Is this even a question? Seriously.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you're a long-distance runner, an amateur jogger, or a power walker who's sick of doing laps around Aventura Mall, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is the best place to get your groove on. This two-mile path is loaded with things to keep your mind off the fact that, for some reason, you're running without being chased. Located on Sunrise Boulevard at A1A, the heavily shaded path at Birch State Park runs along the Intracoastal Waterway and is always populated with runners, bikers, rollerbladers, and couples just looking for some fresh air. The paths are wide enough that it never gets too crowded, the ocean breeze keeps the temperature down, and the beach is only a few hundred feet away when you want to give up the exercising ghost or continue for a long run down Fort Lauderdale Beach.

If gondolas are the way to experience Venice, Italy, then the kayak is the way to experience "the American Venice." Evening is the time to launch. Glide soundlessly over water made silver by the moonlight. On those nights when the moon is absent, the lights of Las Olas mark the shore. And even in this economy, when the entertainment district is a shadow of its former self, the revelry still looks Gatsby-an from the water. And considering all the huge homes lining the Intracoastal, the kayak is the best means for getting a peek at how the top 1 percent lives. The Atlantic Coast Kayak Co.'s Isles of Venice trip usually takes place once a month and begins around sunset. Guides will make sure you don't get in the way of a cruise ship or caught in a current and swept out to sea, which would be a drag.

Have you ever seen a stressed-out monk? They simply don't exist. To be practiced in the art of meditation is to be able to banish — for as long as you like — the multitasking, short-attention-span culture that has only grown more demanding since the economic downturn. A daylong course at the Drolma Kadampa Buddhist Center teaches first-timers the art of meditation of Mahamudra Tantra — defined in Buddha's teachings as having a single mind of both bliss and wisdom. It costs $35 — a small price to pay for learning the ability to unclutter your mental hard drive and find a lasting tranquility. The center also offers chanted meditations, or "pujas," at no charge for those who find that group settings are better for getting close to nirvana.

No, Cantu isn't the most talented player, and he's not going to put up the best numbers. He's not showy, and he's damned sure not pretty. Cantu's just clutch. And guts. Last season, Cantu rapped so many big hits in late innings that a lot of Marlins fans started calling him "Can-do." Most of them probably didn't know he'd already earned that nickname in Class A ball. You want that guy in your lineup. He's championship-caliber. But the 27-year-old Cantu, conceived in Mexico and born in Texas, has had an up-and-down career. It went up in his 117-RBI breakout season in 2005 at Tampa Bay when he was voted MVP of the then-Devil Rays. The next year was dismal, though, and the guy was drummed all the way back to the minors. That's where the Marlins — always so brilliant at picking up great players on the cheap — found him. He's in his prime now, hardened by the game, humbled by it, and very well may be ready to help lead a team to the promised land.

Fern Forest Nature Center

Fern Forest is a natural oasis in the middle of Broward County sprawl. It's a preserved cypress swamp, a 243-acre piece of ancient Florida. The swamp was once part of a cypress strand that stretched all the way to Lake Okeechobee. Now it's just a peaceful and beautiful reminder of what we've destroyed. Fern Forest has four trails that run a total of about two miles and range from the wheelchair-accessible boardwalk (the half-mile Cypress Creek Trail) to the rugged and oft-muddy Maple Trail, which winds over roots and rocks right through the swamp. The place is full of all kinds of Florida fauna and flora, and the name isn't false advertising: It has an abundance of ferns that come in about 30 varieties, with names like resurrection, leather, polypody, and shoestring. One of the trails leads to a 20-foot-high platform overlooking an old cow pasture that is now occupied by gopher tortoises. Give yourself a few hours to experience the park. It can take a while to go that far back in time.

David Booth doesn't have a C or an A on his sweater, so technically he's not a team leader. But ask any player in the locker room and you'll get a different opinion. At 24 years old, Booth is having the best year of his career. He's among the leaders in goals, assists, shots, plus-minus, and power-play points. But it's the things that don't show up on a score sheet that make him the best player on the Panthers. Booth scraps for every loose puck, he's not afraid to crush the opponent into the boards or in the open ice, he pesters goalies by buzzing around the net, he plays solid defense, and he draws extra defensive attention whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone. Booth makes every player around him better and plays with an edge that's spreading through the organization like wildfire. David Booth is what hockey is all about.

Booth hat trick:

Riverbend Park

It's easy to look out on that sea of green west of the Sawgrass Expressway and call it Everglades. But if you want true Glades swamp, if you want strands of cypress that slap the heat out of the Florida sun, you've got to go north. You'll find one of Florida's most pristine cypress strands at Jupiter's Riverbend Park, where you can canoe, bike, and hike in backwoods Everglades. The 680-acre Riverbend is just 2 years old, but for years, the piece of undeveloped land has served as the starting point for canoe trips down the Loxahatchee. The all-day trip takes you over two dams that become waterfalls when the river's high. Along the way is the old Trapper Nelson homestead, which provides one hell of a picnic spot. And with the creation of the park, there's now more to do in Riverbend than just canoe. The county added 15 miles of hiking and biking trails that take you through that same cypress canopy that covers the river. It's like natural air conditioning, and it's one of the state's most pristine examples of old, swampy, cypress-covered Florida, the way it should be.

Quiet Waters Park

Here's the first brutal truth about Florida's coastal inhabitants: We don't all own boats. So logically, we've adapted by befriending people who own boats. But here's the second brutal truth: It's not always easy to stay on the good side of our boat-owning friends. Fortunately, there's a wet sanctuary between this rock and a hard place: Ski Rixen. Welcome to the world of cable skiing, where there are no boats, no boat maintenance, and, most important, no friend maintenance — because a cable is there to pull you over the water. You can wake-board, knee-board, water-ski, slalom-ski, trick-ski, or surf. The water-ski resort requires you to be at least 12 years old. Rental prices vary, from an $18 one-hour ski pass to an exclusive two-hour session for you and 14 friends for $375.

Mardi Gras Casino

The setting isn't elegant. The players aren't particularly warm. The pots aren't huge. But if you want to play uninterrupted poker 24 hours at a time and you don't feel like gambling with the Seminoles, Mardi Gras is your only choice. The poker room has two 12-hour licenses with the state. So while poker players are getting the boot in Pompano, Dania, and Hollywood, the red-eyed men and women in Hallandale are still stacking chips through the night. Oh, and the best part: Several nights a week, a local greyhound adoption service sets up a booth not far from the poker room. It always has a few of the adorable, regal, future pets on hand, ready to get scratched behind the ears — or better yet, get adopted. So even if you go broke at the table, you can leave a winner.

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