Imagine standing eye level with a giraffe, holding out your arm for parrots to land on, or touching the head of an endangered rhino. At Zoo Miami, these experiences happen every day, fulfilling the institution's mission of encouraging the conservation of wildlife. More than 2,000 animals—from chimps to tigers to koalas—populate the African exhibit, Asian exhibit, Australian exhibit, and the most recent addition, the Amazon & Beyond exhibit. Many of the individual exhibitions don't use cages, but are instead bound by moats throughout more than three miles of walking trails. This setup allows guests to get closer to animals as they romp in their habitats. More than 1,200 plant species populate these habitats, which are re-creations of the animals' native environments.
Guests can use free WiFi to download a free mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The app then delivers functions such as location beacons so that family members keep track of one another, show times, and GPS-enabled maps that show the nearest dining venue or restroom. Transportation options within the zoo range from an air-conditioned monorail to tram tours, which provide behind-the-scenes insights such as which animals have recently had babies, what they named the babies, and each baby's first word. Developed specifically for kids, a children's zoo offers camel rides and a playground.
When he’s not lavishly decorating the homes of famous friends such as Sylvester Stallone, Lil’ Wayne, and Jose Canesco, Anwar Zayden applies his meticulous designer’s eye to the projects of his clientele at Art Express Miami. At his on-site, full-service factory, Anwar and his team preserve prints, diplomas, and photos within 30 minutes with customized framing, or craft shadow boxes to showcase 3D items from plaques to swords. His in-home consultations help homeowners design and install new decorations within 48 hours, and his custom-made mirrors spruce up abodes with reflective surfaces that remind you you’re the fairest of them all even when you don’t ask. Inside Art Express Miami’s gallery, Anwar also stocks pre-framed pieces of decorative art that run the gamut from classical portraits to contemporary abstract canvases.
As they observe the vibrant exhibits of aquatic life inside the Miami Seaquarium, many guests don't realize that they are walking through a movie set and a hospital. In the onsite lagoon, bottlenose dolphins swim through waters once traversed by Flipper, who filmed several television episodes and films at the venue. The Seaquarium is also recognized as a manatee critical care facility. Its staff has accomplished several historic treatments, including monitoring the conception and arrival of the first manatee born under human care and conducting the first manatee neurological surgery.
These facets of the Seaquarium—along with its many conservation efforts, educational programs, and shows—underscore a united commitment to wildlife consciousness. The animal attractions enable visitors to witness the allure and fragility of oceanic fauna up close, whether they are petting the back of a stingray or washing a dress shirt on the rough back of an 8-foot nile crocodile. Special encounters decrease the distance even further, sending patrons on underwater Sea Treks through the reef display or helping them to lead marine-mammal training routines.
It's hard to pinpoint the biggest personality inside the Seaquarium tanks, but Lolita the killer whale—who performs daily alongside pacific white-sided dolphins—claims the title of heaviest, period. On the other end of the scale, macaws and cockatiels perch around the Tropical Wings section of the park, and endangered sea turtles lounge at Discovery Bay. Elsewhere, a watery playground and three-story ropes course keep legs from growing too wobbly after a trip to Shark Channel or a smooch from a sea lion.
Belly2Abs founder Adriana Echeverri brings dance to unexpected places, opening Ireland’s first belly dancing school in 2006. Her Belly2Abs studios create a safe and harmonious space for women to work out and explore the undulating movements of belly dancing, tango, and flamenco. The studio’s diverse and international collection of instructors teach introductory steps to young girls and lead up-tempo fitness classes that tone and burn calories.
Since 1989, The Miami Symphony Orchestra has mimicked Miami’s cultural diversity with concerts and events that act as a melting pot of musical influences. Music director Eduardo Marturet, a Venezuelan composer and conductor, helms many of the concerts, encouraging the musicians to unleash their inner Beethovens or Bachs—former members of the ’80s hair-metal band Skid Row.
Studio owner, mother of three, and passionate polecat, Annia Vazquez, encourages women to tap into their inner minx during pole-dancing and flirty-fitness classes. The studio takes pole dancing—once strictly a means of determining the next fire chief—and turns it into a full-body workout that incorporates core work, conditioning exercises, and sultry dance moves. Students can explore some of the other seductive arts during exotic belly-dancing lessons or courses that combine Vaudeville-style and modern burlesque. Classes keep comfortable with a maximum of 16 students, giving instructors enough time to dole out personalized tips to help newbies transform into veteran vixens.