Lots of people like to rent canoes and paddle the Loxahatchee River in North Palm Beach County or Everglades National Park way down near Homestead. Some local stalwarts stand by Hollywood's Anne Kolb Nature Center. But we're more civilized. We like to drop our ocean kayak in the drink near the eastern end of South South Lake Drive, open a cold one, and drift around. You can see a passel of million-dollar homes here, open another brewski, and then zip around the corner on the Intracoastal Waterway to North Lake. There aren't too many motor boats in these parts, so you'll be able to relax and maybe strike up a conversation with a friendly homeowner. If not, hey, there are several bars on the water -- including our all-time favorite, Le Tub (954-921-9425), so you can stop in for a quick one. Not that we recommend drinking while boating. Uh-uh.

"You play like a fag!" That's arguably the most insulting barb a person can hurl in the homophobic world of sports. But if you say that to one of the guys bending it like Beckham for the Florida Storm, he might take the jab as a compliment. That's because the Florida Storm is Broward County's gay soccer team. Formed last summer, the Storm has enjoyed early success, bringing home a gold medal at the 2003 International Gay and Lesbian Football Association World Cup Tournament in Boston. This year, the team will compete in tournaments in New York and San Francisco. But that's not all. In addition to kicking grass across the country, the Storm shows gay pride off the field, dressing in uniform for local pride parades and manning an information booth at this year's South Florida PrideFest. And, it should be noted, these guys got skills. Stop by Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale on a Saturday afternoon and watch these Marys practice. Once you see Joe Arndt slip a sweet pass between two defenders so that it lands on Gerwin Mucke's right foot, you'll understand how the Storm became first-year champions. For more information, visit www.floridastormsoccer.com.

Holiday Park
A couple of kids chatter at each other in Creole. Then one issues this proclamation: "It'll be us two small guys against you two big guys. And we'll win." Other big guy turns out to be a lout, and these scamps can ball, so indeed, the big guys crash hard. That's the egalitarian world of hoops at Holiday Park. So you're a chunky preteen with no skills. Or a 4-year-old whose papa's busy balling on the next court. Or a scrappy 20-something with jeans sagging to the middle of your buttcheeks. Doesn't matter, because practically everyone gets to play somewhere on these two courts, despite the run-and-gun, five-on-five games that dominate the west court from about 7 to 9 most nights. On a given day, you're likely to hear as many as four languages, see games of all skill levels, and enjoy lights until 11 p.m. Even after the lights go black, the more ferocious games of one-on-one persevere as shooting, shouting shadow ballet. During summer evenings, courts are blocked off for league practice, but you can play around that, right?

In our fair region, it seems that every real estate developer shares the same approach. In a word, bulldoze. We're not saying that the Jacaranda golf course is one of the natural wonders of the world, but its designer (Mark Mahannah) did take advantage of its beautiful tropical environment. Ficus, live oak, banyan, and, yes, jacaranda trees create a luscious atmosphere. But don't let that distract you from the cruel game of golf. Jacaranda has two par 72 courses; at each, 16 of 18 holes are bordered by water. On the east course, greens vary in shape and size and provide the aggressive player a chance for birdie with the risk of bogey. The shorter, tighter west course requires you to become a more exacting player. Prices range from $35 in low season to $99 on holidays, with discounts for Broward and Palm Beach county residents. Readers' Choice: PGA National Resort & Spa
Really now, unless you're retired or without family of any kind, isn't 18 holes a bit much? You've got a life and, hell, you play a full round and the entire day has been duffed. That's why we often opt to play at Eco Golf Club, the best nine holes in Broward County. It's a beautiful and challenging 2,259-yard half-course, with four par 3s, four par 4s, and a good par 5 that you can walk or cart. Recently renovated, it's sprinkled with lush landscaping -- and the greens play like pool-table tops. Best of all, at $12 to $14 a pop, it's about half the price of your average dozen-and-a-half-hole public courses. And when you're done, you've got plenty of time to stop in at the 19th Hole bar -- yeah, it should be called the 10th Hole, but who's counting? -- and have a few buck-50 drafts while keeping in mind that all things, even golf, are best had in moderation.

Who woulda thunk that a bucolic setting such as this would be so close to the hubbub of I-95? Well, the producers of There's Something About Mary were certainly savvy enough to find it. For it was upon Aqua's small fake-turf tees that Matt Dillon began his clumsy overtures to win the heart of Mary, played by Cameron Diaz. Which means, by just driving a $4.75 bucket of balls into the range's huge pond, you'll have achieved a mere one degree of separation from the goddess Diaz -- or for the more bizarre-minded, one degree from Dillon. If, however, your passion is misplaced on golfing rather than stunning blond actresses, then you'll be pleased to know that Aqua is open days, evenings, and weekends and offers lessons for men, women, and children.

You can tame this bobbing brute for about the same cost as a cheeseburger. By 9 p.m. on Wednesdays, when the capsizing critter rolls onto the dance floor, five bucks gets you in the door. Hubris and maybe a shot of whiskey is all it takes to clamber aboard the bucking bovid. But boy howdy, you best dig your heels into the sleek, hard sides of that magnificent mechanical moo-cow if you're going to last. Clamber on, champ, then get that arm in the air, like you're reaching for the disco ball above you. Only them effete, city-born mollycoddles use two goddamned hands, son.

Everyone remembers that woolly October, with Pudge doing his best Cerberus impression at home plate and Josh Beckett mowing down Yankees. But were it not for Willis' summer, the champagne-soaked 2003 Marlins would have been the yeah, whatever 2002 Marlins. In May, the Fish were reeling from injuries when Willis, 21, got the call from Double A. He jumped in with 11-2, smiled for the cover of ESPN the Magazine, and became an unlikely sensation (that double-wide grin! that whiplash windup!) for a team with renewed verve. The Fish bottomed out at 19-29 on May 22, then closed the season at a 72-42 clip, tops in the majors down that stretch. In retrospect, their preposterous postseason looks like destiny, but those selfsame indestructible Marlins were scrapping for a Wild Card spot until autumn. Willis, the National League Rookie of the Year, was the reason they were even in contention. The capper: He's all of 22.
OK, so you aren't on television risking imminent unemployment at the hands of real estate mogul Donald Trump on The Apprentice. That doesn't mean you can't hobnob with "The Donald." If you're willing to put out, that is, and we mean big bucks -- really big bucks. For just getting into Mar-a-Lago, Trump's oh-so-exclusive private club in Palm Beach, you'll put out 150 grand. And that doesn't even include the $9,200 annual dues. Trump snapped up the nearly 20 acres that were formerly home to cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her second husband, E.F. Hutton, in 1985, paying a mere $7 million for the 110,000-square-foot, 118-room estate and its contents. Locals feared he might do something vulgar, like divvying it up into smaller parcels or turning it into a casino. Instead, he plunked down another $2 million for a beach and created a haven for the ultrarich (and got an award last year from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County for restoring the property). If you're among them, you'll have access to an expanse of beach, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a spa. You'll also be expected to live up to the image of a contemporary Palm Beach aristocrat, as in driving the right vehicle (better yet, being driven in it), wearing the right clothes, eating the right food, shelling out for the right charities. The costs? Incalculable. The benefits? Priceless.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
Cristian Costea
During our great nation's early history, as Europeans fought with the native people for control of precious land, the Seminole Indians of Florida established an alliance with escaped African slaves. They had a common enemy: angry ol' Mr. Whitey. But this alliance was by no means the strangest in the Seminoles' history. You can behold the strangest yourself when you look west from Interstate 95 as you pass the Stirling Road exit. That monstrous tower on the horizon, built through a partnership between the Seminoles and London's Hard Rock Cafe, is about as bizarre an alliance as you'll find. Still, the newly opened Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has quickly changed gambling in South Florida. A 130,000-square-foot facility open around the clock, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino features more than 2,000 money-thieving machines and 40 to 60 tables of poker offering such old standbys as Seven-Card Stud and Texas Hold 'Em. What's more, this casino's location between the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood downtown areas should make this gleaming new popsicle stand one that Gen. Custer would have saluted.

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