Manor Lanes Bowling Center
Bowling alleys are falling faster than tenpins as cities chase after the fast buck of redevelopment. Built in an era when land was cheaper than cable TV, bowling alleys took up city lots that turned out to be worth far more as shopping centers or condos. These days, the hallmark of a great bowling alley is as much a matter of location as anything, and for central Broward County bowlers east of I-95, Manor Lanes is the only thing resembling a city alley. The games are cheap (as little as two bucks on Sundays); air hockey, pool, and shuffleboard tables dot the premises; and the 20 lanes ensure that you can generally get in a couple of games, even on a weekend night. Weekdays are crowded with leagues, but when a team of women arrives with pink-on-black shirts embroidered with the name "Guttersluts," you know you're in the right place.
Pass by Fort Lauderdale Beach on a Saturday morning and you can't help but notice personal trainer Bob Weinstein, a.k.a. "The Health Colonel," in full camouflage regalia and combat boots exercising with his "troops." On the home page of Weinstein's website, www.nomorecrybabies.com, there's a link that says, "Here's why Bob trains on Fort Lauderdale beach." Click it and it leads to a picture of the sun rising over the horizon -- no words required. But we can scribble a whole list of reasons why this long stretch of sand, with its wide brick path, should keep you motivated. First of all, there's free parking at the corner of A1A and Sunrise Boulevard. From there, you can choose to run north and watch the surfers, run south to Las Olas Boulevard (1.5 miles), or run west and tack on a couple of loops in shady Birch State Park. For a challenge, go barefoot on the beach sand. Along the way, shoppers at BeachPlace, drinkers at the landmark Elbo Room bar, and even the colonel himself will be cheering you on -- and checking out your hot legs.
Nature, schmature. The best paddling route around here takes you through a uniquely urban jungle via Fort Lauderdale's New River and its adjoining system of man-made canals. If you've got $65, you can take a three-hour guided tour with the knowledgeable staff from the Full Moon Kayak Co. (954-328-5231; www.fullmoonkayak.com), who will be sure to point out the boathouse where gangster Al Capone used to stay. If, however, you have your own boat, put in at Cooley's Landing Marine Facility (450 SW Seventh Ave., Fort Lauderdale, 954-828-4626), where metered parking is the only thing that'll cost ya. (The office staff will even give you a free area map.) Paddle away past multimillion-dollar mansions and luxury sailboats and yachts. Birds (including the species known as "flamingo yard ornament") and fauna are omnipresent; four-foot-long red and green iguanas sun themselves on docks; and lazy manatees sometimes make cameo appearances. As you wrap up your trip and return to downtown, wave to patrons on the banks at the Riverwalk shopping complex or the Downtowner Saloon. And be sure to smile when the Jungle Queen paddlewheel boat goes by -- for the camera-happy tourists on board, you are the scenery.
Dang hurricanes. Not only did last year's batch of storms flood our yards, close our businesses, and leave us without electricity for, like, ever but they chewed up and spat out big chunks of public parks. This was especially problematic for mountain bikers in Broward or Palm Beach counties, who never had much in the way of challenging terrain to begin with -- just Quiet Waters and Markham parks, really. Now here we are in the spring, and only half of the trails at Markham have reopened; a park attendant at Quiet Waters says groundskeepers "haven't even gotten to [the bike trails] yet. They're still cleaning up the campground." That leaves people who want to ride, and ride hard, heading out to a place simply known as "the levee" -- essentially a long, flat gravel road on top of a mound of dirt that holds back the swampy Everglades. The route begins at Markham Park (16001 W. State Rd. 84, Sunrise; go west on the trail near the entrance and walk your bike around the concrete barriers) and you can either ride north until you get tired (Loxahatchee State Park is about 20 miles away) and then turn around or make a 27-mile loop using about three miles of State Road 27 and five miles of State Road 84 (which gets exciting when those Mack trucks fly by!). Although you might spot deer and gators, one rider calls the punishing adventure "not fun at all" but considers it great for endurance training; another described it as "a spinning class with mosquitoes." So, yeah... it's not for pansies. Newbies should contact the friendly folks at Synergy Outdoor Adventure Racing (www.soarteam.com), who won't mind you tagging along on their weekly ride -- and won't laugh if you turn back early.
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park
Covered in mangroves and tucked away from major roads, John U. Lloyd State Park has that going-to-the-end-of-the-world feel and a sense that what happens there is secret. Its history reinforces that vibe. During Prohibition, smugglers used the land as a drop point for importing rum from the Bahamas. Its thick mangroves sure do look like an inviting place to dump a body, and indeed the corpses of two secretaries were found here in 1967, killed by a surfer named Murf the Surf who had already infamously heisted gobs of jewels from New York's Museum of Natural History. Today, if you pay the entrance fee and then take the road all the way to the end of the long, narrow park, you'll still find people doing top-secret stuff -- at FAU's oceanographic lab and an adjacent Coast Guard station. Unfortunately, big, intimidating warning signs advise you not to trespass. That's OK; there are plenty of other ways to amuse yourself here. Like, by bringing a pair of binoculars and looking into the cabins of massive cruise ships that float by just a few feet away. Or by bringing a Jet Ski and putting in at the boat ramp. Or fishing off the jetty. Or swimming in the ocean. Or renting Hobie cats, surfboards, or giant floating tricycles (!!!) from a beachside trailer. Getting hot? Walk along the boardwalk through the shady, mangrovey nature trail and look for pelicans. Hungry? Bring charcoal and cook on the grills. Thirsty? Grab a beer at the concession. Don't have a car? Boat in and out of the park on its Intracoastal side. Don't have any friends? Says a boy who visits frequently, "The squirrels will dine with you." And if they won't? Look for the "Red-Eyed Lady," the ghost of Murf the Surf's victim, who is rumored to hang around and keep visitors company.
We were thiiiiiis close to naming Red Reef Park in Boca as the county's best beach, considering the fact that it has a golf course, a pristine snorkeling reef, and the seemingly well-funded Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. But when we saw the $17 entry fee, we were like, Whaaaaat? "It certainly keeps the riff-raff out," said a cocky lifeguard who works there. But, um, what if we are the riff-raff? Which is why Lake Worth beach rules. Lake Worth Beach will always rule. It ruled when we were 15 and got really excited to steal our mom's car and drive in circles around the parking lot and flirt with 17-year-olds until the cops booted everyone at 9 p.m. It ruled when we first started surfing and had to put up with locals' show-me attitudes and pay our dues and get better. It ruled when it had a pier (pre-2004 hurricanes) and the fishermen would throw smiles and chat. Lake Worth Beach hasn't changed that much over the years. It still has Hispanic guys yelling "Hey Mami" and old folks who will strike up a conversation as they wait for the bus. It has an amazing breakfast place in John G's (note the line around the building), a great pizza place, a shop where you can buy cheap towels and sunscreen, a swimming pool, a playground, and bonfires during winter months. Drinking a beer at Benny's on the Beach as you watch the sun set and lick the salt off your lips is heavenly. With its aging façade, its broken pier, and even -- no, especially -- with its riff-raff, this is a place to flip-flop your way down the boardwalk and feel beautifully, democratically alive.
If there's a Huntington Beach of the East Coast, Jupiter is it. All the girls are cute, all the boys are rippers, and scores of little grommets crowd the surf. Everyone, it seems, is friends! Everyone is in a surf band! MILF-y moms drop their kids at the beach, while old longboarders with beer bellies plaster their cars with stickers that say, "Surfing Impaired: Too Old, Too Fat, Don't Care." If you can already shred, paddle out and prove it -- just show the locals some respect. If you're just learning, be content with your status as a whitewater ranger and it'll all be good. The pier is a beach break -- meaning that waves break when they hit sandbars and if you go over the falls, there's no danger of hitting your head on a reef. But, oh... just one thing... You're not scared of sharks, are you?
For years, kids have been coming to this wooded spot on the New River to hang out, party, and soar over the water on a rope swing. But residents of this peaceful Fort Lauderdale neighborhood have hated the cars and the kids roaming through the 3.42-acre parcel, and after a high school sophomore drowned last August, the rope swing came down for good. Now Shady Banks activists are working with Broward County to discuss turning the tangle of Australian pines into a waterfront park, which seems the best way to preserve the sweet spot of undeveloped land just a stone's throw from downtown.
Better late than never. Originally scheduled for a 2002 grand opening, construction delays kept Riverland Woods from opening until late 2005. Finally, Fort Lauderdale has more than one free public boat ramp, and it's thanks to the tireless efforts of residents of Lauderdale Isles -- at one point, the land had been promised to a machine shop firm that wanted to build its noisy headquarters there. Now, this thin green strip along the New River bustles with sunup-to-sundown traffic and boat trailers, kids hang from monkeybars, and the parking lot is full. If the county would just follow through on its plan to build a bike-and-pedestrian ramp across the river, connecting with the new bike path along the waterway, Riverland Woods could become a nexus for all sorts of outdoor recreation.
Tradewinds Park & Stables
A butterfly festival, a farmhouse museum, a model steam railroad... When did Disney open a park in Broward County? Um, it didn't. Those are just a few of the various attractions you'll find at Tradewinds Park. Situated on nearly 700 acres on both sides of Sample Road, Tradewinds is home to a hodge-podge of leisure and sports amenities (ball fields, batting cages, boat rentals, fishing, golfing), as well as the world-famous Butterfly World. And that's just on the south side. The north side is all about rides -- whether on the back of a pony, atop a bale of hay, or on a steam train. That doesn't mean your feet can't get a good workout too (and we're not talking just a quick tour of the Tradewinds Educational Farm, fun though it may be). There are miles of ample pedestrian paths. And hey -- once you're comfortable with the terrain, the park's annual Holiday Festival of Lights 5k run/walk will seem like a cakewalk.

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