Hollywood CRA

In between the bustling beachfronts of Fort Lauderdale and Miami is a sunny coziness to be discovered by joggers, diners, and amateur sand-castle architects (and the people who love them). The Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is a 2.5-mile stretch of mellowness, featuring a brick-paved pedestrian sidewalk bordered by the sandy beach on one side and an array of charming restaurants, cafés, shops, and inns on the other. The Broadwalk also features three oceanfront parks with playgrounds, a weekly produce market, and free performances at the Hollywood Beach Theater most nights. Park your car for the day and allow the free trolley to move you and the family up and down the Broadwalk and over to the lovely downtown area as well. There's lots to discover here and absolutely no hurry to do so.

A snorkel session along the jetty at Red Reef Park will remind any South Florida resident or visitor that it is absurd to associate glowing tropical fish and swaying coral with a desktop screen saver rather than the eye-popping live experience. Especially since this precious Boca Raton spot makes the underwater world of eels, seahorses, brain coral, and clownfish so easily available. All a curious mammal has to do is strap on a dive mask and wade in from the beach. In an instant, the noisy reality of I-95, office cubicles, and endless chatter vanishes and one is floating in a luminous dream. After a spectacular snorkel, a picnic at one of the park's pavilions is a nice way to gradually reenter the world of gravity and traffic lights. The parking fee of $16 to $18 is a small price to pay for such a therapeutic excursion.

This vista is positioned just right, so that an early-evening bike ride down A1A will bring you to the highest bridge in South Florida shortly after the road breaks away from the coastline, snaking its way west. If you time it right, arriving just as the Intracoastal Waterway below begins to mirror the fiery hues of the sky above, an end-of-day calm seems to come over all that is within your elevated view of Fort Lauderdale. A contemplative moment is to be expected. If you've brought a date, a kiss may earn you beeps from passing traffic (bonus!).

While bagpipers march down the street

The people get light on their feet

All decked out in green

A ridiculous scene

The sights on this day can't be beat!

Where there once was a pointed roof, there now is a glowing capsule at the tip of a cosmic rocket ship. Or it might look that way to those on quality hallucinogens after dark who are within a five-mile radius of the Bank of America Plaza. While some nights the newly added LED display is a cool, steady blue, other times it flashes rainbow cheerfulness like the cityscape equivalent of a Grateful Dead jam. Kudos to the city's fifth-tallest building for becoming the most magical to behold.

Your pal from the Midwest just rolled into town, and sun, sand, and surf are tops on his agenda. These are three attainable demands that can be met at a multitude of tourist traps, which your visitor will leave with a hearty sunburn and an assortment of T-shirts with cheesy slogans. Instead of opting for the predictable sights he's seen a million times on brochures, give your visitor a South Floridian slice-of-life experience. The newly remodeled 976-foot International Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier offers genuine Floridian charm. If you haven't been to the pier since its $5 million overhaul, you will be damned impressed too. With its new blue and crystal-white hue, it glistens against the blue of the Atlantic Ocean most majestically. If the guest is an early bird, go just before sunrise, walk the distance to the end of the pier, and marvel at the stunning sunrise that materializes before your eyes. At only $1 for sightseers ($4 for fishermen), it's one of the cheapest yet most stunning sights around. Afterward, grab some towels and a few beach chairs and sprawl out in Deerfield Beach's pristine sand — the cleanest and most expansive beach Broward County has to offer.

Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service

A journey into the country's "largest subtropical wilderness" shouldn't be this easy, but it is. Just an hour or so on Florida's Turnpike, and city dwellers are face-to-face with the legendary River of Grass. Hearty types can kayak, canoe, or camp overnight in the primordial soup, but there's plenty to satiate the casual day-tripper. The Anhinga Trail, just minutes inside of the 1.5-million-acre park, is a breeze to navigate. Nothing but paved paths and elevated boardwalks. Oh, and a shitload of alligators and prehistoric-looking birds. Drive deeper into the park — the crowd wanes with every passing mile — until you reach the pink Flamingo Visitor Center overlooking Florida Bay. Have a picnic in view of an active osprey nest, and scout the marina for manatees and sightings of the rare American crocodile. The cost for entry is $10 per vehicle and a little bit of driving, but the experience is beyond compare.

A quiet summertime staycation is the new panacea. The year is grinding, the job is steadily turning your brain to mincemeat, and life in general won't stop screeching like a banshee on steroids. You need to get the hell out of Dodge before you strangle Kenny from accounts. Yet there's no need to over-do a quick weekend getaway. Not when ocean breezes and cloudless blue skies are here for the taking on a daily basis. That's why you can just clip it northbound to Deerfield Beach and book yourself a stay at the Embassy Suites Resort & Spa. It's a beachfront hotel without the usual insane prices you'd pay in other parts of our fine state. (OK, it may cost you $220 a night, but you haven't paid for any plane tickets, bro!) Here you're just a short walk to the beach and to the area's many restaurants. Don't feel like leaving the building? That's cool too. The hotel features a bar with a daily Manager's Cocktail Hour and good eats as well. And no matter what room you choose — an ocean view or an oceanfront — you'll be greeted by the hushed sounds of the waves washing ashore through your balcony window. Order breakfast (or wake up early enough to grab some of their delicious buffet) and eat out on the balcony overlooking the crystalline ocean and auburn sand below. Just a short drive away, the Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach Resort & Spa sits in the middle of quiet nowhere. And that's exactly where you want to be during your time off.

Let's be honest: Nothing gets the ticker hammering like a peek at some skin. And since 1965, Sunsport Gardens has been offering the region an affordable smorgasbord of private parts and secret crevices — all in a family setting! Billing itself as a "Family Nudist Resort," Sunsport is all the way out in Loxahatchee, far from the prying eyes of all those assholes who made you feel fat in the high school locker room after gym class ("Stop sucking it in, Tubs!"). At Sunsport, you can find the same activities you'd see at summer camp, just with more T&A. There are daily events like yoga and volleyball, a full pool (preshowering is required), square dancing, and rental cabins and campers. Plus, most important, the vibe is judgment-free. So if you're looking for something new to jump-start your social life, a new thrill for a thrifty budget, Sunsport is a good option. Your first visit to the resort is on the house, so why not let your... er... hair down and enjoy? You don't have to suck it in this time, Tubs.

Candace West

This is not a thrill of the heart-pounding kind but a titillation of the gastronomical variety. Fort Lauderdale's farm-to-table eatery Market 17's dining-in-the-dark experience takes patrons' palates on sensational sensory escapes. We are talking about an eight-course meal served in complete and utter darkness, where your waiter brings your meals with the aid of night-vision goggles. With the lights turned off, your remaining senses reach a Viagra-level type of arousal. Each delicate aroma will seem more potently fragrant, and every spice and seasoning will scintillate your fervid taste buds. Without the aid of silverware — which is rendered useless without the assistance of vision — your fingers become the primary eating utensils. Eating with your bare hands may sound a bit bestial, but it is also quite carnal at the same time. Never will consuming a piece of celery seem as sensual as it does in these conditions. Reaching for your glass of Riesling will be a dodgy proposition, but you'll soon discover it is paired perfectly with what could be a piece of garlic shrimp in front of you. At $188 per person with wine pairing ($135 without), eating in total darkness is a lavish luxury reserved for the foodie with extra funds. Steep in price though it may be, it offers a culinary rush like no other.

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