Markham Park
Ever since Hurricane Wilma did more damage to trees than buildings, mountain-biking trails have been the slowest places to recover. As an example of how a trail can be fixed up like new, look to Sunrise's sandy gem: the Markham Park Mountain Biking Trail, tucked into the 666-acre park just west of the Sawgrass Expressway and north of State Road 84. Broward County has been steadily rebuilding the harrowing climbs and steep drops of the ten-mile trail system with earth mounds dredged from the park's lakes. They've cleared away most of the downed melaleucas, Australian pines, and giant ferns to make the meandering journey over packed sand a little less treacherous. Oh, you were hoping for treacherous? Well, for the fey and the fearless, there are the narrow bridge crossings, perilous drops, abrupt switchbacks, and other miscellaneous obstacles on the highly technical trail called Rattlesnake Ridge. The park usually closes at 6 p.m., but it's 7:30 on those endless weekend summer nights.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons
Runners need oxygen, and a trip to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park puts them close to the source: trees. The running path, so dense with green that runners need to duck under low-hanging branches, is a triumph of photosynthesis. Leave the iPod at home and listen to the symphony of subtropical birds overhead. And while there's only about one-in-a-million chance that an alligator will leap from the foliage and dive for your ankles, that's just enough of a threat to put an extra spring in your step. Best of all, despite Hugh Taylor Birch's lying close to downtown Fort Lauderdale, there's none of the disruptive sights, sounds, and smells of traffic.
Holiday Park
"McGrady's playin'," a scrappy Puerto Rican with a ponytail announces. "Aw, shit" is the collective answer from the group of young basketball enthusiasts that includes neighborhood teenagers from varied ethnic backgrounds and maybe a has-been or two. "McGrady" — as in Tracy McGrady — is an appropriate nickname for the resident badass of Holiday Park. If you cover too closely, he's by you. Give him a little room? Swish. But he can't do it on his own. In fact, McGrady has stomped off into the thick Florida night from quite a few close games at Holiday. He's known to shout "I can take any of you one-on-one," and that's part of what makes it the best place in South Florida to play. There is no greater thrill than to get under McGrady' s skin, and he's not the only one who loses it. Games at Holiday, while friendly at their core, tend to piss people off. People get their fingers and their egos jammed, and that's a big part of the thrill. The place isn't hard to find. The lights shining above Holiday Park will guide the way to the two full courts ensconced at the southwest corner where Sunrise Boulevard meets Federal Highway. Come any night around 7, and don't forget your attitude.
Tradewinds Park & Stables
Some folks' idea of fun may be a jaunt over to the Galleria Mall to drop five or six large on a fresh spring fashion. On the other hand, you could buy yourself some used plastic — that's slang for Frisbee-like discs — for five or six bucks at the Tradewinds Park disc golf course and have a funner time with fewer consequences. For those unfamiliar, the gist of disc golf is this: Take said disc and toss it from a tee-off spot into a chainlinked metal basket in the fewest number of throws. Most of the other rules of regular golf apply, including the axiom "easy to learn but tough to master." We found this to be true, especially as we lost our last disc in the dense woods somewhere around hole 13. Luckily, a disc enthusiast by the name of Bob, who's been coming to the course each Saturday for the past 12 years, hawks new and used plastic from his van at the back nine. The rest of the course? It's huge and well-maintained and frequented by a ton of ultra-friendly disc golf fanatics, who are more than willing to help newcomers find their way around a putter or a driver. On weekends, it's home to league play, and pro tourneys come through semi-annually, because, as one traveling golfer told us, "Tradewinds is truly a world-class course."
Urban sprawl just isn't good for beasts, be they people or Pekingese. Yes, you and Fido need to escape that postage-stamp yard behind your place and get out for a little exercise every now and then. To do this properly, get your mangy four-legger in the car and drive him to the local dog park, where he can meet like-minded mutts and engage in a spirited round of the sniffing of... well, no need to spell it out. If you're fortunate enough to live in Central Broward, a fine social stomping ground for your cur can be found at Happy Tails in Plantation. Have a shy animal? Put him in the smaller gated area, where he can hang out in relative obscurity. Want to do some running? No shortage of acreage there. Go and have some fun. Your dog deserves it. Do you?
Tequila Ranch
In the real rodeo, the bull tries to throw its cowboy. The mechanical bull at Tequila Ranch invites another kind of adversary: young women, provocatively dressed. And the mechanical bull is more about finesse than brute force. It doesn't buck so much as gyrate. And shimmy. Doing it, sometimes, in sync with a 50 Cent ditty. This brings prurient thrills to the mostly male gallery, which roars lustily at the bull's dogged efforts to dislodge a titty from a stubborn blouse. Or how the bull can turn itself nearly upside down, leaving its rider to choose between her grip and the possibility that her shirt will slip over her head. The competitive ones (who also tend to have an exhibitionist streak) keep their grip, much to the crowd's delight. The riders may be all female, but this is most definitely a dude ranch.
Wannado City
Parents who didn't nab the three-day grace period to ditch their kids can now leave the brats at the firehouse for a day, just so long as it's within the city limits of Wannado. You can unload your pint-sized handfuls at the theme-park city where kids do what they wanna, getting to try their hands at a number of professions. It's not cheap ($20 to $25 depending on the day), but while you get your retail therapy at nearby Sawgrass Mills, your offspring can play doctor with some hands-on experience that will teach them how to be a smooth operator. In addition to a food court and fair rides, in three football fields of space, the city includes occupational opportunities in banking, fashion merchandising, television, law, archaeology, aviation, and culinary and performing arts. Maybe you haven't set your sights for your progeny that high? There's also a nightclub where junior can practice pimping and your little miss can perfect her booty shake.

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