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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.
The Gold Coast Railroad Museum began in 1956, when train enthusiast William J. Godfrey chanced upon the miles of abandoned railroad track snaking through the pineland of University of Miami’s southern campus. He imported a newly retired steam engine to the premises, and a tribute to railroading history began.
Now in a new location in Miami proper, the museum continues to honor trains’ role in American history, with nine exhibits on locomotives, passenger cars, and the Richmond’s Naval Air Station’s fleet. Visitors can hop aboard a full-size diesel locomotive passenger coach, or take a ride a miniature children’s railroad that’s ideal for transporting shipments of Lincoln logs. Alternatively, they can run motorized or free-wheeling trains through a model railroad, which zips through mountain tunnels and circles around to-scale landscapes.
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.
During each 90-minute clay sculpting session, students ages 4 to adult hand-sculpt polymer clay into imaginative clay-animation characters while learning techniques such as pointillism, spreads, and texture. Learn from experienced character sculptor Jorge Cruz, whose portfolio is filled with as many colorful and expressive characters as have come from Mel Blanc's throat. Unfetter your muse and let it run wild as you design your own clay character, while simultaneously refining motor skills and honing artistic capabilities during an afterschool, evening, or weekend class. Parents may attend classes with their children, but must also purchase a Groupon.