Weekend preview: Why Fort Lauderdale is so darn livable

No matter how much you love Fort Lauderdale, the city’s appearance on Livability.com’s list of the Top 10 Best Downtowns in the country had to come as a surprise. For all the complaining that goes on around here (not you, them), perhaps it takes some outsiders to tell us what we have forgotten.

To recap, the city finished No. 7, between Frederick, Md., and Bellingham, Wash. (Indianapolis was No. 1) on a list of downtowns that “foster creativity, inclusion and innovation. They showcase what is good about a community by offering a diverse array of local architecture, art, lifestyles and things to do. Great downtowns unite residents from all walks of life, even those in the suburbs, by providing places to connect.”

The list used the usual numbers (residents’ age, income, home prices, commute times), but its editors also claimed to have had boots on the ground with a “well-traveled staff.”

Perhaps they’ve strolled around downtown during the FAT Village Art Walk, which returns 7-11 p.m. Saturday, offering a “diverse array” of a lot of things, from art to fashion, music and food trucks. This  growing community gathering, filled with serendipity and family-friendly camaraderie, is definitely one of our favorite things about downtown Fort Lauderdale.

One of the best spots to hit while you are there is C&I Studios (541 NW First Ave.), a film, video and graphic design firm where owner Josh Miller has added a laidback coffeehouse and bar (called Next Door) and offers movie screenings and monthly free barbecues out front, among other enticements.

“Some of the coolest things to do are right outside downtown, and those are the things that are shaping the city,” Miller says. “Fort Lauderdale's downtown scene is on the rise, but we can all work to make it better.”

For Bonnie Clearwater, director and chief curator at NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, downtown is a soothing parade: “I love that Riverwalk is just behind Las Olas Boulevard. Strolling the beautifully landscaped Riverwalk with its views of industrial mariners, drawbridges and the parade of freighters and yachts provides a unique respite from daily routine.”

Dr. April Patterson, owner of Dr. Patty’s Dental Boutique, and seen on “Good Morning America,” “Deco Drive” and other spots, likes a calcium-rich diversion: “My absolutely favorite thing to do is go to the Cheese Culture on a Friday afternoon and indulge in cheese and wine. The staff knows my name, and they are welcoming and attentive.”

Scott Schneiderman, a Michigan native who has lived at New River Landing for two years, loves the mix of city and laid-back beach vibes. “The thing I like about downtown is it’s young and urban, and it’s easy to meet people. Everyone is from someplace else. I’ll go to the Himmarshee District to grab a beer and a burger. I like Tarpon Bend, and Public House has a great atmosphere. Another hidden gem is the Downtowner Saloon on the New River, which is 40 steps away. … That’s another one of the great things: I can walk everywhere.”

Rick Mijares, managing partner at the popular Las Olas tavern American Social, says: “Golf and wakeboarding. Both get me out of the office and help me unwind from a day at work. In the neighborhood of Sailboat Bend, there is a real chill bar that specializes in beer called Riverside Market. It is great if you want a low-key evening with friends away from the hustle and bustle.”

For Julian Siegel, proprietor of the Riverside Market and Café, favorite things to do are all over town: “Riding bicycles or boating through downtown with my wife and kids, enjoying every festival and activity that the city has to offer. We live downtown, and we love seeing the new development, from East Las Olas to FAT Village and everywhere in between.”

For more on the FAT Village Art Walk, go to FATVillage.com. For more on the Livability list, go to Livability.com/Top-10.

HERE'S YOUR BEER, MOFRO
Craft beer, home brews, fishing and music … That’s pretty much your life, right? Ales for Anglers is a “green” gathering on Saturday from 2:30 to 9 p.m. at Sunset Cove Amphitheater (12551 Glades Road, Boca Raton), highlighted by a performance by JJ Grey and Mofro at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $35, $100 for a four-pack. All proceeds support the Snook and Gamefish Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Florida fisheries. Info: AlesForAnglers.com.

MATT DAMON'S ZOO
Sorry, but when we do the family thing, it’s just comforting to know there’s a bar nearby. The Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society (1301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach) will host a Friday night screening of the Matt Damon comedy-drama “We Bought a Zoo,” which goes on two hours after the zoo reopens at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $10, $9 members, $7/$6 for kids older than 3, and includes full zoo access and the movie. The screen will be set up in the Fountain Plaza, where guests can arrange blankets, cushions or low-rise beach chairs. Popcorn, snacks, refreshments will be for sale, including a cash beer and wine bar. Info: PalmBeachZoo.org.

PLAY BALL!
Opening Day (which should be a federal holiday) comes to Marlins Park with Jose Fernandez leading the home nine on Monday, and you get warmed up with Friday’s free 8 p.m. screening of “Angels in the Outfield” at the ArtsPark in Hollywood. The surprisingly touching 1994 fantasy about two foster kids and the supernatural help that descends on their hardluck team, the California Angels, includes many famous Hollywood names, some before stardom hit, including Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adrien Brody and Matthew McConaughey.  Info: 954-921-3500, VisitHollywoodFL.org.

MORE ZAC BROWN
Such has been the response to the Zac Brown Band show on May 31 at the Cruzan Amphitheatre that the band has added a second show on June 1. Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves (“Follow Your Arrow”) will open both shows. Tickets ($25.50-$73.50) go on sale 10 a.m. Friday at LiveNation.com and all Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets for the May 31 show are still available.

WORLD TOUR
The Heineken TransAtlantic Festival is always good for a lesson in what’s going on musically out there where things are going on, and the festival coming to the North Beach Bandshell next weekend is especially out there.  Arranged by the intrepid folks at the Rhythm Foundation, the lineup will include four international acts making their Florida debuts, including the not-to-be-missed electronica outfit Astro, from Chile, which made a splash at SXSW in 2012. Astro performs on the Friday bill with quirky Colombian pop singer Esteman and Miami’s beat-crazy Afrobeta. Tickets are $23 advance, $28 day of show. Buy a $40 two-day pass and you can also catch Saturday's headliner,  Bombino, the Tuareg guitarist born in Niger, whose style runs from Northern Africa to blues and rock from the American South. His album “Nomad” was produced by Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. Bombino is joined on the Saturday lineup by the adventurous reggae-EDM hybrid of Courtney John Project and infectious local rockers Tremends. The music begins at 6 p.m. each day. The bandshell is at 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Get tickets at Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale, Sweat Records in Miami, or call 305- 672- 5202. More info: TransAtlanticFestival.com.

 

FRESH SPAM
The Spam Allstars, along with Afrobeta one of the featured acts in a new documentary about Miami's funky music scene, “Miami Boheme,” on Friday turn up in a new spot, Havana 1957 Brickell (1451 S. Miami Ave., Miami). The Allstars play with a heavy heart this week, with flute player Mercedes having lost her husband to leukemia. The band has set up this donation site to help Mercedes and her daughter move forward. More info at SpamAllstars.com.

COCO LOCO
Joey “Coco” Diaz has a face like a shovel and a voice of crushed New Jersey gravel, which makes him the go-to character actor when producers are casting movies such as the 2013 Sylvester Stallone-Robert De Niro comedy “Grudge Match” and the due-in-2014 Jake LaMotta biopic “The Bronx Bull” (starring William Forsythe). And as he proves on his biweekly podcast, “The Church of What’s Happening Now,” and as a regular guest on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the Havana-born Diaz also has a gift for comedy. And profanity. Check it out  8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, and 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Improv at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood). Tickets: $20. Info: 954-981-5653 or FTL.Improv.com.

NEW SOUND SLEEPER
You may have heard that Sound Sleeper (known to friends as guitarist Alex Martinez, once of Sunday Driver) had set an album-release show at Churchill’s Pub (5501 NE Second Ave., Miami) on Friday pegged to the Tuesday release of “A Perfect Sea for Drowning,” produced by Mike Marsh of Dashboard Confessional. The last-minute addition of two new songs and the attendant production work has pushed the album back to the end of April (in stores in May), but Sound Sleeper will go on with the show, previewing some of the new stuff, with Ex Norwegian and Broken Tenure opening. More info: 305-757-1807, ChurchillsPub.com, or LimitedFanfare.com.

TAMAR TICKETS
Singer and reality TV star Tamar Braxton will kick off her national Love and War Tour at the Fillmore Miami Beach on May 16. Tickets ($29, $38) go on sale 10 a.m. Friday at the box office, LiveNation.com and all Ticketmaster outlets at 800-745-3000. Toni’s sister, the star of WE TV’s “Braxton Family Values” and its “Tamar and Vince” spinoff, as well as the syndicated talk show “The Real,” will hit the road in support of her R&B album and a relationship book, both titled “Love and War.” Info: FillmoreMB.com.

GOTTA DANCE
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are holding auditions for their 2014 Striker Girls dance team at 1-4 p.m Sunday in the gym at Broward College Central Campus (3501 SW Davie Road). Must be 18 or older. For info and the application form, go to Strikers.com.

SORRY, MR. SEAGAL
OK, when we got wind of the Steven Seagal and Thunderbox tour coming to Hard Rock Live, we assumed it was some kind of MMA thing. Clearly, we have not been paying attention, as it was pointed out that not only has the big-screen tough guy been playing guitar forever, his bluesy 2005 debut album, “Songs From the Crystal Cave,” includes a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder. THAT Stevie Wonder. Seagal will be at Hard Rock Live to educate me on June 16, with tickets ($30) on sale 11 a.m. Friday at MyHRL.com, all Ticketmaster outlets and 800-745-3000.

Get daily updates on South Florida entertainment and things to do at SouthFlorida.com, on Twitter at @BenCrandell and Instagram /BenCrandell. Email: bcrandell@southflorida.com.