Florida means almost anything: amusement kingdoms, Latin and Caribbean capitals, wild wetlands, artist colonies, and wild surf beaches. This vast, flat peninsula has it all.
Maybe there's no mystery to what makes the Florida peninsula so intoxicating. Beaches as fine and sweet as powdered sugar, warm waters, rustling mangroves: all conspire to melt our workaday selves. We come to Florida to let go – of worries and winter, of inhibitions, even of reality. Some desire a beachside getaway of swimming, seafood and sunsets. Others seek the hedonism of South Beach, spring break or Key West. Some want birding and wildlife spotting, with gators, manatees and the elusive spoonbill. Others will lose themselves within the fantasy realms of Walt Disney World® and Orlando's other theme parks.
Within Florida's semitropical wilderness, alligators prowl the waterways, spoonbills strut through ponds, manatees winter in springs and sea turtles nest in summer. Osprey and eagles, dolphins and tarpon, coral-reef forests, oceans of saw grass: despite the best (or worst!) efforts of 21st-century humans, vast portions of Florida remain untamed. In a nation where natural beauty is often measured by topography, flat Florida is underappreciated by outdoors fanatics, but here you can paddle a kayak over the back of a sleeping Jurassic-era alligator, and meet loggerhead turtles and manatees underwater, eye to eye.
While many know Florida for beaches and theme parks, few understand that this is one of the most populous states in the country, a bellwether for the American experiment. And that experiment – and this state – is more diverse than ever. From rural hunters and trappers in the geographically northern, culturally Southern climes, to Jewish transplants sitting side by side with Latin arrivals from every Spanish-speaking nation in the world, it's hard to beat Florida when it comes to experiencing the human weft and weave at its most colorful and vibrant.
Culture By the Coast
Tan, tropical Florida is smarter and more culturally savvy than its appearance suggests. This state, particularly South Florida, has a reputation for attracting eccentrics and idiosyncratic types from across the US, Latin America and Europe. Many of these folks, and their descendants, have gone on to create or provide patronage for the arts, as evidenced by enormous concert spaces in Miami, a glut of museums on the Gulf Coast, and a long, literary tradition – Florida has produced more than its fair share of great American authors.
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Why you should visit Within this 140,000-acre campus, the dreams of some of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century took flight all the way to the moon and back...and then were defunded and grounded on earth. But the sense of potential that always informed Kennedy Space Center – indeed, that still pushes NASA to reach out for Mars and beyond – remains palpable in this location, one of the most visited spots in Florida. Learn about the rigors of space exploration training and, of course, try the astronaut ice cream. Whether you're mildly interested in space or a die-hard sci-fi fan, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center is awe inspiring. To get a good overview, start at the Early Space Exploration exhibit, progress to the 90-minute bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center (where you'll find the best on-site cafe) and finish at the awesome Atlantis exhibit, where you can walk beneath the heat-scorched fuselage of a shuttle that traveled more than 126,000,000 miles through space on 33 missions. Visitor Complex The Visitor Complex, with several exhibits showcasing the history and future of US space travel and research, is the heart of the Kennedy Space Center. Here you'll find the Rocket Garden, featuring replicas of classic rockets towering over the complex; Heroes & Legends and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, with films and multimedia exhibits honoring astronauts; and the hour-long Astronaut Encounter, where a real, live astronaut fields questions from the audience. A NASA Now exhibit includes Journey to Mars, a collection of related shows and interactive exhibits, and two delightful IMAX films : A Beautiful Planet offers footage of Earth from space and an optimistic look at the future of the planet (narrated by Jennifer Lawrence), and Journey to Space 3-D features interviews with astronauts and an overview of NASA's past, present and future endeavors. The stunningly beautiful Space Mirror Memorial, a shiny granite wall standing four stories high, reflects both literally and figuratively on the personal and tragic stories behind the theme-park energy that permeates the center. Several stone panels display the photos and names of those who died in shuttle disasters. Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour This 90-minute bus tour is the only way to see beyond the Visitor Complex without paying for an add-on tour. The bus winds through the launch facilities to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, where you don't want to miss the multimedia show in the Firing Room. Video footage on three screens depicts America's first lunar mission, the 1968 launch of Apollo VIII, before you're ushered through to an enormous hangar displaying the real Apollo 14 Command Module and the 363ft Saturn V moon rocket. This 6.5 million pound marvel of engineering boosted into space on November 9, 1967. Tours depart every 15 minutes from 10am to 3:30pm. Look for the coach buses and long lines to the right when you enter the Visitor Complex. Editor's note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kennedy Space Center Bus Tour has been suspended. Space Shuttle Atlantis Blasted by rocket fuel and streaked with space dust, space shuttle Atlantis, the final orbiter among NASA’s fleet, is the most impressive exhibit in the complex. Suspended in a specially designed, $100-million space, it hangs just a few feet out of reach, nose down, payload doors open, as if it's still orbiting the earth. It's a creative and dramatic display, preceded by a chest-swelling film that tells the story of the shuttle program from its inception in the 1960s to Atlantis ’ final mission in 2011. Around the shuttle, interactive consoles invite visitors to try to land it or dock it at the International Space Station, touchscreens offer details of missions and crews, and there’s a full-size replica of the Hubble Space Telescope and a not-very-scary ‘shuttle launch experience.’ Docents, many of whom worked on the shuttle program, are stationed around the exhibits to answer questions and tell tall space tales. Heroes & Legends and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Next to the Rocket Garden, the newest exhibit at the center celebrates pioneers of NASA’s early space programs, inspiring a new generation to keep their intergalactic dreams alive. It starts with a 360-degree film on the lives of astronauts, then guides visitors through displays of a Redstone rocket, space shuttles and astronauts' personal belongings, along with stations organized under character traits of astronauts, such as 'passionate,' 'tenacious' and 'disciplined.' The exhibit also features the Mercury Mission Control room and the 4-D movie Through the Eyes of a Hero, about the lives of the 93 Hall of Fame inductees. Finally, inside the recently relocated and revamped U.S. Astronauts Hall of Fame, visitors are welcomed by a statue of Alan Shepard, along with interactive video displays of the astronauts and their missions. Add-on Experiences Extended tours offer the opportunity to visit the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Mercury and Gemini launch sites. Great for kids, Dine with an Astronaut offers a chance to hang out with a real astronaut, while the Cosmic Quest is an action-oriented game-play experience featuring real NASA missions involving a rocket launch, redirection of an asteroid and building a martian habitat. You can also Fly with an Astronaut and take part in the Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) to experience some of the rigors the astronauts do in preparation for a Mars journey. Tickets and other practicalities General admission to Kennedy Space Center start at $57 for adults ($47 for children 3-11 years old). Add-on tours must be reserved in advance. Go straight to the bus tour on arrival to reduce wait times. Time your visit to coincide with a crewless rocket or satellite launch; visit www.spacecoastlaunches.com for the schedule. Bring valid ID; non-US nationals will need a passport.
If you need to escape Miami’s constant motion, consider a green day in one of the country’s largest tropical botanical gardens. A butterfly grove, tropical plant conservatory and gentle vistas of marsh and keys habitats, plus frequent art installations from artists like Roy Lichtenstein, are all stunning. Founded in 1938 by Dr. David Fairchild, the Tropical Botanical Garden is a testament to his lifetime love of botany and contribution to American horitculture and even civic identity– it was Fairchild who introduced Washington DC to its signature cherry blossom trees. After retiring to Miami, Fairchild teamed up with environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas (of Everglades fame) and landscape architect William Lyman Phillips to create a public garden where Miami's natural climate could provide a year-round setting for stunning plant specimens. What to see The lushly lined pathways of the Tropical Plant Conservatory and the Rare Plant House contain rare philodendrons, orchids, begonias, rare palms, rhododendrons, ferns and moss, while the Richard H Simons Rainforest, though small in size, provides a splendid taste of the tropics, with a little stream and waterfalls amid orchids, plus towering trees with lianas (long woody vines) and epiphytes up in the rainforest canopy. The Fairchild Tropical Garden is also home to some impressive aquatic exhibits, including the Sibley Victoria Pool, which is named for its Victoria water lilies – the largest variety in the world. The Fountain Court Pool is home to even more water lily varieties, paired with glass art by Dale Chihuly. Stop at the Palm Glade Pool to see sacred lotus plants, and to the Tropical Plant Conservatory's pools to see another Chihuly, the End of Day Tower sculpture. A favorite among the garden's youngest visitors is the Wings of the Tropics exhibition. Inside of an indoor gallery, hundreds of butterflies flutter freely through the air, the sheen of their wings glinting in the light. There are some 40 different species represented, including exotics from Central and South America, like blue morphos and owl butterflies. Visitors can also watch in real time as chrysalises emerge as butterflies at Vollmer Metamorphosis Lab. The Fairchild is also home to some rare and endangered cycad plants, which are native to South Florida and Puerto Rico and are a very ancient plant variety topped only by ferns, conifers, and horsetails. Cycads are capable of living up to a thousand years and first evolved to be pollinated by beetles. It's not all lush, dew-dripped plants at the Fairchild however. You can also find arid and succulent varieties adapted to equally hot, but considerably more arid climates, too. In addition to easy-to-follow, self-guided walking tours, a free 45-minute tram tours the entire park on the hour from 10am to 3pm (till 4pm weekends). There are also a couple of on-site cafes serving simple light fare or you can bring your own picnic and eat on the grounds. Tips for visiting Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Fairchild Botanic Garden is open seven days a week from 10am - 4pm. Tickets are $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors, $15.95 for students with ID, $11.95 for children ages 6-17, and free for children five and under. Fairchild Tropical Garden lies about 6 miles south of Coral Gables downtown. It's easiest to get here by car or taxi. Another option is to take metrorail to South Miami, then transfer to bus 57. Parking is available by the Visitor Center as well as at the Lowlands Parking Field. It's highly recommended you arrive with your own full water bottle, sun protection, and bug spray, as this is an outdoor environment in Florida where it can get hot, sunny, and sticky. Water fountains are not currently available due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you'll want to stay hydrated. Accessibility The gardens are ADA accessible, including the tramway encircling the gardens, restrooms, and pathways. Shuttle service is available for those with mobility limitations, and first-come-first-served wheelchairs can be requested at the gardens entrance. Assistive listening devices can also be requested upon arrival for the Deaf and hard of hearing.
Legoland is a joy. With manageable crowds and lines, and no bells and whistles, this lakeside theme park maintains an old-school vibe – you don't have to plan like a general to enjoy a day here, and it's strikingly stress-free and relaxed. This is about fun (and yes, education) in a colorful and interactive environment. Rides and attractions, including the attached water park, are geared towards children aged two to 12. Opening hours vary seasonally, and new things are regularly being added. Attractions at Legoland Florida Highlights include Flight School, a coaster that zips you around with your feet dangling free, Miniland, a Lego re-creation of iconic American landmarks and cities, and Ninjago, the park's new martial arts–themed section. There are a few remnants from the park's history as the site of Cypress Gardens (circa 1936), including lovely botanical gardens with the giant Banyan Tree and water-ski shows and the classic wooden roller coaster, these days called Coastersaurus. The water-ski show centers on a bizarre and rather silly pirate theme. There’s plenty for little ones to love, including a foam ball play area, splash fountains and kiddie rides. At Ford Driving School, tiny tots can drive cars through a pretend town and earn an official license, and the lakeside water-ski show is pure silly pirate fun. The park’s roller coaster thrills are The Great Lego Race, The Dragon, Coastersaurus (the park's classic wooden coaster), plus Flying School, a coaster that zips you around with your feet dangling free. The water park offers high-speed slides and a lazy river. Kids love Mia's Riding Adventure, a horse-themed 'disc' coaster. Miniland USA Anyone who has ever tried to build with Lego bricks will be wowed by the intricate designs and painstaking detail of these Lego models of iconic American cities and scenes from Star Wars films. Though amazingly accurate, there’s a sense of humor here, such as the interactive water and sound features. Oh, and keep an eye out for whimsical scenarios such as the crazy cat lady. Ninjago As well as meeting characters like Kai, Legoland's martial-art-themed area includes an interactive ride where you can score points using up to five different ninja hand maneuvers to zap fireballs, lightning and the like (as seen through your 4D glasses, of course). It's remarkable technology and, oh, such fun. Imagination Zone Don't miss the Imagination Zone, a wonderful interactive learning center that's heavily staffed with skilled Lego makers happy to help children of all ages create delights with their blocks. Tickets and other practicalities Single-day tickets start at $85 if purchased in advance online; two-day tickets run $105. Packages that include admission to the water park are single-/two-day $110/$130. Save money by buying entry tickets at least two days ahead. The Legoland Shuttle ($5) runs daily from I-Drive 360 (near the ICANOrlando). Note: you must book this 24 hours before departure. You can park on the bottom floor of the I-Drive 360 parking lot (free). Look for the Legoland-themed bus stop near the back entrance of the Eye on the Universal Boulevard side. You can rent strollers/wheelchairs/ECVs ($10/12/37) and lockers ($5 to $12). Parking costs $19. Nearby hotels/restaurants Most visitors sleep in Orlando or near the theme parks and make a day trip here. Winter Haven has few options. But for a really novel experience, stay at Legoland Hotel, at the entrance to Legoland. It's one of the most creative and colorful experiences you could ever have, which makes sense given the product. The historic heart of Winter Haven has a few decent restaurants; Legoland has eateries, albeit your standard fare. For breakfast, make a stop at Donut Man.
Why you should go You don't have to be a huge Harry Potter fan to appreciate the genius of the magnificently whimsical Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which invites muggles to lose themselves in JK Rowling's imagination. First opened in 2010 and expanded in 2014, this is theme park development at its absolute best. Not since Cinderella Castle has there been such a fantastically realized experience, and today its only rival for imaginative scale and attention to detail is the recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Alan Gilmore and Stuart Craig, art director and production designer for the films, collaborated closely with the Universal Orlando Resort engineers to create what is without exception the most fantastically realized themed experience in Florida. The detail and authenticity tickle the fancy at every turn, from the screeches of the mandrakes in the shop windows to the groans of Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom. Poke along the cobbled streets and impossibly crooked buildings of Hogsmeade, sip frothy Butterbeer, munch on Cauldron Cakes and mail a card via Owl Post, all in the shadow of Hogwarts Castle, and keep your eyes peeled for magical happenings. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is divided into two sections, each with rides and shows: Hogsmeade sits in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley, completed in 2014, is in Universal Studios. If you have a park-to-park ticket, hop on the Hogwarts Express from one section to the other. New to Hogsmeade is Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, where visitors buckle in and 'fly' through the Forbidden Forest. One hour early admission is available for guests at Universal Orlando Resort hotels. Tips for visiting Harry Potter's Hogsmeade & Diagon Alley Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is no place for the faint-hearted during high season. The lines for almost everything can risk breaking even the most indomitable spirit, but don't be deterred: with a little bit of smart planning, a visit to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley can be magnificently joyful, easy and stress-free. Stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel Harry Potter attractions open one hour early for guests at four on-site hotels. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the gates open to the general public, and do not dawdle. Strategize Head to Islands of Adventure's Hogsmeade on one morning. Hit Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Flight of the Hippogriff, and finally shops and restaurants (in that order). The other morning, zip straight to Universal Studio's Diagon Alley, hop on Escape from Gringotts, and then explore at leisure. There is an Ollivander's Wand Shop in both parks – on one of the two days, make this your first stop. Buy a park-to-park ticket This allows you to ride the Hogwarts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Visit during low season Do not go Christmas through early January, March and summer. Take advantage of Universal's "return time" tickets If the Wizarding World of Harry Potter does reach capacity during your visit (usually after 10:30am), it only allows new guests to enter once others have left. This electronic ticket allows you to enjoy other attractions and return for entry into the Wizarding World within a specific window of time. Look for the blue banner directing you to the easy-to-use kiosks.
If you don’t make it to the Florida Keys, come to this park for a taste of their unique island ecosystems. The 494-acre space is a tangled clot of tropical fauna and dark mangroves – look for the ‘snorkel’ roots that provide air for half-submerged mangrove trees – all interconnected by sandy trails and wooden boardwalks, and surrounded by miles of pale ocean. A concession shack rents out kayaks, bikes, in-line skates, beach chairs and umbrellas. At the state recreation area’s southernmost tip, the 1845 brick Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest structure in Florida (it replaced another lighthouse that was severely damaged in 1836 during the Second Seminole War). Free tours run at 10am and 1pm Thursday to Monday. If you're not packing a picnic, there are several good places to dine in the park, including Boater’s Grill and Lighthouse Cafe. Stiltsville Head to the southern shore of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and you'll see, way out in the distance, a collection of seven houses that stands on pilings in Biscayne Bay. The buildings, known as Stiltsville, have been around since the early 1930s, ever since 'Crawfish Eddie Walker' built a shack on the waves. More buildings were added over the years, and the 'village' was, at times, a gambling den, smuggling haven and, during the 1960s, a bikini club where women drank for free if they wore a two piece, and anything could famously go. At its peak in 1960, there were 27 'homes' in Stiltsville, but as one might guess, hurricanes and erosion took their toll. No one lives in Stiltsville today, but it is possible to take a boat tour out here with the illustrious historian Dr Paul George. In 2003 the nonprofit Stiltsville Trust was set up by the National Parks Service to rehabilitate the buildings into as-yet-unknown facilities; proposals include a National Parks Service visitor center, artist-in-residence colony or community center. Many years down the track, not much work seems to have progressed toward this idea, but if you’d like more information, check out the Stiltsville website. Getting to Bill Baggs Cape It takes under twenty minutes to drive to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park from Miami proper. Admission to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park runs $8 per vehicle with a limit of 2 to 8 people per vehicle. It's $4 for a single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle. If you don't mind a 17 mile bike ride round trip, the causeways out to the keys can make for a lovely cycling route, too. Bus Route 102 provides service from Brickell (near Brickell Station on SW 1st Ave) over the Rickenbacker Causeway and all the way down to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, too. It's a $2 entrance for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, and per passenger in a vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass. This is Miami after all, so don't forget that you can boat in to Bill Baggs Cape, too. Dropping anchor overnight at No Name Harbor costs $20 per boat, per night. Picnic facilities can be rented for $50 per day (plus tax) for one of the 15 pavilions that accommodate up to 40 people. A larger pavilion that can accommodate up to 80 people cost $100 per day (plus tax). Electricity to these larger shelters will cost an extra $15 per day.
In the most opulent neighborhood of one of the showiest cities in the world, the Biltmore is the greatest of the grand hotels of the American Jazz Age. If this joint were a fictional character from a novel, it’d be, without question, Jay Gatsby. Al Capone had a speakeasy on-site, and the Capone Suite is said to be haunted by the spirit of Fats Walsh, who was murdered here and may still haunt the thirteenth floor (natch). Back in the day, imported gondolas transported celebrity guests like Judy Garland and the Vanderbilts around because, of course, there was a private canal system out the back. That's gone now, but the largest hotel pool in the continental USA, which resembles a sultan’s water garden from One Thousand & One Nights, is still here. The grounds are so palatial it would take a week to explore everything the Biltmore has to offer. What is the Biltmore Hotel like? After all, the Biltmore sprawls across 150 acres that encompass pretty tropical grounds, tennis courts, the massive swimming pool and a restored 18-hole golf course. Inside, there's even more afoot, and indeed, you could spend a few days ensconced in the many activities on offer. The hotel even has its own theater company. GableStage puts on thought-provoking contemporary works, staged at one end of the Biltmore. It's an intimate theater and there's not a bad seat in the house. Rooms at the Biltmore are surprisingly business-like, with some baroque furniture flashes. There's nothing subtle about the soaring central tower, however, which was modeled after the 12th-century Giralda tower in Seville, Spain. The showy grandeur continues inside, starting with the colonnaded lobby with its hand-painted ceiling, antique chandeliers and Corinthian columns, and continues to the lushly landscaped courtyard set around a central fountain. Things to do near the Biltmore Hotel The hotel gives free 45-minute guided tours of the property on Sundays at 1:30pm and 2:30pm. You can learn more about the history and design of the place, as well as the work of developer George Merrick, who created the surrounding Coral Gables neighborhood, too, and founded the University of Miami in addition to joining forces with hotelier John McEntee Bowman to create the Biltmore in 1926. Coral Gables is more reminiscent of an old Mediterranean village-town than a city planted in greater Miami. The Gables is a goldmine for foodies, with an ample supply of international, eclectic and high-end dining options. Many restaurants are clustered on or near ‘Restaurant Row,’ on Giralda Ave between Ponce de Leon Blvd and S Le Jeune Rd. As such, you could easily spend a few days here taking in the sights, checking out its restaurants, shops and cultural attractions – including more cinemas and theaters that reinforce the Biltmore's old Hollywood glam.
Why you should go Divided geographically by region-specific architecture and ambience and fabulously themed as a Hollywood backlot, Universal Studios' simulation-heavy rides and shows are dedicated to silver screen and TV icons. Drink Duff beer, a Homer favorite, in Springville; ride the Hogwarts Express into Diagon Alley; and sidle up to Lucille Ball on Hollywood Blvd. And if you're looking for thrills, you'll find two of Orlando's best roller coasters: Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Tickets and other practicalities Tickets start at around $109 for one park ($104 for children 3-9 years old). Florida residents are sometimes eligible for discounts. Tickets are good anytime within 14 consecutive days, and multiple-day tickets include admission to paid venues in CityWalk. Universal Orlando Resort participates in the Orlando Flex Ticket available online or in person at the Orlando Official Visitor Center. Avoid lines at designated rides by flashing your Express Pass at the separate Express Pass line. The standard one-day pass (for Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios from $70; for Volcano Bay from $20) allows one-time Express Pass access to each attraction; the unlimited version allows you unlimited access to rides (from $90; Volcano Bay from $40). If you are staying at one of Universal Orlando's deluxe resort hotels – Universal Orlando's Loews Portofino Bay, Hard Rock or Loews Royal Pacific Resort – up to five guests in each room automatically receive an Unlimited Express Pass. A limited number of passes per day are available online or at the park gates. Check www.universalorlando.com for a calendar of prices and black-out dates. Note that Unlimited Express Passes are sold bundled to park admission online, but, if they're available, you can add them to an existing ticket at the park. Nearby hotels/restaurants Universal Orlando Resort has eight excellent resort hotels divided into four pricing categories: value, prime value, preferred and premier. The bulk of its hotels are themed to evoke a summery vibe of yesteryear, and for the most part they work. Staying at a resort eliminates many logistical hassles: it's a pleasant gardened walk or a quiet boat ride to the parks; most offer Unlimited Express Pass access to park attractions and priority dining; several popular rides, such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, open one hour early for all guests; and the Loews Loves Pets program welcomes Fido as a VIP. The only restaurants in Universal Studios that take advance reservations are Finnegan's Bar & Grill and Lombard's Seafood Grille.
Few American parks can claim to front such a lovely stretch of turquoise as Biscayne Bay, but Miamians are lucky like that. Noted artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi redesigned much of Bayfront Park in the 1980s and dotted the grounds with three sculptures. In the southwest corner is the Challenger Memorial, a monument designed for the astronauts killed in the 1986 space-shuttle explosion, built to resemble both the twisting helix of a human DNA chain and the shuttle itself. The Light Tower is a 40ft, somewhat abstract allusion to Japanese lanterns and moonlight over Miami. Our favorite is the Slide Mantra, a twisting spiral of marble that doubles as a playground piece for the kids. Notable park features are two performance venues: the Klipsch Amphitheater, which boasts excellent views over the bay and is a good spot for live-music shows, and the smaller 200-seat (lawn seating can accommodate 800 more) Tina Hills Pavilion, which hosts free springtime performances. Look north for the JFK Torch of Friendship, and a fountain recognizing the accomplishments of longtime US congressman Claude Pepper. There are a huge variety of activities here, including flying trapeze classes and free yoga classes, plus a great playground for the kids.
Just five minutes from Memorial Boulevard Park, which honors a number of Cuban heroes, Máximo Gómez is the big beating heart of Miami's Little Havana. Indeed, 'Domino Park's name-sake was a Dominican military leader who served in both Cuba's Ten Years' War against Spain and the war for Cuban independence. The neighborhood’s most evocative reminder of Cuba, Máximo Gómez is where the sound of elderly men trash-talking over games of dominoes is harmonized with the crack of dominoes, the scent of wafting cigars and the sound of salsa spilling into the street. The tourists taking photos all the while does take away from the experience, but a sunrise-bright mural of the 1994 Summit of the Americas add to the atmosphere. The park is effectively always open, but is best visited in the early morning or around sunset; the heat of the day is less baking and there is sometimes an air of quiet (for Miami) reverence.
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