Best Place to Walk Along the River (2006)

Smoker Park, south side of the New River atop the U.S. 1 Tunnel

Perhaps nowhere in the entire state exists a better spot to bear witness to the forces of change than this small strip of land in downtown Fort Lauderdale. A hundred years ago, someone standing at this spot would have seen a single structure -- the clapboard, cracker-box Stranahan House, where the city started -- and maybe a Seminole paddling a skiff down the river. The area was surrounded by thick undergrowth and wild, vine-filled jungle. Now, Smoker Park sits in a thicket of multistory condominium towers, on top of the Federal Highway tunnel, next to a massive, noisy ventilation unit. Instead of Native American traders, the river is choked with pleasure craft and tourists. The Stranahan House (now a museum) is still there, surrounded as it is by a Cheesecake Factory and every other abomination developers could envision -- just wait for the 45-story-condo where Hyde Park Market now sits. Take a trip to the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and ask to see a postcard of Smoker Park in the early 1900s, and marvel at the old wood-frame homes. Then go visit today, for a dose of future shock of the present.

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