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Off The Beaten Path MIA

People come to Miami for the beaches, the models, and the parties, but there's so much more to this city than ocean-front hotels, downtown high rises, plastic surgery, and $40 drinks. As I'm constantly searching for new and unusual things to do, here are some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path spots that I've encountered in my lifetime in the Magic City.
by: Priscilla Blossom

Priscilla Blossom


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Lagniappe

3425 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137

This New Orleansesque venue is exactly what's been missing from the Wynwood/Design District area for years. The self-proclaimed wine house serves as a home for jazz, blues, folk, and funk music six days a week (the party is put on hold every Monday). If you've been to Frenchman Street, you'll know what I'm talking about. And aside from great live music, they also serve up tasty BBQ and excellent corn bread. PS. You can also rent one of the four upstairs rooms if you're visiting the area!


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La Michoacana Joankall

1058 SW 1st St Miami, FL 33130

Coming to Miami with a sweet tooth? Take a trip into Little Havana and indulge at La Michoacana. This Mexican hole-in-the-wall ice cream and sweets shop is the stuff of dreams. Here you'll find every flavor of ice cream, paleta (a type of ice pop usually made with all-natural flavors), and raspado (the Latin equivalent to snow cones or Italian ice) you can imagine: pineapple, passion fruit, horchata (sweet Mexican rice milk drink), tequila, and more. They also serve lots of snack foods like nachos and quesadillas, and loads of Mexican candy. Come here for the paletas and the ambiance. Make sure to bring the kiddos!


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Yesterday And Today Records

9274 SW 40th St, Miami, FL, United States

Audiophiles, rejoice! This small, unassuming record shop in the Olympia Heights neighborhood is a great off-the-beaten-path stop where you're sure to find some treasure. Their main specialties are in music of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s (especially classic rock) but they've also got a fair amount of blues, jazz, folk, old school hip hop and rap, and classical to choose from. The place isn't very big and you'll be elbow to elbow with the next guy while you flip through their huge vinyl collection. They've also go some 45s and rare CDs for sale if you're looking for some specific pieces for your collection. And if you've got questions, the staff are more than helpful and knowledgeable. Great place to check out for the serious collector or just to browse between your other off-the-beaten-path adventures.


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El Carajo

2465 S.W. 17th Avenue, Miami, FL 33145

El Carajo literally translates to "Hell", but coming here is anything but. Located inside a BP gas station right off US-1, you'd never know there was a tapas and wine bar located inside. Walk inside and you'll be greeted by the El Carajo Bakery, where you can purchase light sandwiches, empanadas, and pastries to go. But walk further, and you'll find an enormous selection of international wines lining the walls and tables and chairs to sit at and enjoy said wine. Like most tapas places, it's not entirely cheap, but it's affordable and an experience in and of itself.


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El Palacio De Los Jugos

5721 W Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33144

Everyone in Miami loves El Palacio. What began as one eatery has multiplied into several throughout the city (from Little Havana to West Kendall), all thanks to the high demand for fresh juices and quality Cuban cuisine. If I had to recommend only one place to eat from that was pure "Miami", it would certainly be this one (unless you were vegetarian, then you'd have better luck at Pinolandia...El Palacio only has tasty fresh juices for us veg*ns). Try the Ropa Vieja or Pan con Bistec or some Lechon for authentic Cuban food. As for the juice, I recommend the Jugo de Melon de Agua (watermelon juice), Guarapo de Caña (sugarcane juice), or Jugo de Maracuya (passion fruit juice, also available at Pinolandia). This place also serves large portions at a cheap price.


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Venetian Pool

2701 DeSoto Boulevard, Coral Gables, FL 33134

Venetian Pool is truly a pool unlike any other. Built in 1923 and made out of coral rock, it's a spring water pool that also has waterfalls and caves to swim in and out of. It's almost like going back in time to the era where Spanish conquistadors first landed in the area, with some modern luxuries, of course. Parking is a bit scarce, so arriving early is always good. They have a snack bar if you get hungry and floaties if you're not that strong a swimmer. The water can get pretty cold, so keep that in mind as to what time of year you visit. And FYI to parents: Kiddos have to be over 3 years to get in.


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Pinecrest Gardens

11000 Red Rd, Pinecrest, FL 33156

Locals know this as the Old Parrot Jungle, but it's so much more. Pinecrest Gardens is a beautiful, tropical paradise hidden within the suburban Pinecrest area of Miami. Come here and you'll see dozens of varieties of plants, trees, and flowers blooming. The gardens are incredibly peaceful and quiet, and surprisingly cool considering Miami weather. It's best enjoyed in the Miami "Winter" season, but still bearable the rest of the year thanks to the shade provided by some of its massive species of trees. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy sandwiches in one of the patio areas after your walk, and bring your camera because there's plenty of photo ops.


Veterans of Foreign Wars

650 West Ave, Miami Beach, FL, United States

Miami has plenty of luxury bars, but they also have many dives to choose from, and this is one of the best and most hidden. The VFW bar is the place to go for, you guessed it, veterans of foreign wars, but that doesn't mean regular civilians are ever turned away. Anyone's cash is good at this dark little watering hole. Ring the buzzer to get inside and bring some cash for extremely cheap beers (under $3 each). Listen to other vets share war stories, play some pool, and watch the sun set (they've got one of the best views in town).


Los Perros

13313 SW 42nd St, Miami, FL 33175

Chicago's got the Chicago Dog. New York's got the Papaya Dog and a Sabrett on every corner. Miami's contribution to the hot dog game is Los Perros, serving the unbelievably delicious concoction known as the Colombian Hot Dog. This Los Perros location is a bit off the beaten path, out in the Kendall 'burbs, but it's worth the drive. This place could only exist in Miami. From the club music to the fact that it's open late (even by Miami standards, much later than 2 a.m.), going to Los Perros, especially at night, is a truly unique experience. But the real reason to go? A hot dog covered in pink sauce, crumbles chips, and other goodies. Also good? The arepas and salchipapas.


Pinolandia

1058 SW 1st St Miami, FL 33130

Because I've grown up on Nicaraguan food (a.k.a. Fritanga), I always feel the need to suggest to my visitors that they eat fritanga at least once during their visit. My old recommendation was Yambo, which is awesome because 1. it's got great ambiance and 2. it's open 24 hours a day (who wouldn't love that with our night life?) However, I more recently found out about Pinolandia, and honestly, the food can't be beat. For fellow vegetarians, I suggest ordering a plate of gallo pinto (Nica-style rice and beans), queso frito (fried cheese), maduro (sweet, soft plantain), ensalada (a lightly-pickled cabbage salad), and a quesillo (essentially a local soft, stringy cheese with chopped, pickled onions, and cream wrapped inside of a thick flour tortilla). For my meat-loving friends, you can never go wrong with carne asada (a type of grilled meat) or a nacatamal (Nica-style tamale). Wash it all down with Jugo de Maracuya (passionfruit juice) and you're all set! PS. The food here is always dirt cheap and the portions are huge, so bring an appetite.


A & M Comics & Books

6650 Bird Rd, Miami, FL, United States

Nestled in a small strip mall on the outskirts of South Miami lies the best comic book shop in all of Miami. It's anything but fancy, and everything about it screams off the beaten path. Walking in, you'll find yourself immersed in a cave of comic wonders. Graphic novels, fiction books, magazines, and tons of collectibles line the walls of this hole in the wall, while the comic books themselves are stacked into boxes lined up in the center of the shop. You'll be elbow to elbow with other patrons as you try and dig your way through all the buried treasure here. Don't even try to make sense of the place because there's no real organization, and we like it that way. You'll also find old newspapers, photographs, records, and other memoribilia in the back. And just a few doors down, you can check out Miami Twice, a fantastic vintage shop with some excellent finds.


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Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129

Although Vizcaya is a fairly well-known tourist attraction among locals, it's not exactly the first place most people visit when coming in from out of town. Built in the early 1900's to resemble an eighteenth-century Italian villa, there's nothing quite like it anywhere in Miami. Walking inside, you'll see elements of Baroque, Roccoco, and Neoclassical art and design, a total museum made from the winter home of Mr. James Deering. And it only gets better when you step out into the gardens, complete with hedge mazes and sculptures throughout. Guaranteed you won't find anything else in Miami that compares.


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Executive Airport Hotel

6700 NW 12th St, Miami, FL, United States

This is NOT a family hotel. I repeat. NOT a family hotel. But if you're looking for some off the beaten path fun with your significant other, or maybe want to put the spice into your marriage, or maybe you just want to have some laughs and hang out w/ a few of your buddies, the Executive Airport Hotel is where it's at. Many of these rooms are themed, from the Egyptian Experience to Arabian Nights. Some rooms offer dancer poles (for those with rather athletic partners), champagne whirlpools, disco balls, mirrored walls, and even heart-shaped Jacuzzis. It's a no-holds barred fantasy experience that only locals know about (and maybe some jet-setters since it's close to the airport).