Grab Your Speedo—It's Christmas In Miami.
Miami Baby! It's holiday cheer in Scarface land. Shopping, zany adventures, bikinis, and enough tequila to drown Hemingway.
Is the snow getting you down?”
When the first drizzle of the winter season peppered your sidewalk, your heart skipped a beat. You couldn't believe your eyes. The majesty of the season unveiling itself so early on the calendar.
“Hurray,” you went with childlike enthusiasm. It was only November and already your little suburbs were starting to acquire that holiday sheen. Snowmen, sled rides down the hill, snowball fights with your neighbors… “How could you have been so lucky this year?” You cheer, as the frost settles in.
That was a month ago. Since that first flake, the weather hasn't turned. Now, despite your original happy outlook, you're starting to feel like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” You stare out the window and damn the Gods. That white stuff hasn't stopped raining yet. Your winter clothes have been all but eaten by salt and gravel. You're starting to develop a pot-belly because the gym’s so far away. Those two devils you spawned— otherwise known as your—have been accumulating snow days like castaways rationing off water bottles. They're constantly at home, bored and looking at you for some entertainment.
The other morning, you snapped the handle on your snow shovel while cleaning—for the hundredth time—your driveway. No good has come from father Winter’s Normandy like an onslaught upon your fraying nerves. The last straw came as a tidal wave; a mountainous backlash of huge tsunami size surf.
You were skating down from Publix, the chain on your wheels making you dash home at a snail’s pace. When you suddenly got a hattrick; the trifecta of bad omens.
1- Your cell phone rings. Incoming message: “Sis, I'm snowbound. Can't take mom and dad this year. Told them they could shack up with you. We’ll do Christmas dinner at your place. P.S.: cousin Arnold and his family are coming. You got a couple of more beds to spare?”
2- A reindeer crosses your path. Hops in front of your car, bushy tail and all. You hit the breaks. He smiles and glows in the mortar hail of falling snow. Your first instinct, marveling at the glory of nature, is to run over that upstart, brown-nose, ninny; paste his happy-go-lucky fur into the tar. That'll show him.
3- You hit the ignition, coax the gas and discover, to your horror, that your motor has frozen over. The radio switches on and irony goes into overdrive: “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…”
It's time, my about to explode Mt. Vesuvius, to defenestrate the holidays, pack up your bikini, take a break and swing on down to Miami. They best medicine for what ails you comes packing a figure-hugging black Speedo, a toned muscled torso, a latin accent and a mistletoe, that includes a license for a one night stand.
Santa's Echanted Forest
Cost: Adults (10-64) $30.84, Children (3-9) $21.49, Seniors (65+) $21.49 Season and express passes available
Where: Tropical Park, on the Palmetto (SR826) and Bird Road (40th Street) 7900 SW 40th Street, Miami, FL 33155
The trick with Santa's Village is that no matter where you're at, no matter where you are going to, sooner or later it's bound to come out of the woodwork and snatch your fancy. You can practically see it, looming on all horizons, from every coordinate in Miami. It's an eyesore of such gaudy and kitsch proportions that it has actually veered across the corner and landed straight into homage/tradition territory.
Santa's Village is a classic staple of Miami Christmas Culture. It's an old-time - "are the rides legal?" - sort of carnival you only see in 50's film. Ferris wheels; Fun Houses; Tilt- A-World; pimply faced youths handing out fried goodies to all the kids.
It's fun for all the family, the old fashion way... Plus, it's a great way to trick your kids when they ask: "Can we please go to Disney World for the holidays?"
"Nah, why bother?... Santa's Village is way cooler."
Disney's Magic Kingdom
Hurray, you have the dough to go straight to the top. To bask in the majestic glory of the Mouse... Ehh, then, by all means, skip the previous section. You, my friend, have just upgraded from tourist all the way into first class. Congratulations. Now, hand over your cash, you are about to get happily robbed by Donald Duck and his crew of knaves.
Disney, well, the entirety of Orlando, does Christmas better than Charles Dickens with a genie in a bottle. It's only a couple of miles away from downtown Miami - cough, cough, cough, 4 hours - but it's worth all the tolls on the Turnpike.
I would need a whole other article, just to jot down the minutia of Walt's Theme Park during Christmas, still, I'll sum up, in as few words as possible what to expect. Absolutely everything! Think Christmas, then nuke that idea with radioactivity. Disney is the Godzilla of Christmas. It's Santa on steroids.
Simply put: "Go! Go! Go! Go! Sell your kids, if you have to, and go!"
Winterfest Boat Parade
Where: Intracoastal Waterway from Ft. Lauderdale to Pompano Beach.
What: A deranged carnival of floating boats, ships, dinghies, sails, jet skies and even a few wheelbarrows. All deck to the nine by Walmart's Holiday Light Section. Entries that surprise the imagination and even go so far as to defy logic. Example, last year's theme "Fairytales Afloat", was internationally known for having a circus barge, complete with acrobats, clowns, and a two-ton elephant.
Why: The question should be why not? That, and the fact that in Florida the Margaritas are really cheap.
When: The second or third Saturday of every year.
Who: That plucky Miami native that makes this great state of Florida a constant guest in CNN's weirdest news section.
How much: It's free!
Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker
Where: Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center For The Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale
Once a year, the Ruskies invade Miami. Not with "Red Dawn" intention, but with the swing and swagger of a ballerina. I would have preferred the later. They go all out and perform, that Christmas Classic, "The Nutcraker." I'm not a fan, but that's on account that my holiday viewing starts with "Die Hard" and ends with Die Hard 2".
The cost: 44 bucks and up.
In the words of Putin: "By Lenin, you capitalist swines will enjoy the Moscow Ballet!"
Zoo Lights and Holiday Gifts For The Animals at Zoo
In order to draw in the dwindling crowds, and snatch the ever erratic attention span of the Twitter Sphere, the Miami Zoo has decided to up the ante on insanity just for the holiday season. Now, you can experience the joy of having last year's sweater or this year's rewrap, being manhandled by the paws of a monkey. Bask in the image of a crocodile, or a giraffe, or quite possibly a marsupial going medieval on a gift wrapped box.
Cheer as the night descends on the Miami Zoo and the technicolor splendor inflames your corneas. It's fun, it's wacky, and best of all, for an additional fee, you can grant your kids the joy of having hot cocoa with Santa and a couple of chimps.
The punch to your wallet: the cost of admission. 6.95 plus tax.
Christmas Tree Lighting and Food Truck Invasion at Bayfront Park
New York has Rockefeller Plaza. Washington has the National Tree. Miami, in turn, has a spruce transplanted from God knows where that officially rings the dinner bell on the holiday season.
The celebrations kick off on November 27, despite what most merchants tell you. Cheery music, carolers, latin hotties shaking the moneymaker to the beat of the conga. And the arresting smell of empanadas, shawarmas, hot cakes, fried mana and the heavenly secretions of a dozen or more food-trucks.
Where: Bayfront Park. Just tell Siri, she'll guide you.
Miami is the gateway for most international countries south of the U.S. This is a plus, for you discount savvy shoppers. Miami, and it's outlets are the place this year's fashion or model comes to die.
You can make out like a bandit if you're smart. Head on down to Dadeland Mall, International Mall, or, gasp. Or, if you're really serious about your commercial need, Sawgrass Mills where for the price of McDonald's combo you can deck yourself out in designer brands.
And Christmas season is a constant free-for-all among the giant big store outlets. They'll sell their grandmothers just to capture your fancy and take you away from their competition. It's a brutal display of capitalism and free-market trading. A death-defying tableau, where you, the shopper, come out the winner.
Forget Black Friday, in Miami, once Santa downs his sled, it's open season among mall owners. A cage match where the uppercuts and dropkicks are sales and discounts.
Kiwanis Christmas Party
Where: 400 Rickenbacker Cswy, Key Biscayne.
Last year, all I remember is the following: it was in the Miami Seaquarium at night, a humongous party, something to do with the Cuban community's annual need to let their freak flag fly and party like it's 1999. Did I mention that Bacardi Rum was involved and that there was an open bar? No? That might explain why everything was sort of hazy.
When: Check your calendar every year come December, it shifts around.
Cost: 125 bucks, but it includes food and live music.
Get Drunk And Have a Good Time
That's the essence of Christmas, once you boil down it's meaning, it's about forgetting your troubles and being the best you possible for just one night. Unfortunately, the best you is probably a real party-pooper, so as the days progress in South Beach, you quickly find yourself locking up that version in the hotel's bathroom and letting out the Belushi that you had hidden away.
Forget family and presents. Let your inner frat boy or girl out. Miami is party central, especially if you've done the right thing and headed straight into South Beach. It's pub crawls, scantily clad señoritas and señores, giant festivals by the beach, huge umbrella drinks with cheap liquor.
It's waking up, hangover, belly out, Santa hat and Ray-Bans, from an outstretched hammock. Clearing out into the blue-emerald surf, a red tan already developing over your shoulders and thinking to yourself, "Best. Christmas. Ever!"
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