Weekend In Miami: Jimbo’s Place

After leaving the lighthouse at Bill Bagg Park, we traveled north — back through the Village of Key Biscayne, back through Crandon Park, and off the island. Before hitting mainland Miami, we approached a small key on our right. This is Virginia Key, a wonderfully underdeveloped barrier island that boasts several nice beaches. However, we weren’t interested in seeing the beaches. We were interested in seeing Jimbo.

Jimbo’s Place isn’t really a bar, but you can get cold drinks there.

Jimbo’s isn’t really a restaurant, either, though you can get smoked fish there. (That’s what the sign on that wall says… trust me.)

Jimbo’s isn’t really a music venue, but you can hear live music there.

However, Jimbo’s is among the best bar/ restaurant/ music venues around.

Be warned that if you’re high maintenance, you might not feel too comfortable at Jimbo’s.

But if you go, Jimbo Luznar — the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Man on Earth” — will make you feel very welcome.

I’d heard about Jimbo’s Place while researching Miami. I was looking for an unusual, off-the-beaten path sort of destination for us to enjoy. A sprawling, ramshackle, ad-hoc-sort-of bar, ultra-casual Jimbo’s fit the bill.

Fifty years ago, Jimbo lived on the mainland. However, since the Miami Herald wanted the real estate Jimbo legally owned, the city cut a deal with him: move to Virginia Key, and you can stay out there the rest of your life. Jimbo didn’t care about the land. After all, he was a shrimp fisherman, and the location they offered him was better for his boats. He accepted.

Fast forward 50 years. Now, Miami is a boom town, and Jimbo is sitting on prime real estate. Of course, the city wants it back. However, they’ve wanted it back for years. When I was at Jimbo’s Place, Jimbo told me that the mayor has informed him personally that he can keep his place as long as he’s alive — even though he doesn’t have a license to sell beer, or have a license to smoke fish, or even hold a lease to the place. This past weekend, Jimbo — a great-grandpa — celebrated his 80th birthday. Who knows how long Jimbo’s will remain.

Anyway, Jimbo’s is like no other bar/restaurant I’ve ever been to. It was a fun, eclectic, wide-ranging group of people — — from hipsters to bikers; from hippies to retirees — and everyone got along fine.

There’s bocce ball, if you want to get competitive.

There’s a dock, if you want to hang out and chat.

Jimbo has a great view of the city. This lagoon was the film site for several Sixties-era television shows, including Flipper and Gentle Ben.

There are plenty of places to sit and relax and chat with friends.

Jimbo is so popular, he even has groupies on site, selling stickers of him…

…and singing his praises…

If you think I’m crazy for liking Jimbo’s, consider that I’m not the only fan.

Out of the entire weekend, I think visiting Jimbo’s Place was the highlight. It was the most relaxed. It was the most casual. It was the most fun. And Jimbo made me feel so welcome. I’m really sorry I missed your 80th birthday, Jimbo. I hope I get to attend next year!

Jimbo’s Fast Facts:

  • Jimbo’s movie credits include scenes from True Lies, a 1994 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Blood and Wine, a 1997 film starring Jack Nicholson. The film crew for 1983s Porky’s II built a riverboat in the lagoon behind Jimbo’s.
  • Jimbo’s has been the site of numerous fashion and music video shoots. Mariah Carey shot her first album cover there.

Detour Worth Making: Thailand’s Siriraj Museum

The Siriraj Hospital is the oldest and largest hospital and medical school in Thailand. Founded in 1888, the hospital — on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River across from Thammasart University — also houses 10 museums, which attract a widely divergent audience — from art students to Buddhist monks.

Among the many museums available for touring are:

  • The Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum — much like Philly’s Mütter Museum — displays objects from homicide, suicide and accident cases, including the entire preserved body of of Si-oui, a Chinese immigrant who came to Thailand in 1944, and began suffocating and eating children.
  • The Parasitology Museum displays a large collection of “important parasites in this region” including an exhibition of several parasitic life cycles.
  • The Congdon Anatomical Museum displays a complete collection of dissected human body parts, including organs, nervous systems, cardiovascular systems, and musculoskeletal systems. There’s also a collection of human embryos. If you couldn’t make the Bodies exhibit, this is your chance.

Other exhibitions are devoted to subjects like Thai traditional medicine and prehistoric artifacts, so if you have… a gentler stomach… there’ll still be something for you. To learn if Siriraj might appeal to you, why not opt for a photo tour of the Museums; check out a video tour; or zoom around inside the various Museums by having a look at some interior panos.

If you’re interested in attending in person, the Museums are open Monday-Friday, from 9am to 4pm. Admission is 40 baht ($1.25).

Detour Worth Making: “Agua Caliente,” The World’s Only Hot Waterfall

Believe it or not, Guatemala is home to the world’s only hot waterfall. Known as “Agua Caliente,” the steaming waters from a thermal spring bubbling into the Rio Dulce pour over the falls into a cool pond below. Surrounded by foliage and ancient pocked rocks, Agua Caliente looks like a scene from a coming-of-age movie.

As if the anomaly of standing in cool waters as hot waters pour over you weren’t enough, visitors can creep behind the falls and find just enough room for a natural sauna, letting you steam from the shoulders up while staying cool down below. Como se dice, “Ahhhhh…”?

Located on the extreme northwest tip of Lake Izabal — Guatemala’s largest lake — Agua Caliente is relatively easy to reach, by car, bus, or boat. Moreover, it may be among the most picturesque destinations in the world, as this photo by Justin.Slammer proves.

Detour Worth Making: The Crookedest Street in the World

San Francisco’s Lombard Street is widely thought to be the World’s Crookedest Street. But did you know that Burlington, Iowa’s “Snake Alley” was officially named by Ripley’s Believe It or Not? as the “Crookedest Street in the World”?

Built in 1894, Snake Alley was conceived as a “more direct link” between Burlington’s business and shopping districts. Working together, three public-spirited German immigrants designed and installed the winding hillside street, reminiscent of the vineyard paths in their homeland. At the time, local newspapers proclaimed the street “a triumph in practical engineering.” However, after testing the roadway with teams of fire department horses, the switchback design proved to be a bit of a problem. The bad news: lots of broken horse legs. The good news: today, Snake Alley helps make bike races devilishly evil.

Consisting of five half-curves and two quarter-curves over a distance of 275 feet, the drive time from top to bottom: 36 teeth-chattering, head-bumping seconds. This sounds like a good time to have both hands on the wheel.

Detour Worth Making: Yekaterinburg Cemetery Tour of Russian Mafia Tombstones

Yekaterinburg is one of Russia’s largest cities. Roughly 600 miles southwest of Moscow, this former home to Boris Yeltsin is mineral-rich — making it an important industrial center in the country — but also has a fair amount of culture and tourist-cachet. In addition to the area’s cross country skiing, proximity to the Europe-Asia border, magnificent Opera and Ballet House, and huge water park, it boasts another, lesser-known tourist draw: its cemetery.

In 90s, Yekaterinburg was known as the “crime capital of Russia.” Since many Russian mafia leaders lived — and died — there, the cemetery is filled with their bodies. Featuring blinged out tombs, a visit to Yekaterinburg cemetery is like going to the dark side of Miami Vice.

Don’t feel comfortable going alone? Sokol Tours will take you there. In the meantime, check out English Russia’s photo tour of the graveyard.