Since 1938, the keepers of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden have cultivated more than 85 acres of floral displays with a mixture of science and art. The gardens are lush with plants valuable to scientists and educators, and the tropical landscapes designed by William Lyman Phillips are like ever-evolving canvases, blooming and fading as the seasons change. Most of the palms, cycads, flowering trees, and vines were collected from the wild, but the grounds also harbor endangered plant species.
Guides give English and Spanish tram tours as well as walking tours through specific parts of the gardens, or visitors can explore the displays at their leisure, wandering through the 16,428-square foot two-level Tropical Plant Conservatory exhibit, which blooms with orchids, fruit trees, and rare palms. Cascading waterfalls punctuate the stream flowing through the 2-acre Richard H. Simons Rainforest, where visitors admire the diverse plant life and reflect on the worldwide threat of rapidly vanishing rainforests. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit features thousands of exotic butterflies with tropical fish and rare plant life. Butterflies are released twice daily and the Butterfly Metamorphosis Lab lets kids experience them up close. The water gardens combine tranquility pools with waterfalls, sculpture, and lily pads to evoke a sense of calm.
When the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum began in 1952, the school could comfortably display its entire collection in three unused classrooms. Those days are long past. Today, the museum stands as Miami's most comprehensive collection of western and non-western art. The permanent collections feature pieces drawn from across human history, with notable works including Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge and a recently acquired face mask from the Dan people of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, forged from wood, cloth, and fur. A sizable trove of Native American artifacts includes pieces from the Southeast such as a beautifully embroidered bead shoulder bag. Other exhibits include paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and photographs from the Middle Ages through the present, including the Samuel H. Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque art, as well as pottery, sculpture, and metalwork from ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, dating from the first millennium BCE through the 4th century CE.
A few miles away, the tower of the 1939 Old Police and Fire Station rises above the street, gazing down on an unusual blend of sleek, depression-era modernism and Mediterranean revival ornateness. Founded in 2003, the Coral Gables Museum Corp. completely renovated the old municipal building. Spanish touches were added—the new Fewell wing and a 5,000-square-foot plaza—and the space was opened in 2011 as a museum dedicated to the civic arts of architecture, urban design, historic and environmental preservation, and sustainable development. Today, it holds regular art and design exhibitions, educational events, and concerts.
On the surface, Susan Hilferty appeared to be living the American dream—a promising position as a pharmaceutical rep, plus an upcoming marriage. But for a woman who grew up studying at The School of American Ballet and dancing on stages including Lincoln Center, selling pills felt empty at times, and Hilferty found her need for physical expression growing stronger. While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she took her first pole-dancing class, and almost immediately, her life took a new direction.
Though she faced resistance from friends and family, Hilferty saw in her classes how pole dancing transformed women—giving them new confidence, encouraging them to overcome insecurities, and helping them heal from past traumas. She called off her wedding, continued taking classes, and eventually opened Pole Fitness Miami. Today, she and her team of trained ballerinas lead pole-dancing and dance-based fitness classes at two locations. Ranked on CBS Local Miami's list of Best Places For Unique Workouts, the boutique surrounds saunterers with purple walls, subdued lighting, and gauzy curtains to create a sultry atmosphere. Additionally, Hilferty and her crew help students obtain pole-dance certifications, as well as arrange pole-dance parties so groups of damsels can strengthen their bonds or celebrate becoming volunteer firefighters.
Dona Piza left her life as a New York stockbroker behind when she turned to yoga to rehab herself from a terrible car accident. On the first of the new millennium, she opened Prana Yoga in Miami, eager to impart the healing powers of the art to an area where yoga studios were a rare species. She says that the most fulfilling aspect of her job is observing how yoga transforms students mentally and physically, as was the case with a dear friend with cerebral palsy who—through regular practice of yoga—gained the ability to walk.
At her studio, she schedules more than 70 90-minute yoga classes per week for students of all skill levels, whether they are working through injuries or honing their practice. Inside the four spacious rooms, drenched in soft lavender hues, she and her experienced instructors lead a variety of yoga styles, mainly based in the Iyengar tradition, which focuses on achieving proper body alignment with the aid of props. They also lead serenity-enhancing meditation classes, vigorous core yoga, and relaxing candlelit sessions, which help students melt away the stresses of the day. During kids' classes, instructors teach yogis aged 4–9 basic poses using animal imagery and sounds, giving parents time to attend their own yoga classes or to secretly eat dessert before even making dinner.
Rina Jakubowicz has played the roles of yogi, author, and motivational speaker, leading to media appearances on Spanish television and the Discovery Channel Latin America, as well as in the Miami Herald. At Rina Yoga, she leads an expert team of extensively trained yoga instructors, who tap their expertise in a variety of yoga modalities to guide students toward holistic well-being in a noncompetitive environment. Each location's seven-day schedule accommodates pupils of all skill levels with sessions including beginner-friendly hatha classes, power yoga, traditional Vinyasa, and dharma yoga, which fuses poses old and new to focus on relaxation and meditation. The studio also conducts frequent events and meditation retreats that use chanting and sympathetic whispers to soothe wild spirit horses. Rina’s Book, Choose Peace, is also a large part of the studio’s curriculum and appears during seminar discussions that cover healthy lifestyle choices and a 15-step guide toward peaceful transformation.
After changing hands many times between 1882 and 1916, the property that would eventually be known as The Kampong—which means "village" in Malay—was snatched up by David Fairchild and his wife Marian, a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell. Fairchild was one of the most influential horticulturists in the United States, devoting his life to plant exploration and finding new strains of flora suitable for introduction to the states. Though he and his wife spent much of their time in Washington DC until 1928, The Kampong became an "introduction garden" for many of the plants he collected during his travels.
After constructing a house on the garden property in 1928, the Fairchilds made Miami their permanent home, and they were eventually were joined by Marian's sister and her husband on the adjoining property. Today, as part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most of the adjoining property has been absorbed to be part of The Kampong, creating more than 11 acres of verdant gardens. Inside the leafy labyrinth, many of the experimental plants still thrive, including an 80-year-old baobab tree, more than 50 mango varieties.