100 Things to Do in Broward County Before You Die
llustration by Alvaro Diaz-Rubio
Florida tends to remain on the receiving end of many a cruel joke, due to its comically unfortunate shape, its geographic positioning, the subtropical heat, and its weirdo populace. (Us!)
Those of us who live here know how to take it. Heck, we're laughing the loudest — when we're not coming up with the jokes ourselves. We all know: Despite the hurricanes, the year-round humidity, the backward politicians, the face-eating zombies, and our multiple-personality disorder, there's still much to love about our wonderfully twisted state.
Broward County especially — BroCo, as we like to call it — is kind of awesome. Nestled between the flashy, urban jungle of Miami and the manicured retiree's paradise that is Palm Beach, we have an abundance of sweet, fun, amazing, and nutso stuff to do before you croak.
Here, gentle readers, is a list of all the very best — the things that make this place the freaky little gem of the South that it is.
1. Spend an entire Sunday Funday getting wasted on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
They don't call it Fort Liquordale for nothin'. The heart of Fort Lauderdale is not in City Hall but rather where the city's main drag, Las Olas Boulevard, ends at the beach. Here stands the original Elbo Room, established in 1939 and featured in the iconic movie Where the Boys Are. From here, you can bounce around the other bars in stumbling distance, like the Treasure Trove, Coconuts, and Dirty Blondes. With any luck, you'll bump into Mickey Clean, an old-school punk rocker who now roams the bars toting a cigar box full of crayons and drawing delightfully crude caricatures while telling "all true" stories. Buy Mickey a drink, tip him a few bucks, and upload your caricatures to Instagram (#MickeyClean). If you bookend this day by starting it with a morning boat party on the sandbar (our number 62) and ending it with a 3 a.m. breakfast at Lester's Diner (see number 91), congratulations! You've done Fort Laudy right. (And if you do it during spring break, yahtzee!) We know: Some of you do this every weekend — you are the true rulers of BroCo!
2. Explore the Everglades.
Take Griffin Road all the way west to Everglades Holiday Park, where you can jump on an airboat tour through the River of Grass, exploring the tropical hardwood hammocks, cypress domes, air plants, and gum sloughs. The Everglades supplies the drinking water for more than 7 million Americans and serves as a cornerstone of our economy, supporting the state's estimated $67 billion tourism industry, a $13 billion outdoor recreation economy, and $100 billion agriculture sector. It's also where the TV show Gator Boys is filmed. Keep your hands in the boat — them critters get hongray!
3. Take a moonlit turtle stroll.
March through October is sea turtle nesting season, and it's pretty damned awe-inspiring to watch. Under the pale light of the moon, more than 100,000 of these endangered creatures wade their way up the beaches to dig their nests, lay their eggs, and disappear back into the big, velvety blue. You can witness the spectacle yourself: Up and down the Atlantic coast, parks and environmental groups organize nighttime sea turtle walks in June and July. John U. Lloyd Beach, the Museum of Discovery and Science, and several others offer group tours beginning with an informational session, required by state law. Groups are led to gather quietly round a nest, where a 2,000-pound mama loggerhead turtle will dig a shallow hole, deposit her soft-shelled eggs, and return to the ocean, the entire process taking 30 to 60 minutes. Two months later, the tiny hatchlings emerge from the sand and scuttle to the water.
4. Run for office.
School Board member Beverly Gallagher was busted accepting a bribe in a doggy bag. Judge Lawrence Korda was arrested for smoking weed in a park. Tamarac Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad was arrested for corruption, and when her case went to trial, her defense was that she was too stupid to understand that developers were trying to buy her vote when they paid for a party and leased her a car. With competition like this, surely you have a shot. Make our civic halls a better place. Please?
5. See the sirens.
South Florida is home to its own school of beautiful sea nymphs. Look through the portholes inside the Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (formerly the Yankee Clipper) and you'll see a team of seductive mermaids performing every Friday and Saturday evening at 6:30, eliciting cheers from the audience with each playful wave and somersault. The free show features four to five mermaids outfitted in seashell bras, glistening fins, and long, flowing locks. Grab a cocktail for the fleeting half-hour show. If you're lucky, they'll blow you a kiss.
6. Swap Shop till you drop.
In November 1963, the Thunderbird Drive-In Movie Theater had its opening night — the same day President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Fifty years later, what began as a single-screen drive-in off of Sunrise Boulevard has expanded to become the Swap Shop, South Florida's second-largest tourist attraction. With 14 screens playing all the first-run flicks, an enormous indoor/outdoor flea market, a farmers' market, and a daily circus, this iconic, bizarro Broward wonderland has even seen Willie Nelson and KC & the Sunshine Band grace its stage. Make an all-day trip here: Haggle with shop clerks at the flea market (if you paid without asking, you overpaid!), get your windows tinted (install some dope-ass subwoofers while you're at it), hit up the indoor arcade and car museum, eat a funnel cake, and pick up some locally grown produce — tamarinds, mangoes, and avocados. To cap the day, make sure your car is loaded up with pillows and snacks, and catch a drive-in flick.
7. Ride the Jungle Queen.
This four-hour-long tour of the New River may be a known as a tourist trap, but the Jungle Queen is without a doubt a Broward staple. The popular dinner cruise has been around for nearly 80 years and grosses $5 million to $10 million annually, proving there is indeed a healthy market for a camp-filled ride through our little Venice of America. No drinks are sold on the boat, so a personal flask might help wash down some of your guide's corny jokes. The ride culminates at the Jungle Queen's own "secret island," where you'll be treated to an all-you-can-eat BBQ feast and "variety revue," which may or may not include a ventriloquist. At the end, we promise you will feel officially indoctrinated into the strange little world of Fort Lauderdale.
8. Moon the Jungle Queen
Ah... this is one of Broward County's great traditions. When the area's most famous boat approaches, turn around and drop trou. As far as we can tell, the idea dates back almost half a century to a full moon at one of the area's oldest bars, the Downtowner Saloon. During a drunken tirade, one oldster told us, he let it all hang out — both sides — when he was a lad of 27. Over the years, it became a regular thing, and a dozen people sometimes marched outside to bare their buttocks. Others tell us they have done the same in Colee Hammock Park, a few blocks up the river. It's a welcoming way to greet the tourists, and really, any spot along the fabled two-story riverboat's route will do.
9. Strip club tour!
Whether you're looking for relief from a lonely night or for a surrealist, neon-tinged adventure down the primordial rabbit hole with a few pals, you haven't truly experienced Broward until you've seen it from beside a stripper pole. A proper crawl across some of our county's finest strip clubs is in order. Start early, because the clubs typically don't charge a cover before 7 p.m. (and you're gonna wanna save your bandz for other uses). There are lot of different paths you could take, but one tried-and-true route is an easy stretch in Hallandale Beach: Start at the down-and-dirty Play House, head to the house-party vibes of Cheetah, and end late at the clubby Scarlett's. If you still have some energy left, afterparty it up where the dancers do, at Ocean's 11 Lounge.
10. Go to dinner by boat.
The water taxi is an excellent way to see Broward County. For the bargain price of $20 for a full day, ride around either Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood Beach, making sure to take full advantage of the extensive bar and restaurant stops along the way. The boat stops at essential institutions, including 15th Street Fisheries, Hyatt Regency Pier 66, Bahia Cabana, and the new Shooters, reopening this December. Your tour guide will likely tell you about the mansion owned by our leading proctologist ("there's only a back door") or point out where Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher may or may not have once owned a condo. Who cares if the trivia is true when the scenery's so nice?
11. Stand beneath the six-story-tall Rain Tree in Fort Lauderdale.
12. Feed the tarpon at 15th Street Fisheries.
13. Walk over the bridge on the 17th Street Causeway.
14. Find the banana hammock of your dreams.
GayMart is a good place to start. While you're at it, have a gay old day around Wilton Manors, visiting Humpy's Pizza, Out of the Closet Thrift shop, the Ramrod, the Cubby Hole, Bill's Filling Station, and Dairy Queen.
15. Join Fort Lauderdale's Critical Mass.
Meet on the last Friday of every month at the War Memorial Auditorium at 7 p.m. for a mellow 14-mile route.
16. See a real IMAX movie at the Museum of Discovery and Science.
Enough of this BS. New "digital IMAX" theaters are just regular ones with special projectors, but the MODS theater is truly special: a 60-by-80-foot screen that curves around a five-story-tall room and has 42 speakers pumping out 15,000 watts of crisp, heart-palpitation-inducing digital sound — an experience that leaves you dizzy and slightly out of breath.
17. Take in a local movie and TV marathon.
There's Something About Mary, Analyze This, Marley and Me, Dexter, The Glades, Rock of Ages, and Burn Notice — all have scenes filmed around here. Ted and Mary's high school was actually the City of Plantation Town Hall, and Revolution Live was the central club featured in Rock of Ages. Dexter used the Illini Condo building and South Beach Park.
18. Whack golf balls into the lake at Aqua Golf Range in Pembroke Park.
Also featured in There's Something About Mary.
19. Jump in the hot tub at Bahia Cabana.
Or just step in gingerly. Dare ya!
20. Visit a psychic.
Broward County is a hot spot for Romani immigrants. You can find fortunetellers all along U.S. 1 or at the Metaphysical Chapel of Fort Lauderdale.
21. Hitchhike — by Jet Ski.
22. Explore the arts!
Get familiar with the Young at Art Museum, the Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale, the Girls' Club gallery, and/or the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Tour the galleries in FAT Village, Fort Lauderdale's warehouse district, on the last Saturday of each month, and volunteer for the Puppet Network's fantastic annual Day of the Dead parade.
23. Take in the view at the top of the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six.
The rotating rooftop lounge is usually reserved for special events; but sweet-talk someone at the front desk to be let up.
24. Make friends with retired NFL stars or Jamaican reggae stars.
They all live here!
25. Get your concealed weapons permit.
Everybody has one!
26. Bike around the finger islands off Las Olas Boulevard.
Back in the 1920s, developers borrowed from Venice the technique of dredging parallel canals with long peninsulas and a central road. That's why Fort Lauderdale is called "The Venice of America."
27. Check out the "World's Fastest Sport" at Dania Jai Alai.
Just like handball but played with a cesta and a ball that goes so fast, it could kill you.
28. Play on an adult kickball team.
The World Adult Kickball Association is all about the "best parties, best games, and best friends."
29. Go night fishing.
30. Experience the Bergeron Rodeo in Davie.
Everyone needs a little old-fashioned calf roping.
31. Browse at Bob's News & Books.
Part head shop, part porn shop, part art-book shop, and part cosmopolitan magazine stand.
32. Find the wild monkeys behind the Motel 6 in Dania Beach.
33. Host a hurricane party.
If a hurricane actually comes.
34. Cycle Party down Las Olas.
This group bicycle is powered by 15 partiers who stop at bars along the way. Bring an iPod stocked with party jams.
35. Play "Bitchy Bingo" with drag queens at Lips.
36. Fulfill your freaky fantasies at Scary Mary's tricked-out dominatrix dungeon, Chamber 7.
37. Drive like a local.
If you want to zip around Fort Lauderdale fast, trade A1A for Birch Road and U.S. 1 for 15th Street.
38. Ride your horse to McDonald's.
The whole ranch-style town of Davie has a Western theme, and the Micky D's has a hitching post outside.
39. Flutter over to Butterfly World.
Just pay the danged $24.95 and see it already. It's the largest butterfly park in the world.
40. Become a regular at PRL Café.
Not only was owner Jay Rottermund specializing in international beers before craft beer was cool but you might catch some eclectic art or learn a thing or two about European politics while you're here.
41. Wakeboard at Ski Rixen.
No boat necessary, because these wakeboards are pulled around by a cable system.
42. Bet on a horse named Tripod at Gulfstream Park.
Ponies! You can't go wrong with a few $2 bets.
43. Catch a Fort Lauderdale Strikers game at Lockhart Stadium.
44. Become a Zumba instructor.
Zumba's world headquarters are in Hallandale Beach. Also: This is a great way to meet chicks.
45. Try your luck at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
Blow your winnings on a grandiose night of partying.
46. Know your Native American history.
You are living next to thousands of Seminoles, hundreds of Miccosukees, and more independent native people whose ancestors lost all they had. Respect.
47. Sample a flight of local brews at the Funky Buddha in Oakland Park.
And take a quick tour of the 20,000-square-foot production brewery.
48. Enroll in Beer Academy.
For $125, the six-week course at Riverside Market will teach you everything you need to know about homebrewing. For advanced beer nerds, there's Beer Grad School.
49. Learn who Jaco Pastorius is.
Only the world's greatest bass player, ever! Other local legends: Johnny Depp grew up in Miramar, and Subway founder Fred de Luca is from here.
50. Eat fried chicken at Betty's Soul Food.
Wash it down with sweet tea.
51. Do a poker run to Key West with biker pals.
Stop your motorcycle and pick up a playing card at five checkpoints along the way. Whoever has the best hand, wins.
52. Spend an entire day playing house at IKEA.
Maybe buy a 72-piece table?
53. Down an exquisite vegan meal at Sublime.
Veggie burgers, pshaw! Ever had veggie frito misto and mushroom risotto cake, all with white-tablecloth service?
54. Eat a burger at Le Tub.
Don't be turned off by the restaurant's toilet-bowl décor; the burger here was named among the best in America by GQ's food critic and Oprah's best friend, Gayle King.
55. Walk around with the wild peacocks on Rose Drive in Fort Lauderdale.
56. Lose hours in the Stonewall National Museum and Archives.
What began as the personal collection of worldwide book collector Mark Silber has become one of the only permanent spaces in the U.S. devoted to exhibits of LGBT culture and history.
57. Stargaze at Buehler Planetarium & Observatory.
Public shows start at just $4. We recommend bringing someone to make out with. Visit iloveplanets.com.
58. Ogle the future MMA stars at American Top Team.
Adults can sign up for a one-week trial for $9.95 (includes a T-shirt).
59. Ogle the male strippers at Le Bare.
Free bottle of Champagne during your birthday week!
60. Enjoy a bottomless brunch at Tap 42.
Get wasted with Fort Lauderdale's professional millennials. Unlimited refills of mimosas or bloody marys until 3 p.m.
61. Make a boat friend and anchor at the sandbar at the mouth of the New River.
Party in the thigh-deep water in the middle of the Intracoastal Waterway.
62. Watch the Winterfest Boat Parade — from a boat.
63. Dine in the Dark.
Market 17's waiters wear night-vision goggles to bring your food in a completely blackened room, where you proceed to eat with your hands. Try not to stuff chicken in your nose.
64. Join a CSA (community-supported agriculture program).
Always buy produce from your local farmers, like the Urban Farmer in Pompano Beach. Farm-fresh eggs are a party in your mouth!
65. Subscribe to a local alternative news source.
If you really want to know what's going on around here, stick your nose in Broward Times, the Homeless Voice, the South Florida Gay News, and/or browardbulldog.org. But mostly, New Times.
66. Master stand-up paddleboarding or kitesurfing.
67. Tour Fort Lauderdale — by gondola.
Las Olas Gondola offers a luxurious homes and gardens tour, or "Lovely Romantico," which includes a message in a bottle. The gondolier provides Italian music, ice buckets, glasses, and a bottle opener. Go home and make some spicy meat-a-balls!
68. Spend Record Store Day at Radio-Active Records.
This April "holiday" begins with a line around the shop at 8 a.m. and ends 12 hours later with a huge party of local bands.
69. Get naked!
Check in at the Rooftop Resort, where it's clothing-optional. Couples day passes cost $40 on weekends. You can't unsee anything later, but that's the experience!
70. Camp out at Markham Park.
71. Switch the dial to pirate radio.
Of the 50-ish pirate radio stations the FCC filed claim against in the past two years, more than 30 were located in South Florida. A slow turn of your FM dial will usually result in a handful of law-breaking — and mind-expanding — broadcasts.
72. See the spiders at Secret Woods.
South Florida's alarmingly huge banana spiders (also known as the golden silk orb-weaver) weave giant, orb-shaped webs along the nature trails.
73. Go-kart at Boomers! in Dania Beach.
74. Smoke cigars and hunt cougars at Blue Martini.
Just like Al Capone used to do!
75. Catch a Splatter-Rama double feature.
Indie movie theater Cinema Paradiso sometimes shows underground horror flicks like The Toxic Avenger and Street Trash, plus other cool flicks year-round.
76. Find love at a "nerds singles mixer."
If you're coupled up already, then just browse the wares at Tate's Comics and its upstairs Bear and Bird Boutique + Gallery.
77. Cycle at the velodrome.
Velodrome racing in the 1800s was akin to NASCAR of today. Ride on the steeply banked oval track at Brian Piccolo Park — one of only three in the southeastern U.S.
78. Hang with the witches.
OK, so followers of the "Earth Religion" prefer being called "pagans" rather than "witches," but they're lots of fun, and their rituals often involve wine. See moonpathcuups.org.
79. Learn to cook iguana tacos.
The green iguana is considered a pesky invasive species in South Florida. And iguana meat is a culinary tradition in Mexico and reportedly tastes pretty great in a taco. Parboil in saltwater, followed by roasting or stewing. (Kidding! Leave those iguanas alone! We bet their meat is gross!)
80. Crash a party at Rick Ross' mansion.
Ricky Rozay may rap about the 305, but he lays his head in the 954.
81. Unwind with a spa day at a gay bathhouse.
Club Fort Lauderdale offers a state-of-the-art gym, a maze-style steam room, saunas, and private video viewing rooms, while Clubhouse II is a members-only joint with fun theme nights like Bear Night Thursdays and complimentary pizza on Leather Tuesdays.
82. Do a brown bag winetasting at d.b.a./cafe.
Wednesdays starting at 6:30, bottles of wines are poured from paper bags and diners try to guess the vintage.
83. Tailgate from 8 a.m. at the KISS Country Chili Cookoff.
This January event is the Southeast's largest country music show.
84. Jump off a diving board at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex.
With eight springboards and five platforms as high as ten meters (equal to a two-story townhouse), be sure to keep all of you inside your swimsuit.
85. Fly kites atop the hills of Vista View Park.
Yes, this park used to be a landfill. No, it does not smell. It's the highest point for miles.
86. See a show at Culture Room.
This is a music venue without a Facebook page that still manages to pack its insides every single show. This place is pure Fort La-di-dadi.
87. Run through the fountain at Hollywood Arts Park (preferably clothed).
88. Take Tri-Rail .
A daily pass on weekends is $5.
89. Ride the bull at one of the Cowboys Saloon's Ladies Nights, every Wednesday and Friday.
Chicks dig an eight-second man.
90. See a Florida Panthers hockey game at BB&T Center in Sunrise.
91. 3 a.m. breakfast at Lester's Diner on State Road 84.
Don't be a selfish jerk all the time! Visit handsonbroward.org for cool volunteer opps.
93. Have a Halloween adventure at the Howling Hammock at Birch State Park.
Spooky forest trail, pumpkin patch, and a two-mile haunted carriage ride through the park. It's basically England.
The totally equine and sorta sexy fitness revolution that took the world by storm started in the little ol' city of Coral Springs, and it will never go out of style.
95. Boogie down at Adult Skate night Thursdays at Galaxy Skateway in Davie.
96. Grill your own beef tongue.
At Gabose, a Korean barbecue joint in Lauderhill, grill your own food over a crimson fire pit built right into your table. Use this as a jump-off point to explore scores of Jamaican, Korean, and Vietnamese eateries in the city.
97. Watch fire-dancers at Mai-Kai.
Any self-respecting Browardite is already familiar with the Barrel o' Rum and 50 other cocktails at this "Grand Polynesian Palace of Tiki." At least once in your life, stay beyond happy hour and see the show — the Polynesian Islander Revue. Nothing mixes better than booze and fire!
98. Sunday Jazz Brunch at Riverwalk.
Visors, yoga pants, and Guy Harvey T-shirts abound at this neighborly gathering on the first Sunday of each month. Bring a stocked cooler and your well-behaved, leashed pet.
99. Play hardcourt bike polo.
This sport — like polo but on bicycles instead of horses — has been called "the most fun you can have on a bike." Last month, the world championships were held in Weston. At Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park, players meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.
100. Watch the cruise ships slide in and out of Port Everglades.
Climb onto the rocks on the jetty behind the Point of Americas towers and wave to the ships pulling out. Best around 4 or 5 p.m. on weekends.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.