Vancouver, a West Coast Treasure.

by Ma. Paula Serrano @mpso_photography

From breathtaking mountain and glacier views to beautiful sandy beaches, Vancouver’s natural scenery is enough to amaze even the savviest of travelers. Not having visited Canada before, I didn’t really know what to expect from it. When you travel more to the United States than anywhere else as a kid, like I did, perhaps you miss out on the wonders that other parts of America have to offer. The usual comment that I received from people when I said that I was traveling to Vancouver was “Oh, Canada! You’ll freeze”, but believe me, the weather is not what calls your attention, or at least not the only thing…

Whether you’re a nature or city person, the range of activities that the city offers is plenty. Outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or gastronomical delights, you can truly find it all. Although my stay in Vancouver was short (5 days) I got to know certain places that I absolutely recommend for travelers seeking to visit this gem:

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  1. Whistler

The first place I’ll recommend is for the adventurous ones. Whistler, located about an hour and a half from Vancouver, is a small ski-village for the reckless athletes seeking adrenaline. On the way to the ski-resort stop by Lions bay, as I did, to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a nice view. In whistler there are some good places to eat like Earl’s bar and grill, and later you can walk around and explore some of the cute shops which sell hand-crafted souvenirs at reasonable prices.

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2. Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a must-go, I recommend it to all tourists but especially to my fellow photographers. Even if you only stay in Vancouver for a couple of days, you can not miss out on it, besides, it doesn’t require much of your time. You can easily plan one activity in the morning and leave Stanley Park for a late afternoon walk to relax and enjoy the sunset. The park has an extension of 100 acres and is formed by three main gardens: The Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron, The Rose and Floral display, and the Shakespeare garden. Within the park you can find around 3,500 rose bushes, 45 species of trees, and if you visit on spring you can witness a variation of colored cherry blossoms. For the more active tourists, bicycles are available (for rent) to go on a nice ride along the lake.

 

  1. Granville Island

Just when you thought Vancouver could not be as diverse as people say it is, you visit Granville Island. Located next to downtown and only 15 minutes away from several residential neighborhoods, this urban oasis has many attractions. It is the perfect place to visit if you are an avid shopper as there are several small stores that sell from beautiful photographs and paintings which feature the city’s highlights to jewelry and home decorations. If you like pets and animals, there are some cute little pet shops for our beloved companions to become even more spoiled. However, the best part of this island is not the shops but the relaxing and artistic vibe that you get when you stroll around it, as it is usual to find artistic performers attracting small crowds.

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  1. Gastown

And of course, because it is important to visit the historical sites of any city on a trip, I recommend Gastown. Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core named after the Yorkshire seaman Jack Deighton “Gassy”. The town, which more than a century ago functioned as the city’s seaport and center of trade, now stands as a “trendy mix” of fashion boutiques, tourism businesses, restaurants, and nightclubs. Taking a walk here is getting to know one of the city’s highlights.

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Vancouver is also the perfect destination for healthy foodies. Being a celiac myself, I know how challenging it can be to find gluten-free options, or for that matter, healthy options. Below I give a list of three restaurants that were beyond delicious, and had options for all (Vegan included).

 

  • “Meet” on Main

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan on a budget, this is the perfect spot for you. The restaurant’s menu ranges from delicious appetizers (shareable sizes), to healthy hamburgers and creative desserts. Choose the Nachos and hummus, or the garlic fries and you won’t regret it.

 

Address: 4288 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P9, Canada

 

  • The Sandbar

Located in Granville island, this place offers the best seafood you can get. The restaurant’s ambient is really nice, as there are piano performances most days a week. The service is really good, and if you have any allergies or food-preferences the waiters will help you feel completely safe. Take a pick on the wood-grilled halibut, one of the best seafood dishes I have ever had. I will say that the restaurant is not budget-friendly, and you should expect the plates to be kind of pricy.

 

Address: 1535 Johnston St #102, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canadá

 

 

  • Ten Ten Tapas

Although I enjoyed the two restaurants detailed above, this was by far my favorite. Ten Ten Tapas is located on beach avenue, on a beautifully-lighted peer with a view of the sea and downtown Vancouver. The location is only the first thing to appeal to the eyes, but the food will leave you wanting to come back. As it is a Tapas place I think it is better to go at night for a somewhat light dinner with friends/family. Despite the small size of the plates and the somehow high prices, the food is absolutely amazing and worth it. Hands down to the Chef for making a delicious and creative chocolate mousse mixed with pieces of mandarin.

 

Address: 1010 Beach Ave, Vancouver, BC V6E 1T7, Canada

 

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Tokyo, a City Made for the Ultimate Foodie.

Written by: @cazadordelomejor

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Japan is the ultimate foodie experience. Being one of the biggest food-experience seekers there is, I knew my next big trip had to be somewhere far, somewhere different and somewhere with a strong food culture. One step into Narita International Airport and I was already dreaming of what I’d be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 Tokyo is a city with a huge food palette. You can scour the various neighborhoods and alleyways for the tastiest Ramen, Yakitori, Izakaya, Sushi, Tempura, Udon, Okonomiyaki, and Soba. You’ll find that many restaurants specialize on only one type of dish – it’s perfected from generation to generation.

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 Here is my breakdown of Tokyo’s six main districts and the food that can be devoured in each:

 Tsukiji & Ginza

 Home to the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, you cannot leave this area without enjoying a traditional sushi omakase at Sushi Daiwa. This hole in the wall sushi joint opens up at 5:30 AM, get there early to get a seat. Then head to the inner market at Tsukiji which opens up to the public at 10:00 AM and navigate the enormous halls of the biggest seafood market in the world.

Highlights:

Sushi Omakase at Sushi Daiwa

Lunch menu at Sushi Tokami

Tori Paitan with an Egg at Kagari Soba

Japanese Confectionaries at Higashiya

House Blend at Cafe de L’Ambre

Seasonal Cocktail at Ginza Music Bar

Yakitori at BirdLand

Harajuku & Aoyama

Bursting with restaurants, coffee spots, shops, boutiques and vintage stores, it is one of the best neighborhoods to get your shopping and eating game on. Stroll along Omotesandō Street and see shops converted into architectural destinations. There’s something special about Aoyama that kept me going back every other day – to sample a dessert at the newly renovated Pierre Hermé, try out the Mr. Roboto pastry sold exclusively at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Japan, or enjoy a cold brew at Blue Bottle.

Highlights:

Order the entire menu at Harajuku Gyoza (a few doors down from Harajuku Gyoza is a small takeout window serving one of the best Chicken Karaage I’ve ever tried)

Raspberry-Rose Madeleine at Pierre Hermé

Mr. Roboto and a Seasonal Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan

Salmon-Avocado Pancakes at Rainbow Pancake

Cold Brew at Blue Bottle Coffee

Asakusa

A calm neighborhood where Buddhist temples are nestled between streets full of tempura restaurants. Its main attraction is the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, an architectural beauty that is best to be visited when there is absolutely no one around, early in the morning or right at sundown to snap some National Geographic worthy shots.

Shinjuku

Exactly what you imagine Tokyo to be. Tall skyscrapers, colorful billboards, enormous crosswalks, and futuristic department stores with incredible underground food halls (Depachika) that must be visited. One of the highlights of my trip was drinks and live jazz at the New York Bar, high above Tokyo. Get a table right in front of the stage to create an unforgettable experience. A contrasting part of Shinjuku that makes it so special is Golden Gai, a small and cozy nightlife district where you’ll stumble across tiny bars, each with its own charm.

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Highlights:

Albatross Bar

New York Bar, Park Hyatt Hotel

Isetan Depachika

 Close by:

Cocktail Omakase at Gen Yamamoto (Minato Area)

Multi-Course menu at Narisawa (Minato Area)

Tsukemen at Rokurinsha (Tokyo Station)

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A trip to Japan involves a lot of eating, walking, discovering, interacting with locals (they love foreigners), and will leave you wanting to move there as soon as possible, or at least that’s what happened to me. If you’re flying out of Narita, don’t forget to grab a farewell sushi at Kyotatsu.

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Tips for first-time travelers to Japan:

 

  • Pocket Concierge is a great platform that will help you secure reservations for Michelin starred restaurants
  • Be sure to pick up a Suica Transit Card upon arrival at the airport to navigate local public transit
  • If you plan on travelling outside of Tokyo, be sure to purchase a Japan Railway Pass, it provides bullet train transportation at a great price
  • Pocket Wi-Fi is a necessity in order to use Google maps and make navigating around Japan easy, these can be rented at the airport

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Follow along on my food experiences @cazadordelomejor on Instagram – Boston is up next!

Who is Iceland?

She. The one I’ve been dreaming of for years. As everything you dream of, eventually I started inventing her a little… later a lot.

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She is the one Borges called “ Iceland of the Seas”, the youngest geological formation of our planet  (so young she is only 25 million years old). Has the North Pole as a neighbor. Though been a part of Europe,  she really isn’t because floats far away. Remote. Forgotten by many – even by me- until made myself a promise to remember her.

Called “The Land of Ice and Fire”,  honestly I don’t think there is a better way to describe her. Land of contrasts, where the unexpected is expected. More than 200 volcanoes, 10000 miles of glaciers, 800 thermal areas and geysers, surrounded by fjords, spectacular waterfalls, translucent lakes, tectonic plates that leave cracks as evidence, fantastic caves; all of them conform such a unique landscape, that will surely mesmerize every visitor.

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Declared also: “Last Natural Paradise in Europe” honor that comes with the responsibility to conserve her intact.

UNESCO declared  Reykjavik  “ City of Literature“ because of the enormous contribution she has made to literature. Birthplace of a Nobel price and creators of two literary genders: Edas and Sagas. Their gift to humanity also includes documenting  the Germanic Culture of the X century.

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Bold and Fearless are the words that come to my mind to describe her. Resilient to the extreme. Life’s pulse can be felt in Iceland, that need to flourish from dirt and rocks is not just an allegory here, it is for real. With only 11% of the land good for farming  and long and dark winters, life in Iceland was probably very hard before electricity. Cold and famine lethal.

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Iceland is also the land of democracy and peace. They brag about been the first democracy of the world, their parliament was founded more than 1000 years ago. Without having an army of any sort they became independent  from Denmark in 1944 and the only thing they asked back was their most precious treasure: The Codex Regious and their Manuscripts.

My theory is that adversity has turned them into a very special society, mature and wise.

Visiting her is a pleasure, a visual adventure. Getting to know her is a once in a lifetime experience that we all deserve to enjoy.

My next post will be an Iceland Guide, so you will be really tempted to pack your bags and go.

 

Buenos Aires Guide: Best Places to Eat

by: Maria Jose Noboa (cookie connoisseur)

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Buenos Aires is one of those cities that you should visit more than once, because there are always new things to discover and experience. Even though is very famous for the quality of it’s meats, and the “asados” are the stars of the show, this city offers a wide variety of restaurants of local an international cuisine.

Buenos Aires from it’s beginnings a has received a wide variety of immigrants specially from Europe, which has definitely influenced the restaurant scene.

 

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If you have visited Buenos Aires already, you know this city never sleeps. There is always something going on no matter the time of the day or the day of the week. There are  always lots of people on the streets, forming lines outside of night clubs, restaurants and bars are opened early and closed late. Huge libraries you can get lost on, amazing museums and cultural activities, all year long, avenues filled with people, as well as theaters and cinemas. Parks, concerts every week and of course dogs, and more dogs everywhere. Dog walking is an institution here.

This unstoppable and permanent activity is also seen at the restaurant scene, bars, cafeterias, bakeries, there is one in each corner.

Here is a list of places that I highly recommend for you.  All of them visited during my last visit to this amazing city.

Breakfast/Brunch in Buenos Aires:

  • Confiterías La Argentina: “Facturas” (some sort of croissant) filled with butter cream, dulce de leche, jam. Enjoy them with coffee or tea (Cabildo 1191, Belgrano)
  • Retamas Pâtisserie: Very cozzy place also great to enjoy plain or dulce de leche filled croissants (Arcos 1717, Belgrano)
  • Tea Connection: Delicious food and beverages, made with fresh and prganic ingredients. Wide variety of teas to enjoy here or to go. My favorite dish was the Salmon Bagel. (Av. Federico Lacroze 2233, Belgrano)
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  • Ninina Bakery: This was my favorite place this time visiting Buenos Aires.  The menu offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea and dinner.  Family recipes made out of lots of fresh ingredients. The place is beautifully decorated, has an open kitchen, a display filled with dreamy desserts. The most famous cake is called Lola Mora, and has almonds, chocolate ganache and raspberries. Not to be missed!  (Gorriti 4738, Palermo)
  • Oui Oui: Great open space for breakfast or brunch. French menu with specialties like Croque Madame, wafles and eggs benedict.  (Nicaragua 6068, Palermo)Processed with VSCO with c2 preset
  • LAB: For the coffee aficionado, the best coffee in town, but the cookies are to die for: Chocolate Chip or White Chocolate and Raspeberries. The also offer barista classes there.(Humboldt 1542, Palermo)
  • Mooi: By chef Jessica Lekerman and very trendy this days.  You can have their pastries to go too. (Av. Libertador 3883. Paseo de la Infanta Local 11, Palermo)Hora del Té en Buenos Aires:
  •  Alvear Palace Hotel:  A real luxurious experience  is the afternoon Tea del Alvear Palace es The dessert menu is huge. Unlimited prosseco.  Delicious sandwiches. It’s all served at “L’Orangerie”  room.  (Ayacucho y la Avenida Alvear, Recoleta)Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

    Lunch/Diner in Buenos Aires:

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    La Cabrera: Extraordinary argentinean grill. Reservations suggested(Cabrera 5099, Palermo)

  • Fukuro Noodle Bar: Steamed Dumplings and Buns, Ramen and Beer. Dishes are meant to be shared.  For dessert try the popsicles.  (Costa Rica 5514, Palermo) (Cash only)

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The Authentic Miami Guide

Aventura / Sunny Isles / North Miami Beach / Bal Harbour:

 Where to shop:

  • Aventura Mall: Complete shopping center with Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdales as anchors and a wide variety of shops in between.
  • Bal Harbour : Beautiful shopping center, with high end designers stores and great restaurants. Make sure you check The Webster , Santa Maria Novella and Books and Books.
  • Epicure: Great gourmet market.www.epicuremarket.com
  • Matrioshka Market: Since Sunny Isles is home for a big Russian Community, this market provides all sorts of imported Russian specialties. From vodka and caviar to candy.

Things to do:

  • Beach activities: For me, the best beaches in Miami are actually in Sunny Isles. Turquoise water and white sand. You can rent equipment for paddle board and kite surfing. Play beach volleyball. Rent a bike. Or just enjoy a cocktail and relax.
  • Kite park at Haulover Park: One of my favorite places in this area. You don’t need anything to come, the Kite Shop has everything.
  • Osceola National Park: Right in the middle of the City of Aventura this nature’s lover paradise. Picnic area, kayak, mountain bikes for rental, private beach, fly fishing. You can spend a whole day here.
  • Rent a Boat: For fishing or just for fun. www.sailairborn.com

Places to Eat:

  • Miami Juice: Farm to table, organic food. Wide variety of salads, entrees and juices. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Carpaccio : Italian in Bal Harbor. Can’t go wrong here, everything on the menu is perfect.www.carpacciobalharbour.com
  • Novecento: Meat lovers are always happy at this place, but their salads and grilled salmon are delicious too. For dessert: Dulce de Leche filled crepes.
  • La Estancia Argentina: Very casual argentinian market with the most delicious empanadas, milanesas, alfajores, to enjoy there or to go.www.laestanciaweb.com
  • Food Trucks Tuesday: At Haulover parking lot every tuesday from 5 to 10pm a Food Truck party takes place.
  • Laduree: A cart with all the flavors of the french macarons now at Bal Harbour
  • Makoto: Japanese in Bal Harbour. My favorite place for sushi in Miami. Try the Robata Grilled vegetables. www.makoto-restaurant.com

 

Miami Beach/ South Beach

 Where to Shop:

Things to Do:

  • New World Center and Symphony Park: The Center was Designed by non other than Frank Ghery. The new adjacent 2.5 acre park named Miami Beach SoundScape allows a great audience to watch the concert live in a 7000 sq foot wall, with outstanding sound quality – according to some the best outdoor amplification in the world .
  • Stroll around and enjoy the craziness of South Beach: Always entertaining and free of charge. There are also City Bikes available there.
  • Colony Theater Miami Beach: Check their page for events.
  • The Basement at the Edition Hotel:   Literally installed in the basement of the hotel, opens everyday from 5 pm till 12, visit the place for bowling or ice skating and finish the night upstairs at The Matador Bar.
  • Miami Beach Convention Center: Check their page for upcomming events

 

Places to Eat:

 

  • Nobu: Of course you have to top the list with Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s restaurant. Inside the Shore Club Hotel. Reservations recommended . www.noburestaurants.com
  • Drunken Dragon: A little hole in the wall, with delicious food. Not to be missed!
  • Prime 112: Always full, always noisy, always extraordinary. www.prime112.com
  • Joe’s Stone Crab: A classic in Miami. The must order are: Stone Crab Legs and Keylime Pie.www.joesstonecrab.com
  • Hakkasan: Modern Chinese restaurant inside the famous Fountain Bleu. www.hakkasan.com/miami
  • Ice Box Café: Great food and the best Chocolate Cake in Miami.
  • Yardbird Southern Table: Great Seafood and Pecan Pie. But if you are craving Fried Chicken , this is the place. www.runchickenrun.com

 

Night Life:

  • The Raleigh
  • Cecconis: www.cecconismiamibeach.com
  • The Rose Bar: At Delano Hotel.
  • Purdy Lounge
  • Arkadia
  • LIV: Inside the Fountainebleu Hotel.

 

Coral Gables, Coconut Grove (and Little Habanna):

 

Where to shop:

  • Violeta’s: Home design and accents. In general everything is pretty here. www.violetashomedesign.com
  • Peace and Love World: Great quality and beautiful design clothing line by a Miami designer.
  • Village of Merrick Park: Open Air Mall with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom as well as small boutiques. 

Things to Do:

  • Walk around Miracle Mile coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars.
  • Biltmore Hotel: Iconic hotel in the middle of Coral Gables.
  • Coral Gables Art Cinema: www.gablescinema.com
  • Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: Was constructed by James Deering in 1916, to resemble Lake Como Mansions. The fountains, the pool, the rose garden make you feel in Northern Italy for sure. Don’t miss the furniture from the 16th century that decorates it. www.vizcayamuseum.org
  • Domino Park in Little Habana: This place is so unique I always recommend people to visit it once. The energy of the place is very special and the characters you will find there are full of stories. Mostly cuban, playing domino like their lives depended on it, talking about “Fidel” is of course a must. They are very friendly and chatty. If you get hungry there is a authentic cuban place called: El Pub.
  • The Tower Theater also in Little Habana: Offers a wide variety of independent films. www.towertheatermiami.com

 

 

Places to Eat:

 

  • Patagonias:  Casual place. Easy argentinian menú. Everything is great quality and fastly served.
  • Eating House: Capitan Crunch Pancakes, Heirloom Tomatoes Salad, Chicken and Waffles…. You get the idea. This place is a must when visiting Miami.www.eatinghousemiami.com
  • Bread + Butter: Self defined as Cuban Gastro Pub. Meat lovers will rejoice here with the chorizo burger with kimchi and a side of  Sriracha fries.  www.breadandbuttercounter.com

 

 

Downtown/Brickell

 

Where to Shop:

Village of Mary Brickell: Open air shopping center.

Things to Do:

  • American Airlines Arena: Go watch a Miami Heat’s Basketball game, and enjoy the food offer around the stadium, my personal favorites are the Gyros.  For other events check their page. www.AAarena.com
  • PAMM: Go for the art inside the museum and the architecture of the building. Read a book at one of the hammocks outside the terrace, while you enjoy the swinging gardens and the views. www.miamiartmuseum.org
  • Bayfront Park: All sorts of activities going on here always, from free yoga lessons to circus acrobatics at the trapeze school.
  • Adriane Arsht Center: Broadway Musicals, Ballet, Concerts, there is always something going on here.www.arshtcenter.com

 

Places to Eat:

  • Trulucks: Delicious seafood. Best carrot cake I have ever tasted, still have dreams about it.
  • CVI. CHE 105: Peruvian cuisine.  www.ceviche105.com
  • Azul: New American cuisine restaurant inside The Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Great seafood dishes and Raw bar.
  • Cipriani: The famous Venetian restaurant is also in Miami and doesn’t need an introduction. Just the fact that Giuseppe Cipriani in 1948 invented the Bellini’s is more than enough.  www.cipriani.com

 

Design District/Wynwood

Where to shop:

  • Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Cartier, Hublot, all the big names are here, so could be a good workout for your wallet.
  • Wynwood Letters: For all of us who enjoy paper in all its shapes and forms, this place is heaven. They offer calligraphy courses too. www.wynwoodletterpress.com
  • Jonathan Adler: www.jalanmiami.com

Things to Do:

Places to Eat:

  • Gigi’s: Asian inspired food. Cool place to eat. Industrial decor. Opens late, so is frequently visited by a crowd of party goers afterwards. www.giginow.com
  • Michael’s Genuine: One of my favorite restaurants in Miami, by Chef Michael Schwartz. www.michaelsgenuine.com
  • Zak The Baker: His baking goods has everybody raving about it. Healthy menu with fresh ingredients. www.zakthebaker.com
  • Mandolin Aegean Bistro: Just thinking about this place makes me hungry. Farm to Table concept, the decor transports you automatically to a Greek Island. www.mandolinmiami.com
  • SugarCane Raw Bar Grill:  The decor suggests that you have traveled back in time to a Caribbean Island and Ernest Hemingway is about to show up.  The food is presented in small dishes and meant to be shared. www.sugarcanerawbargrill.com
  • Wynwood Kitchen and Bar: www.wynwoodkitchenandbar.com
  • Try the best Pies in Miami at Fireman Derek’s (2818 N.Miami Ave. Miami Fl )

 

 

Kendall and South Miami:

 

Where to Shop:

  • Capretto: Great place to find “it” things. Lots of designers shoes and bags.www.caprettoshoes.com
  • Dadeland Mall: Big mall with Saks, Nordstrom and Macy’s as anchors. If you are a fan of big portions there is a Cheese Cake Factory here. The Nordstrom Bistro is also a great option for lunch.

Things to do:

  • Drive in Cinema: Blue Starlite, is the only open cinema in Miami. www.miamiurbandrivein.com
  • Knaus Berry Farm: Pick your own strawberrys, enjoy a fresh fruit smoothy, spend half a day here, the trip is totally worth it.www.knausberryform.com

Where to Eat:

  • Shibui Japanese
  • PF Chang  www.pfchangs.com
  • Bobby’s Burger Place: inside Dadeland Mall.

Other Suggestions:

Best Hotels:

Best Spa:

Best Hair Salon:

Best Yoga:

Best Family Fun Place:

  • Sky Zone Miami