Less than a three-hour drive from Broward County past Lake Okeechobee and west through the town of Arcadia, you cross Peace River. The name comes from the peaceful conditions of the flow of water, making it no trouble to paddle upstream through water that's reddened by the shallow conditions. If you bring your own canoe, you can park at many different spots along the river and paddle your way back. Otherwise, you can rent canoes from Peace River Campground or Canoe Outpost (with the price of rental dependent upon how long you choose to feel the Peace) — included in Canoe Outpost's rental price is bus service, so you need to paddle only one way, then hitch a ride back to your car. Campgrounds line the river to make it a true all-weekend experience you will never wish to forget. Live oak trees with the breeze whistling through their Spanish moss will serenade you. Turtles basking in the sun will wave hello. Stationary alligators will glare menacingly at you. But the greatest attractions are the rope swings you will come across. Who are the heroes who climb toward the sky and latch a knot on the tree's highest branch so that we river rats can feel brave for a moment?

Pelican Grand Beach Resort
Courtesy of Pelican Grand Hotel

What's better than a four-star beach resort with a heated pool just a stone's throw from the lapping waves and sun and sand? Why, a four-star beach resort with a heated pool just a stone's throw from the lapping waves and sun and sand... with a built-in lazy river! There are resort pools and resort pools... and then there's the Pelican Grand's pool. Located just a few steps from the beach, the Pelican Grand's pool sits languidly in the middle of a man-made oasis, complete with soft adjustable lounge chairs nestled in the shadows of swaying palm trees. The classically shaped heated pool dominates the center of the area, and its always-clean crystal blue water is a welcoming sight for those in desperate need of some serious chill time. But if you want to dip even deeper into the chill zone, there's the Pelican's lazy river snaking its way around the row of palm trees, looping toward the spa and back again toward the pool, in an infinite relaxing loop. So grab a cocktail, then grab an inner tube, and meander your way around paradise until you've taken chill mode to its fullest.

Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts

Hear us out on this one. Sailboat Bend is more than a residential neighborhood; it's an eclectic community in the historical district of classic old Fort Lauderdale. Here at the far west of Las Olas Boulevard, away from the chichi shops and art galleries, new minicondos sit next to dilapidated, vacant houses and beautifully restored historic homes. This is where you'll find craft-beer mecca Riverside Market and the more recently opened Chimney House Grill as well as artists' lofts and the 1310 Gallery. This is old Fort Lauderdale at its finest, within walking distance of Himmarshee and Riverwalk, and the people-watching is grand. We won't say it's one of those neighborhoods where everybody knows your name, but they certainly know everyone's dog's name. Packs of hipster cyclists (a nomer we don't throw around lightly) patrol the streets, looking ironically ominous with their ironically pulled-up hoodies and their ironically high ape-hanger handlebars. Art students wander from the 1310 Gallery to Riverside Market for their homebrews, and one particular neighbor has his driveway set up like a "welcome center" complete with comfortable seating; he blasts Marvin Gaye while waving enthusiastically to everyone who passes by. If anyone ever says that Fort Lauderdale is only for tourists, that it has no soul, take him down to Sailboat Bend for a bike ride — ironic or otherwise.

Dairy Belle

They flock in groups of five to six — however many they can fit in their rented Chrysler minivan — and will stand in line chirping for nearly half an hour as they wait for momma bird to serve up that medium soft serve, in a cup, double on the chocolate dip, merci. Ice creams in hand, they nest along the covered benches, a sea of snowbirds chirping and pecking at their desserts. Here the Quebec-to-Florida license plate ratio is arguably higher than anywhere else in a 15-mile radius of FLL. Keep an eye out for a unique species of snowbird, part-Jacques Cousteau, part-Peter Sellers, with a handlebar mustache, dining mostly on poutine... with extra cheese curd.

Undergrounds Coffeehaus

One of the best ways to spend any rainy day is with a good book and a hot drink. You'll find plenty of both and far more at Undergrounds Coffeehaus in Fort Lauderdale. Accurately self-described as an artsy coffee shop and used-book store, the 'Haus is located on Federal Highway on the second level of a small but adorably motiffed shopping plaza. The space is a bibliophile's dream, cozy in a wonderfully cluttered and colorful Victorian way; there are plenty of big-paned windows for the warm Florida rain to dribble against while you sip and peruse. Nosh on gourmet tater tots (yeah, you read that right) while lounging in comfy armchairs. Try not to get any grease on the books, though, please. Undergrounds is also a huge supporter of the local arts scene, so you'll also find "Open Haus" exhibitions of local artists. The place carries everything from rare vintage tomes to regular ol' paperbacks, and it's always taking donations. So next time the clouds start to gather, box up those old books you need to admit you will never bother to sell on Amazon and head over to Undergrounds Coffeehaus to find new old books and maybe even some future old friends.

Museum of Discovery and Science

If the DEA really wanted to catch pot smokers, it would buy an IMAX theater and host weekly screenings of Gravity. Add science, reptiles, and some mind-blowing exhibits to the mix and it's game over. You've just created a pothead paradise. But let's be very clear, people. You are to — under no circumstance — walk into the center of the Museum of Discovery and Science and light up a doobie. For heaven's sake, man, there are kids in there! No. All we are saying is that, if in November, the fine people of Florida happen to vote in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana and your chronic back/shoulder/neck/toe pain wins you a prescription for the sticky icky icky, this might be a good place to visit after proper and responsible medication. Until then, if you happen to be walking around downtown Fort Lauderdale and you trip and fall, landing mouth first into the center of a drum circle, right onto a big ol' bong, don't panic. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and walk over to the Museum of Discovery and Science to have that thing you call a mind blown to smithereens by the awesome power of science. We're all made of stars, man. Stars.

Dusk in South Florida is easily forgotten. Living on the East Coast, one can forget the simple pleasure of just stopping to watch the sinking sun linger in the sky until it drips into the horizon. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. The best way to watch an actual sunset is to look to the west, and the best place to do that is to hit the southbound lanes of the Sawgrass Expressway. The Sawgrass hangs right above the cusp of the Everglades, where the city lights end and Alligator Alley begins. It's elevated enough to help you take in the pink and purple hues of a darkening sky while watching the clouds melt and the speckles of stars appear one at a time. While the Sawgrass was built to get motorists to the I-75 or 595, the real genius of it is that it's the best place in South Florida to catch the twilight's gloaming colors, like a blushing slip of silk. 

After a sweltering day of sun, drinks, and salt water on Fort Lauderdale Beach, sometimes the sand in your suit isn't the only thing grinding you. If you weren't swift enough to slip off for a quick one in the water, there are few spots between A1A and Federal Highway hidden enough to shroud your postbeach coitus without appearing criminal. This garage is one of them. Pro tip: Keep the stereo down, and pull out before security pulls up.

If you look closely on Fort Lauderdale's New River, in between the yachts and beer-guzzling bros on their party boats, you'll see something rare floating down the water. It's called love. And it's salty. The Las Olas Gondola (approximately $150 per ride) operates here in the Venice of Florida, operated by a lovely captain named Martha Beachem. One time, in a single day, Martha had four proposals on her adorable little vessel. She also got four yeses, going four-for-four in a single day. If Martha were a right fielder, she'd be peeing into a cup in front of suspicious officials after that performance. With its tiny cabin stuffed with authentic Italian décor, the Las Olas Gondola can turn the sourest grape into the sweetest wine (and wine is heavily encouraged). If you want to spend the rest of your life with your lover, then tell her so. And if you want her to say yes, ask on the Las Olas Gondola. Martha is a lucky charm. Bonus: She is a licensed and bonded notary. So if you want to get hitched on the Romantic Venice, that can be arranged!

Miami Heat broadcasts are lathered in emotion for Heat fans. Especially when the hometown team loses. So what the fans need is a calm, collected, amiable face to remind everyone that, yes, losing sucks, but we have the best team in all the land, so chill. And that face belongs to SunSports' Will Manso. Taking over the spot left vacant by Jorge Sedano, Manso's first year as the pregame and postgame anchor for SunSports Heat games has been a cool transition. Manso's smart, humorous, and friendly temperament makes him likable — he's a dude who just happens to love the team you love too. In a world where anchors are all about their Ken Doll haircuts and carrying on in a fake "TV" voice, Manso comes across as the kind of guy you wouldn't mind cracking open a beer with and talking sports.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of