEE Lincoln Road Mall
Part outdoor mall (it's lined with trendy shops and restaurants) and part catwalk (locals strut here daily, with dog-walking throngs on Sundays), Lincoln Road is the soul of South Beach. No one should leave Miami without grabbing a coffee and watching the skaters whiz by, or window-shopping at the high-end stores.
SEE Ocean Drive
Photo shoots are a rarity along Ocean Dr. now, but at 7 a.m. it's easy to understand why South Beach became the fashion location of choice in the early 1990s-the light is sensational. What to look for: the Versace mansion, now a private members-only social club, at no. 1116; and ravishing art deco hotels, including the Park Central at no. 640. For maximum art deco sights, concentrate on the strip between 5th and 14th sts.
SEE Parrot Jungle Island
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Watson Island, 305/258-6453, parrotjungle.com
One of the city's best family attractions, built on an island close to South Beach and easily accessible by car. The vast aviary and gardens are home to more than 300 parrots, including hatchlings in the parrot nursery, as well as hundreds of other creatures, such as monkeys, reptiles, and a showy flock of flamingos. Adults $25, kids $20, parking $6.
SEE The Wolfsonian
1001 Washington Ave., 305/531-1001, wolfsonian.fiu.edu
A hulking old Mediterranean revival building, once the headquarters of a storage company, houses the decorative-arts museum's collection of trinkets, which includes World's Fair-related ephemera and propagandist posters, as well as British arts and crafts furniture by William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. $7, free Friday 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Closed Wed. (and Mon.-Tues. in summer).
EAT Big Pink
157 Collins Ave., 305/532-4700, bigpinkrestaurant.com
A Day-Glo diner that's famous for its satisfying TV dinners served on vintage trays at cafeteria-style tables. The huge menu offers burgers, salads, and desserts like red velvet cake.
EAT David's Café II
1654 Meridian Ave., 305/672-8707
Above-average Cuban restaurant with a take-out window serving hearty sandwiches and coffee, plus an eat-in dining room serving staples like ropa vieja (shredded beef stew).
EAT Miss Yip Chinese Café
1661 Meridian Ave., 305/534-5488, missyipchinesecafe.com
With a slick feel recalling Shanghai's decadent 1930s heyday, this Chinese restaurant serves old-world Cantonese fare. Try dim sum at lunchtime and dinner staples like moo shu pork.
EAT News Café
800 Ocean Dr., 305/538-6397
A major player from the early-'90s South Beach scene, the café is still a great place to hang out-just don't expect much from the food. The ratio of models to mortals is 1:1.
EAT Pizza Rustica
863 Washington Ave., 305/674-8244
Beach pit stop serving huge slices of tangy pizza. Order the namesake, piled high with artichokes, olives, ham, and sun-dried tomatoes.
EAT Tap Tap
819 5th St., 305/672-2898
Haitian fave known for its intriguing menu-say, goat stewed in a peppery tomato broth, or a mango, avocado, and watercress salad-and bright fruity drinks. Caribbean art plasters the walls. Live Haitian folk music at 8:30 p.m. on Thurs. and Sat.
SPLURGE Prime One Twelve
In the Browns Hotel, 112 Ocean Dr., 305/532-8112, prime112.com
One of South Beach's hottest restaurants, in a converted 1915 hotel; it's popular with visiting celebs like Calvin Klein, Claudia Schiffer, and Sting. The waiters sport butcher-style aprons and the menu is steak-heavy. The flavor-packed $20 Kobe beef hot dog is more than worth it.
TIPGawk at gothic castles
Of the sand variety, that is, reaching upwards of 10 feet with turrets, towers, and spires. They're built and touched up daily by a 20-something artist known around town as "the Sand Castle Guy." At Lummus Park and 10th St. in the heart of 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.).