Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
While you're speeding down State Road 84, you might be too busy honking at that idiot in the red sedan to notice the simple sign for Secret Woods Nature Center. Then you'd never know that there's a surprising glimpse of beautiful wilderness nestled right at the heart of urban South Florida. Weave your way out of rush hour traffic and explore one of Secret Woods' nature walks. New River Trail is a 3,200-foot boardwalk exploration of the south fork of the New River. Laurel Oak Trail is a 1,200-foot, ground-level, wood-chipped trail through an oak hammock. There are informational signs with snippets of wildlife info on each trail, and plenty of benches, in case you didn't get your fill of sitting at the office. You can also cool your heels on Butterfly Island, a flora-filled alcove that baits a colorful array of the winged things.
The beaches of Broward County are so densely developed that it's hard to find a strip of sand that's not swarming with sunburned tourists, sand-kicking kids, and football-hurling college students. If it's privacy you prize, come to the beach by 11 a.m., when it's still cheap to park your car in Fort Lauderdale's public lot, just across from the Oasis Café on the beach side of A1A. Drive to the south end to park, near the Yankee Clipper hotel. Grab your lounge chair and start flip-flopping south. You may encounter a few hotel guests, maybe a couple residents of the high-rise condos, but the farther south you go, the more privacy you'll find. Stop before Port Everglades, though, unless you want to swim to the John U. Lloyd Beach State Park across a channel full of zooming boats and crazy-big cruise ships.
White beaches and crystal-clear water are staples around the Palm Beach area, but sprawling Jupiter Beach kicks it up a notch. The streets and city are hidden by a thick barrier of foliage that makes it feel as if you've stumbled onto a secluded tropical island. A wide sand-stretch makes for plenty of perfect places to sun without having to plant your chair so close to some pasty tourist that you can read every word of his John Grisham novel. Jupiter Beach also allows dogs — providing you pick up a doggie bag at one of the beach's boardwalk entrances (and isn't Fido a great way to protect yourself from the pasty tourist's awkward come-on lines?). Sun? Check. Sand? Check. Surf? Check. A sense of seclusion? Check. Sunning on warm shores in solitude? Paradise.
Every Wednesday evening, starting around 9:30 p.m., the she-men at Lips host the raunchiest bingo game in South Florida. If you're not up for the 7 p.m. dinner drag show, but want to get your bingo on, then slide into a seat at the bar and order up some drinks. There's no cover charge. Host Misty Eyez starts the competition by informing the after-dinner crowd that if they're approaching bingo, they'd better moan like porn stars. Otherwise, Misty Eyez won't validate the winning cards. "No silent fucks," she informs. Three games commence, with prizes like free brunch or dinner for two at, you got it, Lips. The crowd votes on which bingo patterns they want to play, ranging from the sedate "X" to the suggestive "Inside Square" — at Lips this pattern is renamed "Glory Hole" — to the self-explanatory "Cock-and-Balls." If you can take the bawdy jokes and insults, this just might be the cheapest bingo match around.
With the charming sound of crashing pins, eight plasma-screen TVs, a video game arcade, and nightly family specials (because if a cheese pizza, soda, and two hours of bowling can't make your kids love you again, nothing can), Pompano Bowl is what sweet childhood memories are made of. It's full of families every night of the week, all wearing ugly shoes and lounging on the black couches (you know it's a good bowling alley when it doesn't have those hard plastic chairs). When bowling's appeal wanes, head over to the lounge side — the dark part of the bowling alley, with the red couches instead of black —and grab a beer or something stronger from Joey's Bar & Grill. A beer or two can only improve your game, right?
When FAU decided to create a football program in 1998, the first thing university officials did – before they had a single player or a football field – was hire the team's coach, the face of the program. And who was more qualified to build a team from scratch than Howard Schnellenberger, who had already rebuilt blue-chip programs at the University of Miami and the University of Louisville? The Owls didn't start playing until 2001, but the coach was not shy about his ambition: he wanted a national championship. This year, at 73 years of age, Schnellenberger, who also once coached the Baltimore Colts, proved FAU brass made the right choice. In only its third season in Division 1, the team went 8-5, winning the Sun Belt conference. The Owls became the youngest program ever to be invited to play in a bowl game, a berth they celebrated with a 44-27 victory over Memphis in the New Orleans bowl. Schnellenberger, named conference coach of the year, had done it again.