Dania Jai-Alai Sports Center

If this place has fallen so far and is still so much fun, it must have been unbearably awesome in its heyday. Once you pick up the rules of the game (if you've ever played wall ball, you'll get it in no time), the jai-alai palace will give you hours of (frustrating) enjoyment in a low-pressure environment with cheap beers, cheap bets, and none of the ridiculous crowds of some of the more popular South Florida gambling halls. Be prepared, though — you're never madder about losing a dollar than when some schmuck named Manex loafs an easy catch at the end of the night.

There are a few options for planespotting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: You can sit on benches at the top level of the Hibiscus Garage or sit on the grass berms in the 30-acre park south of the tarmac. But for true aviation geekery, you can't beat this parking lot by the western end of the north runway. Airplane buffs and families with kids slurp sodas and watch airplanes as a set of speakers broadcasts a live audio signal from the control tower. Follow along with a flight-tracking smartphone app and you can see where each plane is going and hear the controller wish the pilots "good day" as they disappear into the sky. If you're waiting for a friend's plane to land, it's also a more interesting alternative to the cell-phone lot.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Depressed because everything buried in South Florida eventually rises? Just venture west on Alligator Alley and soon enough, getting rid of your dirty laundry becomes a numbers game. Big Cypress National Preserve contains 729,000 acres, few visitors willing to get off their off-road vehicles, only a handful of access points, and many lightly trampled trails, perfect for throwing law enforcement off your scent. Around the Bear Island area at mile marker 70, hike north across the plains until you can't hear the highway anymore and wade through some chest-high water into a palm-tree hammock, where the ruins of old hunting camps sit undisturbed and out of view. Remember, leave only the body, take only photographs. A bonus: The 150 or so panthers left struggling to survive in this area are competing with hunters for a scarce deer supply, so you'll be donating some much-needed sustenance to an ecosystem on the brink.

Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino
Courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Not so long ago, Gulfstream Park was a desolate place, inhabited only by grandpas and other Sansabelt-wearing creatures. It came alive only when crowds filled the rickety bleachers for the occasional Blondie reunion show or Tiffany concert. So we had our doubts in 2006 when it underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. Who goes to horseraces anymore? we questioned. Fast-forward and, well, these are some bitter words we're eating. Never again will we underestimate the power of a Crate & Barrel, some slot machines, and a Container Store. Today, Gulfstream is a palatial shopping, dining, and gambling complex that is, during season, slammed — thanks in part to the fact that admission and parking are free. We admit: It's a little titillating to order a mint julep from one of the many bars, watch the breathtaking horses trotted around the paddock before a race by dapper jockeys, and march up to place a bet. Warning: This is only a "cheap" thrill if, and we repeat, if you stick near the minimum-dollar bets.

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