Best Gift Shop 2008 | To the Moon | Shopping & Services | South Florida
C. Stiles

Bright, cheerful, and with old-fashioned music playing unobtrusively in the background, To the Moon is like a throwback to a 1950s candy store: A sweet shopkeeper and shelves packed with everything from chocolate-covered strawberries to imported Dutch licorice. But eventually you're going to have to turn from the candy selection and see... cock puppets. While the sugary selection alone can command attention for hours, you won't want to miss the wall-to-wall collection of nostalgic and naughty knickknacks — cock puppets are just the beginning. If you have an hour or five to kill, the place is open seven days a week and is the perfect spot to uncover Wizard of Oz items, after-pussy mints, blood capsules, mermaid ornaments, a wall full of greeting cards, and more gay pride paraphernalia than you can shake a dick at (where else could you find a gift bag that lisps "You look fabulous!" when opened?). To the Moon is the quintessential Wilton Manors stop to find gifts for grandma (an "I Love Jesus" shot glass), the drag queen next door (a tiara with flashing lights), and everyone in between (because who wouldn't love penis-shaped pasta?).

It's nice to patronize an independent gym, provided it has the essentials — a convenient location, parking, decent equipment, clean locker rooms, reasonable rates, and effective air conditioning. Sadly these are rare, and lacking them becomes an excuse to ditch your exercise regimen. If you're serious about working out, you may have to swallow your indie pride and sign up with a chain like L.A. Fitness. Behold: a Costco-sized gym with a Costco-sized parking lot! The equipment's brand new, and there's so much of it — two floors! — that you don't have to share your bench with guys who wear short shorts and leave sweat puddles. And the Federal Highway location in Oakland Park is ideal for many who want to exercise on the way to or from work.

All powerful women have mastered the art of multi-tasking. Since Broward and Palm Beach counties have some of the most vivacious, accomplished ladies in the country, it only makes sense that they congregate at the same salon. Let men have their poker nights and golf trips; any businesswoman worth her portfolio knows that more gets accomplished in the chair at the Elite Group than just extensions and highlights. Deals are made, cards are exchanged, heads are massaged — and it all happens under the detail-tuned eye of owner Nina Hallick, who has served Fort Lauderdale's best heads for close to eight years. She's got the recipe down pat: By cultivating an assemblage of SoFla's best talent, with each hair wizard specializing, there's a set of hands to match every personality. For those trying to get in touch with their inner glamourpusses, try one of stylist Rudy Rodriguez's voluptuous 'do's. For the professional who eschews cookie-cutter cuts, try colorist and stylist Sofia Navarro-Santiago. Refined power players seeking their softer sides should also consider Hallick's own chair.

The stickers on the pipes at Peace Pipe in Oakland Park say "For tobacco use only." You'll smile when you see them. While you're there, get some papers, a contraption that looks like a book but covertly stores herbal substances, a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, clove cigarettes, or a nifty lighter that says "I stole this lighter." Then, for dessert, get a guaranteed detoxifying goop, in case someone remembers a reason they shouldn't be partaking in the party. If a certain someone remembers a certain test a certain parole officer might be administering soon, pick up a bowl of hookah tobacco. And if you burned one before you came (tobacco, that is — you know, always tobacco), you could splurge on a Pink Floyd poster, a lava lamp, and incense. And when you finally pick that new special friend from the wide assortment of glass pieces (don't forget a soft case for seven bucks), leave the tobacco sticker on for a while. You'll smile every time you see it.

Scarborough's Health Foods is a lot like grandma's house. It's small, organized, and full of vitamin bottles. The cashier is a sweet, elderly lady who dispenses health advice as she bags up your purchases. It's possible to get stuck there for hours, not because grandma is guilt-tripping you but because the place is packed with enough home remedies and organic stuff to give your inner hippie an orgasm. The shop carries grains, nuts, vegan foods, honey, organic beauty products, and vitamins that assist in everything from muscle building — with natural protein, of course — to preventing urinary tract infections. Perhaps most noteworthy is the extensive selection of good old-fashioned tea — the shelves are stocked with more bags of delicious flavor than what got dumped at the Boston Tea Party; you can purportedly treat the flu, common cold, or general anxiety just by sipping a steaming mug of their herbal magic.

Why do laundromats try so hard to be hip today? The neon exterior, the rock 'n' roll jukebox, the Pabst by the bottle... Come on. A laundromat is for doing laundry, no more, no less. And that's the classic no-frills service at Gateway Laundry & Cleaners. What makes this a destination laundromat is that it's located squarely within the best emporium in all of Fort Lauderdale. After you toss your dirty undies and your buck-25 in a machine, you can cruise Radio-Active Records for some hot wax, stroll a few doors in either direction for Italian, Thai, Spanish, or Japanese food, or browse the Gateway-area furniture stores. If you've got jeans in the dryer, you've probably got time to catch a flick at Sunrise Cinemas, or get a beer in a pub that doesn't have an identity crisis, like the nearby Kim's Alley Bar.

Bertil Roos, if you didn't already know, is a rather entrepreneurial fellow who grew up on a small fishing island on the coast of Sweden, developed a passion for automobiles, and grew up to race Formula One cars in Europe. He eventually skipped across the pond and opened his own driving school in the Poconos. But his ambitions didn't stop there, and now Roos has sunk his tentacles across the country, establishing franchises at a few select racetracks. Roos' Formula 2000 Racers — low-riding racecars with open cockpits and carbon-fiber bodies — go from zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds, reach 130 mph, and "pull up to 2 Gs in the corners." It's not cheap, though; a half-day sesh starts at $495; a five-day package costs more than 5 Gs.

This place is girly-girl heaven. It's an ode to the frivolous and fantastic. It has gifts, sweets, and other (mostly pastel-colored) merchandise aimed at party planners, ladies who lunch, and discriminating gals of any age. The first Swoozie's opened in the hoity-toity Buckhead section of Atlanta in 2001. Since then, 28 more of these shops dedicated to "celebrations" have sprung up across the country, including two locales in South Florida. Swoozie's has a large selection of "social paper" for printing invitations and keeping alive that good ol' southern tradition of sending thank-you notes for even the smallest acts of kindness. Folks with busy social calendars can find the perfect party accessories here — what's a backyard BBQ without fluorescent pink napkin holders shaped like Adirondack chairs? — or personalized gifts for your favorite sorority girl (Swoozie's can engrave or embroider pretty much anything). And for the designer nappy-bag generation, there is, naturally, a wide selection of festive children's goodies.

One is tempted to say the best place for musicians is a bar, or a music store, or some crazy hippie gathering on a pier. And it might even be true. But musicians already know about those things — about the weirdly intense pools of musical talent that gather nightly at Alligator Alley in Fort Lauderdale, and about the kindly personal service from little indie shops like Modern Music in Wilton Manors. What most musicians don't know about is Jimmy Star, SoFla's most crazily independent designer, and about his boutique in Gateway Plaza. Jimmy does everything, and he does it well — crazy-quilt takes on denim, jackets sporting political satire ranging from smart to funny to stunningly offensive, and big pleather body suits that take almost as much daring to wear as they took to create. And some of this shit is cheap. A few years ago, one of our New Times staffers bought a lime-green T-shirt at Jimmy's emblazoned with the image of a flying cat framed by the words "SUPER PUSSY!" while the staffer's friend bought the orange "MEGA PUSSY!" companion shirt. The total price for both items was $30. While this is definitely the far lower end of Jimmy's price spectrum, it does underline what Jimmy is all about: he doesn't need you to be rich. Just brave.

When it comes to men's underwear, the selections at most department stores are boring, boring, boring. You're likely to see some Calvins in basic white, gray, and black. Or maybe some baggy plaid Nautica boxer shorts. But with a huge gay population that's growing by the day, the men of Fort Lauderdale are clamoring for something much snazzier. They want fitted briefs that embrace their bulge so that their package gets the attention it deserves. They want flattering cuts that display hard-earned six-pack abs in their entirety, while offering a teasing glimpse of pelvis. That's where specialty shops like Audace come in. This store has trunk shorts, jock straps, and low-rise little briefs. They've got 'em in loud colors — orange, turquoise, canary yellow, lime green (sometimes all at once) — and wild fabrics like mesh and silk gauze. They've got fashion-forward brands like Mundo Unico, C-IN2, and 2(x)ist. They have exactly the sort of drawers you'd expect a high-priced call-boy or an über-fit male stripper to wear. Your lover deserves no less!

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