Best Not-So-Cheap Thrill 2013 | Dining in the Dark at Market 17 | Sports & Recreation | South Florida
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.

Getting stoned inside your own home or a friend's is not only boring; it's un-American. What's a chronicface to do? Waiting for the next show at the Cruzan is time-consuming and inconvenient. And how many Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon laser light shows can one person take in a lifetime? We need to take things outside, under the canopy of an entrancing South Florida summer sky. What better way to get ripped than by being in the wilds around Alligator Alley? Head up the I-75 to Naples at night, wait for the lights of the city to dim in the horizon behind you, pull over, and proceed to get yourself toasted. There isn't a clearer view of the stars and constellations than on this road, which means you can contemplate the vastness of the universe while theorizing about how we're all just, like, a speck of dirt in the fingernail of a massive deity, man. Steer clear of rest stops (for obvious "Fuzz" reasons), and make sure to completely come down from floating before you head back home. And if you should spot a rare Florida panther out there, count that as a bonus. Just don't attempt to high-five it or anything. Getting Chonged responsibly is always the name of the game.

Discover how elegant a pee-stop can be by valet-parking your car out front, only to relieve yourself within the immaculate facilities of this polished cathedral of commerce before calling for your chariot to be brought back around so you may continue on your way, grinning.

Live around here long enough and you'll hear all the urban legends: That Al Capone kidnapped an Italian opera star and kept her hostage in Deerfield. (Supposedly true.) That Al Pacino used to hang out at the Yankee Clipper (Definitely true: See Analyze This.) That during a full moon, the ghost of Farrah Fawcett, in her famous red swimsuit, hovers over the Fort Lauderdale house she once shared with Lee Majors. (Just saying, look up on a clear night!) Another amazing fact that is passed around in whispers is that, of the more than 3,700 Marriott hotels in 74 countries worldwide, the unpretentious, family-friendly Marriott Harbor Beach is the one that "Mr. Marriott" prefers. That's largely because of the centerpiece pool — surrounded by fake rocks and waterfalls and big enough to accommodate guests from all of the hotel's 618 rooms. (Bless that towel staff.) It's open only to registered users of the hotel, but hey — this place just screams "staycation." Little ones can be dispatched to the kids' club or watersports so you can get crackin' on sampling drinks with seamless service from the tiki bar (or free cookies and lemonade). If you wake up early on a lucky summer day, you might find sea turtles hatching on the edge of the property. Until then... Can-non — baaaaaaaaaaallll!!

You'll have to carry your board half a mile, because after you wind through the Harbor Beach neighborhood and snag one of just eight or so public parking spots on South Ocean Drive, walk another block to the tiny gate on South Ocean Lane that lets you onto an almost-secret stretch of public beach beside the Point of Americas condominium. After that, you still have to walk down a sandy corridor to get to the wide-open beach. Don't go straight into the water; turn hard right and climb over the big giant rocks that make up the jetty and into the (very busy!) inlet where boats travel in and out of Fort Lauderdale. This spot is decidedly not for groms, because the waves you will be catching are not just waves that break only when the occasional southeast swell hits just so but also waves created by giant cruise ships and massive freighters moving in and out of the port. Yet for the exceptionally skilled few who can hack it, there are no urban thrills more exciting than dropping in on the wake of a 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas — it's like coming thiiiis close to getting run over by a $1.4 billion, 16-story, 6,000-passenger hotel. And yes, if the marine patrol sees you, you're in trouble.

Mario St. Cyr was the first guy to open a stand-up paddleboard business in Fort Lauderdale when he ran Paddles and Boards, parking his trailer right there on Sunrise Boulevard at George English Park, where it was easy to push off into the calm Intracoastal Waterway and commune with manatees and superyachts. Paddlers loved that Mario was ultrafriendly, didn't charge an arm and a leg and an internal organ, and didn't overcomplicate the sport so he could upsell you overpriced lessons. (Newsflash: It's really not complicated to stand up, balance, and paddle.) But after many competitors got into the game and undercut him by not having insurance, St. Cyr decided to get out of the seven-day-a-week rentals and reignite his real estate business. Which left him time and spirit to start a paddleboarding charity! Now St. Cyr, who once taught skiing to underprivileged kids, rents boards by appointment ($40 to $45 for all-day rental with free introductory lesson or $200 for a two-hour private lesson), and is focused on group events — like offering paddleboarding to kids who would otherwise never get the chance to try it and hosting fundraisers like Stand-Up for the Pets (paddle with your dog onboard and raise funds for spay and neuter programs). Even with these new initiatives, St. Cyr manages to offer semiregular paddleboarding lessons to Fort Lauderdale residents at the low, low cost of absolutely free! Next dates are June 22 and July 13 — get on that!

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