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Best Of 2012

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Best Of :: Shopping & Services

Best Neighborhood Revival

For years, this stretch of U.S. 1 has sat empty and forlorn: vacant fields on one side, boarded-up retail spaces on the other. But this year, it began to turn around. First came construction of the Fresh Market high-end grocery store, and then cultural outpost Radio-Active Records moved onto the strip, forging a connection through the dereliction of Sears­town to the arts scene of nearby Fat Village. Then, this spring, South Carolina gym chain Pivotal Fitness opened a new facility in a formerly cursed location on the Sunrise curve. Judging from attendance, the area's economy is ready for a renaissance: Pivotal Fitness and Fresh Market are nearly always slammed, and Radio-Active's live shows fill the intimate space. With the opening of a new Whole Enchilada restaurant nearby, the residents of Flagler Village and Victoria Park may actually be able to walk to stuff. What a novel idea.

Best Place to Spend a Rainy Day
Sawgrass Mills Mall
Photo by Chung Lun Chiang/Flickr

Millions of years from now, when archaeologists are trying to figure out how we lived circa 2012, they need only unearth the site of the Sawgrass Mills Mall. Our entire culture can be deduced from a Marshalls, a Best Buy Mobile, and a SuperTarget, plus a 23-screen theater with IMAX and some fossilized Chick-fil-A. Although the mall is a legendary draw for tourists — easy to recognize because they're pushing three shopping carts apiece — we locals would go mad and broke if we came here habitually, because the place is so massive that it triggers sensory overload. But once in a great while, when the skies are gray and you've gotten a good night's sleep, come here to shop — and shop hard. While the prices in many shops aren't hugely discounted, you sure as hell can't beat the selection. Among the 350 stores are a TJ Maxx, a Burlington Coat Factory, and a Bed Bath and Beyond — seriously, it's like Sawgrass Mills eats a box store every morning for breakfast. Be strategic. Try not to get sidelined by the tower of gumball machines or the SpongeBob pajama seller, and save your energy for the real deals at Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom Rack.

12801 W. Sunrise Blvd., Sunrise, 33323
MAP
954-846-2350
Best Yoga Studio
Anuttara Yoga Shala

Sincerity is an increasingly endangered species. When someone earnestly tells you to "prepare to rule the world" after performing a few hip-opening stretches, its tempting to roll the eyes or, at the very least, stifle a laugh. But just one muscle-melting session inside this cocoon of a studio will cure that cynical knee jerk. Pick a class — seriously, any class; all of the instructors are fantastic — and see what you've been missing at your atmosphere-free corporate gym. Hot or warm, Vinyasa or raja, easy or seemingly death-defying, this recently expanded space caters to yogis of all ilk. Don't try to fight it: The passion and positivity exuded by the staff and classmates are catching. Just get your ass in the studio, chant a few "oms," and admit that you actually like feeling this good.

620 SE 10th St., Deerfield Beach, 33441
MAP
954-322-9642
Best Massage

Once upon a time, massages seemed like fairy-tale creations available only to Condé Nast-reading, spa-going rich men and their trophy wives. But then a friend tipped us off to this cool studio that puts massage in reach of us little people. Owners Frank Velaz and MaryLou DiNicolas use massage to alleviate real injuries — from accidents, sports, baby-making, stress, and carpal tunnel — so they accept insurance. One arm of the business caters to pregnant ladies whose backs are aching from the baby weight; specially designed massage tables have cutouts that make room for a big belly and two bloated boobies, and MaryLou doubles as a doula. The therapy is not just physical but emotional too. They'll talk like new best friends if you're chatty and need to vent, but if you're jonesing for some quiet time, they'll shut up and let the darkened room and aromatherapy work their healing magic. Thai massage, couples massage, cupping, and yoga classes are all in their repertoire too.

4450 NE 20th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 33308
MAP
954-249-9176
Best Place to Ditch the Kids
Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale

When it comes to finding safe activities for kids, parents are in a major bind these days. What's that, you say? Go to the beach? In this 100-degree heat? Snoogums will get a sunburn. The indoor play place? Those rackets charge $20 a pop. A private babysitter? Sigh... they're probably pedophiles. There is an oasis in this swamp of iniquity. At Calvary Chapel's flagship 75-acre campus in Fort Lauderdale, there's a massive playground with a state-of-the-art seesaw, an athletic field, and an entire skateboarding park. Four on-site eateries include a gourmet restaurant with table service (try the portobello steak; it's divine) and a Starbucks-like coffee shop. Should you want to explore this resort-like paradise sans kids for a while, browse in the bookstore or take a Tae Bo class at the sports complex — or catch the sermon; that's an option too. While you do, young'uns can be dropped off for free childcare. Infants and toddlers play with toys, albeit biblical-themed, in the nursery, and school-aged kids act out plays in the theater. Sure, your precious pumpkin might come home with a little Jesus on his play clothes, but is there really any harm in it? Just make sure the kids don't get too addicted... next, they will be asking you to shell out $2,550 so they can spend spring break with the high school missionary team in Uganda.

2401 W. Cypress Creek Rd., Fort Lauderdale, 33309
MAP
954-977-9673
Best Human Advertisement

The folks who don Statue of Liberty costumes and dance the day away for all the cars on Hallandale Beach Boulevard are so reliable that they should be reference points in local traffic reports. Jesus Abikarram, manager of Liberty Tax Service (get the costume reference?), says he employs a steady flow of dancers on the sidewalk from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during tax season, rotating them through four-hour shifts. All the dancers have their own approach to get through a shift. One, who wished to remain nameless, was jamming the Bee Gees and lip-synching into a water bottle on a warm March day. "I get a lot of honks and a lot of whistles," he said. "I get a lot of middle fingers too."

600 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., Hallandale, 33009
MAP
954-454-2080
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Best Neighborhood Revival: North Federal Highway between Broward and Sunrise boulevards, Fort Lauderdale

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