My name is Nashya Linares and I’m currently pursuing a Psychology degree with the goal of attending graduate school in neuropsychology. Along with my passion for science, I also have an interest in art, travel, and Miami. I’ve lived in this great city for many years, always discovering something new and exciting. At the age of 11, I moved to the town of Miami Lakes from Colombia and I’ve come to appreciate this area of Miami more and more.
Located Northwest of Dade County and conveniently close to both main airports, Miami Lakes is a suburb in the Miami Dade County of Miami, Florida. It’s about 16 miles north of Downtown Miami, to put in perspective, and is approximately 6.8 square miles. Incorporated in 2000, it has become one of the youngest cities in Miami-Dade County, with about 30,000 residents and 1,700 businesses.
Being predominantly a suburb, 40% of its land is comprised of residential areas while 13% constitutes of industrial and office parks. The whole town surrounds the Main Street loop, which is considered the hang-out spot with a theater, town hall, boutique shops and many options for restaurants. The Public schools in the area, along with private and charter schools, have high ratings giving parents and their kids many quality options for education. The rest is mostly government-owned buildings and lands, including parks and bodies of water. About 94% of its land built on and on use leaving only small areas undeveloped (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Miami Lakes Town, Florida,” census.gov).
Although the town provides a warm and mellow, welcoming feel, it is quite active with many events taking place throughout the year mostly attended by families living in the area
“Growing Beautifully,” the town’s official slogan, represents the essence of its history. Although recently incorporated, its beginnings date back to about 50 years ago with the arrival of the Graham family and the development of their dairy farm (Bernardo Passariello,2017).
In the 1930s Ernst Graham and his family established the Graham Dairy Farm Incorporated which eventually became one of the largest dairy farms in Florida. Around the 1950s, as the farm grew, the land where they had set up got the interest from residential developers. However, the Graham family invested in the opportunity instead and set out to establish their own town. Later Graham’s three sons focused on growing the community into one where commercial, industrial, residential and civic usage could prosper “About Graham Companies, “miamilakes.com).
One fun fact about the development of the town is the hope attached to it from its beginnings. In the 1960s, when the idea of Miami Lakes was beginning to flourish, the founders developed a master plan with the goal of providing future generations the ability to develop the land further for growth, construction, and an ever-changing market. Although it took many years, it can be said that the town has successfully accomplished its goal, as it is now a fully developed tiny city where you can find everything you’ll need from amenities, entertainment, and a wide selection of stores (“About Main Street,” 2017).
And so, lives the dream of a growing beautifully city, with many changes in its landscapes just seen in the last two decades. The town has moved from being considered a rural area to be a modest, lively town where it continues to grow each day along with the generations of families that continue to be part of this wonderful town.
As of July 2018, there is an estimated population of 31,628 residents. Of those residents, around 21% are under 18 years of age, and about 15% are 65 years and over. Of those, 51% are female and about 86% Hispanics and 11% Caucasian make up the two main ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the town. The median value of owned housing units is $364,800 and the median income is $73,527. With about 3-4 people per household, the town can be said to be mostly made of nuclear families. The town maintains a predominantly white Hispanic culture, with 84% of households speaking a second language other than English, which can be assumed to be Spanish (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Miami Lakes Town, Florida,” census.gov).
Biography of a Miami Lakes Resident
Through a video call, I was able to contact a long-time resident of Miami Lakes and ask a few questions about his experience living here and his genuine thoughts on the town.
David Godinez moved to this town at the age of 5 and his family has lived here since. He is currently attending American University, and although he no longer lives here, he comes back every summer and winter break to spend time with friends and family.
Interview with resident:
Q: What do you find yourself doing during a free day in Miami Lakes?
A: “I love to go to Main Street. The scene is very lively there’s always something to do. It is my go-to whenever I want to watch a movie, hang out with friends, or eat really good pizza.”
Q: Do you attend any events, or are active in any of the town’s gatherings or activities?
A: “Much of the gatherings in Miami Lakes are school-related. There were always gatherings in the area when I was in high school. Nowadays, I find myself attending gymnastics tournaments to support my little sister.”
Q: What do you love and appreciate most about this place?
A: “This place is quiet and safe. I can’t really think of a better location to settle down and raise a family. It has a suburban feel, but there’s plenty to do.”
Q: Is there anything you would change about this town? if so, why?
A:”Yes, I would change the traffic. As time goes on, more and more people realize what a great place to live Miami Lakes is. Getting anywhere, even if it is close by, will give you some serious road rage.”
Many of the town’s residents are born here with immigrant parents or grandparents. Therefore, the culture maintains a mix of Hispanic and American culture. Although there is often a lack of diversity outside the Hispanic/American coalition, the town is very welcoming to all.
Main Street Route
In the heart of Miami Lakes, the Main Street route contains the most popular places for residents to spend quality time with friends and family. The Graham Companies mark the development of Main Street as the central hub of the town, providing a center of recreation including, dozens of shops, restaurants and entertainment areas. Its Mediterranean architecture and dimly, brick-paved sidewalks are meant to give a small hint of an urban feel within a suburban community. Sitting by the water fountain attempting to get the tossed coins at the bottom of the well where the infamous oak tree is, lit with Christmas lights throughout the year, is probably a rite of passage for all residents living in the community.
Patch of Hope at the Miami Lakes United Methodist Church
Every year the United Methodist Church invites high school volunteers from around the area to set the Pumpkin Patch of Hope during Halloween. This is a town favorite for many families! The event offers many events for kids such as performances, face painting, a chance to meet pumpkin princess and the chance for a bonfire after sunsets. The Patch of Hope’s mission is to generate funds to use as proceeds to fund hurricane relief missions in Florida.
“We believe in changing lives and building community for Christ. And so, we volunteer countless hours to set up, decorate, and host guests at the pumpkin patch. At which we get to meet tens of thousands of our neighbors. Plus, use the proceeds to fund hurricane relief missions around the state of Florida, provide free anonymous support through our Celebrate Recovery Program, and minister to women and children weekly” -Patch oh Hopes mission statement (“22nd Annual Pumpkin Patch of Hope – Hope Church,” 2019).
Can’t forget about the cows! Throughout Miami Lakes statues of colorfully painted, fiberglass cows reside which were funded by the cultural arts program called “we love cows.” The cows are a reminder of the humble beginnings of the town, which started with the incorporation of the Graham Company’s dairy farm (Beth Reinhard and Samuel P. Nitze, 2005).
‘‘Cows are really our trademark,’’ said Miami Lakes then-Mayor Wayne Slaton in a post for the Miami Herald, 2005.
Up to this day, the company maintains herds of heifers far from their primary herd, about 100 miles far, for the tax breaks. The cows are signatures of the town and loved by every resident.
Miami Lakes Optimist Park
“To assist in the development of our youth through quality sports and enrichment programs” (“Exploring,” iheartmiamilakes.com).
As their mission statement says, many of the local events formed by the community take place in this area to engage the minds of many of the young residents.
Miami Lakes Picnic Park West
Also, the host of many gatherings and events in Miami Lakes is the Miami Lakes Picnic Park. Other than its recreational use, business takes the opportunity to engage with their community on the lot, including the local farmers market.
Youth Center Park East
Continuing with the theme of supporting and inspiring the youth of Miami lakes, the Youth Center park provides a safe place for many kids and theme to play and be productive. Right in front of the park is the Youth Center building, providing many opportunities for kids and providing support to many families.
As it is common in most areas in Miami, Florida, Miami Lakes residents’ primary method of transportation is personal cars. It is common for each adult member of a household to have their own car. Because it is common for the majority of people living in Miami lakes to travel around 30 minutes to work, mean travel time is 29.4 minutes, a car is almost always a highly valuable asset.
The Palmetto Expressway, I-75, and the Gratigny Expressway provide many points of access to the town, but also limit transportation feasibility within it, as it only provides one route that connects east and west. Traffic has also been an issue for many residents and businesses and at the request of residents, in 2015 the town held a summit where they created many transportation initiatives. These include improving the pedestrian connection to the town center, introducing queue jumps in buses, providing on-demand bus services, encouraging residents to commute alternatively, improving regional transportation connections, and introducing the Greenways and Trails Master Plan to improve over 18 miles of sidewalks to encourage bicycling (Nicole Cuellar, 2019).
Many of these goals have been properly executed; increasing advertising of commuting alternative have generated change in residents, as it is common in the neighborhood to carpool to work and there has been an increase in bicycling through the areas that facilitate it. However, the town is still constricted by its infrastructure, with the major connecting highways often closing off the town and the plan of connecting to major regional transportation systems never coming to fruition. Because of this, the traffic is still a big issue and something residents are hoping that’ll change in the future.
Miami Lakes is just one small sample of Miami’s diverse food palate. There are many restaurants around the area, including chains such as the Spanish 100 Montaditos, Miller’s Ale House, Sushi Runner, and many others. The town, however, also has local, family-owned restaurants that are very popular in the area.
Italian restaurant located in the heart of Miami Lakes, Main street. This one is known by all residents of Miami Lakes, as many couples come to have dinner here after watching a movie in the Cobb Miami Lakes Theater that’s just a couple feet away. There is a great selection of wines and the lights are kept dim to keep a romantic mood. Having both a bodega and a bar, the restaurants emulates classiness while staying true to the warm feel of the town.
Rated at #2 of top restaurants in Miami Lakes on TripAdvisor, this is a Nicaraguan restaurant serving grass-fed steak and local seafood. Known for an outside-indoor fountain. It is a quaint restaurant and is the classic dinner option for a lot of Hispanic families. I’ve been to this restaurant many times with my parents and one of my favorite things is the colonial architecture mimicked by the indoor structures that surround the dinner tables, almost resembling the Hispanic ceramic casitas.
Tucked between the Palmetto and Ludlam, this hidden gem is a tapas and wine bar-restaurant serving Mediterranean, Spanish, and Latin food. This restaurant also provides great service and entertainment; it is common for a guitarist and singers to perform Friday and Saturday nights and if you get lucky you could be serenaded to!
A family-owned gourmet market, that although hidden in the outskirts of the Main Street Route, you can’t miss its mural depicting a cartoon version of Miami Lakes. It’s been growing ever since 1989 starting as a small gift basket store, and now a true treasure of the town. It has a full deli, salad and soup bar, a catering and gift basket department along with its gourmet market with fresh juices and natural foods. I personally do not go that often to the market, but I know it’s a town’s favorite, and my grandma can attest to that as she goes almost every weekend and always brings me back fresh juice.
Garden in a Pot
Grace, the owner, provides a quality service with unique and professional flower arrangements. I always go to her shop for Mother’s Day, as she makes the most beautiful flower arrangements at a reasonable price. There is not much to say other than the great service provided by Grace who will always do her best when you need a last-minute gift.
Moda By Pasarela
This small fashion boutique is a cute place to shop in a calming environment where the essential vanilla oils draw you in. There is always great service and a variety of options outside of just clothing, like accessories, fine jewelry, and home toiletries. This is another place I love to go to for when I need gifts for my friends and family. Sadly, there are no options for men, but at least there’s plenty for women!
A wonderful way the town promotes local businesses to stay active is through community engagement in many events that take place throughout the year. This is a great chance for businesses to work with the community for the town’s residents. 4th of July concert and fireworks, the annual Veteran’s Day Parade, annual spring fling Easter egg hunt, local concerts, and the Main street lighting ceremony are just a few of many events for the residents to enjoy. Along with the community bike rides and the farmers market that runs from October to May, there is always something to do in Miami Lakes whether it is on your own or with family and friends.
Although the town of Miami Lakes is not one of the fancy skyrises, lively music, and sky-blue beaches cities, common of what people think when they hear “Miami,” it is nevertheless a beautiful town with a lot of personality. Built to be a family-driven town, this town has exceeded its expectations. I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family.
The town has plenty of places for families to visit, such as the parks, restaurants, and amenities, which are all conveniently close to one another and easily accessible while riding a bike. Its Mediterranean style architecture, brick-paved paths, and strategically place street lanterns give the place a homey feel where you feel free to walk along the town center to enjoy the evening. It almost reminds me of Disney Spring’s, where everything feels as if it was placed with a purpose and an aesthetic in mind. Of course, this is exactly what has happened as the town was planned to the detail from its beginnings. It is clear that the Graham family intended to make this land as family-friendly as possible.
However, if are in your 20s and you ever come across the town you’ll notice that the area seems to lack entertainment. Other than family activities, there isn’t much out there for those who just want to go out and see where the night takes them. Besides catching a movie and eating food, there isn’t much else to do. This is why is so uncommon to see young adults just hanging around in the area unless they are with their families or just grabbing a bite. As a young adult, I can say that because of this I often find myself traveling up 15 to 25 miles to find something to do. There is also not much when it comes to the arts or educational events. Most of the art in Miami Lakes compromises of the painted cows around the city. Not very impressive in that sense. And if you are a college student looking to engage in an educational setting outside of school, you won’t find much of that either here, as there are no museums or events related to such matters. There aren’t even proper areas to be productive or get work done.
Overall, the culture of Miami Lakes is based on its idea of community and family support. I had mentioned that Miami Lakes is the best place to raise a family. And this is true. Besides the engagement of the community, the town is extremely safe with crime rates being extremely lower than that of the state and national rates (“Miami Lakes Crime Rate Report (Florida),” cityrating.com). The town goes as far as keeping police at bay throughout the Main Street route to ensure kids under 18 are not leaving the premises without an adult. Because of this, parents have to pull up close to the movie theater to pick up and drop off their kids which, if your parents are up for it, can create a lot of embarrassing moments. Both my sister and I can attest to this crime.
With that being said, the town is mostly for those who have settled already and want to raise their families in a safe and engaging community. If you are thinking of just spending a completely stress-free and calm evening, then Miami Lakes is the place to visit and enjoy a small-town feel in the hectic and energized Miami.
“22nd Annual Pumpkin Patch of Hope – Hope Church.” Hope Church, 11 Oct. 2019, www.hopemlumc.com/22nd-annual-pumpkin-patch-of-hope/.
“About Graham Companies.” The Graham Companies > About Graham > Overview, miamilakes.com/AboutGraham/Overview.aspx.
“About Main Street.” Main Street Miami Lakes, Main Street Miami Lakes, 15 Aug. 2017, mainstreetmiamilakes.com/about-us/.
Cuellar, Nicole. “Transportation Initiatives.” Town of Miami Lakes – Growing Beautifully, 31 Oct. 2019, http://www.miamilakes-fl.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=664&Itemid=671.
“Miami Lakes Crime Rate Report (Florida).” CityRating.com: Find the Best Places to Live in the USA, http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/florida/miami-lakes.html.
Passariello, Bernardo. “Geography.” Town of Miami Lakes – Growing Beautifully, 23 Feb. 2017, www.miamilakes-fl.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32&Itemid=167.
Reinhard, Beth, and Samuel P. Nitze. “Amid Growth, Tax Breaks Mix with Tradition.” Miamiherald, Miami Herald, 22 Aug. 2005, http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article1928901.html.
“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Miami Lakes Town, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/miamilakestownflorida.