Whether you live in an efficiency apartment or on an expansive estate, nothing livens up a home like a few -- or a few hundred -- nice plants. And you're not likely to find a better selection than that at NU-turf, where the claim to be "South Florida's largest garden center" seems indisputable. You could easily spend hours strolling around the five neatly organized acres in this veritable Garden of Eden, breathing in the fresh O2 while trying to decide if your place has room for coconut trees, roses, and hanging baskets, complete with all the fixings. Knowledgeable workers -- some on hand since the place opened 30 years ago -- will help guide your quest if you like; they'll even deliver and install big orders for you.

Uncle Sam's store in Lauderhill is not merely a record store. Oh, sure it has CDs. Lots of them. But this place specializes in the stuff you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else: a vast line of punk, industrial, and dance-oriented music, as well as a selection of CDs by local bands, all in a store that is bigger and better than the original location in Pompano Beach. And even if store manager Richard Kammeraad doesn't have the title you want in stock, he can order just about any album in distribution: "If it's obtainable, I can get it." While you're there shopping for music, maybe there's something else you need to add to the shopping cart. Uncle Sam's boasts any number of items that you can't pick up at the megachains like Best Buy or CD Warehouse, including a wide selection of European posters, those massive three-foot- by-five-foot jobs that, in proper numbers, can easily substitute for wallpaper. And there's a nice little set of tobacco accessories that the stores of the other Sam, the late Mr. Walton, will stock only when hell freezes over. Add to that a wide variety of lamps, club toys (glow-sticks and glow-rings, for example), and incense, as well as heaps of other goods, and it's a one-stop shop for all your rock 'n' roll needs.
Perfectly round, the building's shape reflects its origins; it was designed as a computer-operated, drive-thru convenience store. On the same spot for 30 years, this local landmark now carries everything you need for great fishing -- a smorgasbord of tackle and gear that covers half the store's shopping area --and everything you need for lousy fishing, too, such as 500 different brands of bottled beer, lovingly displayed in a rainbowlike series of coolers that curve around the store's other half. Co-owner Robert Lamelas says he gave up selling guns when he realized firearms and alcohol weren't a good mix. Consequently, funky as it is, the store's selection of wines is surprisingly good. Who'd expect a 1997 Mt. Veeder cab and some decent Burgundies among the Slim Jims and bait?
First off let's get one thing straight: This is about TEQUILA. And if you think Cuervo is tequila, stop reading right now -- you probably believe Budweiser is beer and Domino's is pizza, too. For the rest of us with -- ahem -- more-educated palates, true tequila is only the 100 percent blue agave variety, not the stuff that José sells, which is actually half tequila and half fermented sugar. Not only is the good stuff a damn sight yummier, it's also much less likely to give you a hangover. That's not to say, though, that a night drinking shots at the Margarita Cafe on A1A just north of Las Olas won't result in a head full of hurt the next morning. But at least you'll be sipping in style. You'll find a wide assortment of the cactus-based nectar including steely young blancos, more refined reposados, and aged, perfumey añejos. Highly recommended: shots of Patrón, Herradura, or Porfidio. After familiarizing your taste buds with those popular boutique brands, move up to the supersmooth Chinaco and the velvety-soft Hacienda del Cristero. But save room for our personal favorite -- El Tesoro de Don Felipe -- its three versions are the tastiest tequilas we've ever tried. In fact, after a night with Don Felipe's treasures, you'll never look at a bottle of José Cuervo without deep-seated scorn and derision. Just as you should.

Picking FAO Schwarz in this category is a bit like choosing the Atlantic Ocean as the finest place for a saltwater swim. There's simply no toy store in South Florida that measures up to those operated by the 139-year-old New York City-based retailer. And while there are now six locations in South Florida, none is better than the one that opened last year in the $550 million CityPlace development in downtown West Palm Beach. With horn-blowing, flag-waving bears sitting atop a 76-foot-high clock tower, the two-story store screams fun. To enter, you pass a giant bronze bear playing with giant bronze blocks and two 20-foot-high bears decked out like toy soldiers. Let the kiddies climb on the bronze bear and pose for pictures. It's all part of the experience that continues inside when young and old alike are encouraged not just to touch the merchandise but to play with it. While the store gets a lot of press for poor-little-rich-boy toys such as a $40,000 gas-powered miniature Lamborghini, a $6000 rocking horse, a $699 kid-size Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and a $650 cuddly stuffed elephant, the store is not just for the filthy rich. Childhood mainstays such as Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Sorry!, Scrabble, and even Lincoln Logs are available at discount-department-store prices, and unusual items, such as in-line skates with collapsible wheels (to convert into shoes) are also in stock.
As newlyweds four years ago, Tatiana and Marty Zidtowecki started Archives, a used bookstore and café. Now the cozy shop around the corner still feels like a labor of love. With worn, antique-style furnishings and wrought iron tables out front, Archives could be the sitting room of your well-read aunt. Pick up a used copy of the latest Helen Fielding novel, then choose from a large selection of Bridget Jones-like snacks; Archives recently added a selection of British delicacies such as Cadbury Milk Tray and wine gums. Located near a 24-hour Laundromat in the Gateway Shopping Center, it's the perfect place to while away a Sunday -- or a spin cycle.
Taking your unwanted CDs to a store to pawn them off can be a discouraging procedure. Some humorless retailers subject your platters to severe scrutiny, holding them up to the light to look for scuff marks, soliciting a second opinion from the stock boy, or even using an electron microscope to scan for irregularities. The harder they look, the less likely you are to garner good money for your rejects. At the busy stores, you and your castoffs may sit for an hour before someone gets around to perusing them -- only to offer a measly $2 or $3 per disc. It's not so at CD Trader. The clerks will quickly look over your castaways, take what they want, and fork over a princely sum (as much as $5 apiece) for the keepers. Not only that, but the stock at CD Trader is comprehensive for a modest-size store. Trade your hand-me-downs for some goodies from the large reggae and dance-music bins, or just take the cash and run. Either way you'll leave richer than you arrived.

This tiny white building across the street from a Rolls-Royce dealership appears an unlikely place to stop for fine wine. But drop in anyway and you'll find one of Fort Lauderdale's smallest wine shops may also be its most authentic. Owner Patrick Mevel was born in France to a family of wine connoisseurs and moved to South Florida five years ago with the dream of bringing his country's love of wine to America. Francophobes can relax; Mevel emphasizes education, not arrogance. He has plans for winetastings, and on the wall of his shop, he's posted a map of France's wine regions, a welcome sign for wine beginners. He also sells champagne and cigars. But the real reason to shop here is Mevel. Under his capable direction, you can be certain your dinner party selections are toujours à propos.
When it comes to shopping meccas, scale is everything -- upscale and small-scale. Ever since they put a roof over the Sunrise Shopping Center in 1980 and renamed it the Galleria, the managers have done their darnedest to maintain the place's status as "Fort Lauderdale's most fashionable address." Despite the fact that the mall's drab linoleum floors and dull architectural features look every second of their age, snazzy anchor stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue ensure the Galleria's continued chi-chi-ness. Even so, we like this cozy shopping destination even more for what it doesn't have: a monster movie theater (a modest four screens here), and noise. Even when the place is bustling, it's quiet as a tomb. When compared with the no-holds barred bedlam of Sawgrass Mills, this sounds awfully appealing.
Borders Books and Music (Sunrise Blvd)
When we think newsstand, we conjure up the image of a dingy, cramped place where the closest thing to a scenic view is the girlie magazines stacked by the cash register. Not so the newspapers and periodicals sections at Borders. They're included in the big, bright Fort Lauderdale bookstore perched on the banks of the New River, with six sections devoted to every conceivable magazine and all the usual suspects in newspapers. When you're done with the local rags, grab a copy of the Denver Post, Corriere della Sera, the London Times, or Le Monde. Then thumb through several hundred periodicals you never knew existed. A section labeled "Culture & Society" features magazines ranging from The Advocate to MAD and provides an enlightening glimpse into how Borders defines American culture. When you've selected your reading material, claim a table in the adjacent café for a latte and croissant, or better yet, take it outside to one of the umbrella-topped tables on the shaded deck, where you can check out the yachting parade while cursing at the day's news.

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