Twenty years ago, the only thing a park would need to keep the kids happy was a baseball field and a concession stand. Nowadays, parks need to offer traditional sports facilities, as well as something for youngsters into the Xtreme sports of skateboarding and rollerblading. Phipps Park caters to both crowds, offering a place where kids can slide into first base and slide down a handrail. The nearly 40-acre park features lighted baseball fields, a soccer field, a pavilion, a roller hockey rink, and the Sanctuary Skate Park. The skate park includes a miniramp, several quarter-pipes, and the usual assortment of street obstacles (fun box, manual box, pyramid). Sanctuary also has its own skate shop carrying all the latest products for skateboarders and in-line skaters. In addition to its existing facilities, Phipps Park plans to add a wet play area and plaza at the north end of the park. So, whether you're into fastballs or kickflips -- or just relaxing under a tree -- Phipps Park is a safe bet for some real fun in the sun. Readers' Choice: Spanish River
Too often, urban parks are built on unwanted or undevelopable land. Not this one. This 13-acre hideaway just west of downtown Fort Lauderdale existed as a three-hole (!) golf course from the early '50s until the early '70s, when the land was dredged for bedrock. Named in honor of one of Fort Lauderdale's first African-American cops (shot and killed on April 18, 1977) and next door to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, this modest park nestled in a sleepy crook of the New River is a little-known gem. A perfect spot for an outdoor lunch or early-morning bike ride on the path that circles the lake, the ideal time to visit is near sunset, when the new skyscrapers of downtown take on a deep orange glow and are reflected in the water.

What dummy thought of this category? Duh... the best picnic spot is from the lido deck of your yacht. What? You don't have one? Oh. Well, what shall we do about you then? Ah, here's a good one -- leave your car at Phil Foster Park beside the Blue Heron bridge that links Riviera Beach with Singer Island. Next, you'll still need use of a boat, but any kayak, rowboat, or even the water taxi will do ($5 a person). Cruise south, a mere couple of hundred feet across the Intracoastal Waterway, and hook up to one of Peanut Island's docks (free) or pull up on its beach (also free). This wee island is an unmatched spot for a picnic. It's got nature trails, showers, a pay phone, tent pads, picnic shelters, tables, charcoal grills, and a fire ring. And there's even a nuclear bomb shelter, which was built for part-time Palm Beacher John F. Kennedy during his presidency. Yes, the island has been undergoing a major face-lift, so there's a bit of lingering construction -- but most of that should be out of the way by summer. One thing to watch out for: sandbars during low tide. Ready, set, row! We'll wave at you from the yacht! Readers' Choice: T.Y. Park
Before the flaming Fab Five of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy went on television and made being a metrosexual oh so cool, real men played pool in smoky bars with grimy tables and sticks as crooked as the bartender, whose scowl could melt the paint off a freshly pimped ride. But, alas, times have changed, and so have pool halls. Nothing represents this shift in the velvety felt better than the new Billiard Club at the Oasis at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise. Located on the second floor, the Billiard Club features 20 Brunswick Gold Crown regulation tables, a gourmet menu, and a full bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of Broward County's Mother of All Malls. And best yet, the sticks are as straight as the young cocktail waitresses who saunter gracefully between tables and cues, drink-laden trays in hand, dressed in miniskirts and black tuxedo shirts. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends (the Sunrise location opens at 5 p.m.). Table prices range from $10.50 to $15 per hour depending upon time and the number of players.

"Thank you for calling the Ground Swell Surf Report. Today is Saturday; the shop is open from 10 until 6 p.m. We have a great selection of sandals and boards inside the shop, the north county's friendliest store. Surf conditions at the Juno Pier at 6:45 a.m.: The wind is out of the northeast at about ten miles an hour. The surf is running at about thigh-high, and the wind is making for choppy but ridable conditions. Have a great day." No, it's not a robot making this recording, despite her totally predictable, totally reliable, totally-useful-bro surf report. It's shop owner Susan French, who does surfers a huge favor in the wee hours of every morning-- even on Saturdays and Sundays! That means that when you call, you know whether to jump out of bed and strap the boards to the roof or whether to roll over, wrap your arms around that furry thing you sleep with, and ride the waves back in dreamland.

And lo, unto the buffet didst thou go, and there ye did tarry amongst the starches and plentiful prime rib, sinking ever deeper into the iniquity of two dozen kinds of pies, taking into thy breast the butter-fried tilapia and candied pork. And then didst thy body protest against thy loin garment. And the heavens opened, and a voice commanded, "Get thee to a temple of weights." So moved by the words and thy greatness of girth didst thou wander into Faith Body Fitness for redemption. Then did ye casteth thine eyes upon the wall and readeth the holy motto from I Corinthians 6:19: "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" And thou cast down $350 for a one-year membership. And thy heart and soul and gut stood right with the Lord.

Fort Lauderdale is a city of contrasts, and nowhere are the contrasts more startling than when you stand on the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and A1A. To your left, you'll see the infamous Elbo Room, where young out-of-towners receive their drinking badges. It can be humanity at its worst. But then look at the Atlantic Ocean. About a third of a mile from where you stand is one of the world's most beautiful coral reef systems, an underwater paradise home to thousands of creatures much more interesting than the ones you'll find at the Elbo Room. Fort Lauderdale's reef system consists of three separate coral ridges that run parallel to shore. Depths of the ridge closest to our pearly-white sand are as shallow as eight feet, giving snorkelers an opportunity for breathtaking views of nurse sharks, sea turtles, goliath groupers, and other reef-dwelling creatures. Among the companies offering snorkeling trips to this local wonder of a reef system are Pro Dive, 515 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-776-3483; and Sea Experience, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-467-6000.

The Dolphins couldn't score last year, couldn't throw, couldn't catch, couldn't return kicks. They did, however, play some defense. The 'Fins gave up only 16.3 points a game, third in the NFL, and were fifth against the rush. For those spare blessings, give a steaming slab of credit to Ogunleye, he of the AFC-leading 15 sacks and Pro Bowl start at defensive end, where he and Jason Taylor formed a formidable pass rush. Once in each of the past two years, he's been named AFC Defensive Player of the Week, and his $375,000 salary last season made him one of the league's blatant bargains. The 27-year-old has bloodthirsty cyborg Drew Rosenhaus as an agent, though, so in South Florida or elsewhere, he'll make what he's worth this year -- which, if you ask the Dolphins, is plenty. Readers' Choice: Zach Thomas
You better get your fill of baseball now, while it's still the national pastime. 'Cause if Bob Alman has his way -- and he's so persistent, passionate, and charismatic, there's a good chance he will -- we'll all be taking each other out to a different kind of ball game pretty soon. Alman started playing croquet as a youngster but could never beat his dear old grandma. "This kind of thing scars you for life," he says. He played intermittently before moving to San Francisco in the 1970s, where he and his friends -- whom he describes as "intellectual outlaws" -- invented guerrilla croquet. "We would dress in white and go to places we didn't belong," Alman says. "We climbed the walls of the Spreckles Mansion in broad daylight. We played on a military base." Because of their outfits, they "looked authoritative" and rarely got booted from the property. "We went to Hewlett-Packard headquarters, and the security guard bought us lemonade. We played at the governor's mansion in Sacramento." Besides having convinced the City of San Francisco to build the country's first public croquet lawns, Alman was instrumental in lobbying for the establishment of the National Croquet Center in West Palm Beach, where he now works as a consultant. Recently, Alman has been promoting more variations on croquet, including Toequet (in which you ditch the mallets and kick oversize balls through giant wickets) and Extreme MalletBall (in which Toequet's oversized balls are used but mallets are reintroduced). He's taking these sports to recreation leaders around the region; and soon, the state; and not long afterward, to a baseball diamond near you.
21940 Griffin Rd.


954-434-8111 As all bicyclists know, the safest place to ride is anyplace you won't get flattened by a car. Given our scarcity of urban bike paths, hard-core riders have taken to the lonely levees that line the Everglades: those long, straight, shadeless fire-access roads motor vehicles aren't permitted on. One favorite mountain-biking spot is handily located just on the edge of civilization at Everglades Holiday Park. Bypass the tourists, the deafening airboats, and the gator wrasslin' by parking just outside the main entrance, just south of the huge pump station. From here, you can ride up and down the north-south L-30 Canal, which runs slightly west of U.S. 27. You can also ride to Levee 67-A west of L-30 and explore the area known as "The Pocket." Head south along 67-A (which goes all the way to the Tamiami Trail) until you reach the gauging station at the Miami Canal, which takes drinking water straight to the Magic City from Lake Okeechobee. Follow the canal one mile southeast to Levee 67-C. This area between the two levees, which stays wet year 'round, is the Pocket. Wading birds, turtles, and alligators are innumerable, and except for a few fishermen, it's all yours. Proceed north on 67-C, which takes you right back to Holiday Park, where you can pound down a cold Bud and eat a chili dog or two. The above-outlined loop is only about 12 miles. If you skip the Miami Canal crossover and choose to circumnavigate the entire Pocket, bear in mind it's more than a 50-mile roundtrip. Without lots of water, bug repellent, and sunscreen, take the extended version at your own risk. Readers' Choice: Quiet Waters Park

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