Best Mile of Broward (2002)
If you've been around long enough, you probably remember when Wilton Drive was just a stretch of sleepy small-town road -- something to get through on your way from one part of Fort Lauderdale to another. No more. In the past five or so years, the drive, which begins where NE Fourth Avenue ends and arcs around to Manors' Five-Points intersection, has undergone a transformation that's nothing short of remarkable. Now, it's Wilton Manors' quirky answer to Las Olas Boulevard. The drive's centerpiece, the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, has gone from a dreary strip mall once anchored by a bank to a spruced-up, lively mosaic of businesses of all sorts. It's now anchored by the enormously popular Georgie's Alibi, a complex with a main bar, a sports bar, a small café, and a patio, all daily drawing a large, diverse clientele that's mainly but not exclusively gay. That's pretty much the pattern for the rest of the drive as well -- such old standbys as a Dairy Queen, a Social Security Administration office, and an Eddie Hauck's Wings N' Things franchise rub shoulders with a GayMart boutique, the gay-owned-and-operated Better Bodies Gym, and the AIDS charity Poverello. The old/new, gay/straight diversity continues from one end of the drive to the other: restaurants and bars (nearly 20 of them), antiques shops, hair salons, real-estate agents, car-repair centers, florists, specialty shops, churches, a children's furniture store, a pet grooming center, a tanning salon, a law office, a travel agency, a chiropractor, a pool hall, a laundry, a plant nursery, a marketing firm, a comic-book store, a lock-and-safe company, an insurance agent, a leather shop, a trailer park, a Christian bookstore, and -- our offbeat favorite -- a branch of the Women's World Wrestling Club. Best of all, the strip is still growing and evolving. Next year, it should be even better.