Tee off at one of two nine-hole golf courses maintained by the Miami-Dade County Park & Recreation Department. Whether chipping onto the green at Greynolds or dodging water hazards and hazardous water monsters at Briar Bay, golfers of all experience levels can play quick, challenging rounds. Briar Bay Golf Course sprawls in all directions across 30 acres of lush greenery polka-dotted with trees and bunkers. Each year, this par 31 executive golf course serves as home for more than 40,000 rounds of golf and several hundred nighttime games of bio-sonar badminton. Greynolds Park similarly tests golfers with a par 36 course that stretches 3,100 yards from the longest tees. After matches at Greynolds, players can retire to a spacious clubhouse to tabulate scores and settle any draws with a round of rock-paper-scissors.
After its cameo in the 1998 movie There's Something About Mary, The Aqua Golf Driving Range became famous, summoning visitors to hit golf balls into aqueous landing areas. Before the movie, however, the 20-acre lake turned state-of-the-art golf facility was a local legend for more than 50 years. Beginners can start down the road to becoming a master golfer under the expertise of onsite golf pros during lessons, which make an ideal gift. Under a long, doublewide canopy or in the sunshine, golfers can also hit golf balls onto floating greens or buoyant caddies. The range also has a pro shop and synthetic short-game center on dry land to practice chipping, putting, and taking off the golf-bag scuba tank needed for second shots at the range.
The 36 holes of Orangebrook Golf & Country Club nestle amid verdant fairways and palm trees, patiently waiting for the clink of a golf ball. Before they hit the green, duffers can stock up on balls and other golf-related necessities at the pro shop and fuel up afterward at Nikki’s On The Green with omelets, pastas, sandwiches, and salads. The lighted driving range, open until 10 p.m., lets putters enjoy a moonlight round without the hassle of constantly relighting the candles affixed to their wedges. Throughout the daytime hours, Orangebrook director of golf and PGA--certified instructor Bob Mallek doles out expert tips on form and swing. Orangebrook also hosts the Women's International 4-Ball golf tournament, the longest-running women's amateur event in the United States.
Shula’s Athletic Club—named for Don Shula, the NFL Hall of Famer who coached the Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl trophy in 1972—doesn’t find it hard to fill its sprawling 40,000 square feet of space. A cardio room with more than 50 pieces of equipment, a spinning center, weight rooms, fitness-class studios, and basketball courts spread through the facility, luring athletes for independent workouts and personal-training sessions. Dozens of weekly fitness classes range from calorie-burning Zumba workouts and Vinyasa-yoga sessions to spin classes that help students practice for the day they have pedal-powered cars.
The athletic club also accommodates older exercisers with aquatic aerobics and seated Silver Sneakers workouts, and it keeps kids busy with confidence-building youth sports programs. Young legs run over a new 60-yard athletic field or nine lighted tennis courts where kids whack tennis balls and low-flying hot-air balloons with rackets.
The Miami area’s vibrant confluence of cultures and languages—as well as its uninhibited consumerism—serve as a captivating mixture from the moment travelers arrive. The atmosphere in Miami Lakes is somewhat subdued, with a small Main Street district and a coterie of local restaurants such as laid-back Cuban café Casavana. In nearby South Beach’s Art Deco District, architecture appears in Technicolor straight out of the 1930s. It’s the American version of the tropics—a clean, breezy haven with street-side cafes, where people-watching is de rigueur and the beaches are thronged with beautiful people. Just north, the lively Oceanside resort area of Sunny Isles Beach harbors even more picturesque public beaches. Boats docked on the Intracoastal Waterway at Haulover Beach Park beckon ocean exploration through deep-sea fishing charters and watersport rentals. After weaving past an eclectic crowd of paddleboarders, stereo-toting locals, and sun-tanning tourists, vacationers can head across the street to Epicure, a full-service gourmet market and café that peddles supplies for picnic lunches and offers all-day beach parking for $5.Just west of Miami Lakes, the Everglades’ Gator Park offers narrated airboat tours that start slow, plodding through 8–12-inch depths, before revving their Cadillac engines into full throttle in search of alligators, American crocodiles, exotic birds, and sitcom stars jumping sharks. The squawk of exotic parrots permeates the private sanctuary, as snakes slither up handler's backs and guests feel the small scaly skin of tiny alligators—a sensory escape from the concrete jungle of Miami. Although Don Shula's Hotel & Golf Club sometimes offers discounted pricing online, this Groupon is still the best deal available.
AllGolf Center provides large practice facilities where you can hone both your long and short game, rain or shine. Sharpen your drive on a two-tiered driving range with targets and landing areas, or focus on putting in the 36-hole mini-golf courses and practice-putting areas. Each AllGolf Center even has onsite 18-hole golf courses littered with hazards, where players can test their new techniques and audition new caddies. If you need a break, you can check out new clubs at the fully stocked pro shop or take horizontal swings in the onsite batting cages.