Located in the heart of the city, Watson Island sometimes feels like a tropical paradise—complete with a leopard lurking in the undergrowth. Luckily, this jungle cat is safely within the confines of Jungle Island, which has inhabited the isle for more than a decade. And yet the story of this themed park, which houses everything from exotic birds and primates to rare plants and trees, began more than 75 years ago.
Jungle Island got its start in 1936 as Parrot Jungle, a small South Miami roadside attraction where the exotic birds could soar uncaged. In the following decades, the aviary hosted a wide array of noteworthy occupants, including Pinky—a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo—and several pink flamingos that appeared in the opening credits of Miami Vice. When Jungle Island's current owners purchased the company in 1988, they introduced new mammals and reptiles—but after Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, they made plans to relocate. They settled on Watson Island, and in 2003, finished construction of the animal habitats and 18 acres of tropical gardens, renaming it Jungle Island.
Jungle Island is currently home to rare white tigers and a white lion, a high-wire bicycle-riding cockatoo, one of the only tame cassowaries in the world, a set of orangutan twins, a rare occurrence. Animal shows and presentations allow visitor to experience Jungle Island's residents in many ways, and a VIP safari tour is available for the very curious. Jungle Island's latest addition is a floating aqua park.
Gusto Bistro's owners and pastry chef hail from Paris, and they incorporate regional French influences from Provence and Brittany into their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Dishes are served "in a setting that's less about 'dinner' and more about sitting around shooting the breeze with your mouth really full" according to Thrillist. To jumpstart conversations, the bartenders pour glasses of wine from a list that emphasizes Italian regions and varietals and includes a collection of French and New World bottles. In the kitchen, chefs artfully decorate small plates with arrangements of seasonal fruits and vegetables, French cheeses, or beef carpaccio. Pastry chef Manuel Bengochea brings meals to a sweet finish with a wide variety of homemade French desserts.
Around the dining room, brushed-nickel lamps and black-and-white-tiled floors create a sleek, modern look, while lime-green drapes and a kaleidoscopic assortment of cushions add splashes of color. Large, decorative wine labels hang above the bottle-lined shelves, warning diners about the walls' sulfite content.
Whole Foods Market's commitment to the interdependent network of sustainable farms and organic producers can be seen in its carefully selected product lines. The homegrown 365 Everyday Value brand makes it easy to eat naturally, organically, and economically. It features an array of items from all product categories, including groceries, vitamins, household items, and more—each manufactured to meet the rigorous quality standards woven into the fabric of Whole Foods Market, which itself is made from 100% alpaca wool.
At Cara Mia Trattoria Italiana, chef Alessandro DiMaggio takes a farm-to-table approach to his menu, creating dishes that pop with the flavors of fresh mozzarella, organic greens and vegetables, and wild porcini mushrooms. The restaurant blends fine Italian cuisine with a festive Caribbean motif, like a macaroni map of the Lesser Antilles. The cooks augment the culinary beauty of plates of thin-sliced carpaccio and creamy risotto with the aesthetic beauty of terracotta tiles, white-leather barstools, and a hint of a pink-neon glow. The open air of the high-ceilinged dining room hosts meals of homestyle lasagna or grilled swordfish, and the full-service bar doles out 14-ounce pours of cold Peroni beer as well as glasses of Italian wines.
Rock 'n' Roll Vibe | Build-Your-Own Burgers | Beef-Free Alternatives | 75-Plus Beers | Adult Milkshakes
What to Drink: True to its name, Burger and Beer Joint stocks plenty of brews—more than 75 varieties, in fact. If you're not in the mood for pale ales and pilsners, sample an adult milkshake blended with ice cream and a sweet liqueur.
While You're Waiting
A man seizes a bottle of liquor by its neck, lifts it off its grooved feet, and hurls it into the air. Eyes forward, he catches it behind his back with his left hand as his right pours the first ingredient in a mixed drink. Off The Hookah's flair bartenders juggle flaming concoctions and fix classic cocktails inside a 14,000-square-foot restaurant with Moroccan décor and cushy beds and couches. After high-fiving the two pharaoh statues stationed by the door, guests can dig into tapas, sushi, and artfully arranged Mediterranean cuisine. Outdoor seating wraps around the entire main hall, providing plush couches from which to exhale hookah fumes and watch mariners tying up their boats or saddling their sharks at the marina. On the weekends, DJs spin Mediterranean, Latin, and American records, while belly dancers undulate around indoor and outdoor areas.