Midnight Cowboy Civilized insobriety featured
Icebox Cafe Well, if Oprah says so...

A stone’s throw from the Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, Icebox serves up some of the best cake in the state. That isn’t just “Jive Talkin’” (R.I.P Maurice), Oprah Winfrey’s gone on record as saying that it’s the best cake in the whole of America — and her word is more powerful than gospel in the land of the free, her knowledge of sponges, tortes and pies, prodigious.

Cut the crap and order their calling card, the ‘Chocolate Delight’. Sure, the name is cliché, but you’ll be gushing with praise once you’ve tasted it. Other highlights on the cake tray are a classic Key Lime pie and a banana, peanut-butter and chocolate combo that tastes as good as it sounds. Elsewhere on the menu, the breakfasts are generous (giant pancakes, fresh grits and Mexican-style eggs), their lunches fresh (big salads and playful sandwiches), and dinners inventive (pan-Asian offerings and one too many fruit-based sauces).

The decor is a little flat and boutique-y — we thought white, leather sofas went out of style way back by the way, even in Miami — and there’s every chance you’ll be jogging elbows with the zealous worshippers of daytime TV’s queen. Any annoyance caused thereby is easily remedied though. Buy another cake, eat it, feel better. Easy.

The Sagamore Arty nights

The Sagamore stands behind its tag line as “The Art Hotel.” More than an upscale boutique property, with several well-appointed bungalows as well as the suites, it also serves as a gallery for owners Marty and Cricket Taplin’s diverse art collection.

Roxy Paine’s mushroom installation sprouts from above the check-in desk, while the bar and restaurant passages are filled with Elliott Erwitt’s iconic photographs and Olaf Breuning’s hilarious drawings. A dummy-driven helicopter by Miami’s Robert Chambers surprises first-timers heading out to the pool.

Everglades National Park Wade in the water

The best way to see the Everglades is by kayak or canoe, with which you can paddle your way through swampland while eying the unending labyrinth of mangroves, cypress trees and sawgrass marshes.

The national park and UNESCO site comprises the entire southern tip of the Sunshine State—nearly 1.5 million acres—and is home to vast amount of wildlife, making it a birdwatchers oasis and “The Crocodile Hunter” fans giddy with excitement over the abundance of sharp-toothed reptiles.

As the largest subtropical wilderness in America, the Everglades are a serious testament to natures elements: maintained through intense rain and equally intense drought and fire, the park’s play on balance can keep you hiking for hours.

Locust Projects A plague upon your gallery

Unsure as to the distinction between a gallery and a project space? In a nutshell: Galleries try and sell what they show, project spaces are in it solely for art. Not-for-profit Locust is of the latter ilk, and is all about power to the people. And free entry.

By their own admission they’re dedicated to (proceed with caution, abstract buzzphrase alert) ‘providing contemporary visual artists’ with ‘the freedom to experiment with new ideas’. Translation: They’re giving young artistic guns the chance to throw some crazier-than-usual shit at the walls and see what sticks. The results, while occasionally bemusing, tend to be pretty exciting.

Past throwers have included LA-based Karl Haendel, who created a cacophony of flitting city structures on the walls with automatically advancing slide projectors, and Jillian Mayer, who set up playpark swings in front of a giant cinematic projection. If you’re game for a visit, try and rock up on an exhibition opening night — the drinks flow, there’s live music, and plenty of peacocking more-cultured-than-thou types to poke fun at.

Sweat Records Growing gains

Sweat used to be the quintessential indie kid: All skinny jeans, battered converse and a one-dimensional stock-list of records with jagged guitar and raspy falsetto vocals. Then they grew up. The exclusivity of their tastes relaxed, their horizons broadened, and their love of music passed beyond the awkward fumbly stage straight into the open and assured tantric orgy stage.

The proof of the transformation, as they say, is in pudding — except in this case when we say pudding we mean inventory. So let’s dive right in. There’s huge sections dedicated to punk, metal, experimental, jazz, hip hop, soul, funk, r&b, and electro, and heaps of niche reissues from all across the globe. They’ve got a used record clerk, too, which is a damn nice touch and means that digging in their ‘second-hand’ section is like panning for gold in King Midas’ house.

Aside from the sonic purchasables (which also includes a decent selection of turntables), this a great place for the uninitiated to come and plug into Miami’s music scene. On any given day they could be hosting a gig in-store, running a club night elsewhere, or out on the promotion trail for a local artist. Spreading the tantric-orgy-music love, if you will.

Azul The total package

Azul is Miami’s answer to the entire spectrum of fine dining from business to romance. Because it’s located in the Mandarin Oriental, service is top-tier, and its views of Biscayne Bay and the skyline especially at night, are damn near magical.

The cuisine holds its own too. Young chef William Crandall has moved up the ranks quickly and debuted a new French-based menu with Asian influences. Highlights include Foie Gras with beets, hisbiscus and apples, Smoked Lettuce with applewood bacon dressing, trout roe and crispy fresh vegetables, and a fromage bomb of a ‘Coach Farms Risotto’ — with three artisanal cheeses. Splurge on the tasting menu with wine pairings, it’s worth it.

The Freehand Oxymoronic brilliance featured

Boasting the title of the first high-end hostel (no longer an oxymoron) in the USA, The Freehand isn’t so much raising the bar for hostels as it is taking that bar, training it to be an astronaut and firing it into space – lock, stock and bleedin’ barrel. Located inside the classic Art Deco India Creek hotel building and with interiors designed by Roman & Williams, this premium grade hostel hybrid has got all bases covered: handcrafted interiors, swimming pool, jungle courtyard, bocce courts, bike rental—the list is endless. They’ve even got themselves a perma-pop-up cocktail lounge, The Broken Shaker, which uses fresh ingredients from the on-site garden, and has rapidly earned a rep for being one of the best beverage-suppin’ spots in the city.

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