by Rick Munarriz - 406 Reviews - 155 List
Every city is unique, but how many places treat visitors to jai-alai and a 28-ton coral castle built by a jilted groom? Call it quirky, but we here in Miami are proud of our offbeat rep, tropical heat and pastel backdrop. Visit these South Florida attractions and hot spots for a lesson on our unconventional, yet lovable culture.
Photo: Alligator by Rodney Cammauf for the National Park Service
Updated: May 08, 2009
In its original "Parrot Jungle" incarnation, out-of-towners would flock to see fancy cockatiels pedal miniature bikes across a high-wire and perform magic tricks. The playful parrots are still at it in the attraction's bayfront location on Watson Island. No visit is complete without taking a picture with a half-dozen of the signature parrots perched on your head and arms.
It's the mother of all roadside attractions. From 1931 until his death in 1951, Ed Leedskalnin transformed a 28-ton piece of coral into a stately castle. We know why he did it. He was jilted at the altar and devoted his life to win back his runaway bride by erecting the monument in her honor. We just may never know "how" he did it, single-handedly. You'll likely have your own theories after taking the guided tour.
Sure, there are technically a few other jai-alai frontons in the country, but how many were immortalized in the opening "Miami Vice" credits? It takes a lot of hand-eye coordination to master the sport that tests players attempting to catch balls traveling at 150 miles an hour in their cestas. All it takes is a buck, though, to place a wager.
The country's only underwater national park is a real thrill for first-time snorkelers and seasoned scuba divers. Chartered expeditions leave every three hours, though you will find several licensed boaters offering their own snorkel trips as well. Between the wide array of colorful fish and even more vibrant coral rocks, you'll relish the chance to cool down from the heat.
How often does an episode of "CSI: Miami" find its way deep into this wildlife preserve? You don't have to chance it with the gators and vicious sunrays alone. Airboat tours will find you skimming across the sawgrass at ridiculous speeds. Hold on tight.