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Best Of 2016

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Best Of :: Sports & Recreation

Best Weekend Getaway
Islamorada
Photo by Piehoney/Wiki Commons

Here's our advice the next time you want to take your sweetheart on a nice little weekend getaway: Keep it simple. And by "keep it simple," we mean, go to the frickin' Keys, man. And when we say "frickin' Keys," we mean Islamorada. In our humble opinion, it's the best key of all. Key Largo is too close, while Key West is drowning in tourists and way too far. But Islamorada is right smack in the middle, where Florida stops being all Florida-y and begins morphing into an otherworldly paradise. Most folks just drive right through Islamorada without understanding that they're passing some sweet spots like Anne's Beach or the Islamorada Beer Co. brewery. Islamorada has places to wind-surf and kayak, gorgeous scuba and snorkeling spots, serene wildlife nature tours, and a couple of pretty state parks. Oh, and there's also a dope-ass lighthouse in the middle of the ocean! None of the other keys can claim to have a dope-ass lighthouse in the ocean. In other words, Islamorada has everything people look for in a keys experience without the crowds, cheesiness, or price gouging.

Best Cheap Thrill

Now, this stunt will require preparation and a friend or two to document it. First, search the internet and purchase a chicken suit. Once your order arrives, tell your friends to meet you at Anglin's Fishing Pier. Put on your chicken suit and let your adrenaline slowly boil over. Go to the pier and run down it like a goddamned chicken boss. Jump.

2 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, 33308
MAP
954-491-9403
Best Park
Esplanade Park
Courtesy City of Fort Lauderdale

What it lacks in amenities, Fort Lauderdale's Esplanade Park makes up for with three assets: location, location, location. You have to thank long-gone city planners who were visionary enough to set aside green space in the center of downtown, steps from Las Olas Boulevard and facing the New River. The grassy lawn is good for picnicking and makes a great waterfront perch for watching yachts parade by. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Discovery and Science, and an IMAX theater are all within walking distance, and the park is a popular spot for events and concerts, including regular jazz brunches and the annual New Times Beerfest. Once you've sufficiently chilled out, follow the brick path into the Arts and Entertainment district for a quick bite or a cold beer.

Readers' choice: Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

400 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, 33312
MAP
954-828-7275
Best Nature Trail

Military Trail Nature Area features 20 acres of open greenery perfect for an afternoon run, a meditation session, or a much-needed break from reality. The trail highlights old Florida history, as it was built to act as an access road for soldiers in the mid-1830s, during the second Seminole War. It's also known for having one of the rarest plant communities in Broward, with scrubby flatwoods, pine and oak trees, and even a few bald cypresses. With barely any palm trees, you might even feel like you've stepped out of Florida for a hot minute.

4600 NW Ninth Ave., Deerfield Beach, 33442
MAP
954-357-8109
Best Beach
Hollywood North Beach Park
Courtesy of Hollywood CRA

The beach is fun. The beach is great. But getting to the beach can be a major pain in the ass. You have to lug around chairs and coolers, along with your bottle of sunscreen. And wallet. And keys. And radio. Then when you get to the beach, you have to step onto the searing-hot sand as you navigate oily bodies to try to find a spot. Then you need a towel to lie on and an umbrella, unless you're one of those people who likes to slowly broil to death. Then you have to get back up to go buy food on the Broadwalk when you're hungry or when nature calls. It's a goddamned chore. But it doesn't have to be — because Hollywood North Beach Park is right there to alleviate the pain-in-the-ass production that is a day at the beach. It has a bevy of benches with grills, so you can just bring your own food to cook. It's also shaded by trees, so no umbrella is required. There's also a restroom. The park even has the Turtle Cafe, if you should get a hankering for a hot dog. Best of all, it's literally steps from the beach. The park also extends across A1A, where you can watch the boats, fish, have a picnic, or just people-watch. You can either park at the meters or inside the park itself for $8 on weekdays ($10 on weekends). If you arrive after 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, the price drops to $6. We knew you'd love a deal.

Readers' choice: Fort Lauderdale Beach

3601 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood, 33019
MAP
954-357-5187
Best Snorkeling Spot
The Caves/Twin Ledges Moorings
Photo by Oleg Kaplun

Flashes of neon blue, orange, and yellow dart in and out of your foggy peripheral vision. A school of grunts appears on your left, and it's getting awfully close. Wait, is that a sea turtle? No, just a coral. Darn. You settle for chasing after the little pufferfish that just swam by and pretending you're an extra on the set of Finding Nemo. The past few weeks have had you itching for some Vitamin Sea, and the Twin Ledges moorings never fail you. Located an easy two miles north of the Port Everglades inlet, these 16 mooring buoys are teeming with marine life, and the visibility is typically good. Blue and yellow angelfish, parrotfish, lobster, and yes, the occasional sea turtle have no qualms with letting you drop by for a visit every once in a while. Don't forget to grab your GoPro and get to snapping. #snorkelselfie

Degrees/Minutes N 26 7.750 W 80 5.460
Degrees/Minutes/Seconds N 26 7 45.000 W 80 5 27.600

Readers' choice: Red Reef Park

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Best Weekend Getaway: Islamorada

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