If you're visiting Fort Lauderdale and you rent a car at the airport, chances are you'll drive by this sign, which is nestled amid the foliage along Federal Highway. The aqua and pink tubes of its classic roadside advertisement have flickered since 1949, beckoning would-be diners to the table. The sign would seem a good omen for visitors and locals alike, hearkening back to a simpler time when all a South Floridian really wanted was a tropical cocktail with a surf and turf. Some things change. Newer neon often stamps out the old. But the Tropical Acres sign still stands. So, if you pass this little landmark on your way into or out of town, don't forget to say goodnight.

If work and other commitments prevent you from catching concerts by AC/DC, Guns N' Roses, Pink Floyd, Metallica, Van Halen, or Aerosmith, fret not; Fort Lauderdale hosts one of these dinosaurs, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, almost every week. If you're tired of Axl Rose lying low for years at a time, you can stoke your fire with Paradise City, a Guns N' Roses look-and-sound-alike act. Run Like Hell makes a mint performing the songs of Pink Floyd. And you'll never have to worry who Van Halen's hired as its new screamer when you go to see tribute act Fair Warning. Fort Lauderdale's perennially cheesy Metal Factory is the oasis for these imitators of the woolly mammoths and mastodons of the music world.
A lot of folks sit around and wonder why up-and-coming bands don't make it to South Florida. Sure, lots of local bands appear in our clubs and bars. And we get the occasional hit-maker playing at an arena or amphitheater. But what about all those groups that are popular and receive plenty of radio airtime yet couldn't fill an arena if their collective lives depended on it? Where are they? Well, one of the biggest problems was the lack of a midsize venue. Orbit has solved this predicament, at least for the foreseeable future. Once an unpretentious Winn-Dixie, it reopened last November as a sprawling nightclub with more than enough floor space for our favorite entertainers. Another bonus to the place is that it doesn't stick to one genre. The list of bands that have come to Orbit is vast and varied, including Thin Lizzy, Insane Clown Posse, the Psychedelic Furs, Paul Oakenfold, the Orb, and the Specials. Given the club's success to date, Orbit may be the impetus for a new wave.

If you get your kicks by hurtling toward the earth at more than 120 miles per hour from an altitude of about two and a half miles -- and who doesn't? -- Skydive America is your kind of place. But it'll cost you: as much as $159 for the jump. (Find four or more friends foolish enough to accompany you, and the price drops to $139 each.) What does it get you? A short video screening on what you're about to experience, a personal briefing from the instructor to whom you'll be harnessed, and then the jump: 65 seconds of free fall followed by another four to six minutes of "canopy flight" after you (or your instructor) deploy the parachute. Your view will include Lake Okeechobee and the sugar cane fields of western Palm Beach County. Factor in another $79 if you want to document the look of terror on your face with a video and still photos. And if you're too giddy to drive back home after all this, $20 will get you a night at nearby Clouds Edge Ranch, a 3.5-acre complex of air-conditioned bunkhouses, campgrounds, showers, kitchen facilities, and a pool. They'll even throw in a towel and soap.
Even people who aren't theater buffs love one-acts. Perhaps it's because our brains have been conditioned by too many Budweiser and Taco Bell commercials, but one-acts have the strange appeal of being enigmatic, energetic, and, most importantly, short. This season Chuck Pooler took the one-act a step further by packing Neil LaBute's Iphigenia in Orem with so many maniacal twists that it took the emotional toll of a two-hour drama. As a middle-aged salesman holed up in a roadside motel, Pooler led theatergoers from feeling sorry for his washed-out, pudgy, pathetic self to utter shock when he confesses that he suffocated his infant daughter and then pretended it was an accident. On the dimly lit and barren stage of Drama 101, Pooler's subtlety and unassuming delivery managed to seep into the subconscious of the audience and root out all preconceptions of what it means to be a murderer while at the same time replanting age-old questions about good and evil.
Tune into 90.9 FM on a Friday night, and you'll probably wonder if the Federal Communications Commission has suspended its rules regarding off-color language. The truth is, the FCC would love to find the secret location of surreptitious, scandalous Nine-Oh-Nine and shut it down but quick. Until it does so, however, this is the place to listen to the thuggiest, nastiest, bootius maximus hip-hop you've never heard. DJs regularly interrupt the music for impromptu sing-alongs and shout-outs to homeys. And they take calls from enthusiastic partyers in Lauderhill, Sunrise, Hollywood, Plantation, and points beyond who are only too happy for the chance to talk on the air. However, 90.9 isn't legal, and sometimes you'll tune in to find nothing but dead air. As one late-night DJ recently explained, "When we say we underground, we mean underground."

There's something all too gratifying about skipping a traditional meal and heading straight for the hard stuff. So why not head over to Mark Militello's eatery in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's restaurant row? Bypass the white tablecloths and go straight to the bar, which, like the restaurant, is void of Chanel suits and Armani wallets after 2:30 p.m. Order a Grey Goose martini, complete with three juicy olives, for $9 or a slender flute of Laurent-Perrier rosé brut for $16.50. A charming bartender will gladly bring you a bowl of fresh strawberries and hand-whipped cream to accompany the pink bubbly. As you order round three and afternoon melts into early evening, rest easy on one of the bar's leather-backed stools and ignore the hammer that has now begun to bang on your frontal lobe. It could be worse. You could be at work.

Grab a helping of Plutonium Pie, but expect no creamy dollop of whipped cream to soften the blow. No, brave reader, you will need lead mittens, protective visor, and earplugs of titanium to withstand the ferocious storm emitted by this local trio. After a brief fling with "punktry" last year, singer-axsmith J. Christ, his girlfriend Max Pluto, and his sister Lucy Rex have returned to form (straightforward, slam-happy hardcore) with their new Nuclear Pussy album. Expose yourself to Plutonium Pie at area venues such as Tobacco Road, the Poor House, and Churchill's Hideaway.

You can take your fingers out of your ears now. Since 1998 the folks at NSU's Radio X have made the local airwaves safe and, yes, sound, for the discriminating listener. Radio X, South Florida's only FM college station, has a lot riding on it. If it sucked, listeners craving alternative and local music would be out of luck. Fortunately the nightly program is chockablock with DJs such as Jenocyde (Jen Birchfield) who spin a musical mishmash that reflects their own unique preferences. Jenocyde's show (which airs Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7 p.m.) has an unpredictable but always rockable play list that includes Radiohead and Rocket from the Crypt. This is one DJ whose nickname fits. She kills it.

Fifty years old on May 10, this station would wipe the floor with the competition -- if there were any. As it is WLRN remains a beacon of taste and intelligence in the vast wasteland of corporately controlled South Florida radio. The station's NPR news and public affairs programming is reliably enlightening, but locally produced shows are also first-rate. Standouts include jazz every weekday night from Len Pace (with a voice like Barry White on Quaaludes) and on Sundays from Ted Grossman (whose shtick is pure Noo Yawk). WLRN was the radio station that did the mostest, firstest, to bring reggae to the States, chiefly due to the efforts of the legendary Clint O'Neil. O'Neil still lays down the smooth patter overnight Tuesday through Saturday, handing the reins to protégé Ital-K on the off nights. Also note Michael Stock's Saturday-afternoon folk-music show, which has kept the boho flame alive for 20 years now. The station's strongest South Florida flaa-va comes from its broadcasts of the Miami-Dade School Board's meetings, at which you can occasionally hear expelled students come in to plead their cases. You won't believe the stories they tell. In a gesture that shows the station's commitment to public service, it offers a show en kreyol for the benefit of the local Haitian community, evidence of the station's continued dedication to the ever-changing needs and interests of the South Florida community.

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