If you've been around long enough, you probably remember when Wilton Drive was just a stretch of sleepy small-town road -- something to get through on your way from one part of Fort Lauderdale to another. No more. In the past five or so years, the drive, which begins where NE Fourth Avenue ends and arcs around to Manors' Five-Points intersection, has undergone a transformation that's nothing short of remarkable. Now, it's Wilton Manors' quirky answer to Las Olas Boulevard. The drive's centerpiece, the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, has gone from a dreary strip mall once anchored by a bank to a spruced-up, lively mosaic of businesses of all sorts. It's now anchored by the enormously popular Georgie's Alibi, a complex with a main bar, a sports bar, a small café, and a patio, all daily drawing a large, diverse clientele that's mainly but not exclusively gay. That's pretty much the pattern for the rest of the drive as well -- such old standbys as a Dairy Queen, a Social Security Administration office, and an Eddie Hauck's Wings N' Things franchise rub shoulders with a GayMart boutique, the gay-owned-and-operated Better Bodies Gym, and the AIDS charity Poverello. The old/new, gay/straight diversity continues from one end of the drive to the other: restaurants and bars (nearly 20 of them), antiques shops, hair salons, real-estate agents, car-repair centers, florists, specialty shops, churches, a children's furniture store, a pet grooming center, a tanning salon, a law office, a travel agency, a chiropractor, a pool hall, a laundry, a plant nursery, a marketing firm, a comic-book store, a lock-and-safe company, an insurance agent, a leather shop, a trailer park, a Christian bookstore, and -- our offbeat favorite -- a branch of the Women's World Wrestling Club. Best of all, the strip is still growing and evolving. Next year, it should be even better.
Every Florida tourism ad ever made shows someone out for a solitary stroll on the beach, watching seabirds skim over the lapping waves as the sun lights the sky afire. What greater contentment can there be than a barefoot hike with the sea breeze in your face? Well, OK, there are a few. But a warm and solitary beach is way up there. Trouble is, everybody wants his own patch of sand. That's why 2.7 million people are crammed into Broward and Palm Beach counties. And most of them are lucky to own the sand in their shoes. Still, amid all this bustle, there are still a few lonely spots where the honks and screeches of the city recede to a gentle murmur, lost in the whooshing waves. Tops has got to be John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, jutting out from Dania Beach just south of Port Everglades. There, isolated from the troubles of the mainland, the lucky few can trudge two and a half miles of usually empty beach backed by tangled trees, with only shriveling jellyfish for company. The park is accessible from Dania Beach Boulevard and A1A, 8 a.m. to sundown. Or park at the Dania Beach Fishing Pier at the beach's south end for a nominal fee (open 24-7 for fishermen, until 11 p.m. for everyone else) and just stroll up the strand. Pedestrians and cyclists get into John U. Lloyd park for $1, single motorists for $2, and up to eight people in a car for $4. But that would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?
Every Florida tourism ad ever made shows someone out for a solitary stroll on the beach, watching seabirds skim over the lapping waves as the sun lights the sky afire. What greater contentment can there be than a barefoot hike with the sea breeze in your face? Well, OK, there are a few. But a warm and solitary beach is way up there. Trouble is, everybody wants his own patch of sand. That's why 2.7 million people are crammed into Broward and Palm Beach counties. And most of them are lucky to own the sand in their shoes. Still, amid all this bustle, there are still a few lonely spots where the honks and screeches of the city recede to a gentle murmur, lost in the whooshing waves. Tops has got to be John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, jutting out from Dania Beach just south of Port Everglades. There, isolated from the troubles of the mainland, the lucky few can trudge two and a half miles of usually empty beach backed by tangled trees, with only shriveling jellyfish for company. The park is accessible from Dania Beach Boulevard and A1A, 8 a.m. to sundown. Or park at the Dania Beach Fishing Pier at the beach's south end for a nominal fee (open 24-7 for fishermen, until 11 p.m. for everyone else) and just stroll up the strand. Pedestrians and cyclists get into John U. Lloyd park for $1, single motorists for $2, and up to eight people in a car for $4. But that would defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?
Some things just shouldn't be too civilized. The Everglades is one of them. Even as the state and feds plan to spend untold billions to clean up what we've already done to the River of Grass, the Moloch of commercialization still rears its reptilian head at tourist traps like Everglades Holiday Park and the Billie Swamp Safari. Of course, no one wants to go back to the stinky hell that was the lot of our pioneer forbears, but a simple nod to the creature comforts should be enough when searching out the beauties of nature. That's just what the happy motorist will find at Mile Marker 35 on Alligator Alley. The modest rest stop has a few vending machines, half a dozen picnic tables, and two boat ramps, all watched by a Wackenhut security guard. The big bonus is the only public restroom between Weston and the Miccosukee reservation near the Collier County line. No noisy airboats, nobody pestering you to buy shellacked alligator heads -- just you, your bass boat, and a swamp. Like it was meant to be.
Some things just shouldn't be too civilized. The Everglades is one of them. Even as the state and feds plan to spend untold billions to clean up what we've already done to the River of Grass, the Moloch of commercialization still rears its reptilian head at tourist traps like Everglades Holiday Park and the Billie Swamp Safari. Of course, no one wants to go back to the stinky hell that was the lot of our pioneer forbears, but a simple nod to the creature comforts should be enough when searching out the beauties of nature. That's just what the happy motorist will find at Mile Marker 35 on Alligator Alley. The modest rest stop has a few vending machines, half a dozen picnic tables, and two boat ramps, all watched by a Wackenhut security guard. The big bonus is the only public restroom between Weston and the Miccosukee reservation near the Collier County line. No noisy airboats, nobody pestering you to buy shellacked alligator heads -- just you, your bass boat, and a swamp. Like it was meant to be.
If you combine West Lake Park with the Anne Kolb Nature Center next door, you have one of the biggest public spaces in all of South Florida: almost three square miles of water, mangrove, and room to roam -- all just a whistle away from the ocean. West Lake has a wonderful kids' playground, a big lake where Broward Community College offers sailing and windsurfing classes, and top-notch picnic facilities. On any given weekend, the park bustles with high-powered basketball games, trick in-line skaters, and birthday parties. The six-year-old nature center next door provides a view of Florida as it ought to be. There's a five-level observation tower and delightful canoe trails. Both places are cheap. West Lake admission costs $1; entry to Anne Kolb is free. They're open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter and 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in summer. So go east, young man (or woman or child). Leave the 'burbs behind.
Anne Kolb Nature Center
If you combine West Lake Park with the Anne Kolb Nature Center next door, you have one of the biggest public spaces in all of South Florida: almost three square miles of water, mangrove, and room to roam -- all just a whistle away from the ocean. West Lake has a wonderful kids' playground, a big lake where Broward Community College offers sailing and windsurfing classes, and top-notch picnic facilities. On any given weekend, the park bustles with high-powered basketball games, trick in-line skaters, and birthday parties. The six-year-old nature center next door provides a view of Florida as it ought to be. There's a five-level observation tower and delightful canoe trails. Both places are cheap. West Lake admission costs $1; entry to Anne Kolb is free. They're open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the winter and 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in summer. So go east, young man (or woman or child). Leave the 'burbs behind.
Since winning the supervisor of elections post in 2000, this longtime school board member has pushed Broward County's voter-registration rolls higher than those of Miami-Dade's for the first time in history. She's also revamped the way locals vote -- but not without a fight. When she first floated the idea of ATM-style touchscreen machines, commissioners balked. They warmed to the idea a couple of months later and eventually passed a $17.2 million contract with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software late last year. When some of the new machines showed up with dim screens, Oliphant came down hard on the company and persuaded it to fix the problem. And when the Broward Charter Review Commission tried to take away her control of her department's budget, it received a firsthand demonstration of Oliphant's clout: two rooms full of vocal supporters. Seems the woman in charge of the political process in Broward knows a thing or two about politics herself.
Since winning the supervisor of elections post in 2000, this longtime school board member has pushed Broward County's voter-registration rolls higher than those of Miami-Dade's for the first time in history. She's also revamped the way locals vote -- but not without a fight. When she first floated the idea of ATM-style touchscreen machines, commissioners balked. They warmed to the idea a couple of months later and eventually passed a $17.2 million contract with Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software late last year. When some of the new machines showed up with dim screens, Oliphant came down hard on the company and persuaded it to fix the problem. And when the Broward Charter Review Commission tried to take away her control of her department's budget, it received a firsthand demonstration of Oliphant's clout: two rooms full of vocal supporters. Seems the woman in charge of the political process in Broward knows a thing or two about politics herself.
Never mind its four Little League baseball fields, five football fields, 27-hole golf course, and 40 picnic shelters. The 900-acre Okeeheelee Park goes beyond the traditional role of a community park and takes the meaning of the word recreation to the extreme. Case in point: the five waterski courses -- one of which is a nationally recognized venue for world-class competitions. On any given day, you'll find avid water-skiers and wake-boarders making waves and splashing innocent bystanders at the park's 170 acres of water. All courses can accommodate traditional, barefoot, and kneeboard skiing, and for all of the day-jobbers out there, one of the courses is even lighted for night skiing. BMX bikers young and (slightly) old pull off 180s and 360s at the park's track, which is complete with dirt hills, sharp tricky turns, and half-pipes. Nature lovers walk, jog, and bike through woods and wetlands along the park's 1.2-mile-long nature trail. And as dads turn up the heat at the park's barbecue pavilions, kids run around and play to their hearts' content while the mouth-watering aromas of grilled burgers and corn on the cob fill the air. Additional facilities include a wooden fishing pier, two boat launching ramps, four adult softball fields, volleyball courts, five children's play areas, eight tennis courts, and a nature center. In short, there's something for everyone. And even though it's far from the beach -- the park is practically in the Everglades -- and there isn't a grain of sand in sight, you'll still find plenty of "fun in the sun."

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