If bombs start falling or an asteroid strikes Topeka, it may be time to head to Peanut Island. The man-made stretch of sand between Palm Beach and Singer Island hides a presidential bomb shelter built in 1961. The Secret Service built the shelter during the Cold War. Then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy's aides figured he could make it to the state-of-the-art hole in minutes from the former Kennedy compound on Palm Beach and continue to run the country via radio technology. The plan was to save the Kennedys so that Teddy could repopulate the Earth in the event of an attack, so you can bet it'll save your sorry ass when the sky starts to fall. The Palm Beach Maritime Museum conducts three tours daily of the shelter. Cost: $7 per adult, not including the ferry ride from Phil Foster Park to Peanut Island. Hell, it'll be even more of a bargain in the near future: The place is undergoing a major renovation into a county park. There's a presidential seal on the floor of the shelter that was installed in 1997 but no sign within the shelter of the Kennedys' charm. So if you plan to ride out Judgment Day here, bring your own board games.

So you're feeling stuck in the city. Unable to think because of the swarms of people, cars, and corruption. Well, get thee to America's most famous watery park, where you'll be able to feel the kind of isolation that most of South Florida only dreams of. And try it in the summer, when even veterans often avoid the Glades. Rooms go from $68 to $98 a night, and whole families can stay in cottages with kitchens for $92 to $138 plus tax. You'll be able to paddle a canoe and leave all humanity behind on the bay. You can take boat tours too. And if you want to venture into the river of grass, try the back-country boat tours. If you must walk, rent mosquito netting. Though the restaurant is closed during the summer, you can bring your own food. And boy, is it romantic. Or head into Homestead, enjoy some tipico Mexican chow, then drive across town to Biscayne National Park, where you'll find some of the best snorkeling Neptune could have imagined. Readers' Choice: Key West
Forget Las Olas and Fort Lauderdale Beach. Give those out-of-towners a taste of the real grit-in-your-teeth, mosquito-in-your-ear, 'gator snappin' Florida. Here's the Sunshine State without the convention-and-visitors-bureau crapola. The village is a little bit of modern-day, Native American life in a clearing in the middle of the Everglades. Sure, there are guys who wrestle alligators for your entertainment (look for scars on the rasslers' faces, if you doubt the danger) and air boats to take you skimming through the marshes. There are foodstands with fry bread and Indian burgers, too. But the centerpiece is the village's classy Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum ($6 for adults, $4 for kids), with artifacts, full-size models, and a mile and a half of boardwalk nature trails that give you the up-close skinny on the wilderness that's ready to move in when your back is turned. On your way out of town, pull over to the side of the road, turn off the motor, and watch the surface of the still water that laps against the berm. Those log-like things floating out there -- those are alligators ready to snap. (Take I-75 to Exit 49, drive north for 17 miles.)

You gotta love a hotel that encourages you to get busy between its luxurious sheets. The Chesterfield offers a "Sex, Body, and Soul" package that includes a one-night stay, a bottle of massage oil, chocolate truffles, bath salts, a spa treatment, and -- dig this -- energy bars. It also comes with "a romantic book that offers ways to maximize you and your partner's enjoyment of each other," according to the hotel's website. Uh, could the title of that book possibly start with a "K" and end with an "ama Sutra"? Of course, you'll have to pay for this fabulous service. The intimate, English-style hotel -- located just two blocks from chi-chi Worth Avenue -- rents rooms for $200-plus a night, and the aforementioned package costs $395. During the summer, however, when the hot, hot weather sends plastic surgery survivors scurrying, you can check in for just over $100. Hotel guest or not, you simply must come hang out at the bar. The Leopard Lounge is campy and classy at the same time. Decorated from its leopard-spot carpet to its hand-painted ceiling, you're not sure whether you've wandered into a fabulous mansion or into a velvet painting. Every night of the week, a jazz band or Spanish guitarist plays. Elegant ladies dance with cigar-smoking men in dinner jackets while the bartender (in his leopard-print vest and red bow tie) mixes another round of martinis. This is the life, man.

By the age of 5, most South Floridians would rather watch their television flicker than have a close encounter with nature. But perhaps because of the popularity of Lord of the Rings, it "Ent" impossible to get those kids interested in the gigantic Lofty Fig at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. How could they resist the opportunity to hang out with the shaggy monster that so resembles their beloved Treebeard? The 70- to 85-year-old giant -- like those pesky invasive Australian pines that got hacked away a few years ago -- is non-native, according to rangers at the park, but has historical value because it was likely planted by Mr. Birch, who donated his estate as a public park (opened in 1949). Since the tree is located next to a covered picnic spot ($80 to rent for a day) and a playground, you can admire its winding, cavernous trunk while you drink cold beer and play volleyball. Of course, there's always the option of sitting around the house watching Billy and Jenny's soft little arms maneuver Playstation controllers while you try to figure out how to pay for their ADD meds, but it might be nice to try natural light -- and we don't mean the beer -- for a change. The beachside park with winding trails and preserved natural habitats opens at 8 a.m. and closes at sundown. Entrance is $4 for a carload and $1 per person for walk-ins.

The Broward County library system offers a zillion free resources in its one main, five regional, and 33 branch libraries. There are also three reading centers and four bookmobiles. If you're not into, like, reading, man, then try the 35,243 DVDs and 184,539 VHS tapes, which give you a selection that makes Blockbuster a real bust. Then there're the CDs -- everything from Frank Zappa's Jazz from Hell to a recording of Dr. Phil's Self Matters. And the guys who run this joint have balls. They recently turned down thousands of dollars in federal aid that they might have received if they had agreed to install pornography filters on computers with Internet access. Library Director Bob Cannon claimed that doing so would block users' access to sensitive material on abortion, gay issues, and safe sex. Then there are the librarians, who often double as babysitters and therapists. "I have regulars," says one librarian from the Hollywood branch who talks about her workplace with evangelical zeal and carries library card applications in her purse when she goes out. "I can tell when people have had a bad day, when they're falling in love, when they're heartbroken." One persistent customer calls almost daily for help with her crossword puzzles, and the librarians oblige. And don't even get us started about the free computer classes, puppet shows for kids, art exhibits, and the Small Business Resource Center at the main branch. The only thing this place lacks is beds; otherwise, we'd suggest you move in.

You'd think being landslid out of office might end the average would-be author's hope of writing a how-to on becoming a political success. But that didn't stop Tim Smith, who was routed by Jim Naugle in last year's Fort Lauderdale mayoral race. The former city commissioner didn't let the sudden and bitter end of his political career stop him from coming out with a vanity book called Politics 101, subtitled The True Story of the Life of a City Commissioner. Now if that tease doesn't prompt lines at the local Barnes and Noble, what will? "Required Reading for the Inspired Citizen," boasts the cover. What the hell does that mean? To give you an idea of the depth of the 176-page book, consider that it is virtually all in italics and contains more exclamation points per page than a 16-year-old girl's diary. It's actually kind of fun, though. Smith suffers from a severe case of inflated self-importance, but he also comes across as a naive, almost boyish fellow who thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of his six years in office. The problem is that the book doesn't deliver. Smith promises in the forward that he will tell tales, but either you already knew most of what he's telling or the stuff's just not all that interesting. For instance, he alleges that his arch-enemy Naugle, an out-of-the-closet homophobe, once inferred to him that he'd had a gay experience. Now, this should be quite scintillating, especially since guessing the mayor's true persuasion is one of Fort Lauderdale's great pastimes. But even that anecdote lacks a good punch in the saccharine way Smith tells it. (Naugle, of course, denies it). "I'm guessing that my experience was stranger and more unique than most elected officials," the washed-up pol writes in the forward. The problem is that it really wasn't.
Ignore the text-only design that seems a throwback to the early days of the World Wide Web. The Miami section of -- which includes browsers from across South Florida -- is arguably one of the most dynamic in the online subtropics. Craig Newmark founded the nonprofit online community in San Francisco in the 1990s at the urging of friends. Over the past decade, the website has expanded to cover more than 30 metropolitan areas, including the website for South Florida, which launched in October 2002. What has made South Florida's so successful is its decidedly local edge. It's a communal bulletin board designed for neighbors to exchange opinions, advertise services, discover new loves, find an activity partner, or locate an activity partner for whom you have to, well, uh, pay. The site receives several hundred posts per day; a good number are from Broward and Palm Beach counties. Posting a message is free since is noncommercial. It costs money only to post a job advertisement, and the revenue is used to operate and maintain the site. Of course, you can be completely anonymous when you post, even if you're the 25-year-old straight dude who recently advertised for "someone to give me a prostate massage." So log on and talk politics, give away your old couch, adopt a pet, breed your snake, sell your car, find a job -- it's all possible at

We've often thought of starting a weblog to dump all of our mad, misplaced, and most brilliant thoughts, but the need isn't pressing as long as we have Steve Koppelman around. Koppelman, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, runs the wonderfully named, a website where he unloads his mind on readers lucky enough to find him. Also called "Steve Koppelman's Catologue of Poorly Catologued Things," the blog basically serves as a condensation of one man's existence in South Florida and the world. The 34-year-old real estate agent by trade writes without a trace of pretense about whatever is inside his hatless head, whether it be the most recent crop of Indian River grapefruit or the time he vainly waited for a Broward County bus at the airport. He writes about music, film, media, politics, and barbecue joints. In the past few months, he's sounded off on the FCAT, Vladimir Putin, Haiti, the BSO crime report rigging investigation, Everglades restoration, and Halliburton. The relationship is simple -- he writes, we read. But we want to give Koppelman one bit of advice/encouragement: Keep that hat off, brother.

If you can't beat science, join it. Or at least appropriate its patois, as this institute has done. The brainchild of Tom DeRosa, an acolyte of D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Church of Intolerance, CSI wants to prove the Bible is fact using science; this is a somewhat inverted notion of how scientific discovery works. "Without Creation, then God's Word is not true," DeRosa has posited. "Without God's Word, there is no foundation for the Gospel." (Wait a minute, would that mean no more Mel Gibson films?) Anyway, that kind of logic can lead only to the conclusion you've already decided upon, which in this case includes a major role for Noah's Great Flood in laying down fossil deposits. DeRosa and gang have concluded that the seven-day creation scenario is the most difficult part of the Bible for nonbelievers to accept. Why? "Satan has deliberately vested huge amounts of effort in an attempt to cloud and/or obscure altogether its true significance," DeRosa wrote on CSI's website. Of course, the countless fossils layered in sediment over several hundred million years don't help the institute's case either.

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