Florida tends to remain on the receiving end of many a cruel joke, due to its comically unfortunate shape, its geographic positioning, the subtropical heat, and its weirdo populace. (Us!)
Those of us who live here know how to take it. Heck, we're laughing the loudest — when we're not coming up with the jokes ourselves. We all know: Despite the hurricanes, the year-round humidity, the backward politicians, the face-eating zombies, and our multiple-personality disorder, there's still much to love about our wonderfully twisted state.
Broward County especially — BroCo, as we like to call it — is kind of awesome. Nestled between the flashy, urban jungle of Miami and the manicured retiree's paradise that is Palm Beach, we have an abundance of sweet, fun, amazing, and nutso stuff to do before you croak.
Here, gentle readers, is a list of all the very best — the things that make this place the freaky little gem of the South that it is.
1. Spend an entire Sunday Funday getting wasted on Fort Lauderdale Beach.
They don't call it Fort Liquordale for nothin'. The heart of Fort Lauderdale is not in City Hall but rather where the city's main drag, Las Olas Boulevard, ends at the beach. Here stands the original Elbo Room, established in 1939 and featured in the iconic movie Where the Boys Are. From here, you can bounce around the other bars in stumbling distance, like the Treasure Trove, Coconuts, and Dirty Blondes. With any luck, you'll bump into Mickey Clean, an old-school punk rocker who now roams the bars toting a cigar box full of crayons and drawing delightfully crude caricatures while telling "all true" stories. Buy Mickey a drink, tip him a few bucks, and upload your caricatures to Instagram (#MickeyClean). If you bookend this day by starting it with a morning boat party on the sandbar (our number 62) and ending it with a 3 a.m. breakfast at Lester's Diner (see number 91), congratulations! You've done Fort Laudy right. (And if you do it during spring break, yahtzee!) We know: Some of you do this every weekend — you are the true rulers of BroCo!
2. Explore the Everglades.
Take Griffin Road all the way west to Everglades Holiday Park, where you can jump on an airboat tour through the River of Grass, exploring the tropical hardwood hammocks, cypress domes, air plants, and gum sloughs. The Everglades supplies the drinking water for more than 7 million Americans and serves as a cornerstone of our economy, supporting the state's estimated $67 billion tourism industry, a $13 billion outdoor recreation economy, and $100 billion agriculture sector. It's also where the TV show Gator Boys is filmed. Keep your hands in the boat — them critters get hongray!
3. Take a moonlit turtle stroll.
March through October is sea turtle nesting season, and it's pretty damned awe-inspiring to watch. Under the pale light of the moon, more than 100,000 of these endangered creatures wade their way up the beaches to dig their nests, lay their eggs, and disappear back into the big, velvety blue. You can witness the spectacle yourself: Up and down the Atlantic coast, parks and environmental groups organize nighttime sea turtle walks in June and July. John U. Lloyd Beach, the Museum of Discovery and Science, and several others offer group tours beginning with an informational session, required by state law. Groups are led to gather quietly round a nest, where a 2,000-pound mama loggerhead turtle will dig a shallow hole, deposit her soft-shelled eggs, and return to the ocean, the entire process taking 30 to 60 minutes. Two months later, the tiny hatchlings emerge from the sand and scuttle to the water.
4. Run for office.
School Board member Beverly Gallagher was busted accepting a bribe in a doggy bag. Judge Lawrence Korda was arrested for smoking weed in a park. Tamarac Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad was arrested for corruption, and when her case went to trial, her defense was that she was too stupid to understand that developers were trying to buy her vote when they paid for a party and leased her a car. With competition like this, surely you have a shot. Make our civic halls a better place. Please?
5. See the sirens.
South Florida is home to its own school of beautiful sea nymphs. Look through the portholes inside the Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (formerly the Yankee Clipper) and you'll see a team of seductive mermaids performing every Friday and Saturday evening at 6:30, eliciting cheers from the audience with each playful wave and somersault. The free show features four to five mermaids outfitted in seashell bras, glistening fins, and long, flowing locks. Grab a cocktail for the fleeting half-hour show. If you're lucky, they'll blow you a kiss.