Best Dog Park 2005 | CityPaws | Sports & Recreation | South Florida

There's really no other way to judge a good dog park than the poop factor. Nothing will ruin your day faster than stepping in a steaming pile of doggy doo, especially if it came from somebody else's mutt. The courteous patrons of West Palm Beach's CityPaws dog park are good enough to regularly clean up their mutts' messes. Unlike many dog parks stuffed into the sans-shade section, CityPaws is well-shaded inside Howard Park, which is full of banyan and oak trees to provide a cool spot for your dog to wrestle in the grass. CityPaws also holds a Smooch Your Pooch contest on Valentine's Day and a doggy costume contest on Halloween. Just make sure to clean up when ballerina Fido makes a mess.

The bluehairs who live around here won't be glad we told you, but Reef Road is the premier surfing spot in all of South Florida. Of course, if you're good enough to surf it, you probably already know about it. But grommets and newbies who want to check it out should know a few things before they go. First of all, the break is located in a residential area on the north end of the county's richest chunk of real estate, and there's no public parking within two miles of the spot. There are few bank robberies and crack raids in the affluent town, so police have nothing better to do than ticket you for parking illegally or obstructing traffic. You can stash your ride way south in some public spots on A1A or take your chances with a tow truck. Assuming you find your way to the break, just south of the Palm Beach Inlet, look for a bombing northeast swell, which is what this place needs to start firing. When it does, you'll be dropping down some deep, fast faces, and when the wave lets you off, you might be in Lantana. But you'll be stoked: On a "perfect-o-meter" scale of one to ten (one = Lake Erie and 10 = Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa), gives Reef Road an 8, which is about as good as it gets on the Right Coast.

Northerners flock to Mack's Groves, a gargantuan glorified gift shop on A1A, to immerse themselves in a citrus paradise. Of course, Mack's carries a full line of regional knickknacks, trinkets, and doodads (coral, shells, candles, sea urchins, and starfish), plus silk shirts with palm trees and other examples of pricey SoFla kitsch. But folks who associate winter with snowplows and icicles can have their minds blown by Mack's formidable array of tropical fruit goods. Key lime aficionados will find key lime pie mix, key lime jelly beans, key lime drops, key lime mints, key lime tea cookies, key lime chocolate, key lime crunch, key lime juice, key lime marmalade, key lime mustard, and more. But the 70-year-old institution's staple is its citrus gift baskets (ranging from $30 to $60) -- assortments of fruit that can be shipped almost anywhere in the U.S. and even to Europe. Mainstays like pink seedless grapefruit, Valencia oranges, and honey tangerines nestle snugly against exotic offerings like regal honeybells, clementines, tangelos, and orantiques. Single pieces of fruit are under 50 cents apiece, and samples are always handy. Here's one store where it's OK to be sticky-fingered.

We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice. So why's it so hard to pick up a good pickup game? By the time you find a court that isn't covered with broken glass and discarded condoms and one that actually has nets on the baskets, there are downs so deep you need a calendar to figure out when you'll get on a court. If you do finally get a game, you end up covering some six-foot-eight guy with a nickname like "Da Meat Hook" who takes every opportunity to drop vicious, 360-degree tomahawk dunks on your face. We can't promise you're not going to get posterized, but at least the Regional Park at Weston, with the nicest outdoor facilities in Broward County, eliminates the search for a place to play. On the eight well-lighted courts, the games run the gamut of ages and skill levels, so you don't need to be trying out for the AND1 mix-tape tour to get in a game. Best of all, the lights stay on till 11 p.m., just in case you want to "practice."

Everybody who's not a moron knows that the real fruits of leisure are to be found in the outdoors. But sometimes, Fort Lauderdale's greatest offering, a stretch of golden sand on the placid Atlantic, isn't enough. Sometimes, a beach is just a beach. You can sweat, swim, and soak up sun. Done that. And yet, there is one way to make beachgoing the most kick ass time ever. Just cruise south of Las Olas Boulevard, enter the gate of South Beach Park, pay $6 for a carload, and drive all the way to the end, where volleyball courts stretch from the picnic benches to the beach. Bring people looking for social refreshment and a workout, or just a ball. Pickup games are everywhere, full of new friends to be made -- the athletic kind. It's addictive fun that'll have your body moving like no club DJ ever could. The park, which also has basketball courts, is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Sure, Don Carter Bowling Center has shinier lanes and more of 'em too. But that's precisely what attracted the group of obnoxious high school brats that ruined your perfect game the last time you went. Fortunately, their kind isn't as prevalent at Greenacres Bowl -- even if it's the only thing to do in Greenacres on a Friday night. Greenacres Bowl may be home to 20 year-round leagues, but it's just as fit for the occasional bowler; you don't need to be Homer Simpson to enjoy Saturday's "All You Can Bowl Night" ($20) or Friday's "Rocking and Bowling" ($17 for three hours, starting at 10 p.m.). Of course, if you're throwing a party, there's bound to be one or two bowl-a-phobes; they can hang out in the Thirsty Gator Lounge or the arcade room -- or, more appropriately, order you some of those tasty chicken wings from the snack bar. If it's Friday night, the Thirsty Gator has karaoke, which attracts some interesting characters, to put it mildly. Hey, at least they stay inside the lounge and away from the lanes. Now you've got no excuse for all those gutter balls.

It's pretty basic: Davie Lanes has four domestic beers on tap and some of the best burgers and Cajun-spiced fries around. And they fry those babies up fresh too. Oh yeah, and they've got those things that have three holes that you like to put your fingers into. No, we're not talking about a bevy of down-low girls (though there usually are a few bowling babes showing off their benders on any given night). Lame ripoffs of Kingpin movie jokes aside, we're talking about bowling balls -- and 32 lanes to roll them down. You can play two games for $21.09 (shoes and ball included) and get a couple of soft drinks in the deal. But who the hell drinks soda while they're bowling? We went straight for the Michelob Ultra. The place is entirely hospitable for the serious kegler, the shameless gutter-baller, and everyone in between. All are welcome at Davie Lanes. If Jesus were to go bowling, he'd probably hit this alley. We happened to go on a Tuesday night, when the place offers discounted games to people with developmental disabilities. And their good time couldn't help but rub off on the rest of us. Bless you, Davie Lanes.

Indulge your inner (or outer) senior citizen with 28 covered shuffleboard courts just west of downtown Lake Worth. After the spring, the shuffle clubs tend to clear out, leaving more space for the casual player. The cost, including equipment? One thin dollar per person. The building is also the site of regular bridge games, art classes, voting, and various civic clubs, so you may just run into the Finnish War Veterans when you go to put cue to disc. Play from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and until 10 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

You probably drive past it several times a week, the mass of intricately stacked wood rising ten stories in the air off I-95. From a distance, it looks as though it could be made with matchsticks, but it's actually built of roughly 1 million feet of pine and fir lumber. And when you get on top of that baby and ride, it's one heck of a 3,200-foot-long, two-minute thrill. Like all the best wooden coasters, you spend a good part of the ride suspended above your seat. It may be the only game in town, but it's got a bit of national clout. A group of roller-coaster enthusiasts gave it a ranking of 34th best "woodie" in the world out of 163 listed. And only four of those that ranked higher lie south of the Ohio River. We're no experts, but that sounds like it might be something a little special. Undoubtedly special is the price -- $10.60 for unlimited rides (and $6.25 for the fool who wants to ride only once). You need to ride it five times before you really get your fill. But if you take a kid with you, be prepared for the worst, because youngsters will go on the thing until they're ordered to the ground. A 9-year-old boy recently rode it 23 times straight, which isn't uncommon. But loosen up with the children -- it's a time that neither they, nor you, will soon forget.

The sheer duration of the National Hockey League lockout places it among the most baffling stoppages in the history of North American sports, and it may well signal hockey's withering into second-tier entertainment. Owners claimed players' salaries were devouring 75 percent of revenue; reckless expansion had diluted the league; with TV ratings down, ABC and NBC dumped their hockey coverage, and ESPN plans to relegate the sport solely to ESPN2. Quagmires rarely carry silver linings, but at least a belt-cinching labor agreement will probably extend the life of the 30-team league. Not only that but in the likely event that the owners impose a salary cap, "small market" teams such as the Panthers may be able to afford some formerly exorbitant talent. The Panthers' 2003-04 player payroll was in the bottom tenth of the league, and only one player, right wing Valeri Bure, was among the league's 100 best-paid. If big-market teams dump expensive free agents to avoid a luxury tax, the Panthers (and the Penguins, the Oilers, et al.) figure to be in terrific position to add discount stars. Assuming hockey survives its own self-righteous cannibalism -- and the Panthers cough up some cash -- look for South Florida to boast an NHL team more competitive than that of recent seasons.

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