Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden - Miami

I was fortunate to visit Fairchild Topical Botanic Gardens on the last of the Free Weekends in August. Normal admission $20.00. I have been to Fairchild twice before but for the Chihuly Glass exhibits. There are still some examples of Chihuly Glass on display. This time I went just for the nature. I was very impressed. The gardens are big. On a hot day, you will want to bring along a hat and a bottle of water. Don't forget the camera. There are some very unusual plants and flowers worth a shot or two. There is a tram for the less adventurous. The day we went, there were plenty of volunteer guides to explain the history or plants. The web site contains all the information you may need. Getting there could not be easier. I would suggest visiting the gardens while it is cool, then head a little up the road to CocoWalk for a nice late lunch before heading home. There are not a lot of open spaces left in South Florida. This is certainly one filled with treasures, close to everything, easy to locate, and no excuse not to experience.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bonnet House - Fort Lauderdale

I have been neglecting my blog so I thought I would visit a site I have also been neglecting. The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale. I've been in South Florida 31 years and this was my first visit. Hard to believe as this is about the easiest place for me to get to and I have passed by maybe a thousand times. Anyone familiar with the beach area of Fort Lauderdale would find it amazing that this oasis exists. Just 100 years ago, Fort Lauderdale consisted of just a hand full of buildings. Now an entire city surrounds the site. It is worth the visit just to see how Florida looked such a short time ago. The house and grounds are beautiful and the history is well told by the guides. $20.00 gets you in. Another $2.00 for a golf cart ride around the property. Look for the 2 for 1 coupon online. Bring the mosquito repellent if you plan to tour the gardens.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cauley Square Historic Village

If you are fan of "Old Florida" sites, then Cauley Square Historic Village is a place you might consider visiting. Plenty of old Florida buildings connected by a winding brick path completely engulfed in shade trees. Easy to get to - exit 11 off the Turnpike, US 1 and SW 224th st. My girlfriend and I managed to spend a few hours checking out the shops and antiques and finished with a nice meal at the Village Chalet. We plan to do it again soon and try the Tea Room in the near future. Check out their web site calendar of events. I found this for June 6th.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Fruit and Spice Park - Miami

One of the more unusual places I have visited is the Fruit and Spice Park in the Redlands near Miami. It is basically a 37 acre farm dedicated to fruits and spices. During the tour, our guide let us sample various fruits and spices right off the trees. I learned more about bananas than I thought possible. I had never seen so many mangoes in my life. The staff is very well versed in the plantings at the park. Check the website (above) to see the full list and see how really impressive that is. A great place to show the kids that not everything in this world comes from a box. I don't know if I would go back but it's now crossed off my to do list of off beat South Florida sites to visit

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens opened in 1936 and like anything else is starting to show it's age. I was last there in the early 80's. I actually performed on the lake with an amature ski show team. It was a fascinating experience I will never forget. On a recent road trip with my daughter, I decided to pay a long overdue visit.

Cypress Gardens is, to be kind, past it's prime. There was a recent attempt to revive the park with a ride park which appears to be closed at this point. The water slide area was fairly well visited the day we went but the main gardens area was a ghost town. The ski show was as good as I remembered. The gardens are still the main attraction and were even more beautiful than I remembered. If you are passing by, and have some time to see an old, original, Florida theme park, by all means, stop by. Be sure and charge the camera. Something I forgot to do.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Las Olas Art Fair

The Las Olas Art Fair is probably my favorite art show of all time. March 7-8 and admission is free. This is the event that got me interested in art shows. First of all, it's on Las Olas. Probably the best setting possible of all the events like this I have attended. Second, the mix of art and artists as well as the folks attending the show is perfect. Hard to believe this is their 21st annual event. I would guess I've been to half of them over the years. Some of the stores along Las Olas are as interesting as the show itself. You can always get a great meal just about anywhere along the route. Parking is easy if you go early. The price is about $10.00 at the lots near the event. I'm a walker so I go to the parking garage just West of show. Last year it was $5.00.

Messed up on Valentines Day guys? This will make up for it. If on the other hand you are a gal dragging your guy kicking and screaming, there are plenty of places to park him with a beer till you are done. Not kidding - seen it happen.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

South Florida Jazz and Blues

Stop the presses!!! I just received my first fan email. Thanks Charles. The Sunday Jazz Brunch is fun but if you like your Jazz and Blues with a little more talent and a whole lot less blazing Florida sun, check out Jazz & Blues Florida. Charles has put together a pretty comprehensive list of events state wide. I found this listing so close to my house I could walk to it.

Featuring Guest Artist Gary Campbell
Saturday, March 7, 2009 - 8:00 PM
Rose & Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Center
3100 Ray Ferrero, Jr Blvd Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314

Thanks for the heads up Charles - I'll check it out.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vintage South Florida - Downtown Hollywood

Vintage South Florida. Here's an event right up my alley. Free and quirky. I have a something else to do this Sunday or I would check it out. I have some friends going so I thought I would mention it.
Sunday - Noon to 6:00 pm at the Arts Park on Young Circle. If nothing else, it will give you a good excuse to check out the Arts Park close up rather than just driving by. It was once a popular destination. It's slowly getting back to that. I've walked around the area many times recently. My favorite eatery on the Boulavard is the Beef Eater Steakhouse. It's right near the circle. They don't seem to have a web site but click the link to see their Yelp reviews. If you go, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.

Sunday Jazz Brunch - Fort Lauderdale

The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a free event in downtown Fortlauderdale every first sunday of the month. It runs from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Very easy to get to. Very easy to park. Usually some pretty good bands. Always mellow fun. I've gone about 8 times. Originally by accident. I just grabbed a seat in the shade and sat a while. The last time I was prepared. If you want to look like a pro, just park in the garage right across the street. Bring your beach umbrella and chairs. Suntan lotion is a good idea. Pack a picinic basket with you favorite cheese, fruit, and wine (everyone does). Champagne and Orange Juice is popular too. Sit back and relax.

After the show, take in the local sites. If you brought the kids, the Museum of Discovery and Science is right there. The Imax also. A short walk away are plenty of resturarants or just stroll along the River Walk. Check the web site for this Sunday's lineup.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coral Castle

Ok.. One last coral built house. I took this shot from the second story of the Coral Castle in Homestead. After touring Vizcaya and the Deering Estate, calling this place a castle is a bit of a joke. The living area is about the size of my bathroom. The house and all the carvings were done by one guy, Ed Leedskalnin, in the early 1900's. The fact that a man just over five feet tall, cut from the ground, lifted, carved, and stacked these slabs of coral weighing tons make this worth seeing first hand.
Not really worth the drive down and not a lot in the area but it is on the way to the Florida Keys and makes a great rest stop. Coral Castle will leave you wondering if you could accomplish anything as great in your own life.

Deering Estate

Another of the great houses in Miami, the Deering Estate , was built in 1900 by Charles Deering. It's a country cottage compared to Vizcaya but an impressive mansion in it's own right. The location could not be better and there is plenty of tropical landscape to nearly block out the big city that now surrounds it. The walkway thru the mangroves on the property gives you a real sense of what Florida once looked like. There are still remnants of the original foot path heading to Miami along the shore. Check the calendar on their website for special events or just visit and take a step back to a simpler time. It's a little trickey to find. No problem at all once I turned on the GPS and realized I drove right past it. Get the most out of your visit by renting a kayak or taking an Eco tour.


The first time I visited Vizcaya was 1978. I was young, it was old, I was not impressed. As time went by, I grew up, learned to appreciate things older than myself, and Vizcaya was slowly transformed. Now under air and fully renovated, it's a site to behold.

The house was completed in 1916 by James Deering. I have visited several times over the last 30 years and was always impressed that it was built from the coral rock it sits on. Looking back at the time it was constructed, and considering South Florida was pretty much wilderness, I am now completely amazed. The gardens took a beating during our last major hurricane but they are restored as well.

Vizcaya is an easy drive as Miami driving goes. The best time to go is when they run the free Sunday specials. Otherwise it's $15.00. Be sure and bring the camera. To make a day of it, the Miami Science Museum is right next door.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Everglades Holiday Park

I was not using the long lens when I shot this guy from an Airboat at Everglades Holiday Park. He was about eight feet long and about three feet from the boat. I was leaning over the side to get a good shot. That's when the captain advised that a gator this size can easily jump right over the side. He added that because stupid people feed them, they are not all that afraid of us any more. My camera probably didn't look all that tasty but my hand holding it may have looked like a raw chicken from his point of view. Enough said Right??

I enjoy seeing the way Florida was before we paved it over. So few people do. If you have never been on an airboat ride before - Try it and see the incredible wildlife that was once South Florida. It's a real eye opener for the kids too.

Getting there is easy. Go to Griffen Road in Davie, head West past all the houses, when you see water in front of you - Stop. It's just past US 27 and a world away from traffic and video games. Unplug your kids and enjoy something simple and natural for a while.

Check out the link for more info and discount coupons. When I go, I usually stop at the plant nurseries on the way back to fill up the day. There are quite a few. Bring a little nature back home with you to remember the day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Joe's Crab Shack

When I think of my favorite places to eat I generally think of great food, great service, relaxed atmosphere, not too pricey, and fun. Joe's Crab Shack has all that and servers that sing and dance right at your table. I go to the Lauderhill store on University but they have plenty of other locations. I've been there several times and plan on going back many more. I had the "Joe's Steampot" last time. Check out the link to see the online menu. I'm thinking of heading there Friday night. Maybe I'll see ya.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Arti Gras - Fine Arts Festival

I just heard about the Arti Gras - Fine Arts Festival Feb 14, 15 & 16. Good timing too as I will be in the area this weekend. I missed the Las Olas show this year so this should make up for it nicely. This one is way up in Jupiter so a bit of a drive for my friends but my family is right around the corner. I've never been to this event but it looks interesting. According to the web site $10.00 gets you in, $6.00 for advance tickets. It seems to have everything. Art, music, food, and fun stuff for the kids. If you've been before, leave some comments and let me know what you thought.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Florida Ren Fest - Opening Day

It would appear that I'm not the only one enjoying the local sights this year. The Florida Renaissance Festival had a pretty respectable crowd for opening day. I've been going for about 10 years and It seems to me that not only were there plenty of visitors, there were also plenty of vendors and shows. Now that I'm home and looking at the schedule, I see I missed a few of them. I did manage to catch my favorites and there's still plenty of time to go back and see the rest in the next 4 weekends. I made sure I was right up close to the action to take these pictures. Maybe a little too close. That's the whole point of going to an event like this. The action is right there in from of you. Even closer still, if like me, you are dragged from the audience to assist a performer. Even if you don't find live stage shows entertaining, go for the people watching. Don't worry about the dress code. Your best armor, period piece, pirate, gothic, or even naughty school girl outfit will do just fine. Those not attired in the spirit of the event are likely to be taking pictures of those that are.

I can tell you I had a great time this year. $20.00 got me in. $10.00 for lunch. A couple of bucks here and there for the shows. Pretty cheap for an all day event. Check the link above for discounts and family pricing. The best part - it's all made in America. Some things while you watch even. If you've never been, flip off the TV and go. You won't regret it. Enjoy yourself and save the economy at the same time. What could be better.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Disney Never Gets Old

Ok - Walt Disney World is not in South Florida nor is it inexpensive but it's only a few hours up the road, and what good is saving money if you can't blow bucket loads of it doing something you enjoy. I've been to Disney over 150 times since 1976 and still enjoy going. There is always something new to see and do. If you think Disney is only the Magic Kingdom, long lines, and a bunch of screaming kids, you need to take a second look.

This week I visited Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. You would think after so many visits I would have seen it all but not the case. Even if you think you have done it all, there's bound to be something you missed.

First stop - Hollywood Studios. With rides like Tower of Terror, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, it never gets old. I actually went once and spent the whole day riding only those two rides. The lines were short, so I made about 30 turns. The beauty of a season pass and knowing someone who lives in Orlando. I even saved the price of an expensive Disney lunch as I would not have held it down any way.

Animal Kingdom opened up a whole new part of the world since last I was there. In the middle of Asia is the Expedition Everest ride. For the first time I wished the wait was longer. The artifacts along the way where incredible. The coaster itself is the best in Disney and pretty amazing for any park. Let's not forget the animals. They are close enough to the ride to touch. It seems that way at least.

Epcot was always my favorite park. Less kids, better rides, best fireworks show. The newest ride, Soarin is extremely popular and can have 2 hour wait times. I went first thing and waited about 10 minutes. From there I test drove a Segway. After that a nice leisurely tour of the countries. I've traveled to the real England, France, and Canada so those hold a special appeal. I was actually inspired by Epcot to go in the first place. Hopefully, by the time I visit again, I'll have been to a few more countries.

If you have any Disney's questions, shoot me a comment or email. I'll be glad to share a couple of tips to getting the most out of the experience.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hot Girls Blowing Fire

This and a whole lot more can be found at the

held at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield. Click on the link for info and directions. I took this photo of Casey from "Barely Balanced" last year. I'm looking forward to catching their show again this season. I've been going to Ren Fest for years and always find something new, like a glass blowing demonstration, or enjoy something old, like "The Mud Show". I'm constantly amazed at the variety of entertainment. I know Ren Fest isn't for everyone but if you have never been, you should give it a try. Live talent beats TV reruns any day.

I'll be there on the opening weekend. The show runs each weekend Feb 7th thru March 8th.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I caught this little guy at the
The Morikami is located in Delray Beach. There's a lot more to the gardens than this tiny critter but it was my best shot of the day. Click on the link above and see what else The Morikami offers. It takes several hours to walk the whole thing. Go early and have lunch at the main building. I highly recommend the Bento Box lunch.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Field - Dania Beach

I've passed by this place for years. From the outside, The Field doesn't look like much. It's hard to find a good pub in South Florida but taking note of the amount of cars consistently filling the parking lot, I thought I would give it a try.

Walking up to the door, I was still not convinced I wasn't making a mistake. The weathered deck and rustic door was not encouraging. Once inside, it was a totally different story. First impression - The place is HUGE. The inside is rustic to the point of a code violation but with loads of charm and character. It didn't take long to realize most of the patrons were regulars, or maybe it just seemed that way. The staff made me feel like I had been coming for years. The food is fantastic, huge portions, and reasonably priced. I suggest the corn beef and cabbage and a Boddingtons Pub Ale to wash it down. Go Friday night and catch the band. I had a front row table the last 3 visits. I have yet to check out the other dining rooms. If you have, send me a comment.

Anne Kolb Nature Center

One of my favorite places to visit is the Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park. The Park is located on Sheridan Street just East of the Bridge from Hollywood Beach. Very easy to get to and plenty of free parking. Beach parking just a short walk away is $8.00. I would rather park at Anne Kolb and  walk. In fact this is the start of my 8 mile Hollywood Beach weekend walk. If I'm not walking, I can be found on the water at West Lake in either a canoe or Kayak. Not too expensive to rent but a good idea to call first to make sure of availability. Anne Kolb is on the North side of the street. West Lake Park is on the South side, costs a buck to park, and is a much longer walk to the beach so be sure to choose the right entrance.

What's in the News Today

Do you like headlines from around the world? Check out the NEWSEUM. It provides an interactive map. Just move your cursor over the map and when you roll over a newpaper link, you get the front page.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Have you checked out Hollywood Beach?

It's been a long time coming but the upgrade to the Hollywood Beach Broad Walk is finally finished. I always thought Fort Lauderdale had the best beach walk in the area but Hollywood has gone world class. With about 3 miles of paver bricks and an Art Deco wall, it makes going the beach an experience. The stores and tourists have not really changed much but I've always enjoyed the old time, family oriented beach front. For my typical visit, I walk the whole thing down and back with a breakfast stop along the way. Peaceful and laid back. Living in such a hectic place, a little bit of mellow distraction is greatly appreciated.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Born on Date

A new day and a new Blog site. I started my original blog by building my own web server. While that was challenging and rewarding, I didn't really think much about what content I would serve up. I named it Random Thoughts and that's what it was mostly. My server is a bit unstable but I found I like posting things so I thought I would give this a try. At least I won't have check my server 10 times a day to see if it's still running.