Best Film-and-Drinks Combo: Mod Wine Lounge & the Classic Gateway Cinema
The cinema dates from the ’50s while the lounge draws its inspiration from the ’60s, and together they make a perfect team. Tell your Mod server that you’d like your drink for the theater, and you’ll get it in a plastic cup that you can take next door. Although don’t pore over the lounge’s impressive list of wines for too long, or you’ll miss the start.
Mod Wine Lounge, 1828 E Sunrise Blvd. (next door to the Gateway)
Best Beach Party Scene: TIED!
From November to May, LBTS parties every Friday night. There’s a different band every week on Anglin’s Square for Friday Night Music in the Square, and the restaurants offer outside and street service. That means plenty of options as LBTS has one of the most densely packed areas of laid-back Florida places around. Aruba Beach Café, 101 Ocean, Mulligan’s and the all-new Vincent’s by the Sea are some of the places that keep the food and drink flowing while the tunes flow as well.
Friday Night Music in the Square, Anglin’s Square, Commercial Boulevard and El Mar Drive
Friday Night Sound Waves
The Hub – that’s the corner of Las Olas and A1A – has been for the last few months the home of Friday Night Sound Waves. The event’s inaugural season runs through November 18 and features a different band every Friday. From country to classic rock to Afro-Cuban funk, it’s a night with a little bit of everything. And it’s right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale Beach, across the street from the legendary Elbo Room and other great places such as Spazio, Tsukuro and Blondie’s – so when the music ends, the night’s just beginning.
Friday Night Sound Waves, A1A and Las Olas Boulevard
Best Happy Hour Crawl: Laser Wolf to the Royal Pig via Flagler Village
Beer has calories, and walking is good for you. So, do it this way. Start at the legendary Laser Wolf. From there, TAKE CARE when crossing the train tracks and make your way to the stretch of Flagler Village that includes the Brass Tap, Mellow Mushroom and Rhythm & Vine. Finish off downtown at the Royal Pig – from where you can either get a ride home or peruse Las Olas at your leisure. The whole thing’s an eminently doable mile-and-a-half – and it includes several watering holes that are excellent in different ways.
Laser Wolf, 901 Progresso Dr #101
Rhythm & Vine, 401 NE Fifth Terr
Mellow Mushroom, 525 N Federal Hwy #500
The Brass Tap, 551 N Federal Hwy #600
The Royal Pig, 350 E Las Olas Blvd
Best Old School: The Mai Kai
It’s basically the same place it was when Johnny Carson liked to stop in during Fort Lauderdale vacations – as it should be. The floor show, the lush gardens, the excellent Aloha shirt selection in the gift shop, the sportcoat-clad maître d’ who knows more about the restaurant than you know about your house – and of course, the dimly lit, nautical-themed Molokai Lounge. Give us mood lighting, a pupu platter and a Barrel O’ Rum any day.
The Mai Kai, 3599 N Federal Hwy, Oakland Park.
Galleries & Museums
Best Art Gallery for a Beer: Jump the Shark
It’s an art gallery! It’s a music venue! It’s a really cool bar! Jump the Shark is an established part of the MASS District, the arts and entertainment district in what is most easily described as “that area behind Searstown.” Previously an artwalk/special event venue, it’s now also a working bar with a diverse program of musical and other events on an outdoor courtyard stage. And it remains a gallery, with a rotating selection of works by many of the area’s top artists.
810 NE Fourth Ave.
Best Historical Stroll: New River between History Museum
C’mon, you can’t really expect us to choose between the history museum (aka the historic New River Inn) and Frank and Ivy Stranahan’s pioneer house? If it’s local history you seek, make an afternoon out of a visit to both and a walk (or a boat ride) between them. Both organizations also do interesting, fun tours, so be sure to check the event pages of fortlauderdalehistorysociety.org and stranahanhouse.org for what’s up.
History Museum Fort Lauderdale, 219 SW Second Ave. & Stranahan House, 335 SE Sixth Avenue.
Best Freebie: Free First Thursdays Starry Nights at NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
On the first Thursday of every month, the city art museum charges no admission. There are arts projects for the kids, and specials on wine and beer for the grownups. It tends to draw a crowd, and it’s a great way to see what the fun, daring museum has on that month.
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, 1 E Las Olas Blvd.
Best Overall Museum: Museum of Science & Discovery
Yes, it’s technically a children’s science museum – but admit it grownups, you love the place too. From the flight and spacecraft simulators to the walk-through aquarium to the otters who chill out back in their otterarium (no that’s not the real word, but it’s what we like to call it), this spot can stir the curiosity in anybody, no matter the age. And did we mention the Imax theater? Rotating special exhibits round out an offer that makes a fun, worthwhile day out whether you’ve got little ones in tow or not.
Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St.
Parks, Trails & Outdoors
Best All-Around: Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Thank you, Hugh Taylor Birch. The land you gifted us has been put to good use as an oasis of old, natural Florida right in the middle of Fort Lauderdale. It’s also a place with a bit of everything. There’s kayaking, Segway-ing, trails, playgrounds, fishing, nature walks and animal talks. It’s great for jogging, cycling or – and this is a novelty in itself in South Florida – driving very slowly. It’s even got a tunnel to the beach. And in the summer, it hosts Camp Live Oak, one of the city’s longtime favorites among nature-loving parents and kids.
3109 E Sunrise Blvd.
Best Doggie Day Out: Snyder Park
Tucked in just north of the airport, this southside gem offers rambling woodland and a charming butterfly garden, as well as sporting fun with volleyball and a disc golf course. It’s also one of the most dog-friendly places around – the park includes an area where pooches can get exercise on land as well as a canine swimming hole.
Snyder Park, 3299 SW Fourth Ave.
Best Freshwater Exploring: South Fork of the Middle River
When it comes to urban kayaking and canoeing, there are few better spots than the south fork of the Middle River where it forms Wilton Manors’ border with Fort Lauderdale. If you’re looking to rent a kayak, Atlantic Coast Kayak Company operates from Richardson Park on the Wilton Manors side of the Wilton Drive/NE Fourth Avenue bridge. (The park also offers a good launching spot if you’ve got your own.) From there it’s a pleasant paddle east to Colohatchee Park, along a section of river where you’ll see plenty of natural riverbank as well as seawall.
Richardson Park, 1937 Wilton Dr, Wilton Manors.
Best for History Fun: Tradewinds Park
For those who don’t remember it, it’s tough to look at Broward County and remember a time when farming was a big part of life here. But it was, and with its preserved farmhouse and stables, Tradewinds Park keeps a bit of that history alive. And while kids might not be up for a lecture on farming practices in early 20th-century Broward, they might be more interested in a pony ride or animal-feeding barn tour. To get the most out of this gem, it’s best to go on the third weekend of the month, when the Tradewinds and Atlantic Railroad fires up its trains. The tiny but accurate trains are one-eighth the size of a normal train; once a month, their volunteer army of drivers and engineers gets them out for everybody to ride and enjoy. (Note: this month’s schedule is a bit different; the trains are also coming out on October 29 to celebrate the park’s Fall Festival.)
Tradewinds Park, 3600 W Sample Road, Coconut Creek. (The park straddles Sample Road.; the stables and trains are on the north side.)
Arts & Entertainment
Best Local Musical Heroes: Black Violin
Childhood friends and Dillard High School alumni Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste – on stage, Kev Marcus and Wil B – are genre-mixing, expectations-confounding artists. Classically trained musicians – Baptiste plays viola while Marcus plays violin – the pair have created a sound that combines hip-hop and classical in a way that’s entirely seamless and organic. A friendship and musical partnership forged at Dillard has now taken the pair on international tours, onto national television and to President Obama’s second inaugural celebration.
Most Creative Venue: Labyrinth Cafe
Put on by volunteers who love folk music, this music series in a cozy church room is a little gem. Concerts happen on the second Saturday of the month through May, and the list of performers will impress anybody who knows their folk music. Which is not to say you have to be an expert to enjoy this convivial, community-spirited series.
Labyrinth Café, Universalist Unitarian Church of Fort Lauderdale, 3970 NW 21st Ave.
Best Concert Series: Serenades at Sunset
Take a great Fort Lauderdale institution such as the Symphony of the Americas, add an iconic Fort Lauderdale location such as Hyatt Regency Pier 66, and you’ve got Serenades & Sunset. This is the symphony not at full strength, but with small selections of musicians doing interesting, eclectic programs of music. This year’s season includes everything from String Theory Jazz Trio to the symphony’s string quartet to several of the symphony’s principals putting together evenings of classical and contemporary sounds. And it all happens as the sun is going down at a great local landmark.
Serenades @ Sunset, Hyatt Regency Pier 66, 2301 SE 17th St.
Best Theater Company: Slow Burn
Fort Lauderdale and the wider region is full of outstanding actors and companies, but what Slow Burn has pulled off in the last couple years is genuinely impressive. This month the company opens its second season at the Broward Center, where it puts on a series of edgier, more daring musicals. This is fully professional theater using local actors to create a genuinely ambitious season of musical theater. If last year was any indication, this season, which opens October 20 with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, should be an opportunity for Fort Lauderdale theatergoers to get quality musical theater at less-than-Broadway prices.
Performances at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Amaturo Theater. 201 SW Fifth Ave.
Simply the Best: The Beach
Not to overly simplify things, but this is pretty much it. Miles and miles of sand that sometimes cause us trouble – they need to be replenish, patrolled, made safe for sea turtles etc. – but that nevertheless is the thing that helps make our home what it is. There are poor, delusional people out there in places like the Midwest who see going to “the lake” as a beach equivalent. It’s not. We’ve got the beach.
Best Free Self-Betterment: Broward Main Library Events
Every Broward library has free classes and events – but with its grander scale and facilities, downtown’s main library has the most. From knitting and crocheting lessons to memoir writing to gardening tips to the latest in computer technology, the place offers more than just books. (Although they’ve got a fair few of those as well.) And honestly, we’ll take any excuse to go visit downtown’s beautifully modern, sunlight-flooded library.
Broward Main Library, 100 S Andrews Ave.
Best Free Boating: The Water Trolley (if you don’t have a friend with a boat)
It doesn’t have an expansive route like the Water Taxi, but the city Water Trolley will take you up and down the downtown section of the New River without money exchanging hands. If you’re looking for a short but scenic tour, or a different way from one bank to the other, the trolley’s here for you. The Water Trolley stops along the New River between Esplanade Park and the Stranahan House.
Best Free Culture: Artwalk
On the last Saturday of every month, FAT Village and the MASS district come to vibrant, colorful life. It’s been heartening to see the two north-of-downtown arts districts’ combined monthly arts event become a part of city life so quickly. Now granted, it’s not entirely free – particularly if you want to buy some art, or dinner from a food truck. But a leisurely stroll around and a trolleybus ride between the two nearby neighborhoods – that’s free, and it’s worth it. (And if you ask, and leave a small tip, it’s usually possible to get a free glass of wine or beer at a gallery or two.)