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.
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. When Jungle Island's current owners purchased the company in 1988, they introduced new mammals and reptiles—but when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, they were forced 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.
After losing 135 pounds, Spinderella Fitness owner Elizabeth Rodriguez was determined to inspire other women to seize control of their health and strive for the energy and confidence of the physically fit. She became a certified nutritionist and personal trainer before undertaking the study of a less conventional subject: pole dancing. Rodriguez struggled at first. She recalls that she "use[d] to go home in tears" of frustration. But 17 months later, she opened her own pole-dance fitness studio, and then a second one to meet the demand for her teachings.
Rodriguez's studios host more than two-dozen classes thanks to her collaboration with Melissa Fernandez—a trained dancer with a background in jazz, ballet, and hip hop—who helped broaden the curriculum. This collaboration has resulted in both high-energy, cardio-driven workouts as well as those inspired by salsa, Flashdance, and the sensual rippling of national flags.
Students who are serious about mastering advanced pole maneuvers progress through several levels. After mastering a pole routine at one level, they receive a colored thong to mark their graduation to the next. Pole climbing students repeat the process until they are certified black-thong dancers capable of disarming a kung fu master with the twist of a hip.
CrossFit 305 traces its lineage back to a modest, 300-square-foot studio that opened in 2008. Shortly after the staff began reading about CrossFit and testing out the workouts themselves, they decided to dedicate their business entirely to the functional fitness program. Even as they restructured their workouts, their studio continued to grow. Today, they hold their group classes in a 3,500-square foot facility equipped with gymnastics rings, kettlebells, and barbells for Olympic lifting.
Co-owner Dominic Sirianni says that many clients are hesitant to begin training at CrossFit 305, due to CrossFit’s reputation as a brutal, challenging workout. He assures them that they shouldn't be worried. "We scale the workout's intensity to their ability," he explains. "We have people as young as 10 years old and old as 77." In fact, it’s this inclusive atmosphere that keeps members coming back for more.
When they aren’t pushing clients to run faster or throw their boulders further, CrossFit 305's certified trainers encourage them to stay mindful of nutrition. They have even partnered with the Florida Heart Research Institute to help them give accurate body-composition readings and determine ideal body-fat percentages.
Giant toy soldiers clothed in thousands of colored lights wave at passersby as glowing reindeer take off into the dusk. Towering Christmas trees topped with stars glimmer and glisten with blue and green fiber optics. At Santa's Enchanted Forest, one of the world’s largest Christmas-themed amusement parks, holiday spirit and festive music fill the air long before the end of December. Visitors laugh and shriek on a multitude of carnival rides, including whirling swings, bumper cars, tower drops, and roller coasters, whipping through the air until their cheeks are as rosy as old Saint Nick’s. Traditional carnival games are also on hand, such as dart tosses and soccer-ball kicks, to complement more unconventional carnival amusements such as giant plastic balls to roll around in and a rock-climbing wall to scale. Wee visitors, meanwhile, can make the acquaintance of small livestock in a petting zoo or draw a portrait of their favorite goat in royal costume on a wall-size coloring-book mural. Carnival food, such as barbecue, pizza, and cinnamon donuts, fuels guests as they conquer rides or take in the Cats of the World Tiger Show, the Cirque Equinox, or the Sea Lion Splash Spectacular.
Since its inception in 1916, the YMCA of Greater Miami has opened its doors to whoever needed it. It welcomed African American youths during the Great Depression, hosted military personnel in the 1940s, and gave Cuban refugees a home in the 1960s. Today, it continues the tradition of depolarizing Miami's fractured populous, remaining a haven for people of all faiths, races, ages, and income. Staffers uphold the YMCA’s core values of honesty, acceptance, and fairness as they ensure each location is a safe place for members to play, exercise, and strengthen family bonds weakened by overzealous games of Monopoly. YMCA of Greater Miami also raises much-needed funding for kids and families who can’t afford the full cost of any of YMCA’s progressive programs.
At the current locations, kids can leap into activities ranging from swim lessons and youth sports to afterschool programs and day camps. Adults, meanwhile, can take Zumba, boot-camp, and aquatic fitness classes or work out within wellness centers replete with strength-training and cardio equipment. Adult basketball and indoor speed-soccer leagues further help guests flex their competitive spirits in an encouraging environment.
A comprehensive guide to attractions and things to do.